Paul Holmes 15 Apr 2011 // 5:13PM GMT
A week or so ago, I posted my thoughts on the risk communications challenges of the nuclear disaster in Japan, citing the work of risk communications guru Peter Sandman. I received a note from Peter—who has been pretty prolific on the subject at his own site—contributing some additional thoughts on the mistakes made, which I reproduce here in the hope that our readers with responsibility for crisis and issues management will not repeat them: “I do think you might have emphasized trust more even than you did. Even though you closed with it, I think you focused too much on mistrust of TEPCO and too little on the growing mistrust in the Japanese government’s handling of the crisis. “Japanese citizens, people throughout the world, and (importantly) journalists covering the story have become profoundly skeptical about what the government tells them. “In my judgment this is not chiefly because the government has lied (though it may turn out to have done so), but because it has systematically failed to forewarn. Too many times in the past few weeks, people have awakened to bad news they didn’t expect, only to be told (belatedly) that what just happened was likely, predictable, even inevitable. “Much of it was predictable, but the government failed to predict it publicly. Largely because they have been so consistently blindsided, people feel (a) that the Japanese government has been lying, and (b) that Fukushima is worsening daily and nuclear power is uncontrollable and therefore intolerably dangerous.” For more along these lines, Peter has written longer pieces here, here, and here.