Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Managing Panic - Public Trust

Public trust is a big issue

When we're thinking of behavioral health and emotional readiness in the
context of panic, we don't have a ready-made framework of measures and
countermeasures that are understood.



That has created some of the problems that we have had in trying to
disseminate our message. When we reach out to the different audiences,
we find public trust is a big issue. If you don't have the trust, people
aren't going to follow what you say to do.



The idea behind the public trust is this: If people are concerned about
something and you don't address those concerns, they really can't hear
your message.


--from http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/Microsites/NiemanGuideToCoveringPande...


This is a great point, and something I never really thought about. For example, if a major pandemic were to hit the US, and FEMA started giving out instructions to the populace on how to react, I think there's a huge segment of the US population that wouldn't listen at all due to a lack of trust. Many people would think back to when hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and the general consensus among many Americans is that FEMA did more harm than good there. And I'm not commenting on whether this widely-held opinion is right or wrong, just that it exists.

Now, this problem could be overcome, by getting a person or organization that's well respected and trusted, to publicly support FEMA's instructions. Depending on the times, good supporters could be the president, or maybe certain celebrities. The thing is, they would have to be fast and loud in their support for it to help. Ideally, it should be worked right in to FEMA's communications plans. But that will only happen if FEMA is aware of this problem of public trust in a pandemic, and plans for it ahead of time.



Not a lot of faith in FEMA in some areas of the US. Could Americans' trust issues with FEMA magnify the impact of future crises? Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/60053005@N00/117368830

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Comment by Jean Frankly on May 2, 2010 at 1:05am
Great point. Thanks for sharing.

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