During the pandemic, crisis communication has come into focus and municipal organizations have faced major challenges. Professor Bengt Johansson of University of Gothenburg has examined how municipalities in western Sweden have coped with the pandemic and communication – lessons that are important to include before the next crisis.
Communication has been crucial to how individuals, organizations and society at large have handled the pandemic. In Sweden, much has circulated about the Swedish Public Health Agency’s (FHM) press conferences, the government’s actions and journalism’s ability to scrutinize authorities and politicians.
“What may not have received so much attention so far is communication from an organizational perspective and how, for example, municipalities have managed this”, states Bengt Johansson, professor at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMG) at the University of Gothenburg.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic two years ago, Johansson has devoted an extensive part of his research to following, investigating and analyzing various aspects of communication about Covid-19, together with colleagues within the long-established research group on crisis and risk communication at JMG.
Lessons for the next crisis
In a new report for Kommunforskning i Västsverige (KFI), Bengt Johansson now describes how crisis communication has been handled in the Västra Götaland region and a number of western Swedish municipalities.
“I describe the lessons about crisis communication I have done by comparing the evaluations of pandemic management made in the Västra Götaland region and a number of western Swedish municipalities. In this way, we can see things that were common to all the organizations surveyed, and what we can thereby take with us when determining how crisis management and communication can be organized before the next crisis. For the question is not whether there will be a crisis in the future, the question is what the crisis will be about”.
The communications officers’ comeback
Johansson emphasizes, among other things, how interest and awareness in the organizations have increased and that functional communication is a prerequisite for successful crisis communication.
“The communicators themselves have experienced that they are no longer questioned but appreciated. Covid-19 has become the communicators’ revenge! The report addresses both light and dark aspects of crisis communication, as well as what has worked and not worked”. Johansson highlights in particular the following six points:
- The communications officers’ comeback – on the central importance of communication competence.
- Living in a digital world – about the possibilities of technology.
- The fear of the media shadow – about the balance between an organization’s own communication channels and traditional media.
- Contemporary dilemma – about the challenge of everyone getting information at the same time.
- The invisible channels – about the importance of communication channels and networks within organizations.
- Blind spots and white spots – about the importance of knowledge about how communication channels are used by employees, users and citizens.
The purpose of the collaboration agreement is to initiate research in the mentioned area and thus contribute to creating a strong research environment
The KFi report “En kommunikativ kris” by professor Johnson is avaliable by clicking the button below.
This article was first produced by the University of Gothenburg and published at gu.se, and later adapted for NordMedia Network.