The IDEA model for effective instructional risk and crisis communication by emergency managers and other key spokespersons


  • Deanna D. Sellnow, PhD
  • Timothy L. Sellnow, PhD



IDEA model, instructional communication, risk communication, crisis communication, emergency preparedness


Emergency managers are very often the key spokespersons charged with instructing people to take appropriate self-protective actions during natural disasters and other extreme events. Doing so successfully poses unique challenges including, for instance, convincing people to pay attention, translating complex information intelligibly to non-scientific publics, and motivating people to actually take appropriate actions for self-protection. These challenges are complicated further by the uncertainty surrounding many crisis events and the short response time demanded of emergency managers to offer such information and instructions. This manuscript describes the IDEA model for designing efficient and effective instructional risk and crisis communication messages and some of the research that has been conducted to validate its utility. Ultimately, emergency managers can use the IDEA model to design effective instructional messages in short order and educators can use the model in the classroom to teach new professionals to communicate effectively when they face crisis circumstances in the future.

Author Biographies

Deanna D. Sellnow, PhD

Professor of Strategic Communication, Nicholson School of Communication, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida

Timothy L. Sellnow, PhD

Professor of Strategic Communication, Nicholson School of Communication, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida


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How to Cite

Sellnow, PhD, D. D., and T. L. Sellnow, PhD. “The IDEA Model for Effective Instructional Risk and Crisis Communication by Emergency Managers and Other Key Spokespersons”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 17, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 67-78, doi:10.5055/jem.2019.0399.