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Risk communication management: a case study on Brookhaven National Laboratory

Yunna Rhee (Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, College of Social Science, Division of Journalism and Mass Communication, Seoul, South Korea)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 25 July 2008




The purpose of this case study was to analyze risk communication management practice of Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), using the relationship management theory in public relations.


The study draws upon interviews with key stakeholders of the laboratory, including top managers, communication practitioners, employees, and community members. Media reports, internal documents, and on‐site participant observations were concurrently analyzed.


The study identified leadership communication, organizational commitment to stakeholder relationships, integrated communication function, employee participation in community outreach, and symmetrical communication strategies as contributing factors of effective risk communication management. In particular, the study provided insights into the roles employees play in risk communication settings. It was found that employees' use of symmetrical communication strategies such as openness, access, and listening in risk communication programs contributed to external publics' development of positive perceptions regarding the organization.

Practical implications

The article concludes with four implications of the findings for the practice of risk communication.


This study closely followed the methods by which public relations practitioners, non‐public relations employees, and publics engaged in the relationship building process. The case study should, therefore, provide insights to students and scholars interested in discovering public relations theory at work in a real‐life setting.



Rhee, Y. (2008), "Risk communication management: a case study on Brookhaven National Laboratory", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 224-242.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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