Reading through the Nieman Guide, Crisis Communication
the thing that struck me most was mentioning peoples perception of risk
As the author Peter Sandman
, a risk communication consultant, points out we have a very much broken perception of risk, making a big fuzz about things that are not really that dangerous and underestimating really dangerous risks.
As he puts it: risk = hazard + outrage
, where hazard is the real danger and the outrage is how much we fear the danger (unrelated to the actual danger). This is something I've also read a lot before from the computer security guru Bruce Schneier
(security is all about risks).
Take an everyday example. We are very worried (at least most people are) about crashing planes or getting cancer. Both of these things are of course really dangerous. But they kill A LOT less people than say say crashing cars or cardiovascular diseases.
So what are the implications for psychological first aid and journalists? If the the outrage is too small and the hazard terrifying just fire up peoples fears by showing them the data. Be interesting and make sure not to bore them or they wont listen to you. If the outrage is too large, bore them! Let them talk, what will calm them down. Then, they might even ask for your opinion.