Crisis and disaster management organizations in developing countries are facing a challenging problem: the processes of urbanization vis a vis traditional societal organizations call for different approaches to communicate with the population. In countries where vulnerabilities, threats, and risks are high, the establishment of channels of communication that address all strata of population, generating trust is important to enhance participation and compliance.
Departing from a two-step flow of communication model and combined with theoretical approaches of trust in crisis communication, this paper aims to analyze the channels of communication during crisis situations in Ghana and how the processes of generating trust in traditional communities is negotiated by crisis managers. To address this call, this study examines the role of citizens’ trust in different structures of Ghanaian society and the strategies used to address lack of compliance in the rural/urban dichotomy.
This study is largely informed by a series of interviews with nine top crisis managers and officials ascribed to the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) in Ghana. The results show that while government officials convey information to the public through all means possible, a large amount of the population decides to overlook or ignore the recommendations, and points to the importance of reaching communities through their chiefs, rather than approaching them directly. Since there is reluctance to follow a distant governmental agency, the trust in the community chief is of utmost importance, as chiefs become the sole channel of communication, especially in rural areas in developing countries. Thus, in order to reach rural communities, NADMO officials need to approach the elders who will communicate the message to their people. Trust, and more importantly tradition emerge as the main determining factors for successful dissemination of the message.
The results can be applied to other parts of Ghana and other similar societies especially in countries that still follow a two-step model when it comes to flow of communication and information in crisis environments.
IAMCR 2016 - The 2016 conference of the International Association for Media and Communication Research, July 27-31 2016, Leicester, UK