Exploring the Colgate Model: A Case Study of the Role of Crisis and Risk Communication in Higher Education

  •  Thomas Barker    
  •  Jasmine Kellogg    


This study of a return to in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic at a residential, liberal arts university examines the role communication played to facilitate the safety of students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community. The study uses a grounded-theory approach to frame the communication situation, and a thematic analysis to highlight the dynamics of risk and crisis message development in the case. Results indicate that messaging was developed through engagement activities in a two-stage process, moving from an informative, two-way engagement stage to a branded, strategic stage that resulted in almost universal success, measured in low infection rates, in the messaging campaign. How did they do it? This article explores that question and, based on this case, concludes that the role of crisis and risk communication is to enable this two-stage process of message development. The article contributes to mental model and situational crisis communication theory by revealing the interplay of the two theoretical approaches.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1927-5250
  • ISSN(Online): 1927-5269
  • Started: 2012
  • Frequency: bimonthly

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