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Julio-agosto de 2020, vol. 29, núm. 4


Covid-19 communication management in Spain: Exploring the effect of information-seeking behavior and message reception in public’s evaluation

Ángeles Moreno; Cristina Fuentes-Lara; Cristina Navarro

This article is available in open access

Abstract: The World Health Organization (2011) has emphasized communication as one of the biggest challenges and places risk communication among the essential competencies required to tackle a pandemic. In light of the Covid-19 crisis, the aim of this paper is to assess how information forms and sources influence the public’s information-seeking behaviors, and the perception of government’s crisis response strategies during the pandemic. An online survey was conducted between March 14 and April 14, 2020, the first four weeks after the declaration of the State of Alarm in Spain. The online questionnaire included questions regarding information-seeking behavior, trust in different sources and channels, perception of government communication management, message retention, and demographic questions. Findings show a synchronous use of multiple media and platforms in line with channel complementarity theory. Three of the four most used information channels are considered mainstream news media. However, the second source of information is WhatsApp. People who relied more on the mainstream news media for Covid-19 information are generally most likely to express positive opinions of the government’s communication strategy. Findings also show that people less able to make correct attributions of governmental information were the most critical of the government’s crisis response. Finally, trust in public authorities’ decreases as the crisis evolves as a general matter. It is specially truth for the WHO, but there is also a striking exemption for local governments. Implications for theory and empirical research and recommendations and new issues to address are identified and discussed.

Keywords: Crisis communication; Risk communication; Emergency communication; Covid-19; Coronavirus; Pandemics; Strategic communication; Media; Spain.