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Brooke Fisher Liu

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Professor, Communication

(301) 405-6524

2110 Skinner Building
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Education

Ph.D., University of North Carolina

Research Expertise

Crisis & Risk Communication
Public Relations
Strategic Communication

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Brooke Liu's qualitative and quantitative research investigates how government messages, media, and interpersonal communication can motivate people to successfully respond to and recover from hazards. Much of her recent research focuses on tornado risk communication as well as crisis narratives and other message strategies.

Liu’s research has been funded by government agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). She has published more than 60 journal articles and book chapters. Additionally, Liu is the co-founder and editor of the first journal dedicated to crisis and risk communication research: the Journal of International Crisis and Risk Communication Research.

Previously, Liu served as a member of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Risk Communication Advisory Committee and the National Academy of Sciences Committee studying the future of emergency alert and warning systems. She also has developed and delivered risk communication training for a variety of government stakeholders including the Department of Homeland Security, the National Weather Service, and for the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience.

As the ADVANCE Professor for the College of Information Studies, Liu supports a campus-wide initiative to recruit, develop, retain, and promote women and under-represented minority faculty. Currently, Liu is the Associate Dean for Academic Standards and Policies in the University of Maryland Graduate School.

Graduate Advising Philosophy

 

Publications

When Crises Hit Home: How U.S. Higher Education Leaders Navigate Values During Uncertain Times

Study investigates how U.S. higher education leaders have centered their crisis management on values and guiding ethical principles.

Communication

Lead: Brooke Fisher Liu
Contributor(s): Duli Shi
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): JungKyu Rhys Lim, Khairul Islam, America L. Edwards, & Matthew Seeger
Dates:

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, this study investigates how U.S. higher education leaders have centered their crisis management on values and guiding ethical principles. We conducted 55 in-depth interviews with leaders from 30 U.S. higher education institutions, with most leaders participating in two interviews. We found that crisis plans created prior to the COVID-19 pandemic were inadequate due to the long duration and highly uncertain nature of the crisis. Instead, higher education leaders applied guiding principles on the fly to support their decision-making. If colleges and universities infuse shared values into their future crisis plans, they will not have to develop a moral compass on the fly for the next pandemic. This paper suggests the following somewhat universal shared values: (1) engage in accuracy, transparency, and accountability; (2) foster deliberative dialog; (3) prioritize safety; (4) support justice, fairness, and equity; and (5) engage in an ethic of care. To navigate ethics tensions, leaders need to possess crisis-relevant expertise or ensure that such expertise is present among crisis management team members. Standing up formal ethics committees composed of diverse stakeholders also is instrumental in navigating tensions inherent in crises. The next pandemic is already on the horizon according to experts. Through infusing values into future crisis plans, higher education leaders can be confident that their responses will be grounded in their communities’ shared values.

Tornado warning: Understanding the National Weather Service’s communication strategies

This study explores the National Weather Service’s communication through a multi-sited rapid ethnography that extends the fully functioning society theory.

Communication

Lead: Brooke Fisher Liu
Contributor(s): Anita Atwell Seate
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Iles, Irina; Herovic, Emina
Dates:
PRR

This study explores the National Weather Service’s communication through a multi-sited rapid ethnography that extends the fully functioning society theory. National Weather Service field offices do not employ public information officers. Instead, forecasters predict the weather, craft messages, and build relationships with their publics. Scholars have called for public relations research that examines messages, including how crisis communication can help publics cope. Additionally, scholars have noted that all organizations need public relations, even if they do not employ formal public relations personnel. In our study, forecasters emphasized the need to build their publics’ tornado threat awareness and provided strategies to make weather science accessible. Forecasters discussed a variety of message strategies including avoiding fear appeals, humanizing the organization, and visualizing risks. Forecasters also built relationships with active publics through soliciting weather spotters and empowering them to prepare others for severe weather. Overall, findings expand knowledge about how organizations can employ strategic public relations to benefit society, thereby extending fully functioning society theory.

Telling the tale: the role of narratives in helping people respond to crises

This study tested how the public responds to crisis narratives about a hypothetical infectious disease crisis, modeled after narratives emerging from the 2014–2016 Ebola pandemic, through an online experiment with a U.S. adult sample (N = 1050).

Communication

Lead: Brooke Fisher Liu
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Lucinda Austin, Yen-I Lee, Yan Jin, & Seoyeon Kim
Dates:

During public health crises like infectious disease outbreaks, news media and governments are responsible for informing the public about how to protect themselves. A large body of health communication research finds that persuasive narratives motivate protective behaviors, such as intentions to vaccinate. In their seminal book on crisis narratives, Seeger and Sellnow (Narratives of crisis: Telling stories of ruin and renewal. Stanford University) theorized five narrative types: blame, renewal, victim, hero, and memorial. In this study, we tested how the public responds to crisis narratives about a hypothetical infectious disease crisis, modeled after narratives emerging from the 2014–2016 Ebola pandemic, through an online experiment with a U.S. adult sample (N = 1050). Findings showcase which crisis narratives positively affect public protective behaviors as well as emotional responses, assessments of information credibility, and attributions of crisis responsibility.

Eyes of the Storm: How Citizen Scientists Contribute to Government Forecasting and Risk Communication

This study examines citizens who volunteer as weather spotters through a case study of an award-winning network.

Communication

Lead: Brooke Fisher Liu
Contributor(s): Anita Atwell Seate
Non-ARHU Contributor(s): Irina Iles & Emina Herovic
Dates:

Since the 1970s, the National Weather Service has trained citizens to collect, confirm, verify, or supplement radar and other data to contribute to a weather-ready nation. This study examines citizens who volunteer as weather spotters through a case study of an award-winning network. We uncover what motivates citizens to become involved in government science projects. Through the lens of relationship management theory and the related network approach, the study provides some of the first evidence on the benefits and drawbacks of citizens serving as amateur scientists and risk communicators and how these citizen scientists sustain their relationships with government scientists.