Crisis communication and terrorism: the Norway attacks on 22 July 2011

Jesper Falkheimer (Department of Strategic Communication, Lund University, Helsingborg, Sweden)

Corporate Communications: An International Journal

ISSN: 1356-3289

Publication date: 28 January 2014



The aim of this paper is two-fold: to describe and to consider the implications of the synthesis between terrorism, the media and strategic communication, using the Norway attacks as an example; and to describe and analyze the challenges and execution of crisis communication during and after the Norwegian attacks.


The article is based on earlier research and secondary data (an extensive assessment made by the Norwegian police authority in 2012), as well as a minor media analysis focusing on representation of the perpetrator. An interview with two high-ranking communication officials working for the crisis management coordination secretariat in Norway has served as supplementary material.


The crisis challenged the linear process of standard planning and information transmission. The terrorist attacks in Norway and how they were framed, especially before the perpetrator was identified, are linked to a global discourse on terrorists, and demonstrate the need for developing specific terrorism crisis communication theory. The news media coverage gave the perpetrator and his political messages publicity, but more as a lone disturbed individual, associated with school shootings more than with terrorism. There is a need for increased knowledge about terrorism as strategic communication or public relations. The variety among stakeholders and the increased possibilities for terrorists to control and plan their communications in have implications during all phases of a crisis. New strategies and tactics that oppose and defeat the terrorist's communication goals must be developed.


The article views terrorism from a communication perspective and develops important questions about the relationship between terrorism, media, strategic communication and crisis communication.



Falkheimer, J. (2014), "Crisis communication and terrorism: the Norway attacks on 22 July 2011", Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 52-63.

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