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Lessons of success and failure: Practicing risk communication at government agencies

Journal article
Authors Åsa Boholm
Published in Safety Science
Volume 118
Pages 158-167
ISSN 0925-7535
Publication year 2019
Published at School of Global Studies
Pages 158-167
Language - English
Subject categories Media and Communications


- The study looks at government agency officials’ experiences of what characterizes successful and failed risk communication. It is theoretically positioned within a practice based approach to risk communication and management as an organizational activity, or “risk work”. Risk work in organizations build on sense making, alignment to commonly agreed prudent practices, and learning from experience. The empirical method consists of interviews with practitioners working with risk communication at six government agencies in Sweden, in the policy areas of food, chemicals, environmental protection, housing and building, traffic, and contingency planning and management. The study identifies several factors that according to the practitioners contribute to success and failure of risk communication work practice: strategic planning and decision making; inter-organizational collaboration and assigning of responsibility, predominantly with other agencies but also with external stakeholders; scientific knowledge and understanding of risk issues; interactions with the media; alignment of risk management; and formulating and disseminating the message. An additional finding is the tendency of the practitioners to make attributions in terms of causal explanations, internal or external to the organization, of success and failure in performing risk communication. © 2019 The Author

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