Stakeholder-focused communication strategy during crisis: A case study based on the Brussels Terror Attacks

Crisis-communication-Brussels-Attacks

Research in the field of risk and crisis communication indicates that large disasters not only cause distress among those affected by a crisis situation but also among the wider public. It is known that feelings of anxiety and dread are rooted in a heuristic interpretation of the situation, and that this leads to elevated stress levels in both the individual and the collective. From the literature on psychosocial behavior, we know that the lack of information, the shortness of guidance on what to do, and the absence of acknowledgement of any emotional distress, all have an immediate negative impact on the individual’s stress level. To tackle this phenomenon, this research looks to communication practices as a way of dealing with this issue during a crisis. The prevailing crisis communication literature suggests its prime aim is to safeguard the sender’s reputation thereby preventing the loss of trust. In our work, we inverted that logic by introducing a crisis communication strategy that focuses on restoring trust by diminishing victims’ and other stakeholders’ stress levels. Based on a case, the Brussels terror attacks (March, 2016), we proved the effectiveness of this approach and the diminishing effect on the population’s stress levels.

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