The Right Message, at the Right Time Can Save Lives


Dr. Timothy Sellnow, an accomplished scholar and educator in the field of crisis and risk communication, came to campus to speak for the Department of Communication’s “Above and Beyond” series. He brought along former WKU Department of Communication alumna and doctoral candidate, Morgan Wickline Getchell, who also has found a passion for the field of crisis communication.

Both scholars shared their research and latest projects in the realms of crisis communication. The project Dr. Sellnow shared centered on getting a complete and timely message out to the people who need the information most. He has reconfigured a previous communication model to give a more thorough description of events occurring during a crisis. The media and organizations involved in carrying out communication during crisis events are failing the public by neglecting to give all of the information needed to make them feel safe. This can lead to mistrust, confusion, and fear.

In order to communicate effectively in crisis situations, it is imperative to create a shared understanding to address emotions that might lead to irresponsible choices. This model of communication can be applied to many different crisis events.
One of the innovations that Dr. Sellnow is introducing is a smartphone app that will alert individuals in high risk areas about earthquakes in enough time so that they can be prepared. Communication disseminated would include a statement of the problem and instructions for what to do to remain safe. This smartphone app will be tested in California later this year.
Their communication model will allow the public to be more informed to make more responsible choices as a response to crisis. Getting the right message out, at the right time, can ultimately save lives.

swellnow_2 morgan_sellnow


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