A Strategic Communication Approach to Crisis Situations: A Case Study Analysis of Transformative Events at George Mason University and Northern Illinois University




Walsch, Daniel L.

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The great success of George Mason University’s men’s basketball team in the 2006 NCAA tournament and the multiple shootings that occurred at Northern Illinois University in 2008 placed high demands on both institutions. Each situation matched the elements of a crisis in that they were unexpected, represented a potential threat and required quick response (Hermann, 1969). To assess whether the two institution’s crisis communication messages supported their overall core values and missions, 20 top administrators from both universities and over 100 media articles and two major reports conducted in the aftermath of these dramatic high risk/high reward situations were examined. The manner in which each institution handled its situation showed that administrators generally did not approach these high risk/high reward situations with explicit consideration of how their long term, strategic and institutional core values values or mission goals should guide response to these unexpected situations, which required immediate, intense and full-time response



Strategic communication, Case study research, Crisis communication, Transformative events