The Need for Inclusive Communication in Crisis – Findings From European Commission Funded Research

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Dr Su Anson | Head of Innovation & Research

Date: 29 September 2021

The COVID- 19 pandemic has highlighted the key role that communication plays in preparing for and responding to a crisis. Across Europe, members of the general public have relied on the communications about what protective measures to take to curb the spread of the virus – hand washing, how to wear masks, physical distancing, when to isolate. However, this communication on protective measures was not always inclusive and accessible to all groups of society. In response to this gap, researchers participating in two EU funded projects, COVINFORM and PROACTIVE, have published a white paper providing five recommendations for inclusive communication. These recommendations are based on research undertaken on crises such as CBRNe incidents, the COVID-19 outbreak and others, and highlight that communication should be:

  • Accessible and inclusive
  • Actionable
  • Trusted and credible
  • Relevant and timely
  • Understandable

The recommendations are designed with the aim of moving away from top-down, one way communication that treats the public as one homogenous group, to inclusive and accessible communication that accounts for the needs of different groups. Crises such as COVID-19 and past CBRNe incidents highlight the need to engage with vulnerable groups and understand their information needs, concerns and the barriers to being able to follow protective measures.

These findings should inform the design of future response measures, as well as the communications to promote the adoption of such behaviours. In the inevitable event of future crises, inclusive communication will increase the resilience and protection of society, including the most vulnerable.

Many of these crisis communication recommendations are not new and are promoted Internationally (e.g., WHO Strategic Communications Framework for effective communications). Past research on crisis situations already highlighted some of these critical points in various contexts or in reference to other CBRNe events. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how many of these principles are still ignored at a wide scale, and therefore EU policymakers, Member States and Associated Countries should benefit from the momentum of the COVID-19 crisis to make sure these recommendations are adequately applied going forward.

Read the white paper here:

COVINFORM & PROACTIVE Whitepaper – Communication in times of crisis


The critical need for inclusive communication in times of crises is also supported by a further 16 EU funded research projects that have endorsed the white paper written by researchers from the COVINFORM and PROACTIVE projects. Further information on the authors and projects can be found below.


COVINFORM (Grant Agreement No. 101016247) analyses COVID-19 responses on the level of government, public health, community, and information and communication with a focus on the impacts on vulnerable individuals and groups. Key outcomes of the project are an online portal and visual toolkit for stakeholders in government, public health, and civil society integrating data streams, indices and indicators, maps, models, primary research and case study findings, empirically grounded policy guidance, and creative assessment tools.


PROACTIVE (Grant Agreement No. 832981) studies Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and explosive (CBRNe) threats and evaluates the response of security professionals such as law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to the demands of civil society comprising vulnerable citizens. The estimation of the effectiveness of existing procedures will lead to innovative proposals for policymakers and security professionals and will support the EU Action Plan for CBRN threats. The project is developing innovative tools, including an information platform for LEA use and a mobile app tailored to meet the needs of vulnerable groups

The White Paper has been endorsed by the following projects:


Author Information

Su Anson (PhD) is a Senior Research Manager at Trilateral Research. She leads research related to disaster resilience and risk communication. Her areas of expertise include emergency preparedness, particularly public preparedness, communication including the use of social media, and qualitative research methods.  Su has over 15 years’ experience of working on international research projects with key stakeholders, including: emergency management practitioners, government officials, the public, and humanitarian actors. She currently leads research on the H2020 projects COVINFORM and RiskPACC.

Diotima Bertel (MSc) is a Senior Researcher at SYNYO. In her research, she focuses on the intersection of science, society and technology, the social and societal impacts of technology, as well as the individual to societal, ethical to epistemological implications of technology. Furthermore, she researches misinformation and its distribution via different channels, including the two H2020 projects EUNOMIA and COVINFORM. Diotima coordinates the COVINFORM and PERCEPTIONS projects.

Grigore Havârneanu (PhD) is a Traffic and Transport Psychologist with international experience as researcher, project manager and lecturer. He is currently Senior Research Advisor at the International Union of Railways in Paris, where he is involved in European research projects and leads EU-funded proposals. He coordinates the PROACTIVE project and conducts applied psychology and human factors research to improve the safety, security and resilience of land transport. E-mail –

Laura Petersen (MSc) is a Senior Security Research Advisor at the International Union of Railways. She undertakes research in crisis management, crisis and risk communication, accessibility, and resilience. Her work in the PROACTIVE project focuses on co-creation with vulnerable groups.

Recommended Citation

Anson, S., Bertel, D., Havârneanu G., & Petersen, L. (2021). Inclusive communication in times of crisis: lessons learned and recommendations from COVID-19 and other CBRNe incidents based on recent COVINFORM & PROACTIVE findings. Whitepaper.

For more information contact our team.


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