Public Relations 2015 Abstracts

Open Competition
Engaging the Public with CSR Activities Through Social Media • Alan Abitbol, Texas Tech University; Sun Young Lee, Texas Tech University •
This study examines how communicating corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives via Facebook impact public engagement. Using the stakeholder and dialogic theories as frameworks, a content analysis of 533 Fortune 500 companies’ CSR-specific posts was conducted. After testing the effects of issue topic and three dialogic strategies on public engagement, results indicated that the use of multimedia content and interactive language in messages affected public engagement most. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed further.

Making social media work: Modeling the antecedents and outcomes of perceived relationship investment of nonprofit organizations • Giselle Auger, Duquesne University; Moonhee Cho, University of Tennessee • A lack of empirical studies prompted the development and testing of a model investigating the antecedents and outcomes of perceived relationship investment (PRI) in nonprofits. All parts of the model were supported including antecedent tactics of tangible rewards, interactivity, and information sharing, their effect on relationship quality, and positive behavioral intentions such as keeping the organization foremost in consideration of volunteer time or large gift allocation when time or financial resources allow.

Campaign and Corporate Goals in Conflict: Exploring Corporate Social Initiative Types and Company Issue Congruence • Lucinda Austin, Elon University; Barbara Miller, Elon University • Corporate social responsibility is increasingly important in boosting public acceptance for companies, and emerging research suggests corporate social marketing could be the most effective type of CSR. However, scholars caution that corporate social marketing is not a one-size-fits-all. Through a content analysis of Coca-Cola’s social media posts on its controversial topics related to sustainability, this study explores how corporate social initiative type and company-issue congruence influence public response to an organization’s social media CSR posts.

Communicating Sustainability: An Examination of Corporate, Nonprofit, and UniversityWebsites • Holly Ott, The Pennsylvania State University; Ruoxu Wang, Penn State University; Denise Bortree, Penn State University • This study analyzed the websites of top corporations, nonprofits, and colleges/universities for the types of sustainability content presented. Comparisons are made between organization types. Few nonprofits in the sample provided sustainability content; however, nearly all universities and over half of the corporations had a designated sustainability section on their websites. Findings suggest that organizations are promoting certain content, and fewer than 40% quantify their sustainability claims on any topic. Implications are discussed.

More than just a lack of uniformity: Exploring the evolution of public relations master’s programs • Rowena Briones, Virginia Commonwealth University; Hongmei Shen, San Diego State University; Candace Parrish, Virginia Commonwealth University; Elizabeth Toth, University of Maryland; Maria Russell, Syracuse University • PR is well known for its adaptability through continual change, and as a result PR master’s programs have been re-conceptualized to remain rigorous and competitive. Twenty in-depth interviews were conducted with administrators of PR master’s programs. Findings demonstrated that although many programs have moved away from traditional curricula, programs exist that still model CPRE recommendations. These findings could be used to better ground the discipline by ensuring a stronger cohesiveness within PR master’s education.

If organizations are people, they need to have the same values: Personal values and organizational values in stakeholder evaluations of organizational legitimacy • John Brummette, Radford University; Lynn Zoch, Radford University • In today’s Linked-in, friend heavy, tweeted about world, in which many organizations have constituents who follow, share and like them, the general public often places anthropomorphic expectations on organizations. This study found a positive relationship between individuals’ personal values and the values they deem as desirable for organizations. Findings from this study also support the assumption that human and organizational values are directly related with the concept of organizational legitimacy.

The effect of CSR expectancy violations on public attitudinal and behavioral responses to corporations: An application of expectancy violation theory • Moonhee Cho, University of Tennessee; Sun-Young Park, Rowan University; Soojin Kim, University of Florida • By applying expectancy violation theory (EVT) to corporate public relations, the study explored how publics respond to an organization’s CSR activities. A 2 (publics’ pre-predictive CSR expectancy) X 2 (CSR practice information) experimental study examined how both negative and positive expectancy violation and conformity influenced publics’ attitude toward an organization and their supportive behavior intention. Also, the study explained the moderating role of corporate likability in influencing the effect of expectancy violation.

Crisis communication and corporate apology: The effects of causal attributions and apology types on publics’ cognitive and affective responses • Surin Chung, University of Missouri Columbia; Suman Lee, Iowa State University • This study examined how corporate apologies influence cognitive and affective public responses during a crisis. A total of 200 participants were exposed to one of the two types of causal attributions (internal vs. external) and one of the two types of apology messages (responsibility-oriented vs. sympathy-oriented). The study found the main effects of causal attributions on public responses. The study also revealed the interaction effects between causal attributions and apology messages on public responses.

Reassessment of audience in public relations industry: How social media reshape public relations measurements • Surin Chung, University of Missouri Columbia; Harsh Taneja, University of Missouri, School of Journalism • The growing adoption of social media in PR practice has provided opportunities for newer audience measurements and contributed to cultivating newer conceptions of their audience. This study conducts a historical textual analysis of articles in PR Week to establish the conception. The analysis maps the structural transformation of the field that has guided the PR industry’s reconceptualization of their audiences from the quantity of media placements to the quantity and the quality of behavioral outcomes.

The Effects of Framing in Mainstream and Alternative Media on Government Public Relationships • Ganga Dhanesh; Tracy Loh • This study aimed to examine the effects of differential framing in alternative media and mainstream media on publics’ perceptions of government-public relationships; an attempt to integrate the rich bodies of work in framing and relationship management theorizing in public relations, in the context of government public relations and the challenges thrown up by the emergence of alternative media. The study employed an experimental design and found that reading alternative media negatively affected publics’ perceptions of trust, commitment, control mutuality and satisfaction, but not communal and exchange relationships. Reading mainstream media on the other hand had no significant relationship with publics’ perceptions of government-public relationship. The difference in effect is attributed to the framing devices employed in alternative and mainstream media. Implications for public relations theory and practice are discussed.

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right: Journalist perceptions of reputation and errors in corporate communication • Melanie Formentin, Towson University; Kirstie Hettinga, California Lutheran University; Alyssa Appelman, Northern Kentucky University • Exploring reputation and organizational communication, this study tests how journalists perceive press releases containing errors, and examines the legitimacy of using fictional organizations when testing reputation via experiments. Journalists (N = 118) read releases from reputable or fictional companies, with or without typos. Releases without errors and from an existing company were ranked more favorably based on press release judgments and reputation. Analysis showed no interaction effects, suggesting reputation cannot overcome negative error effects.

Care in Crisis: Proposing the Applied Model of Care Considerations for Public Relations • Julia Daisy Fraustino, West Virginia University; Amanda Kennedy, University of Maryland • This work builds global bridges from ethics theory to practice in crisis public relations. It forms foundations for ethical organizational communication throughout the crisis lifecycle and across contexts. The Applied Model of Care Considerations is proposed using the illustration of Nestle’s global baby-formula-promotion crisis. Rooted in feminist normative philosophies, this research addresses public relations literature gaps from lack of: (1) general crisis ethics theory; (2) applied crisis communication ethics for practice; (3) feminist-theory-oriented crisis communication.

Mascot Nations: Examining university-driven college football fan communities • Matthew Haught, University of Memphis • In the sport of college football, engagement with fans drives revenue for the sports teams and the athletic department; the more fans buy, the more money the school gets. This study examines the ways college football teams use Facebook to engage their publics, and how that engagement builds a sense of community. Specifically, it explores six teams that represent new college foot-ball teams, mid-major teams, and state flagship institution teams. Ultimately, it seeks to explain how social media can be a force in establishing and maintaining an online community.

Informing crisis communication preparation and response through network analysis: An elaboration of the Social-Mediated Crisis Communication model • Itai Himelboim, University of Georgia; Yan Jin, University of Georgia; Bryan Reber, University of Georgia; Patrick Grant, University of Georgia • To test and elaborate as necessary the Social-Mediated Crisis Communication (SMCC) model’s key publics classifications (Liu et al., 2012) and to provide practical insight to public identification for crisis communication planning and response, this study uses network analysis to identify social mediators (Himelboim et al., 2014) and clustered publics in airline Twitter networks. In our analysis, social mediators and network clusters are classified according to the publics taxonomy of the SMCC model. The characteristics of the social mediators and the network structure of the clusters are also identified in airline Twitter networks. Our findings suggest further elaborations and more in-depth identification of key publics in social-mediated crisis communication.

Minding the representation gap: Some pitfalls of linear crisis-response theory • Yi-Hui Huang, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Hiu Ying Choy, The School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Fang Wu, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Qing Huang, The School of Journalism and Communication, The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Qijun He, the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Deya Xu, Department of Communication, CUHK • Scholars assume the direct influence of crisis communication strategies (CCSs) upon representations of CCSs in the media and online public posts. This study 1) introduces the concept of representation gap to address how media and netizen’s gatekeeping practices represent organizational CCSs differently; and 2) highlights how social context leads to an evaluation gap of communication effectiveness. Analysis validates the robust predictive power of this representation gap with regard to interpreting the effectiveness of CCSs.

Too much of a good thing: When does two-way symmetric communication become unhelpful? • Yi Grace Ji, University of Miami; Cong Li, Univ. of Miami • The current study proposes a moderated mediation model by revisiting the effects of two-way symmetric communication on relational outcomes in a social-mediated relationship management context. Through a 2 (interactivity: one-way vs. two way) × 2 (message valence: positive vs. negative) between-subjects experiment, it was demonstrated that two-way symmetric communication led to more favorable relational outcomes only when the communication was centered on a negative subject, and such effects were mediated by perceived source credibility.

Making a good life in professional and personal arenas: A SEM analysis of fair decision making, leadership, organizational support, and quality of Employee-Organization Relationships (EORs) • Hua Jiang, Syracuse University • Scholars and practitioners have well acknowledged the importance of studying influential factors leading to quality employee-organization relationships (EORs). A growing body of literature exist in developing theoretical models to explain the underlying mechanisms between EORs and organizational contextual variables that are closely related to EOR outcomes (trust, commitment, satisfaction, and control mutuality). Based on a national sample of employees (n=795) working in diverse organizations in the US, the present study proposed and tested a model that examined how organizational procedural justice, transformational leadership behaviors of employees’ immediate supervisors, and supportive organizational environment, as three influential factors were associated with time-based and strain-based work-life conflict and employee-organization relationship outcomes. Results of the study supported the conceptual model, except for the direct effect of transformational leadership upon strain-based work-life conflict and that of strain-based work-life conflict upon quality of EORs. Theoretical contributions and managerial ramifications of the study were discussed.

Is there still a PR problem online? Exploring the effects of different sources and crisis response strategies in online crisis communication via social media • Young Kim, Louisiana State University; Hyojung Park, Louisiana State University • This study examined how organizational sources (vs. non-organizational sources) affect perceived source credibility in the context of social media and how the effect of source interplays with crisis response strategy in determining crisis communication outcomes, such as crisis responsibility, reputation, and supportive behavioral intentions. A 3 (source: organization, CEO, or customer) X 2 (crisis response strategy: accommodative or defensive) X 2 (crisis type: airline crash or bank hacking) mixed experimental design was used with 391 participants. The organizational sources, especially CEOs, were more likely to be perceived as more credible than the non-organizational source. The path analysis indicated that perceived source credibility mediated the effect of source on reputation and behavioral intentions; however, this mediation was moderated by the type of crisis response strategy being used. In addition, crisis response strategies had an indirect effect on crisis communication outcomes through perceived company credibility.

Understanding public and its communicative actions as antecedents of government-public relationships in crisis communication • Young Kim, Louisiana State University; Andrea Miller, Louisiana State University; Hyunji Lim, University of Miami • This study explored an effective government-public relationship by understanding its antecedents, public and its communicative actions, in crisis communication. The government-public relationship research has overlooked the importance of its antecedents and focused on the quality of relationship (outcome) in terms of long term relationship building. To fill the gap, the current study attempts to understand public and its communicative actions as antecedents of government-public relationships in a government crisis, problem-solving situation, by applying a Situational Theory of Problem Solving (STOPS) to relationship research. Using an online nationwide survey with 545 participants, this study tested a proposed model employing structural equation modeling (SEM). The findings indicate that active public’s communication behaviors are more likely to positively associate with attribution of responsibility on the organization and, at the same time, negatively associate with relationship outcomes and subsequent consequences, negative reputation and less behavioral intention to support. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

The value of public relations: Different impacts of communal and exchange relationships on communicative behavior • Jarim Kim, Kookmin University; Minjung Sung, Chung-Ang University • The purpose of this paper was to investigate the impacts of relationship on organization-public relationships using the situational theory of publics and its extended model, specifically in a tuition issue context, and to test the different effects of a communal and exchange relationship on a public’s perception regarding the issue. The study employed a survey with 508 university students. The results indicated that the perceived student-university relationship had a positive influence on students’ constraint recognition regarding a university-related issue, whereas the relationship had a negative influence on problem recognition. Problem recognition, involvement recognition and constraint recognition positively predicted students’ motivation to take an action, which further predicted communicative action. The current study also found a different influence of communal and exchange relationships on the public’s perception regarding an issue. Communal relationships had a negative association with problem recognition and a positive one with constraint recognition. Exchange relationships had positive relationships with problem recognition and involvement recognition. As one of the few studies that has examined a relationship’s influence on the public’s perceptions of an issue and that empirically tested the differential effects of different types of relationships, this study advances the field of public relations by theoretically extending the public relations model and by providing solid empirical data to support the current conceptual model.

Examining the Role of CSR in Corporate Crises: Integration of Situational Crisis Communication Theory and the Persuasion Knowledge Model • Jeesun Kim, California State University, Fullerton; Chang-Dae Ham • The impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities on consumer perceptions has widely been discussed. However, knowledge about the role of CSR communication in the corporate crisis context is still limited. In this study we aim to help fill this gap by conducting 2 (crisis type: accidental vs. intentional) x 2 (CSR motives: values-driven vs. strategic-driven) x 2 (CSR history: long vs. short) between-subjects design experiment. In particular, we integrate Situational Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT) with the Persuasion Knowledge Model (PKM) to better understand how and why consumers, as an active public, cope with rather than simply accept or resist corporate crisis strategies based on their knowledge structure. We found an interaction effect between consumers’ persuasion knowledge (CSR motive perception) and topic knowledge (crisis type perception) on word-of-mouth intention and purchase intention. In addition, persuasion knowledge (CSR motive perception) interacted with agent knowledge (CSR history perception) on purchase intention. We discuss theoretical as well as practical implications.

Relational Immunity? Examining Relationship as Crisis Shield in the case of Purdue’s On-Campus Shooting • Arunima Krishna, Purdue University; Brian Smith, Purdue University; Staci Smith • This study examined the influence of a crisis on relational perceptions by investigating students’ perceptions of their relationship with Purdue University following the on-campus shooting. Findings show that despite the generally positive relationship Purdue maintains with its students, the crisis had a negative impact on the students’ perceptions of their relationship with Purdue. Furthermore, results show how publics’ emotions, especially empathy, about the organization regarding the crisis influence their evaluations of organization-public relationships

Understanding an Angry Hot-Issue Public’s response to The Interview Cancellation Saga • Arunima Krishna, Purdue University; Kelly Vibber, University of Dayton • This study examines comments on online news articles about The Interview’s cancellation and eventual release. We examine these comments from the context of communication behaviors of hot-issue angry publics, and present a longitudinal analysis of themes present over the duration of the issue. Anti-corporate sentiment, conspiracy, and questioning the film content/premise were consistent throughout the timeline. Discussion on how monitoring these types of communication might lead to better engagement with key publics is provided.

Never Easy to Say Sorry: Exploring the Interplay of Crisis Involvement, Brand Image and Message Framing in Developing Effective Crisis Responses • Soyoung Lee, The University of Texas at Austin; Lucy Atkinson, University of Texas at Austin • This study examines how the interplay between crisis involvement, brand image, and message framing has an impact on the effectiveness of brand’s apology message in a crisis context. To determine the effectiveness of an apology, based on SCCT guidance and ELM, a 2 (Crisis involvement: high vs low) × 2 (Brand image: symbolic vs. functional) × 2 (Message types: emotional vs. informational) factorial design are employed. Theoretical and empirical implications are discussed.

The Role of Company–Cause Congruence and the Moderating Effects of Organization–Public Relationships on the Negative Spillover Effects of Partnerships • Sun Young Lee, Texas Tech University; Hyejoon Rim, University of Minnesota • The purpose of this study was to explore whether negative spillover effects occur in the corporate–nonprofit partnership context when a crisis strikes a partner organization, and to investigate two factors—company–cause congruence and organization–public relationships (OPRs)—that might affect the degree of negative impact. The results of an experiment proved negative spillover effects; when respondents were exposed to negative information about a partner organization, their attitude toward the principal organization became less favorable. Contrary to our hypotheses, however, the perceived congruence between the company and the cause of the nonprofit organization yielded buffering effects that minimized the negative spillover effects, and OPRs moderated the impacts. We discuss the practical and theoretical implications.

Understanding Consumer Resentment Before It’s too Late: Empirical Testing of A Service Failure Response Model • Zongchao Li; Don Stacks, University of Miami • This paper investigated consumer response mechanism in a service failure context. A Service Failure Response Model was introduced that incorporated emotive and cognitive antecedents, a mediation process and four behavioral outcomes. Data were collected via an online survey (N=371) and further analyzed using the structural equation modeling approach. Results confirmed the Service Failure Response Model: anger, dissatisfaction and perceived betrayal were emotive/cognitive antecedents that lead to consumers’ exit, voice, and revenge responses. This process was mediated by desire for avoidance and desire for revenge.

Crowd Endorsement on Social Media: Persuasive Effects of Organizations’ Retweeting and Role of Social Presence • Young-shin Lim; Roselyn J. Lee-Won, The Ohio State University • Despite the technological affordances of social media platforms allowing organizations to engage in two-way, many-to-many communication with their stakeholders, organizations tend to simply posts unilateral messages. Drawing on the concept of social presence and the theory of reasoned action, this research investigated the persuasive effects of organizations’ retweeting practices. An online experiment was conducted, featuring a Twitter page of a fictitious organization. Results showed that retweeted user messages, when compared with organization’s original tweets, induced higher levels of social presence, which in turn led to higher levels of social norm perception, more positive attitude toward the behavior advocated by the organization, and stronger intention to perform the advocated behavior. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Crucial Linkages in Successful Public Relations Practice: Organizational Culture, Leadership, Engagement, Trust and Job Satisfaction • Juan Meng, University of Georgia; Bruce Berger, University of Alabama • The study examines the effects of critical organizational factors (organizational culture and excellent leader performance) on public relations practitioners’ job engagement and trust in the organization that link to improved job satisfaction. A national online survey of 883 public relations professionals working in a variety of organizations was used as the empirical data to test the relationships in a proposed conceptual model. Results confirmed the strong impact organizational culture and leader performance can have on outcomes at the practitioner level (engagement, trust, and job satisfaction). In addition, results revealed the significant mediating effects of engagement and trust in the relationship between organizational factors and practitioners’ job satisfaction. The study concludes with research and practical implications.

Change Management Communication: Barriers, Strategies & Messaging • Marlene Neill, Baylor University • In a world characterized by constant change, there has been a neglect of scholarly research on change management communication in the context of public relations. Through 32 in-depth interviews with executives in marketing, public relations and human resources, this study provides new insights into the barriers, effective strategies and key messaging in change management communication. Change management was examined in 10 sectors representing 15 employers. Barriers for communicators included lack of a plan, changing plans, change fatigue and multiple cultures, missions and priorities. In addition, public relations tended to serve more of a tactical role rather than a strategic one being brought in after key decisions had already been made. Effective communication approaches internal communicators reported using included road trips by senior leaders to meet with employees, videos, testimonials, and recruiting employee ambassadors or influencers. Executives said messages should reinforce core values, communicate what the changes mean for employees, the benefits of the change and end goals.

Political Organization-Public Relations and Trust: Facebook vs. Campaign Websites • David Painter, Full Sail University • This experimental investigation (N = 649) parses the influence of online information source and interactivity on the effects of strategic campaign communications on gains in citizen-political organization-public relations and political trust. Although simple exposure exerted significant effects on all participants, the results indicate Facebook was differentially more effective than campaign websites at building overall citizen-political party relationships (POPRs) and trust in government. Specifically, Facebook was more effective at building relational trust, control mutuality, and political trust; while campaign websites were more effective at building satisfaction and commitment, particularly among those who engaged in dialogic, expressive behaviors on either platform. These findings verify the direction of the exposure effects in the political organization-public relations model and extend two-way communication theory by specifying the online platform on which expression exerts the greatest positive influence on citizen-political organization relationships and political trust.

Fashion Meets Twitter: Does the Source Matter? Perceived Message Credibility, Interactivity and Purchase Intention • Yijia Wang; Geah Pressgrove, West Virginia University • Through an online survey, this study explored the perceived source credibility of fashion industry Twitter messages with varying message sources (the brand itself, celebrity endorser, friend/acquaintance). Online interactivity and purchase intention of potential customers were also assessed to examine if a particular message source and its credibility increase the likelihood of online engagement with the message and customers’ intention to purchase.

How Negative Becomes Less Negative: The Interplay between Comment Variance and the Sidedness of Company Response • Hyejoon Rim, University of Minnesota; Doori Song, Youngstown State University • The study examined the influence of the public’s negative comments regarding the CSR campaign in the social media setting, and how best to respond to them. A 2 (variance of comments: positive vs. negative) x 2 (company’s responding strategy: 1-sided vs. 2-sided message) between-subjects experiments was employed. The results revealed that two-sided CSR messages, compared to one-sided responses, are more effective in enhancing altruistic motives of CSR, reducing perceived negativity in consumers’ comments, and eliciting favorable public’s attitudes, especially when the consumer’s comments were negative. The effects of message sidedness disappeared when the consumer’s comments were positive. The results also showed that perceived altruism and perceived negativity mediates the effects of message strategies on the public’s attitudes toward the company.

Taking the ice bucket plunge: Social and psychological motivations for participating in the ALS challenge • Soojin Roh, Syracuse University; Tamara Makana Chock • An online survey (N = 511) investigated the impact of narcissistic personality, selective self-presentation, and the need for interpersonal acceptance in people’s decision to take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. We also examined how and to what extent these factors differed in terms of the type of contribution (e.g. dumping water over head, donation, and doing both). Implications for social media campaign strategies for long-term engagement and directions for future research were discussed.

Time-lagged Analysis of Third-level Agenda-building: Florida’s Debate on Medical Marijuana • Tiffany Schweickart; Jordan Neil; Ji Young Kim; Josephine Lukito, Syracuse University; Tianduo Zhang; Guy Golan; Spiro Kiousis • This study aims to advance theoretical and practical understanding of political public relations in the context of Florida’s Amendment 2 about the legalization of medical marijuana. This unique context was used to explore the salience of stakeholders, issues, and related attributes between public relations messages and media coverage at all three-levels of agenda-building’s theoretical framework using a time-lagged analysis. Our results present strong support for shared influence between campaign and media agenda-building at three levels.

Biological Sex vs. Gender Identity: Nature vs. Nurture in Explicating Practitioner Roles and Salaries in Public Relations • Bey-Ling Sha, San Diego State University; Courtney White; Elpin Keshishzadeh; David Dozier • Using an online survey of members of the Public Relations Society of America (response rate = 14%), this study found that enactment of the manager and technician roles in public relations was unrelated to practitioners’ biological sex, but was related instead to their avowed, predominant gender identity. Both biological sex and predominant gender identity were found to contribute to the persistent, gendered pay gap in public relations. (67 words)

An Analysis of Tweets by Universities and Colleges: Public Engagement and Interactivity • jason Beverly; Jae-Hwa Shin, University of Southern Mississippi • The analysis of 1,550 individual tweets by colleges and universities suggest that institutions of higher learning are not necessarily using Twitter in a dialogic manner that promotes two-way communication. This supports findings from previous studies that have suggested that colleges and universities fail to incorporate the dialogic features of Twitter as part of their online public relations efforts.

Public Relations as Development Communication? Conceptual Overlaps and Prospects for a Societal Paradigm of Public Relations • Katie Brown, University of Maryland; Sylvia Guo, University of Maryland; Brooke Fowler, University of Maryland; Claire Tills, University of Maryland; Sifan Xu, University of Maryland; Erich Sommerfeldt, University of Maryland • A thorough discussion of the overlaps between development communication and public relations is missing from the literature. This paper provides a first step towards an integration of public relations and development by reviewing theories and concepts within development communication literature and public relations scholarship examining areas relevant to international development practice. The paper highlights theoretical and conceptual overlaps between the disciplines as well as similar challenges in practice, and offers suggestions for developing a societal paradigm of public relations.

The Importance of Authenticity in Corporate Social Responsibility • Mary Ann Ferguson; Baobao Song • This experimental research with 395 consumers explored the effects of prior corporate reputation, stated CSR motive (self vs. social), and CSR brand-cause fit on consumers’ attitude towards the company and behavioral intention. In addition, the study incorporated a new variable in CSR communication model – perceived CSR authenticity. Having a poor corporate reputation requires specific attention be paid to the fit and stated motive of the CSR program particularly when the authenticity of the communication is under suspicion. Corporate messages that are perceived as highly authentic will provide equally positive results for companies with good and bad prior reputations. Overall, this study suggested a holistic view on effective CSR communication.

Towards effective CSR in controversial industry sectors: Effect of industry sector, corporate reputation, and company-cause fit • Baobao Song; Jing (Taylor) Wen, University of Florida; Mary Ann Ferguson • Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been well recognized as a critical component for any company to maintain organizational legitimacy and increase consumers’ positive company evaluation. However, only a few CSR studies have focused on controversial industries. In fact, controversial industry sectors tend to be more committed to CSR, in order to defy their negative images and reputations. Given the conflicted nature of companies in controversial industries, this study is aimed to further unveil the differences between controversial industries and non-controversial industries in terms of CSR outcomes. Particularly, this study tries to dissect the concept of corporate reputation from industry controversy, and examine whether corporate reputation and CSR company-cause fit will affect controversial industries vs. non-controversial industries differently.

Do you see what I see? Perceptions between advertising and public relations professionals • Dustin Supa, Boston University • This study represents an initial step in the empirical understanding of integration as it relates to the advertising and public relations fields. Using a survey of practitioners (n=1076) it finds that while many practitioners are aware of integration efforts within organizations, they may be less than enthusiastic about the concept. The results offer suggestions both for the practice and education of professional communication.

Understanding Shareholder Engagement: The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility • Nur Uysal, Marquette University • The rise of shareholder activism for corporate social responsibility (CSR) in recent years charters a new role for public relations professionals. This study analyzes social activism enacted by institutional shareholders through filing resolutions at publicly traded U.S. corporations between 1997 and 2011 (N = 14, 271). Building on the literature in public relations, management, and social movements, the study develops and tests a theory of shareholder engagement through a tripartite framework. The findings showed that corporate stakeholder commitment, issue type, and sponsor type affect the outcomes of shareholder activist-corporate engagement on CSR issues. We argue that CSR is both an antecedent to engagement and also an outcome and public relations professionals can facilitate the engagement process between corporations and shareholder activists groups on mutually acceptable social expectations.

PR Credibility as News Unfolds: How Perceptions Gauged in Real Time and Post Exposure Differ • Matthew S. VanDyke, Texas Tech University; Coy Callison, Texas Tech University • This study investigates how perceptions of news conference sources vary from measures taken in real-time to those taken retrospectively after exposure by having participants (N = 184) view four organizational spokespersons responding to environmental crises. Results suggest while PR practitioner credibility suffers in comparison to that of other sources when participants evaluate following exposure, practitioners see a real-time bump in trustworthiness following revelation of job title that is common across other source job affiliations.

Within-border foreign publics: Micro-diplomats and their impact on a nation’s soft power • Kelly Vibber, University of Dayton; Jeong-Nam Kim • This study tests the relationship between antecedents of the perceived relationship a within-border foreign public (e.g. international students) has with its host country (e.g. the United States) and how this relationship impacts their communicative action to their social networks living in their home country (e.g. positive or negative megaphoning). It also examines the role this megaphoning has on the communicative action of members of the home country, in order to understand the potential of micro-diplomacy.

Experimenting with dialogue on social media: An examination of the influence of the dialogic principles on engagement, interaction, and attitude • Brandi Watkins, Virginia Tech • Much of the public relations research on online relationship building has examined social media content for the use of the dialogic principles outlined by Kent and Taylor (1998). These studies, using content analysis as the primary methodology, have found that the dialogic capabilities of social media are under-utilized. However, there is limited research on the effectiveness of these methods. Therefore, the goal of this study is to examine the influence of social media content utilizing these principles on engagement, interactivity, and attitude. Results of this study indicate that usefulness of information can have a significant influence on engagement and attitude.

Examining the Importance and Perceptions of Organizational Autonomy among Dominant Coalition Members • Christopher Wilson, Brigham Young University • Scholars have defined the value of public relations in terms of organizational autonomy. Nevertheless, only a few public relations studies have attempted to measure it. In addition, there is no empirical research to document whether or not dominant coalition members actually consider organizational autonomy important. This study seeks to advance theory by examining whether this fundamental concept is as important to public relations as current theories assume it to be.

Public Relations Role in the Global Media Ecology: Connecting the World as Network Managers • Aimei Yang, University of Southern California; Maureen Taylor; Wenlin Liu, University of Southern California • Media studies in public relations have predominantly focused on the dyadic relationship between public relations practitioners and journalists. This focus reduces public relations practitioners to information providers and obscures the broader functions of public relations. We argue that this narrow view of media relations as public relations is increasingly outdated. This paper advocates for a network ecology approach to public relations-media relationships, and identifies four roles that public relations organizations perform in a media network ecology: relationship initiator, relationship facilitator, relationship broker and fully functioning society facilitator.

Estimating the Weights of Media Tonalities in the Measurement of Media Coverage of Corporations • XIAOQUN ZHANG, University of North Texas • This study estimated the weights of media tonalities in the measurement of media coverage of corporations by using linear regression analysis. Two new measures were developed based on these estimations. These two new measures were found to have higher predictive power than most other linear function measures in predicting corporate reputation. The estimations were based on a content analysis of 2817 news articles from both elite newspapers and local newspapers.

A Case Study of the Chinese Government’s Crisis Communication on the 2015 Shanghai Stampede Incident • Lijie Zhou, University of Southern Mississippi; Jae-Hwa Shin, University of Southern Mississippi • This study analyzed the Chinese government’s crisis communication efforts during 2015 Shanghai Stampede incident and offered insight into difference between traditional and social media in relation to media frame, response strategy, government stance and role of emotions. Findings indicated traditional and social media followed similar dynamic pattern across lifespan of the incident, yet revealed different features in message frames and presence of emotions. The government has demonstrated changing stances differently in social and traditional media.

Hootsuite University: Equipping Academics and Future PR Professionals for Social Media Success • Emily S. Kinsky, West Texas A&M University; Karen Freberg, University of Louisville; Carolyn Kim, Biola University; Matthew Kushin, Shepherd University; William Ward •
Through survey and in-depth interviews, this research examines the social media education program Hootsuite University. Researchers assessed perceptions of Hootsuite University among students who completed the certification program as part of communication courses at five U.S. universities between 2012 and 2014. Researchers also assessed perceptions of professors and employers regarding the value of the program. Implications for public relations education in an age of social media are discussed.

Teaching, tweeting, and telecommuting: Experiential and cross-institutional learning through social media • Stephanie Madden, University of Maryland; Rowena Briones, Virginia Commonwealth University; Julia Daisy Fraustino, West Virginia University; Melissa Janoske, University of Memphis • This study explores how to improve student preparedness for a technological working world. Instructors at four institutions created and implemented a cross-institutional group project that required students to create and share an instructional video on a social media topic. Students then discussed the videos and teleworking experience through three subsequent cross-institutional Twitter chats. Results include suggestions for helping students learn through teaching, and a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of teleworking.

Exploring diversity and client work in public relations education • Katie Place, Quinnipiac University; Antoaneta Vanc • This exploratory study examined public relations students’ meaning making of diversity and the role of diverse client work within the public relations curriculum. Findings are based on in-depth interviews with 19 students at two private universities who completed a public relations campaign course. Findings illustrate the evolution of students’ interpretation of diversity from passive exposure to active awareness to a new mindset. In addition, it offers insights regarding public relations and diversity pedagogy.

The Best of Both Worlds: Student Perspectives on Student-Run Advertising and Public Relations Agencies • Joyce Haley, Abilene Christian University; Margaret Ritsch, Texas Christian University; Jessica Smith, Abilene Christian University • Student-led advertising and/or public relations agencies have increasingly become an educational component of university ad/PR programs. Previous research has established the value that advisers see in the agencies, and this study reports student perceptions of agency involvement. The survey (N=210) found that participants rated the ability to work with real clients, the importance of their universities having agencies, and the increase in their own job marketability as the most positive aspects of the agency experience. Participants said that the most highly rated skills that agency participation built were working with clients, working in a team structure, and interpersonal skills.

An Examination of Social TV & OPR Building: A Content Analysis of Tweets Surrounding The Walking Dead • Lauren Auverset, University of Alabama •
This study investigated a growing second-screen media phenomenon, Social TV, and examined how entertainment media organizations utilize Social TV to communicate with their publics. A content analysis was conducted using publicly available conversations (via Twitter) surrounding a popular television program, AMC’s The Walking Dead. Through the analysis of these Social TV dialogic exchanges, this study highlights how one entertainment media organization uses Social TV and Twitter to respond to and interact with their online publics.

Attribution Error of Internal Stakeholders in Assessments of Organizational Crisis Responsibility • Jonathan Borden, Syracuse University; Xiaochen Zhang, University of Florida • This paper sheds further light on the mechanics of responsibility attribution for organizations in crisis. Utilizing a two-group experimental design, relationships of organizational identification, evaluation, collective self-esteem, in-group preference, attribution bias, and attitudes regarding norm violation were examined among stakeholders in the post-crisis phase. Findings show that identification with and assessment of the organization are linked and significant predictors of attribution bias and violation minimization. Theoretical and professional implications are discussed.

SeaWorld vs Blackfish A Case Study in Crisis Communication • Ken Cardell • This case study examines SeaWorld’s strategic response following from the release of Blackfish. An analysis of SeaWorld’s communicative response to various reputational threats can be understood through the application of corporate apologia theory, by explicating the message strategies used within the discourse. Elements of Grunig’s conception of activist publics are also used to provide perspective as to the factors that contributed to the level of opposition that followed from Blackfish.

To whom do they listen? The effects of communication strategy and eWOM on consumer responses • Zifei Chen, University of Miami; Cheng Hong, University of Miami • This study examined the effects of corporate communication strategy and electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) valence on responses from an important stakeholder group—consumers on social media. A 3 (communication strategy: corporate social responsibility/CSR, vs. corporate ability/CAb, vs. hybrid) x 2 (eWOM valence: positive vs. negative) between-subjects experiment was conducted. Results showed significant interaction effects on consumers’ CSR associations and significant main effects of both strategy and eWOM valence on CAb associations, perceived reputation, and purchase intention.

A New Look at Organization-Public Relationship: Testing Contingent Corporation-Activist Relationship (CCAR) in Conflicts • Yang Cheng, University of Missouri • Content analyses of 696 news information on the conflicts between corporations (Monsanto and McDonald’s) and their activists provide a natural history of the use of contingent organization-public relationship (COPR) in public relations. By tracking the changing stances of each corporation and its activists longitudinally, results generate the frequency and direction of six types of contingent corporation-activist relationship (CCAR) over time. Findings show that CCAR is dynamic and contingent upon stances of both parties on a specific issue. No matter the conflict is finally resolved or not, competing relationship occurs more frequently than cooperating relationship does in the conflict management process, which supports the argument that both parties in conflicts maintain a competitive relationship for self-interests, and when possible may adopt strategies to achieve mutual benefits. Theoretical and practical implications of findings are discussed.

Public Relations’ Role in Trust Building for Social Capital • Shugofa Dastgeer, University of Oklahoma • Social capital is a building block of social and political communities. At the same time, trust is the foundational prerequisite for the formation of social capital. Public relations plays a role in fostering social capital and trust in society. This paper proposes a model for public relations in building trust for social capital. The model illustrates that trust, communication, and engagement are vital for the development of social capital.

Stealing thunder and filling the silence: Twitter as a primary channel of police crisis communication • Brooke Fowler, University of Maryland • Twitter can be used successfully by police departments as a channel for stealing thunder and establishing the department as a credible news source. A case study on the Howard County Police Department’s use of Twitter during the Columbia Mall Shooting was conducted. Results reveal the potential benefits and limitations of using Twitter to steal thunder and a new technique, filling the silence, is proposed for maintaining an audience once an organization has stolen thunder.

Between Ignorance and Engagement: Exploring the Effects of Corporations’ Communicatory Engagement With Their Publics on Social Networking Sites • Eun Go • Two-way communication tools have expanded and magnified the range and scope of interactions between an organization and its publics. To understand the value of such communication tools, the present study identifies significant psychological factors as outcomes of using these tools. Employing a series of mediation analyses (N=148), this study particularly explores how the commenting function on social networking sites can be strategically used to promote online users’ favorable attitudes toward an organization. The findings show that active communication by an organization via the commenting function promotes favorable attitudes toward the organization by way of heightening the organization’s social presence and creating enhanced perceptions of the organization’s relational commitment. On the other hand, an organization’s dismissal of its users’ comments leaves a negative impression, suggesting to the public that the organization has exaggerated its social commitment. Further theoretical and practical implications of the study are also discussed.

Crisis Response Strategies of Sports Organizations and Its Fans: The Case of Ray Rice • Eunyoung Kim, University of Alabama • This study employs a content analysis to examine how a sports organization and its fans interactively used social media and how they utilized crisis response strategies in the Ray Rice case. The study compares crisis response strategies by the Baltimore Ravens team and its identified fans through social media. The results confirm (a) interactive use of Twitter with hyperlink, (b) utilization of separation strategy, and (c) sports fans’ communicating role with various strategies.

CSR without transparency is not good enough: Examining the effect of CSR fit and transparency efforts on skepticism and trust toward organizations • Hyosun Kim, Univeristy of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Tae Ho Lee, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill • In order to tackle recent challenges surrounding CSR initiatives—stakeholder skepticism—this study aims to understand how CSR fit and transparency affect the enhancement of trust and encourage organization advocacy while lessening skepticism. In a 2 (CSR fit) X 2 (levels of transparency) between-subject experiment, this study discovered a significant main effect of transparency on skepticism, trust, and organization advocacy. A significant interaction on trust was also found, suggesting that low fit with high transparency increases trust.

Institutional Pressure and Transparency in CSR Disclosure: A Content Analysis of CSR Press Releases at • Tae Ho Lee, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill • This content analysis examines CSR press releases from 2007 to 2014, finding that coercive institutional pressures as manifested in CSR press releases are significantly related to a low level of accountability—one of the three transparency dimensions. This confirms previous suggestions that coercive isomorphism would generate nominal compliance without substantive efforts. Additionally, the integration of global perspectives from institutional theory and the general representation of transparency in CSR press releases are investigated and discussed.

Reputation from the inside out: Examining how nonprofit employees perceive the top leader influencing reputation • Laura Lemon, University of Tennessee • In-depth interviews with nonprofit employees were conducted to examine how nonprofit employees perceive the top leader and the top leader’s influence on the organization’s reputation. Participant perceptions primarily focused on positive and negative personality attributes that contributed to or detracted from perceptions of leadership style. One emergent finding was that most participants considered the top leader responsible for employee engagement. Additionally, some employees perceived the organization’s reputation as starting with the top leader. The top leader’s ability to create an internal participatory environment was the primary influence on the organization’s internal reputation. Participants perceived the top leader as the face of the organization and being recognized as an expert influencing the organization’s external reputation. One significant contribution from this study was the role of supporting manager that emerged in the interviews. In the case of perceived poor leadership, a supporting manager stepped in to compensate for the top leader’s management weaknesses.

Another crisis for government after crisis: A case study of South Korean government’s crisis communication on the Sewol Ferry disaster • Se Na Lim, university of alabama; Eunyoung Kim, University of Alabama • The current study investigates the crisis response strategies of South Korean government organizations on social media after the Sewol Ferry disaster. By conducting content analysis of 288 posts on Facebook of 13 South Korean government organizations, this study assesses their communication response strategies based on framing and situational crisis communication theory. The findings indicate that South Korea government organizations perceive the crisis with various perspectives and accordingly use various crisis response strategies.

Enhancing OPR Management through SNSs: The Role of Organizations’ SNS Message Strategies and Message Interactivity • Xinyu Lu, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; Hao Xu, University of Minnesota • Heeding the limited research on the effects of corporate SNS communication strategies on relationship building, this experimental study examined the effects of two corporate SNS communication strategies—message strategies and message interactivity—on relationship building. The results suggest that both message strategies and message interactivity have strong effects on publics’ perception of organization-public relationship outcomes. Moreover, people’s identification with a company to some extent moderates the effects of these two strategies.

I am One of Them: A Social Identity Approach to Crisis Communication • Liang Ma • This study focused on how an individual’s ethnic and organizational memberships influence his/her emotional and cognitive experiences in a crisis. College students (N = 638) from a mid-Atlantic university participated in an online quasi-experiment. SEM was used to test the mediation model. Organizational membership protects organizational reputation and increases guilt. Shared ethnicity with victims has no effects on either organizational reputation or anger. Guilt threatens organizational reputation indirectly via anger. Reputation then predicts NWOM intentions.

Government Relationship-Building Practices Online: An Analysis of Capital City Websites • Lindsay McCluskey, Louisiana State University • Government public relations professionals have many opportunities to communicate directly with their publics; however, some practitioners have expressed concern about their website efforts. Websites are one popular and consequential medium for engagement and the government organization-public relationship. This study examines the website homepages of 50 capital cities through qualitative content analysis. The researcher assesses what website features and characteristics promote and advance Hon and Grunig’s relationship outcomes and Kent and Taylor’s dialogic public relations principles.

If Anything Can Go Wrong, It Will: Murphy’s Law, and the Unintended Consequences of Deliberate Communication • Timothy Penn, University of Maryland • Murphy’s Law popularly describes the unpredictable and often capricious relationship between humans and the modern technological world. The global media environment, changing cultural landscapes and changing social norms amplify this phenomenon. This case study explores this phenomenon by examining the JWT India, Ford Figo advertising campaign scandal. Poster cartoons, submitted for an advertising competition, that featured popular sport, celebrity and political figures kidnapping other celebrities, caused a worldwide media sensation, and led to the resignation of JWT executives. Borrowing from sociological theory, this exploratory study uses Merton’s (1936) typology of the unanticipated consequences of social action as a lens to analyze factors that led to JWT’s releasing the ads, and the worldwide reaction to them. The study used qualitative textual analysis of traditional and social media, on-line interviews and web logs. Analysis found five themes of Merton’s typology, lack of foreknowledge, habit, myopia, values, and self-defeating prediction, could partially explain or describe both the campaign’s release and the subsequent worldwide media reaction. Future research could lead to developing a typology of unintended consequences of deliberate communication for public relations.

Mobile Technology and Public Engagement: Exploring the Effects of College Students’ Mobile Phone Use on Their Public Engagement • Yuan Wang, University of Alabama • Mobile communication technology has been exerting a substantial impact on our society and daily lives. This study examined the effects of college students’ mobile phone use on their public engagement and the impacts of public engagement on behavioral intentions. More specifically, it conducted a survey of 409 college students in the United States to investigate college students’ use of mobile phone for information seeking and social media applications. The current study could advance the literature on public relations and mobile communication technology. Furthermore, this study could make some practical implications for university management to utilize mobile technology effectively to engage their students and establish relationships with them.

Ethical Approaches to Crisis Communication in Chemical Crises: A Content Analysis of Media Coverage of Chemical Crises from 2010 to 2014 • Xiaochen Zhang, University of Florida; Jonathan Borden, Syracuse University • Through a content analysis of media coverage of chemical crises in the U.S. from 2010 to 2014, this study examined chemical companies’ crisis communication strategies. Results revealed that, compared with large Fortune 500 corporations, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) were more likely to delay their response and to use more legal strategies and less public relations strategies. SMEs were also less likely to use base response strategies in their crisis response.

2015 Abstracts

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