Opinions are easy to dismiss. But it’s hard to ignore advice that’s backed up by solid research.

When incorporating the principles of risk, high-concern, and crisis communication in your messaging—or convincing decision-makers in your organization to do so—communicators find an extensive scientific and research base to back up this approach.

A Brief History

Crisis, high-concern, and risk communication is an extensive field grounded by nearly seventy-five years of research and science. The research base now includes nearly 8,000 articles and 2,000 books.

In 1956, Dr. George Miller, who many now consider to be the father of psycho-linguistics, first revealed the psychological and physiological effects of stress in his groundbreaking work “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information.”

This work influenced the development of your phone number, Social Security number, length of a tweet, and why you need only dial 911 in an emergency.

In 1983, the field was established with the National Research Council’s publication of “Improving Risk Communication.”

These and other critical works eventually led to the National Academy of Sciences officially recognizing the field as a science in 1989.

Pioneers in the field include Professor Paul Eckman, Pete Sandman, M. Granger Morgan, and Dr. Vincent Covello.

New Challenges

The digital age and rapid advancements in communication technologies have created new challenges, most notably the staggering amount of information we must now process, the credibility of information, and the speed at which that information now flows.

The ability to communicate strategically and effectively is critical to our personal and professional success, especially during those critical moments of risk, high concern, and crisis—moments that shape our lives and the futures of our organizations.

The extensive research, skills, tools, and techniques discussed in Dr. Covello’s course Pathway to Risk, High-Concern, and Crisis Communication can help you become an expert communicator. In addition, this science and research can be used both to inform decision-making and to influence the decision-making of those in your organization.

A longtime advocate of risk communication, Bob Coble was able to employ Dr. Covello’s principles during his distinguished career as a communication official for the Navy, Army, and Department of Defense.

“When I advised my leaders about communications issues, they noted my opinions, but when I explained what the communication research said, they listened closely virtually every time. This material will make you a better adviser,” said Coble.

Among the resources provided with the course Pathway to Risk, High-Concern, and Crisis Communication is an extensive bibliography of research, so those taking the course have wide-ranging opportunities for further exploration and for gathering additional backing for decision-making.

Communicating Effectively When Feelings, Fears, and Facts Collide

Pathway to Risk, High-Concern, and Crisis Communication 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, 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. Dr. Covello is a consultant, writer, speaker, and teacher. He is a frequent keynote speaker and has conducted communication skills training for thousands.


Miller, G. A. (1956). “The magical number seven, plus or minus two: Some limits on our capacity for processing information.” Psychological Review. 63 (2): 81–97. CiteSeerX doi:10.1037/h0043158.PMID 13310704.

National Research Council. 1989. Improving Risk Communication. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/1189.

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