Communication in a pandemic: Concerns of agricultural and natural resources opinion leaders during early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic
Keywords:crisis communication, diffusion of innovations, survey
During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic (March-April 2020), opinion leaders in agriculture and natural resources (ANR) were asked to participate in a survey about the impacts of the crisis on the ANR industry specifically about their concerns related to communication, economics, level of preparedness, and health during this crisis. Of the 225 ANR leaders who participated, the majority were concerned that members of the public were sharing inaccurate information about COVID-19; others they come into contact with were not taking appropriate measures to avoid contracting COVID-19; about the impact of COVID-19 on the U.S. economy, their state’s economy, and the global economy; and other countries’ level of preparedness to deal with COVID-19. ANR leaders were consistently the most concerned about items that were outside of their direct sphere of influence. Implications from this work are that ANR leadership programs should incorporate programing to help ANR leaders understand how to be influential during a crisis at a national and international level. For statewide ANR leadership programs, it is recommended to include programming sessions related to identifying and sharing credible information and enabling and inspiring those in their circle of influence to do the same.
Burt, R. S. (1999). The social capital of opinion leaders. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 566(1), 37–54. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716299566001004
Chiarelli, C., Stedman, N., Carter, H., & Telg, R. (2010). The impact of organizational source and credibility and the factors that contribute to opinion leaders' decisions to diffuse information. Journal of Southern Agricultural Education Research, 60, 104–117. http://jsaer.org/pdf/vol60Whole.pdf#page=107
Coombs W. T. (2007). Ongoing crisis communication: Planning, managing, and responding. SAGE.
Coombs, W. T. (2012). Ongoing crisis communication. SAGE.
Corey, L. G. (1971). People who claim to be opinion leaders: Identifying their characteristics by self-report. Journal of Marketing, 35(4), 48–53. https://doi.org/10.1177/002224297103500409
Duvall, Z. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 on agriculture: Lessons from COVID-19. American Farm Bureau Federation. https://www.fb.org/viewpoints/lessons-from-covid-19.
Edgar, L. D., Edgar, D. W., McGuire, A., Rutherford, T. A., Doerfert, D. L., & Murphrey, T. P. (2012). Crisis communication needs assessment: A Delphi study to enhance instruction for agricultural communicators and other stakeholders. North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Journal, 56(4), 52–62. https://www.nactateachers.org/attachments/article/2013/8%20Edgar%20NACTA%20Journal%20Dec%202012.pdf
Lamm, K. W., & Lamm, A. J. (2019). A multi-level evaluation of the relationship between leadership program satisfaction, opinion leadership, and intent to participate in an alumni program. Journal of Leadership Education, 18(4), 40–46. https://doi.org/10.12806/V18/I4/R4
Lamm, K. W., Lamm, A. J., & Carter, H. S. (2014). Opinion leadership development: Context and audience characteristics count. Journal of Agricultural Education, 55(2), 91–105.
Lazarsfeld, P., Berelson, B., & Gaudet, H. (1948). The people's choice (2nd ed.). Columbia University Press.
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). Free Press.
Rogers, E. M., & Cartano, D. G. (1962). Methods of measuring opinion leadership. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 26(3), 435–441. https://doi.org/10.1086/267118
Sahelices-Pinto, C., & Rodríguez-Santos, C. (2014). E-WoM and 2.0 Opinion Leaders, Journal of Food Products Marketing, 20(3), 244¬–261. https://doi.org/10.1080/10454446.2012.732549
Sahin, O., Salim, H., Suprun, E., Richards, R., MacAskill, S., Heilgeist, S., Rutherford, S., Stewart, R. A., & Beal, C. D. (2020). Developing a preliminary causal loop diagram for understanding the wicked complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Systems, 8(2), 20. https://doi.org/10.3390/systems8020020
Seeger, M. W., Sellnow, T. L., & Ulmer, R. R. (2001). Public relations and crisis communication: Organizing and chaos. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Public relations handbook (pp.155–166). SAGE. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452220727.n11
Sellnow, T. L., Sellnow, D. D., Helsel, E. M., Martin, J. M., & Paker, J. S. (2019). Risk and crisis communication narratives in response to rapidly emerging diseases, Journal of Risk Research, 22(7), 897–908, https://doi.org/10.1080/13669877.2017.1422787
Shah, D. V., & Scheufele, D.A. (2006) Explicating opinion leadership: Nonpolitical dispositions, information consumption, and civic participation. Political Communication, 23(1), 1–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/10584600500476932
Ulmer, R. R., Sellnow, T. L., & Seeger, M. W. (2011). Effective crisis communication: Moving from crisis to opportunity. SAGE.
Valente, T. W., & Davis, R. L. (1999). Accelerating the diffusion of innovations using opinion leaders. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 566(1), 55–67. https://doi.org/10.1177/000271629956600105
Weimann, G. (1994). The influentials: People who influence people. State University of New York Press.
World Health Organization. (2020, April). Timeline – COVID-19. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/27-04-2020-who-timeline---covid-19