Is a Consistent Message Achievable?: Defining “Message Consistency” for Weather Enterprise Researchers and Practitioners

Castle A. Williams Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

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Gina M. Eosco NOAA/OAR/WPO, Silver Spring, Maryland

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ABSTRACT

Although both research and practice contend that message consistency is a critical component of effective risk communication, neither provide systematic evidence demonstrating if, when, and where consistency matters. For this reason, meteorologists view message consistency as both a relevant research and operational concern. To address these concerns, members of the weather enterprise organized conference sessions, panels, webinars, and workshops to achieve message consistency, but were unable to make progress without a definition. Fortunately, research scholars in the fields of psychology and communication studies offer important theoretical insights for defining message consistency. As such, this paper takes an important first step by combining the needs of operational meteorologists with insights from social science research to offer a definition of message consistency for the weather enterprise. While it is logical to present both a definition and a recommendation on how to achieve message consistency, the systematic review revealed various research limitations and practical constraints that call into question the feasibility of achieving it. To further bridge research and practice, this paper recommends that researchers and practitioners collaboratively develop a message consistency evaluation process for the weather enterprise. A persistent community effort will shed light on when, where, and under which circumstances consistency is necessary, and more importantly, move us one step closer toward achieving a more consistent message within the weather enterprise.

CURRENT AFFILIATION: Williams—NOAA/OAR/WPO, Silver Spring, Maryland

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Castle A. Williams, castleaw@uga.edu

ABSTRACT

Although both research and practice contend that message consistency is a critical component of effective risk communication, neither provide systematic evidence demonstrating if, when, and where consistency matters. For this reason, meteorologists view message consistency as both a relevant research and operational concern. To address these concerns, members of the weather enterprise organized conference sessions, panels, webinars, and workshops to achieve message consistency, but were unable to make progress without a definition. Fortunately, research scholars in the fields of psychology and communication studies offer important theoretical insights for defining message consistency. As such, this paper takes an important first step by combining the needs of operational meteorologists with insights from social science research to offer a definition of message consistency for the weather enterprise. While it is logical to present both a definition and a recommendation on how to achieve message consistency, the systematic review revealed various research limitations and practical constraints that call into question the feasibility of achieving it. To further bridge research and practice, this paper recommends that researchers and practitioners collaboratively develop a message consistency evaluation process for the weather enterprise. A persistent community effort will shed light on when, where, and under which circumstances consistency is necessary, and more importantly, move us one step closer toward achieving a more consistent message within the weather enterprise.

CURRENT AFFILIATION: Williams—NOAA/OAR/WPO, Silver Spring, Maryland

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Castle A. Williams, castleaw@uga.edu
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