Comparing climate change messaging and COVID-19 messaging: a case study of the World Health Organization

Mujahid, Ali (2021) Comparing climate change messaging and COVID-19 messaging: a case study of the World Health Organization. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Climate change is an existential threat to humankind. To communicate the level of the danger as well as possible solutions to it, decades of research has gone into how to make climate change communication and messaging more effective, in order to spur people to adapt individual behaviour and increase support for policy action to counter the threat. This thesis aims to draw parallels between climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that both are wicked problems for which communication can be similarly addressed through a common lens. It identifies three widely used messaging strategies from a systematic literature review: scientific consensus messaging, inoculation messaging, and gain framing. The thesis will conduct a systematic document review and qualitative analysis of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 messaging from January 2020 till August 2021, analyzing the extent to which these three communication strategies or any novel WHO communication strategies are present. It finds that there is some evidence of usage of both inoculation messaging and gain framing but, surprisingly, none of scientific consensus messaging. It also discovers that the most used messaging strategy is a novel WHO messaging strategy, which, for the thesis, is labeled as Information, Explanation, and Solution (IES). There are also large parts of WHO’s COVID-19 communication that does not seem to deploy any messaging strategy at all but could benefit from such usage. The thesis shows examples of how current WHO messaging can be improved with all three messaging strategies and visualizes an integrated approach where the IES strategy is combined with others from climate change communication to maximize message efficiency. It goes on to illustrate broader lessons for COVID-19 messaging from climate change messaging and envisages a two-way street where lessons from COVID-19 messaging may also inform messaging campaigns for climate change and other comparable institutions.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15389
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 88-101).
Keywords: climate change messaging, pandemic messaging, messaging strategies
Department(s): Grenfell Campus > School of Science and the Environment > Environmental Policy Institute
Date: November 2021
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: World Health Organization--Case studies; COVID-19 (Disease)--2020-2021; Climatic changes; Communication.

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