Risk analysis and messaging

Before engaging in communications activities, it’s important to conduct a rapid communications risk assessment to determine if there are any risks we need to be aware of or that might present safety concerns for our staff, beneficiaries or partners. Consult with other staff as appropriate depending on the nature of the emergency, such as program, security and advocacy colleagues. This could take a few minutes, or several hours; the point is to stop and think before moving ahead with public communications. See the CARE International Communications Handbook for more information about how to identify and mitigate risk. Some key questions to answer:

  • Is this a natural or complex disaster? A conflict?
  •  Has CARE or other NGOs been threatened or attacked?
  •  Are there government laws or sensitivities that limit how NGOs can communicate about the disaster, i.e. do we have to wait until the government declares an emergency?
  •  Are there cultural or gender issues that might affect our messaging, particularly about women?
  •  Are there any political or military sensitivities we should be aware of?
  •  What are the risks associated with engagement with the media?
  •  What are the risks of NOT speaking out?
  •  Are there risks for CARE staff, partners or beneficiaries? For example possibility of retribution for speaking about human rights abuses or rapes?
  •  Is there a risk of distorting CARE’s image?
  •  Does the importance of the message outweigh the risks, or can we mitigate the risks?

When communicating on a sensitive or high risk context it is crucial to provide clear and detailed reasoning on why the decision was taken and the communications objectives and aims behind the decision to communicate as well as clear red lines, sensitivities and language to avoid. This helps CARE members understand the decision making process, the goals of the decision to communicate and have clear guidance on what they can and cannot say.

A template for a messaging document can be found here:

CARE Media advisory, comms positioning, reactive Q&A & risk analysis