Research examining whether visuals improve publics’ crisis and disaster information comprehension is scarce despite the increasing popularity of infographics and visual-based social media in public relations practice. One disaster communication platform that is ideal for testing the potential effects of visuals on helping publics protect themselves during disasters is Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs). WEAs are 90-character warnings issued by governments and sent by wireless carriers to individuals (for free) facing an imminent threat such as a tornado or flood. The U.S. government is considering adding maps to future WEAs. Maps are one of the most relied-on tools for people to quickly gain knowledge about spatial tasks such as evacuating during disasters. Consequently, this paper empirically tests how at-risk publics respond to warning messages with and without maps. We do so through two experiments (N1 = 767, N2 = 550) of U.S. adults testing three disasters: a tsunami, an active shooter incident, and a radiological disaster.
Liu, Brooke Fisher, Michele M. Wood, Michael Egnoto, Hamilton Bean, Jeannette Sutton, Dennis Mileti, and Stephanie Madden. 2017. "Is a Picture Worth a Thousand Words? The Effects of Maps and Warning Messages on How Publics Respond to Disaster Information." Public Relations Review (April). http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811116303319