Preparing communications about health and safety requires you to be as knowledgeable as possible about the issue you are addressing. That does not mean knowing everything, but it means being aware of what you know as well as what you should know. It means being current, factual and truthful. It means understanding some of the controversies surrounding the issues, and some of the nuances of language. It means being deliberate and careful. It is reasonable to expect that you have a significant amount of knowledge on specific health topics. It is also reasonable to expect that you remain up-to-date and that you acknowledge what you do not know. Knowing the issue is a theme that permeates all of your work on health and safety communications. By knowing the issue, you can create appropriate, succinct, visual and impactful messages that make an impression on the audience. This is called tailoring the communication in that the message is appropriately designed for the readiness of the target audience to make a change.3 As you implement a workshop session on a specified topic, you will want to be sure that you are correct and current with your data, that you understand what it says and does not say, and that you are clear with your explanations. It is important that you know your information. Further, as you implement communications efforts, whether preparing a print document, public service announcement (PSA) or a talk, or being interviewed by the media or making a funding proposal, you should be prepared to address questions that go beyond the specific and sometimes narrow content of your topic. You should also be prepared to acknowledge what you do not know, or what scientific research has not yet addressed or resolved, so you can share those insights as questions arise. Seven areas of importance are highlighted to help guide your thinking as you plan your health and safety communications initiative. These areas are helpful, whether you are on the “front end” of building knowledge, or generating some “renewal” or “refresher” content for yourself:
1 Truthful information 2 Staying current 3 Dominant paradigms and perspectives 4 Controversies and unresolved issues 5 Emerging issues 6 Staying realistic and reasonable, and 7 Being believable.