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Spotlight On: Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC)

Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC)

In a crisis, every word counts. Abt stands with clients to help them communicate with a target audience when their messages are needed most. We reach target audiences with the information they need to counter harmful behaviors and provide action-oriented steps they can take to protect themselves, their families, and communities.

By combining technical, communications, and behavior-change expertise while applying the principles of behavioral-economics, Abt campaigns successfully encourage audiences to adopt recommended actions. Our approach changes complex behaviors and brings a sense of order to otherwise chaotic situations.



Abt promotes behavior change by crafting messages that resonate with audiences, working with partners to expand campaign messages using evidence-based practices. Due to the rapid start-up that emergencies and disasters often necessitate, we continue to test and refine messages in real time and throughout the life of the campaign to ensure desired behavior change. Our efforts include working with community organizations to develop culturally appropriate messages that will persuade populations to adopt best practices. We use targeted earned media, digital/social media, and paid media, since they most often are the best ways to reach individuals with pertinent information during a disaster. In addition, we provide materials development and IT support for a web and mobile presence. Our team’s expertise, experience, and bold thinking leads to the right information getting to the right people at the right time through the right channels in the midst of a crisis.

relevant expertise

Relevant Expertise

Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the U.S.
Client: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC Community Interventions for Infection Control Unit updated the 2007 Interim Pre-pandemic Planning Guidance for state, tribal, local, and territorial public health officials with a focus on introducing community mitigation measures during an influenza pandemic. To this end, we developed additional influenza community-mitigation planning guides for key decision makers in community settings. Abt developed strategic communication and dissemination strategies for quick implementation. We also created media, social media, and marketing materials to raise awareness about the availability of the planning guides and move the target audiences to implement the prescribed strategies. Additionally, we designed a comprehensive evaluation plan to assess the efficacy of the communication and dissemination strategies.


Multi-Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) Healthcare Provider (HCP) Engagement
Client: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Abt will assess and address the educational needs of HCPs treating pediatric patients with suspected and confirmed cases of MIS-C. Abt will conduct three phases of data collection with HCPs (baseline survey, in-depth interviews, and message testing) to develop and disseminate through partners’ MIS-C-related educational materials. This work will rely on our experience conducting data collection with HCPs through CDC’s Surveys to Monitor Influenza Coverage Among Healthcare Personnel Project and Abt’s experience supporting CDC’s communications response to public health emergencies. The clinical definition of MIS recently expanded to include adults (MIS-A), and Abt will be assisting CDC in researching, developing, and disseminating additional risk communication materials for HCPs treating adult patients.

Zika readiness

Zika Readiness Digital Outreach Campaign
Client: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Zika is a major health threat requiring rapid and effective cross-disciplinary action. Abt worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create and launch a campaign delivering research-based, behavior-change messaging that reduced the negative impacts of Zika. We used crisis risk communication principles—and the health belief, stages of change, and precaution adoption process models—to manage risk, combat misperceptions, and encourage protective health behaviors. Our plan enabled a flexible response to new medical findings, emerging needs, and the risk of complacency. We could respond quickly while conducting comprehensive research, planning, testing, and implementation phases. We evaluated materials and executed real-time changes; conducted behavioral-intent studies to gauge action; and assessed public engagement (which can decline because of message fatigue and apathy). Social media were critical to the campaign’s success by enabling granular targeting, quick pivots, and real-time metrics.


Contact Us

cynthia klein

Cynthia Klein

Senior Client Account Lead, Public Health

Health & Environment
Atlanta, GA
(404) 946-6310 (O)

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