As we look back now, February 2020 might seem as though it were a decade ago. COVID-19 was already changing the world in complex ways. For Dr. Vincent Covello, that February marked one of the biggest communication challenges of his career.

In this still-early month of the pandemic, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials charged Dr. Covello with producing the publication that would become COVID-19: Simple Answers to Top Questions.

As you can imagine, there was nothing simple about addressing questions about the pandemic. Not only was information and understanding of the high-impact situation changing every day, but the pandemic itself had become highly politicized.

Dr. Covello’s task was daunting, to be sure, but he had one of the most powerful tools in his kit: the message map.

The case study that opens chapter nine of Dr. Covello’s most recent release, Communicating in Risk, Crisis, and High Stress Situations: Evidence-Based Strategies and Practice, demonstrates how Dr. Covello used the message map and other communication principles to devise and regularly update a resource that became an essential guide for officials across the US and beyond.

Our previous post previewed the eighth chapter of Dr. Covello’s must-have resource for risk communicators. Below we’ll look into the ninth chapter, “Best Practices for Message Development in High Concern Situations.”

What You Find Within

The following are the topics covered in Dr. Covello’s book. In the section that follows, we’ll look more in depth at the ninth chapter.

  • The Critical Role of Risk, High Concern, and Crisis Communication
  • Core Concepts
  • An Overview of Risk Communication
  • Development of Risk Communication Theory and Practice
  • Stakeholder Engagement and Empowerment
  • Communicating in a Crisis
  • Foundational Principles: Perceptions, Biases, and Information Filters
  • Foundational Principles: Trust, Culture, and Worldviews
  • Best Practices for Message Development in High Concern Situations
  • Communicating Numbers, Statistics, and Technical Information about a Risk or Threat
  • Evaluating Risk, High Concern, and Crisis Communications
  • Communicating with Mainstream News Media
  • Social Media and the Changing Landscape for Risk, High Concern, and Crisis Communication

A Peek Inside Chapter 9: “Best Practices for Message Development in High Concern Situations”

Without question, this is one of the most important chapters in Dr. Covello’s must-have resource. This chapter focuses on the following:

  • How and when to use tools for addressing stress factors
  • The key tools needed for communicating during times of high stress
  • The steps for creating message maps

As with each chapter, Dr. Covello concludes with an extensive list of resources ideal for further exploration.

In the next entry in this series, we’ll preview the tenth chapter, which leads readers through the challenging realm of communicating numbers, statistics, and technical information about risk and threat.

Pathway Prompt: Have you ever developed a message map? What was your experience of applying it to your situation?

Communicating Effectively When Feelings, Fears, and Facts Collide

More information about risk, high-concern, and crisis communication can be found in Dr. Covello’s video-based course Pathway to Risk, High-Concern, and Crisis Communication.

This master class introduces communicators to the tools and techniques for communicating effectively—while providing greater insight into why audiences react the way they do during times of stress.

The course comprises nine video lectures and accompanying text modules, plus supplemental materials for putting valuable lessons into practice. More information about the course, including group rates and partnering opportunities, can be found by emailing

Dr. Vincent Covello

Dr. Vincent Covello, director of the Center for Risk Communication, is one of the world’s leading experts and practitioners on risk, high-concern, and crisis communication. He is the author of more than 150 articles in scientific journals and the author/editor of more than 20 books.

Covello, Vincent T. Communicating in Risk, Crisis, and High Stress Situations: Evidence-Based Strategies and Practice. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2022.