The year 2020 was unlike anything most of us could have predicted. While we don’t know what 2021 will bring, we do know that risk, high-concern, and crisis communication will continue to be one of the most powerful tools in the arsenals of communicators across all industries.

Below are nine resolutions for the coming year, with one resolution drawn from each of the nine modules in Dr. Vincent Covello’s video-based course Pathway to Risk, High-Concern, and Crisis Communication.

Resolution 1: Show that you care.

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Our first resolution is drawn from one of the key messages of risk communication: People in risk situations typically want to know that you care before they care what you know.

Resolution 2: Build trust.

Trust is the most powerful factor influencing how people make risk-related decisions. The more trusted the source of information, the more acceptable will be the messages, messengers, and channels for acquiring information.

Resolution 3: Make a good first impression.

According to research, people often make judgments about attributes such as trust within as little as one second after hearing someone say hello. Get off on the right foot when reaching out to new audiences in the coming year.

Resolution 4: Reduce mental noise.

Mental noise can reduce a person’s ability to process information in a high-stress situation by as much as 80 percent. In these situations, limiting your communications to three to five pieces of information can help audiences avoid cognitive overload.

Resolution 5: Load up on the positives.

A negative communication is typically given two or three times greater weight than a positive communication in high-concern situations. Remember that it often takes three to four positive messages to offset a negative one.

Resolution 6: Empower your audience.

People will often accept risks or threats as much as 1,000 times greater if they are voluntary and perceived to be under their personal control. Similarly, people will often accept risks as much as 1,000 times greater if they perceive the activity that generates the risk or threat to be clearly beneficial.

Resolution 7: Build message maps.

One of the most important tools available to communicators for high-concern situations, message maps allow communicators to quickly and concisely deliver information. Message maps tell communicators the questions to expect and the recommended answers to these questions. In addition, they allow multiple communicators to work from a consistent set of messages across diverse communication platforms.

Resolution 8: Examine your cultural beliefs, values, and biases.

Navigating cultural differences in risk, high-concern, and crisis communication presents significant challenges. All communicators should (1) examine their own beliefs, values, and biases and (2) develop an in-depth understanding of the culture of interest.

Resolution 9: Use more visuals.

Visual information is typically processed faster than verbal information. Well-designed and well-presented visuals are an effective means in high-stress situations to increase audience attention, understanding, and recall. (Visuals include graphs, charts, animation, photographs, maps, and pictures.)

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. Dr. Covello is a consultant, writer, and teacher. He is a frequent keynote speaker and has conducted communication skills training for thousands.