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5 tips for identifying—and avoiding—cognitive bias during a crisis

When facing the unknown, you might not even know everything you think you know

By | Julie Wright |

We’re in the midst of a public health emergency, a slow-moving economic disaster and a period of major social upheaval. These are ideal conditions for cognitive bias to take root. When we are stressed, our attention is distracted, emotions run high, the dangers of cognitive bias are elevated, and strategic thinking and decision making are often impaired.

It’s important for leaders to recognize their biases and take steps to minimize or eliminate them, individually and across their teams. It’s also important in internal and external communications to recognize that cognitive bias may also be interfering with your ability to communicate with your target audiences.

Here are five ways to mitigate and avoid cognitive bias in times of crisis:

1. Research and test your messages.

At the heart of every good communications strategy and crisis plan is a messaging platform. Key messages are used to help drive the beliefs, motivations and behaviors of an organization’s target audiences and stakeholders.

Messaging can target employees, customers, regulators and communities. In all of these cases, messaging needs to be based on research that gives emotional insights into the target audience. This avoids your own bias clouding your communications and helps you identify your target audience’s cognitive bias, to which you might be able to adapt your messaging.

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