The use of the situational crisis communication theory to study crisis response strategies at a university of technology

  • Amanda van Rensburg Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
  • D. P. Conradie Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
  • H. B. Dondolo Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa
Keywords: Crisis response strategies, Reputation repair, Situational Crisis Communication Theory, Communication channel, Crisis communication


Over the past few years, crises at South African universities have become a regular occurrence. A growing number of researchers have confirmed that Coombs’ Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) assists in understanding how management generally responds to a crisis situation. This study used SCCT to investigate how the crisis communication activities at one South African university of technology was perceived by the staff of that institution. The study examined, through a survey among a stratified random sample of staff members, the respondents’ perceptions of the communication channels and crisis response strategies that management used when communicating with staff during crises related to student protests at the University. The findings suggest that the University mainly used the justification crisis response strategy to communicate to university stakeholders, while rarely using the other strategies found in SCCT. The communication channels most preferred by staff for crisis communication were SMSs and WhatsApp messages, while the University website was perceived to have been used most by management. The article finally makes some recommendations, but also points out some limitations of the study.


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