Factors Influencing Americans’ Preventive Behaviours during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for Strategic Health and Risk Communicators

Sung In Choi (PhD student), Yan Jin, and Mark Badham. (forthcoming). “Factors Influencing Americans’ Preventive Behaviours during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for Strategic Health and Risk Communicators.” Strategic Communication in a Global Crisis: National and International Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Eds. R. Tench, J. Meng, and A. Moreno-Fernández), Routledge.

Abstract: This chapter examines factors influencing Americans’ preventive behaviours, including their COVID-19 vaccination intentions, in response to the U.S. Government’s strategic communication about COVID-19 guidelines. This chapter draws on the theory of planned behaviour to shed light on three factors that can help strategic health and risk communicators predict future behaviours during a pandemic: attitude toward a recommended vaccine, social norms (i.e., the likelihood that individuals will follow others’ opinions about recommended behaviour), and self-efficacy (i.e., individuals’ confidence in their own ability to follow recommended behaviour). Based on an online survey of American adults in October-November 2020, the study found, first, that a relatively high proportion of Americans were adopting government-recommended behaviours to prevent infection and spread of the virus. Second, Americans who follow the government’s recommended behaviours tend to have higher vaccination intentions. Third, younger Americans are more likely to be influenced by social norms to adopt recommended behaviours. Fourth, younger Americans have higher levels of self-efficacy than older Americans. Finally, Americans with higher education levels tend to have higher self-efficacy to follow recommended actions, thus leading to higher levels of preventive behaviours. These findings have important implications for strategic health and risk communicators, particularly when attempting to persuade the public to follow government health recommendations during a public health crisis.

Integrating Strategy and Dosage: A New Conceptual Formula for Overcoming Unintended Effects in Public Health Crisis Communication (PHCC)

Xuerong Lu (PhD alum) and Yan Jin. (forthcoming). “Integrating Strategy and Dosage: A New Conceptual Formula for Overcoming Unintended Effects in Public Health Crisis Communication (PHCC).” The Handbook of Crisis Communication (2nd edition) (Eds. W. T. Coombs and S. J. Holladay), Wiley-Blackwell.

Abstract: Lu and Jin provide insights into public health crisis communication (PHCC) by reconceptualizing how we think about the concept of dosage. The chapter extends the notion of dosage from the amount of exposure to publics’ engagement over time in a competitive and conflicting media environment. Lu and Jin delineate a new direction in PHCC by formulating the effect of crisis communication strategy and dosage according to a chemical analogy of solution concentration (i.e. strategy) and volume of solution (i.e. dosage). First, this chapter visualizes PHCC as a neutralization process, in which the base solution (i.e., PHCC strategy and dosage) to neutralize the harm caused by the acid solution (i.e., a public health crisis). Second, this chapter further analogizes the PHCC as the base solution consisting of a solute dissolved into a solvent, where the solute is the message strategy (e.g., emotional appeal) and the solvent is the carrier of the message similar to messengers and channels. Lu and Jin define the concept of PHCC dosage as the volume of “base solution,” which will influence the effectiveness of the neutralization (i.e. PHCC). This new conceptual framework, illustrated with recent public health crisis cases, helps explain PHCC (in)effectiveness. Lu and Jin also provide a theoretical foundation for empirical studies that examine and predict how both the strategy and dosage of a crisis response message might exert intended and/or unintended effects among publics confronted with information clutters and desensitized by previous and/or ongoing crisis situations. The chapter explores new possibilities for research and application of PHCC.

Advancing Crisis Communication Effectiveness: Integrating Crisis Scholarship with Practice

Bryan Reber, Yan Jin, and Glen Nowak. (forthcoming). “Advancing Crisis Communication Effectiveness: Integrating Crisis Scholarship with Practice.” The Handbook of Crisis Communication (2nd edition) (Eds. W. T. Coombs and S. J. Holladay), Wiley-Blackwell. 

Abstract: Reber, Jin, and Nowak lead us through a discussion on collaboration between academics and the practice. They note the need and value of university and industry collaborations including service research and collaborative research. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication planted the seeds of collaboration with the C. Yarbrough Professor in Crisis Communication Leadership and grew that into the Crisis Communication Think Tank and related meetings. Reber et al. identify university research groups as another way to facilitate collaboration. They also emphasize the value in gap studies for identifying areas of future research and collaboration. Reber et al. end with a review of the yields that emerge from integrating crisis scholarship and practice. This chapter serves as a complement to Chapter 36 by Detavernier and Chapter 38 by Morgan that focus on how practitioners use theory.

Fending off Unverified Accusation with Narratives: The Role of Primary and Secondary Narratives in Organizational Response Effectiveness in an Ongoing Crisis

Yen-I Lee (PhD alum), Xuerong Lu (PhD candidate), Taylor Voges (PhD candidate), and Yan Jin. (forthcoming). “Fending off Unverified Accusation with Narratives: The Role of Primary and Secondary Narratives in Organizational Response Effectiveness in an Ongoing Crisis”. Journal of International Crisis and Risk Communication Research.

Abstract: A challenge confronting crisis communication practice is how to communicate about crisis situations involving unverified accusations of sexual harassment attributed to an organization’s members. The investigation and verification of the original accusation take time, but the organization needs to respond to the concerned publics. This study integrates theories of metanarration (Venette et al., 2003) and crisis narratives (Seeger & Sellnow, 2016) to identify optimal approaches to manage uncertain and high-pressure crisis situations. An online experiment used a U.S. adult sample (N = 697) to examine how 1) the primary narrative in a news story about the victim and 2) the secondary narrative with different crisis narratives used by the accused organization impacted the outcomes of the organization’s public communication about the ongoing crisis situation. The results showed that the secondary narrative, emphasizing renewal, played a significant role in 1) lowering perceived organizational crisis responsibility, 2) lessening organizational reputation damage, and 3) boosting supportive intention toward the organization. In addition, findings revealed that perceived organizational crisis responsibility and perceived organizational reputation functioned as sequential mediators for the relationship between the secondary narrative (using renewal crisis narrative) and participants’ intended support of the crisis-stricken organization. Our findings advance crisis narrative theory and offer prescriptions for effective and ethical organizational responses in managing an ongoing crisis triggered by an unverified sexual harassment accusation against its members.

Exploring Differences in Crisis Literacy and Efficacy on Behavioral Responses during Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Abstract: This study examined the effects of literacy and efficacy on individuals’ protective action taking and information seeking during the early phase of infectious disease outbreaks through a nationally representative survey of 1,164 U.S. adults. New measures of disaster literacy and crisis efficacy were tested. Overall, results revealed that crisis efficacy and organizational efficacy drove protective action taking and information seeking intentions, while health literacy did not. Disaster literacy negatively predicted both protective action advice seeking and information seeking. The findings highlight the importance of strengthening public efficacy and improving relationships between health authorities and the public, which is greatly influenced by the public’s confidence in the health authority’s management of the crisis.