While there are countless research studies, surveys, and white papers to analyze communications questions related to public health and safety, there had been no established single venue for professional communicators and social scientists to come together and bridge the gap between science and practice and provide direct application to communications practice in private industry…until now.

Social Science

Social science encompasses the scientific study of human society and social relationships.

Strategic Communications

Strategic communication refers to the internal and external communication strategies designed to engage stakeholders.

Venn diagram of the overlap of strategic communications and social sciences

Bridging the Gap

Bridging the gap connects similar ideas or makes the difference between them smaller. Connecting social science to the practice of strategic communication provides practitioners with scientifically-proven methodologies and strategies which enhance internal and external communications. As stakeholder expectations evolve due to changes in the environment and human psychology, public affairs practitioners must be equipped to adjust communication methods and strategies to effectively address public health and safety issues.

To solve this issue and bridge this gap, Mark Basnight and Holly Hardin established the Public Affairs Science and Technology (PAST) Fusion Cell at Argonne National Laboratory in 2016.  PAST monitored, observed, and conducted real-time research on world events, applied social science to the practice of risk and crisis communication, identified training gaps, and established best practices for public affairs. This program was developed specifically for public affairs officers, public information officers, and external affairs officers working in emergency management and public health and safety.

Bringing this Capability to the Private Industry

While this program was available to national labs and government agencies, private industry had limited access to this training. Basnight and Hardin joined SummitET® in 2020, and are prepared to provide private industry with customized strategic communications assessments, planning, training, and exercise services and products.

What this means for Private Industry

These new approaches allow private business and industry to prepare effective communication during pre-crisis, crisis, and post-crisis events such as manmade, natural, and technical disasters.

The Property Claim Services (PCS) division of Verisk Analytics defines a catastrophe as an event that causes $25 million or more in insured property losses and affects a significant number of property/casualty policyholders and insurers.

The table below it shows there were in excess of 350 catastrophes in the US between 2009 and 2018. That equates to an incredible amount of communication needed as businesses need to be able to reach their customers and employees during/after catastrophic incidents.

Estimated Insured Property Losses,

U.S. Catastrophes, 2009-2018

Estimated insured property losses i the US 2009-2018

(1) Includes catastrophes causing insured property losses of at least $25 million in 1997 dollars and affecting a significant number of policyholders and insurers. Excludes losses covered by the federally administered National Flood Insurance Program. As of November 20, 2019.
(2) Adjusted for inflation through 2018 by the Insurance Information Institute using the GDP implicit price deflator.
Source: Property Claim Services® (PCS®), a unit of ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® company; Bureau of Economic Analysis

The number of catastrophic events that occurred just in the United States during this 10-year period highlights how important it is for organizations to periodically and holistically assess communications and create an integrated, multidisciplinary approach that furthers their organizational communication goals.

To learn more about SummitET’s team of subject-matter experts, communication practitioners’ unique qualifications, and specific product offerings click here.

Holly Hardin
Strategic Communications Manager