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Answering the Most Difficult Questions: A Risk Communication Primer The AFP Leadership Academy Presented by Potomac Communications Group October 2, 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Answering the Most Difficult Questions: A Risk Communication Primer The AFP Leadership Academy Presented by Potomac Communications Group October 2, 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 Answering the Most Difficult Questions: A Risk Communication Primer The AFP Leadership Academy Presented by Potomac Communications Group October 2, 2009 * Orlando, Fla.

2 High-Concern, Low-Trust Audience is concerned about something you are doing –You are imposing a risk on them –Risk can be real (physical threat) or emotional (burden) Audience doesn’t trust what you say about their concerns –You’ve harmed – or solicited – them before (real or perceived) –You have a vested interest because of your job –Credibility of people in authority has eroded over the years Your goal: establish trust and credibility

3 Who Asks HC/LT Questions? Fundraising prospects Members Member customers Board members Your boss Significant others Your kids

4 Why Credibility Is Not Automatic “I am not a crook …” “I’ll never lie to you …” “I did not have sex with that woman …” Weapons of mass destruction Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, Adelphia … Challenger and Columbia Martha Stewart Bernie Madoff

5 Trust is absence of fear Fear is absence of trust There’s a wrong way and a right way to talk about risk Ultimately, it’s about establishing and maintaining trust and credibility.

6 From the New York Times, 2009 “People have a very weird perception of large numbers. If you have 2,000 cases of flu in a country of 300 million, most people think they’re going to be one of the 2,000, not one of the 299,998,000.” -Dirk Brockmann, Professor of Engineering Northwestern University

7 What Is Risk? Any hazard that may endanger health, safety, or well-being, or threaten possessions. The perceived risk may not reflect reality: –Washington, D.C. sniper

8 Public Acceptance of Risk Acceptable Benefits recognized Risk shared Voluntary Individual control Familiar Low dread Affects everyone Naturally occurring Unacceptable Benefits unrecognized Risk affects few Involuntary No control Unfamiliar High dread Affects children Human origin

9 Influences on Risk Acceptance Trust2,000 Benefits1,000 Control1,000 Fairness 500 Catastrophic 300 Natural200 Familiar200 Children200

10 Reality May Not Equal Perception Driving Nuclear Power Real Risk: 1/100 1/1,000,000 Trust(2,000) YesNo Benefits (1,000) YesNo Control(1,000) YesNo Fairness (500) YesNo Familiar (200) YesNo Perceived Risk: Infinitesimal Imminent danger

11 Building Credibility When communicating about risk in a high- concern, low-trust situation, the challenge is to establish trust and credibility.

12 The Key Equation P = R

13 More Risk Communication Math F  E Facts Do Not Equal Emotion G = T + C Your Goal Is to Build Trust and Credibility N = 3P One Negative Has the Power of Three Positives No… Not… None… Nothing… Never... Normal Rules Do Not Apply

14 Risk Communication Is a Science Based on 25 years of real science Results published in peer-reviewed journals Preparation and practice are essential Emphasis on non-verbal communication

15 Three P’s of Risk Communication Prepare Practice Pay attention to -Appearance -Bearing -Non-verbals

16 The Wrong Way To Talk Risk

17 The Right Way to Talk Risk

18 Covello’s Credibility Pie  Caring and empathy dominate  Humor is not appropriate  Negatives emphasized  Non-verbal messages most important  Third-party endorsements are essential 15-20% Dedication 15-20% Openness 15-20% Expertise 50% Caring © Dr. V. Covello

19 CODE Score for Credibility Caring50 Points Openness15-20 Points Dedication15-20 Points Expertise15-20 Points Maximum Score: 100 Key Non-Verbal Cues Eye contact Hands Arrival and departure Barriers Posture and clothing Touching face Blinking Licking lips

20 Risk Communication Gender Gap Men Women Caring and empathetic Open and honest Dedicated and committed Expert and competent ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ CODE Score2080 ✓ ✓

21 Risk Communication Traps Failure to anticipate Humor Negatives Hedges Guarantees Worst-case scenario Deception Cover-up Dishonesty Jargon

22 Jargon Makes Things Worse Alphabet Soup: AFP, 501(c)3, BBB, … Industry truisms and technical terms “We operate well below the accepted safety standards …” “The risk is only about 10 to the minus sixth …” “We’re working with an industrial hygienist …” “The paradox of the statute …”

23 Don’t Take the Bait The sustained attack The worst-case scenario The guarantee trap The false allegation What to say when you don’t know the answer

24 Avoiding the Sustained Attack Wrong: “Why do you keep asking me the same question over and over? I’ve already told you, and I’m not telling you again.” Right: First question: Give a positive response. Second question: Restate the positive response. Third question: “I’ve done my best to answer that, and there are others who have questions, too. I’ll be happy to stay after everyone else has had a chance to ask a question, and discuss it with you further.”

25 Avoiding the Worst-Case Scenario Wrong: “I guess the worst case scenario would probably be that everyone within 500 yards would be killed.” Right: “Rather than speculate, let’s focus on what we actually know to be true.”

26 Avoiding the Guarantee Trap Wrong: “I can’t give you a guarantee. There are no guarantees in life.” Right: “Let me tell you what I can guarantee…”

27 Avoiding the False Allegation Wrong: “That’s a lie!” Right: “Just the opposite is true.”

28 Ways of Getting to Your Message The Basic Bridge Direct Response The Artful Dodge

29 The Bridge “There’s another point that needs to be made…” “What I think people want to know is…” “Actually, I see things differently…” “I’ve heard that, too, but here’s how I see it…”

30 A Great “Bridge”

31 The Direct Response Anticipates the question and address it directly Delivered in a short, crisp sound bite Reinforced with supporting information Illustrated with a compelling anecdote

32 The Direct Response

33 The Artful Dodge

34 Anticipates the controversial question Addresses the underlying issue Takes control of a dangerous situation

35 A “Bridge” to Nowhere

36 And He Just Keeps Going …

37 What to Say if You Don’t Know Wrong: “I don’t know the answer.” Right: “I wish I had an answer to that question. I’ll get you an answer by 3:00 this afternoon.”

38 What Is His CODE Score?

39 What Is Her CODE Score?

40 The CAN Model Caring and Empathy Answer the Question Next Steps (Future Action)

41 The “Level 6” Response Caring and Empathy 1 to 2 minutes Anecdote Answer the Question 7 to 12 words 0 negatives Address underlying concerns Support Your Answer First fact Anecdote Second fact Future Action Your commitments Additional Information From you and/or others

42 Assignment #1 Caring and Empathy About 30 seconds Anecdote Answer the Question 7 to 12 words 0 negatives Address underlying concerns Support Your Answer First fact Anecdote Second fact Future Action Your commitments Additional Information From you and/or others Ever since the Bernie Madoff scandal, I don’t trust people who ask me for money. Why should I believe you?

43 Contact information: Leonard S. Greenberger, Partner Phone: , x118 Websites:

44 Answering the Most Difficult Questions: A Risk Communication Primer The AFP Leadership Academy Presented by Potomac Communications Group October 2, 2009 * Orlando, Fla.


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