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Crisis case study written by WCU authors published in new textbook

A case study highlighting how Western Carolina University managed social media and other communications during the death of its leader, David O. Belcher, has been published in “Social Media Measurement and Management,” a new textbook authored by Jeremy Lipschultz, the Peter Kiewit Distinguished Professor at the University of Omaha-Nebraska.

A crisis case study authored by (from left) Donna Gallo, digital strategy director; Betty Farmer, professor of communication and public relations; and Rylee Roquemore, social media and digital strategist, has been published in a new textbook.

WCU’s Betty Farmer, professor of communication and public relations; Donna Gallo, digital strategy director; and Rylee Roquemore, social media and digital strategist, wrote the case study, which describes how the university marketing, public relations, web, video and social media teams coordinated communications before, during and after Belcher’s passing from brain cancer in June 2018.

“The WCU communications and marketing teams developed and implemented a comprehensive communications campaign that would honor our beloved leader while also providing his grieving constituents the information they needed to pay their respects and share their grief. We believe Chancellor Belcher would be pleased that this effort is now a published piece available for both scholars and practitioners to learn from,” Farmer said.

The case study provides an overview of Belcher’s positive impact on WCU and the region, identifies objectives of the memorial campaign, and gives a timeline for planning and implementation, examples of specific tactics, such as a memorial microsite, and sample social media posts and evaluation metrics.

The case study concludes with lessons learned and key takeaways that not only apply to the crisis involved in the death of a leader, but to other potential crisis scenarios, Farmer said. Additionally, the case study emphasizes the importance of an integrated communications strategy, which, given the multiple channels available for communicating, is increasingly challenging in organizations, she said.

The case study has been shared in other venues, in addition to being published in the Routledge text. Farmer presented the work at the International Crisis Communication and Risk conference in Orlando in March, and Gallo and Farmer presented at the Integrated Marketing Communications Conference in Wilmington in May.

For more information, contact Farmer at 828-227-3804 or

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