Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Communication and Information Studies

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Timothy Sellnow

Second Advisor

Dr. Derek R. Lane

Abstract

The goal of risk and crisis communication is to reduce and contain the harm inherent in a threat. In order to achieve this goal, risk and crisis scholars call for continued testing of messages surrounding these events; specifically, messages that address the needs of the at-risk message receiver. Previous scholarship suggests that these messages should include adapting and instructing information (Coombs, 2012), and should be designed using pedagogically sound instructional approaches (Frisby, Sellnow, Sellnow, Lane, & Veil, 2011; Sellnow & Sellnow, 2010). In order to meet this call, this dissertation tested an instructionally sound message that includes both adapting and instructing information related to a foodborne illness event including a hypothetical E. coli contamination in ground beef affecting the state of Kentucky. Foodborne illness outbreaks are unique in that they must address those at risk of contamination while simultaneously addressing the needs of those experiencing the crisis (i.e. those already contaminated). The research tested the ability of participants to make positive sense of risk message related to the E. coli outbreak; specifically exploring the effect of augmenting traditional video warning messages with converging Twitter messages and positive sensemaking on behavioral intentions and self-efficacy. Results indicate that individuals who are able to make positive sense of the message, report greater self-efficacy and behavioral intentions in line with message recommendations. Further, individuals who receive an IDEA model message and converging Twitter messages report greater attitudes and beliefs related to the message than individuals who receive a traditional video warning message. These findings indicate a need for continued research on the role of positive sensemaking and the type of message received as they directly affect perceptions of messages and intentions to comply with recommendations.

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