Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Most people are aware of the six basic questions asked after a major crisis, emergency or disaster.

But what specific questions do journalists and the public ask in times of crisis?

In his forthcoming book, Communicating in Risk, Crisis, and High-Stress Situations: Evidence-Based Strategies and Practice (Wiley), world-renowned crisis communicator Dr. Vincent Covello lists 93 of these questions, based on an analysis of over 2,000 news conferences.

The following sneak peek provides 15 of these questions:

1. How many people were harmed?

2. Is there any immediate danger?

3. What is being done in response to what happened?

4. Who is in charge?

5. What can we expect next?

6. What can people do to protect themselves, families, and friends?

7. How long will it be before the situation returns to normal?

8. Why did this happen?

9. Could the crisis have been avoided?

10. What else can go wrong?

11. Who is to blame?

12. What are you not telling us?

13. Is there any continuing danger?

14. How much will all this cost?

15. Why should we trust you?

By anticipating the questions that journalists and the public ask, crisis communicators can be better prepared to offer the answers that their stakeholders will not only ask, but demand.

Pathway Prompt: What questions have you found yourself asking in the aftermath of a crisis?

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 info@pathwaycommunication.com.

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, V. T. (2021, in press). Communicating in Risk, Crisis, and High-Stress Situations: Evidence-Based Strategies and Practice. Wiley.