Schedule Appointment

Eric Kwame Adae and Donnalyn Pompper win the Doug Newsom Award for Global Ethics and Diversity at AEJMC 2021

2021 Abstracts

Research Paper • Faculty • Award submission: Doug Newsome • Donnalyn Pompper, university of oregon; Eric Kwame Adae, Drake University • Public Relations and Sustainability across the African Continent: Using Afro-Centric Philosophies to Remember What’s Been ‘Forgotten or Lost’ • Assuring sustainability across the African continent – the cradle of humankind – is an ethical public relations responsibility. There is insufficient research about public relations as a tool for supporting sustainability goals across the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent (Volk, 2017); one that the rest of the planet relies upon for forests serving as “lungs of the world” (Fleshman, 2008). To begin filling the gap, we address challenges of making sustainability happen here, given a long history of negative colonial and neocolonial forces operating in many of Africa’s nations. Despite these impediments, enduring are indigenous, pre-colonial Afro-centric philosophies of communalism/collectivism and harmony with the natural environment that support sustainability efforts. We interrogate six indigenous philosophies which resonate with values that make contemporary public relations ethical. We discuss why professional public relations shaped by Afro-centric philosophies is welcomed, globally, and is critical for addressing sustainability across the continent.

Research Paper • Student • Award submission: Doug Newsome • Erika Schneider, University of Missori • From Saving Face to Saving Lives: Prioritizing the Public in Public Relations • Traditional crisis communication literature emphasizes how organizations use communication to protect reputation by shifting attributions of crisis responsibility. The purpose of this study is to reevaluate this approach by comparing proposed framework strategies that serve to protect stakeholders with reputational messaging. Findings from this between-subjects experimental design study provide insight on how informed organizational decision-making, such as corrective action and organizational learning, can reduce feelings of anger while prioritizing stakeholder wellbeing in public relations.

Research Paper • Student • Award submission: Race & Public Relations • Drew T. Ashby-King, University of Maryland • Racism and Social Issues Management: Examining State Universities’ Responses to the Killing of George Floyd • Colleges and universities are social institutions often called on speak about social issues, such as responding to instances of racism on campus. Critics have suggested that when responding instances of racism on their campus, institutional leaders often ignore the racist act and harm caused and focus their discourse on diversity and inclusion. Considering this critique, this study used social issues management as a framework to explore how state flagship universities in the United States (U.S.) responded to an instance of racism that did not occur on their campuses. A qualitative analysis of all 50 U.S. state flagship universities’ initial public statement in response to the police killing of George Floyd led to three key findings: (1) institutions were made to speak on the issue by larger social discourse; (2) through their statements institutions (re)defined the issue as one of diversity and inclusion rather than racism and police brutality; and (3) guided by the logic of whiteness institutions legitimized their definition of the issue. Based on these findings, I argue that the initial conceptualization of social issues management did not adequality consider the power organizations have to define social issues through their discourse. Therefore, I conclude by suggesting an approach to social issues management that centers those most effected by the issue in order to promote social justice.

Research Paper • Student • Award submission: Race & Public Relations • Ryan Comfort, Indiana University • Rethinking cultural factors in government communication: A survey of environmental professionals working for indigenous governments • This study examined the use of and attitudes towards communication media by environmental and natural resource management personnel employed by indigenous nations in the U.S. Survey data on professionals’ use of media, attitudes, and perceived obstacles to better use of media for science & environmental communication revealed that concerns about sharing cultural ecological information may carry significant weight in the communication decision making process of indigenous environmental agencies.

Research Paper • Faculty • Award submission: Race & Public Relations • Tiffany Gallicano, UNC Charlotte; Olivia Lawless; Abagail Higgins; Samira Shaikh; Sara Levens • The Hybrid Firestorm: A Qualitative Study of Black Lives Matter Activism and the COVID-19 Pandemic • The combination of a global pandemic and an ignited social justice movement has created a saturated digital environment in which people turn to social media to navigate a hybrid firestorm fueled by both the Black Lives Matter movement and the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the circuit of culture has been studied in the context of a pandemic (Curtin & Gaither, 2006) and digital activism (Han & Zhang, 2009), research using any theoretical model to study a hybrid firestorm could not be found. This study consists of interviews with 25 participants involving their experiences in the hybrid firestorm. The circuit of culture is used, which is a model composed of five moments, to explore how meaning is created, interpreted, and contested in the context of a social justice movement and a global pandemic.

Research Paper • Faculty • Award submission: Race & Public Relations • Yeunjae Lee, University of Miami; Jo-Yun Li • Discriminated Against but Engaged: The Role of Communicative Behaviors of Racial Minority Employees • Grounded in the situational theory of problem-solving (STOPS), two survey studies investigated how racial minority employees in the U.S. perceive and communicate about the discriminatory situation within their organizations and how it affects their engagement levels. In Study 1 (N = 461), experiences and observance of both formal and informal discriminatory acts at work reduced racial minority employees’ engagement level, while their situational perceptions increased their communicative behaviors toward direct supervisor and peers, respectively. Communicative behaviors with supervisors, not peers, in turn, increased their engagement. Study 2 (N = 454) replicated and extended Study 1 in different contexts, revealing the moderating role of a diverse climate in increasing racial minority employees’ problem and involvement recognition and decreasing their constraint recognition about workplace discrimination situation. Theoretical and practical implications for race in public relations are discussed.

Research Paper • Faculty • Award submission: Race & Public Relations • Yvette Sterbenk, Ithaca College; Jamie Ward, EMU; Regina Luttrell; Summer Shelton, Idaho State University • Silence Has No Place A Framing Analysis of Corporate Sociopolitical Activism Statements • This study used a quantitative framing analysis to examine the company statements delivered by 105 Fortune 500 companies across 21 sectors in June 2020 in response to three social justice issues that took prominence that month in the United States: Black Lives Matter, immigration laws, and LGBTQ rights. The study uncovered which companies and sectors did not make statements, and, among those that did, what messages were most common.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Lindsey Anderson, University of Maryland • Serving Public Interests and Enacting Organizational Values: An Examination of Public Interest Relations through AARP’s Tele-Town Halls • Public interest relations (PIR) is an approach to public relations scholarship and practice that contributes to the social good by integrating the concept of public interest into organizational goals and values. The need for PIR was emphasized during the COVID-19 pandemic as publics looked to organizations for information about a variety of topics (e.g., symptoms, vaccines). AARP created a series of tele-townhalls to communicate with its publics, who are considered to be members of a “vulnerable population” during the pandemic. In order to understand how AARP’s Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls reflected the practices of PIR, I completed a critical thematic analysis of 28 virtual sessions that were hosted in 2020-2021. The analysis, which was guided by the tenets of PIR, found that AARP’s communication (1) highlighted common life course milestones of its publics, (2) emphasized the quality of the information, and (3) provided avenues to engage with the organization and its experts. Based on these findings, I developed theoretical implications that reflect a critical perspective on PIR and suggest future research avenues that seek to build this ethical and socially meaningful approach to public relations.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Song AO, University of Macau; XIAO QIAN, University of Macau • Understanding the implementation of Enterprise Social Media on Employee Communication: An Affordance Perspective • The research adopts the technological affordance approach to examine the role of enterprise social media (ESM) in employee communication in the context of mainland China. The research postulated that organizations can actualize affordances of ESM to achieve certain goals. Using Enterprise WeChat (EWeChat) as the example, the research interviewed 37 participants to explore organizational goals and actions of EWeChat affordance actualization in mainland China. Thirteen EWeChat affordances and means of actualization (i.e., association, control, diversity, feedback, outeraction, perpetual contact, persistence, personalization, portability, privacy, social presence, synchronicity, and visibility) for specific organizational goals were identified. The research explicates ESM affordance actualization as the interaction between ESM and organizations, and also between ESM and employees. The research sheds light on how organizations in mainland China can effectively configure their ESM for certain purposes of its mobile application in employee communication.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Anita Atwell Seate, University of Maryland; Brooke Liu, University of Maryland; Samantha Stanley; Yumin Yan; Allison Chatham, University of Maryland • Relational Tensions and Publics during Disasters: Investigating Organizational Relationships Ethnographically • Relationships are essential for a fully functioning society. Through a multi-sited rapid ethnography, we show how organizations achieve their mission through organizational partners and active publics in the context of disasters. We provide insights into relational tensions that occur in organization-public relationships (OPRs) and how communication can address those relational tensions. In doing so, we answer calls for broadening methodologies to examine OPRs. Overall, we demonstrate the value of continuing to theorize the network approach.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Brandon Boatwright • Exploring Online Opinion Leadership: An Analysis of the Influential Users on Twitter During the Online Conversation Around Anthem Protests by Prominent Athletes • The current study explores the role of online opinion leaders on Twitter in conversations around anthem protests by prominent athletes. The aim of the study is twofold: (1) identify the influential opinion leaders in Twitter conversations related to Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe, and (2) further understand how and why social media users participate in conversations online about controversial subjects. Ultimately, results from this study extend the network paradigm in public relations research by examining the role of individual users in the construction of a discursive landscape of issue networks. The study combines social network analysis with in-depth interviews in order to adopt a more wholistic framework for studying online opinion leadership in the context of public relations research.

Extended Abstract • Faculty • Open Competition • Denise Bortree, Penn State University; Michail Vafeiadis; Pratiti Diddi, Lamar University; Ryan Wang • Extended abstract: Promoting diversity and inclusion: How Fortune 500 companies talk about diversity on Twitter • This study examines more than 11,000 tweets on diversity topics posted by Fortune 500 companies in 2019. It identifies the 18 most common topics in six general areas – workplace diversity/inclusion, gender/women, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, disability and activism. Corporations with higher CSR ratings tend to post more diversity-related tweets. Analysis suggests that companies tend to use different topics in original posts and retweets/replies/comments on diversity. Engagement rates on diversity topics vary widely.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Luke Capizzo, James Madison University; Meredith Feinman • Extending civic values in architectures of listening: Arendt, Mouffe and the pluralistic imperative for organizational listening • This conceptual paper introduces the concept of civic listening to augment organizational listening theory and practice. Drawing from the writing of Arendt and Mouffe, it centers pluralism, agonism, deliberation, and reflection as central to listening and delineates the functions and values of civic listening to add to existing architectures. This new perspective points toward deeper, more nuanced, and more equitable organizational engagement in civic discourse and firmer ground for contentious issue engagement.

Extended Abstract • Member • Open Competition • Ioana Coman, Texas Tech University; Jiun-Yi Tsai, Northern Arizona University; Shupei Yuan, Northern Illinois University • Extended Abstract: Toward an Audience-Centric Framework of Situational Corporate Social Advocacy Strategy: A pilot study • Increasingly companies engage in Corporate Social Advocacy or Political Activism. Yet how publics expect companies to take a stance (sometimes even action) on controversial issues remains unclear. We propose an audience-centric approach to investigate how audiences expect companies to act on hot button issues and their reasoning process, through a mixed-method analysis of a survey (N=388) conducted at a public University. Results highlight a need to further understand CSA from audience perceptions.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Yuan Wang, City University of Hong Kong; Yi-Hui Christine Huang, City University of Hong Kong; Qinxian Cai, City University of Hong Kong • Exploring the Mediating Effect of Government–Public Relationships during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Model Comparison Approach • This study proposed, tested, and compared two models to examine the antecedent and outcome of government–public relationships during the COVID-19 pandemic. It conducted three surveys of 9,675 publics in Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. It found that publics’ perceived governmental responsiveness leads to their satisfaction with and trust in the government, which influence their word-of-mouth intention about the vaccines. Furthermore, relational satisfaction and trust mediate the relationship between perceived responsiveness and word-of-mouth intention.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Taisik Hwang, Suffolk University • A Comparison of Twitter Use by Different Sector Organizations • “Given the shifting nature of communication environment, this study attempts to discover how leading nature education organizations utilize social media to effectively reach and build relationship with their audiences. Specifically, it employed a content analysis to examine how the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), U.S. National Park Service (NPS), and National Geographic (NG) take advantage of Twitter to better communicate with their external publics. Out of a total of 6,286 tweets sent by these organizations for a six-month period from January to June 2018, a random sample was used for quantitative analysis. Findings show that there are significant differences in these organizations’ use of message functions as well as mentioning of brand names associated with them. For example, both UNESCO and NPS tend to focus on building community with their external stakeholders, whereas NG’s tweets mainly involves the information function. The current study

will benefit other non-profit organizations by revealing ways in which these organizations purposefully use social media to fulfill their mission and suggesting practical guidelines to strategic communicators in public-sector organizations.”

Extended Abstract • Faculty • Open Competition • Grace Ji, Boston University; Cheng Hong, California State University Sacramento • Feeling elevated: Examine the mediation role of elevation in CEO activism on employee prosocial engagement • With a survey of 600 U.S. employees, this study investigated the effect of authentic leadership on employees’ prosocial advocacy engagement in the context of CEO activism. Employees’ moral elevation and organizational identification were examined as mediators. Results showed authentic leadership elicited employees’ positive emotion of elevation and enhanced their identification with the company. In turn, employees’ affective (elevation) and cognitive (organizational identification) responses mediated authentic leadership’s impact on motivating employees’ activism participation.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Eunyoung Kim, Auburn University at Montgomery; Sung Eun Park, Webster University • Influence of identification, relationship, and involvement of a donor on attitudes towards and behavioral intentions to online donation via SNS • This study seeks what factors predict publics’ behavioral intentions to online donate and share words via social media. Relevant literature was reviewed, and an online survey was conducted to examine hypotheses. The results show that identification, involvement, perceived credibility, and attitudes towards online donation predict intention to donate via social media, while attitudes towards helping others, identification, involvement, and site features affect the intention of Word-of-Mouth. Theoretical and practical implications are presented in the discussion and conclusion.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Sora Kim, The Chinese University of Hong Kong • Public Expectations of Government Pandemic-Crisis Communication What and How to Communicate during the COVID-19 Pandemic • Through two representative online surveys in Hong Kong (HK) and the U.S. (US) during the COVID-19 pandemic, this study investigates, from a public-centric perspective, public expectations of effective government pandemic-crisis communication. It looks specifically at what publics want to be communicated in times of a global pandemic and how. In each region, the findings identify four significant dimensions. Three are culturally universal dimensions—basic responsibility, locus of pandemic-crisis responsibility, and disfavor of promotional tone. The fourth is culture-specific—personal relevance for HK and frequency for the US. Among the significant dimensions, the most highly expected is what people consider government’s basic responsibility in pandemic communication, that is, a basic responsibility dimension. This includes providing instructing and adjusting information and securing accuracy, timeliness, and transparency in pandemic communication. In both regions, respondents preferred by far traditional media and non-governmental sources to social media and governmental sources.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Sining Kong, Texas A & M University at Corpus Christi; Huan Chen, University of Florida • Revisiting SMCC Model: How Chinese Public Relations Practitioners Handle Social Mediated Crisis • As social media is widely used by Chinese organizations, this study comprehensively examines how Chinese public relations practitioners cope with social mediated crisis and how culture interacts with social mediated crisis response. An in-depth interview was used to collect data from twenty-three Chinese public relations practitioners, who had experience in dealing with crises and issues via social media. Results showed that Chinese public relations practitioners use diverse social media platforms to satisfy the publics’ gratifications and social media usage preferences. Besides, results also showed the importance of matching information form and information source in responding social mediated crisis. Furthermore, it revealed how the uniqueness of Chinese culture moderated Chinese public relations social mediated crisis response, such as maintaining harmony and avoiding direct confrontation, collaborating with opinion leaders and influencers to shape publics’ opinions, using no response, apologizing, and self-mockery, and emphasizing the importance of media relations.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Sushma Kumble, Towson University; Pratiti Diddi, Lamar University; Maggie Whitescarver • Social Listening using Machine Learning to Understand Sense Making and Content Dissemination on Twitter: A Case Study of WHO’s Social Listening Strategy During COVID-19 Initial Phase • The study utilized unsupervised machine learning techniques to the CERC framework on 6.1 Million Tweets between January to March 2020 to understand the sensemaking process during COVID-19 among Twitter users. The study also used content analysis to examine WHO’s response to the popular emerging conversations. Results indicate that while WHO’s messaging addressed the dominant topics during the timeframe but did not effectively address misinformation. The paper discusses the implications and recommendations for health communication practitioners.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Sun Young Lee, University of Maryland–College Park; Duli Shi, University of Maryland; John Leach; Saymin Lee; Cody Buntain, New Jersey Institute of Technology • Global Companies’ Use of Social Media for CSR Communication During COVID-19 • The purpose of the study was to examine how companies have communicated their efforts to address COVID-19 on Facebook and Twitter and to evaluate the effectiveness of their message strategies. We conducted a content analysis of 992 Facebook posts and 1,957 tweets between March 11 and May 20, 2020, from the 2020 RepTrak’s 100 most reputable companies. About one-third of the messages (n = 1,059) were related to companies’ responses to COVID-19. Companies mostly highlighted CSR efforts related to their expertise, partnership efforts, or financial resources. The majority of messages did not specify a particular group’s interests, but when they did, the most impacted groups, such as frontline personnel and employees, were addressed. Companies mostly used social media to employ one-way message strategies, but incorporating multimedia and expressing appreciation to others were found to be effective message strategies for engaging publics emotionally. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Hyunmin Lee, Drexel University; Emma Whitehouse, Drexel University • What do you mean by doing the right thing?: Examining corporate social advocacy frames and transparency efforts in Fortune 500 companies’ website • This study examined the state of corporate social advocacy (CSA) initiatives among Fortune 500 companies via a content analysis of their official websites. There is a need to critically examine the ways in which CSA is communicated to create a normative understanding as to what constitutes of ethical and transparent CSA communication. Findings showed that episodic frames were popularly utilized to communicate about CSA and transparency efforts varied according to CSA type and location.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Juan Liu, Columbus State University; Bruce Getz, Columbus State University • How Nike and Gillette Survived the Tension between Corporate Social Advocacy and Boycotting Backlash • Both 2018 Nike’s Colin Kaepernick and 2019 Gillette commercial campaigns received backlash on social media over their messages addressing controversial social-political issues. Drawing on legitimacy theory, this study examines how polarized boycotting and advocating messages on Twitter affect interactive engagement and perceptions of corporate social advocacy. In both Nike and Gillette conditions, individuals who expressed strong value alignment with brands’ campaigns, were more susceptible to be affected by polarized tweets. When evaluating brands’ motivations for corporate social advocacy, results showed that individuals with weak value alignment were more likely to be affected by polarized messages. However, this pattern is only found in the Gillette condition. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Extended Abstract • Faculty • Open Competition • Stephanie Madden, Penn State University; Nicholas Eng, Penn State University; Jessica Myrick, Penn State University • Public Perceptions of Using the Wireless Emergency Alert System for COVID-19: Lessons for State Government Crisis Communication • On November 25, 2020, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) sent out a COVID-19 public health message via the Wireless Emergency Alert system. Using survey (N = 212) and interview (N = 19) research, this study sought to understand the targeted publics’ reaction to this message and factors impacting potential behavior change after receiving this message. Because COVID-19 response has relied on state governments, this research provides important findings for government communicators at the state level.

Research Paper • Student • Open Competition • Yufan “Sunny” Qin, University of Florida; Alexis Fitzsimmons, University of Florida; Eve Heffron, University of Florida; Marcia DiStaso, University of Florida • Communicating the Big Picture with Employees: The Impacts of CEO Vision Communication on Employee Engagement • Communicating an organizational vision with employees can be critical to help employees internalize the vision, which might in turn increase their willingness to get engaged with the work and subsequently achieving higher goals. The aim of this study is to examine whether and how CEO vision communication could influence employee engagement. This study also proposes employees’ perceptions of work meaningfulness and organizational identification as the potential underlying mechanism that mediate the relationship between CEO vision communication and employee engagement. An online survey was conducted with employees across various industries in the U.S.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Margaret Ritsch, Washington State University; Erin Tomson, Washington State University • Internal Activism at Amazon: Rhetorical Strategies and the Public Relations Response • “This study examined the public relations response to employee activism at Amazon during the Covid-19 pandemic. Public relations has typically been examined from a functional perspective, which largely ignores the power dynamics between an organization and its employees, who are important stakeholders that contribute to the organization’s public image. Critical theory provides a useful lens to examine the dynamics of organizational power and control, although this approach has typically been applied to the study of internal communication dynamics. The study addresses this gap by using a critical rhetorical approach to examine Amazon’s response to employee activism. Researchers conducted qualitative content analysis of news media coverage and Amazon’s company content (e.g. websites and public statements). The data indicates that Amazon spokespeople used aggressive rhetorical strategies in their communication with and about employee activists that discouraged unionization and ultimately attempted to prevent current and former Amazon employees from speaking up about their experiences working for the company.

Keywords: activism, employee, public relations, internal communication”

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Baobao Song; Weiting Tao • Unpack the Relational and Behavioral Outcomes of Internal CSR: Highlighting Dialogic Communication and Managerial Facilitation • The current study examines how corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication and management contributes to internal public relationship building and employees’ megaphoning behaviors. Specifically, it investigates how organization-public dialogical communication (OPDC) about CSR and the organizational leaders’ facilitation behavior towards employee CSR engagement influence employees’ perceptions of two different distinct types of organization-public relationships (OPRs), i.e., communal and exchange relationships. Structural equation modeling results of 660 on-line survey responses suggest that OPDC has a positive association with communal relationship and negative association with exchange relationship. Facilitation behavior positively contributes to employee exchange relationships. Both communal and exchange relationships are positively associated with employees’ positive megaphoning. Whereas negative megaphoning is negatively linked with communal relationships and positively linked with employees’ exchange relationships with the companies. This study contributes to the growing body of literature on internal CSR communication and management. More importantly, this study uncovers nuanced effects of CSR on internal public communal and exchange relationship building.

Extended Abstract • Faculty • Open Competition • Edson Tandoc Jr; Pei Wen Wong, Nanyang Technological; Chen Lou; Hyunjin Kang, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological U; Shruti Malviya, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information, Nanyang Technological U • EXTENDED ABSTRACT: Public Communication in the Age of Fake News • The rise of fake news has posed threats to societies around the world, affecting various institutions. One area that has not been sufficiently explored is how it has affected public communication. This study examines how the rise of fake news has affected the roles, resources, and routines of public communicators in Singapore. Through in-depth interviews, this research explores how various communication officers across Singapore’s government agencies perceive, and respond to, the fake news crisis.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Brooke Witherow, Hood College • The role of community and social capital in community building • While the role of social capital in community building has been discussed previously, the terms community and community building are rarely defined (e.g. Dodd et al., 2015; Jin & Lee, 2013; Sommerfeldt 2013a, 2013b). This qualitative case study examines the role of community and social capital in community building through community policing. 26 semi-structured interviews with police administration, patrol officers, and community leaders were conducted. The interviews with patrol officers occurred during seven ride-alongs.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Leping You; Linda Hon, University of Florida; Yu-Hao Lee • Examining Value Congruence and Outcome-relevant involvement as Antecedents of Corporate Political Advocacy • Drawing from the theoretical foundation of corporate political advocacy (CPA), this study aims to understand value congruence and outcome-relevant involvement as the antecedents of CPA that companies should consider when taking a stance on contentious sociopolitical issues. This study conducted a 2 x 2 online experiment to examine how both antecedents affect consumers’ attitudinal evaluation on the credibility and legitimacy of a CPA and predict consumers’ supportive behavioral intentions toward a CPA.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • April YUE, University of Connecticut • Navigating change in the Era of COVID-19: The Role of Top Leaders’ Charismatic Rhetoric and Employees’ Organizational Identification • “The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had tremendous and swift effects on organizational change. This study examined how organizations can leverage leadership and employee resources to facilitate positive change outcomes. Drawing from the self-concept based motivational theory of charismatic leadership and substitutes for leadership theory, the current study proposed a theoretical model connecting top leaders’ charismatic rhetoric, employees’ affective commitment to change, and employees’ turnover intention. Furthermore, the study investigated contingencies that may modify the relationship between leadership communication and followers’ outcomes. Results from an online panel of 417 U.S. employees showed that top leaders’ use of charismatic rhetoric during change led to followers’ affective commitment to change, which decreased their turnover intention. Furthermore, employees’ organizational identification moderated this relationship. When employees have low identification with their organizations, top leaders’ charismatic rhetoric to address the immediate change is more needed.

Keywords: leadership communication, charismatic rhetoric, change communication, organizational identification, affective commitment, turnover intention”

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Xueying Zhang, North Carolina A&T State; Ziyuan Zhou, Bentley University • The influence of issue attitude on consumers’ reaction toward corporate social advocacy: A moderated mediation path through cognitive dissonance • Corporate social advocacy (CSA) has gained increasing attention in public relations research. The psychological mechanisms regarding how consumers react to a CSA position that conflicts with their own have not yet been examined. Employing cognitive dissonance theory, this study examines how consumers’ preexisting attitude toward an issue influences their reaction to CSA through cognitive dissonance. An experiment (study1) and a survey (study 2) were conducted on Qualtrics with participants recruited from MTurk. Gay marriage rights and gun control issue were chosen as the CSA topics. The results indicated that a conflict between a consumer’s preexisting attitude and a corporation’s stance on a controversial issue leads to cognitive dissonance. Dissonance mediates consumers’ responses to counter-attitudinal CSA, in terms of perceiving the company as biased and intending to boycott the company. Value involvement and CCI significantly moderated the effect of consumers’ attitudes toward CSA on cognitive dissonance, but the effect varies between the two issues. The results help PR practitioners to better understand the segmented consumer audiences and provide a few pieces of practical advice to minimize the potential risk of expressing advocacy on a position of a controversial social political issue.

Research Paper • Faculty • Open Competition • Ziyuan Zhou, Bentley University; Chuqing Dong, Michigan State University • Matching words with actions: Understanding the effects of CSA stance-action consistency on negative consumer responses • Corporation social advocacy (CSA) is a popular topic in public relations research. However, few studies have considered the issue of consistency between corporations taking a stance on a controversial issue and acting accordingly. This study proposed a new concept, CSA stance-action consistency, to investigate the negative consumer responses when corporations violate their CSA promises. A 4 × 2 between-subject experiment indicated that CSA stance-action consistency significantly predicted negative word-of-mouth and boycott intentions. Besides, social issue activism moderated such an effect, while CSA record did not. This study added one more piece of evidence on the risks of CSA and encouraged corporations to fully understand stakeholders’ expectations of CSA before getting involved with controversial issues.

Research Paper • Student • Student competition • Ayman Alhammad, University of Kansas • How China used Twitter to Repair Its Image amid the COVID-19 Crisis • “In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have suffered in different ways politically, economically, and socially because of this health crisis. China registered the first case of COVID-19 and found itself the recipient of negative publicity, some of which, stated by scientists, blamed China for the virus in a Wuhan laboratory, or covered the nature of the disease until it was out of control (Verma, 2020). Because of comprehensive widely negative consequences, China’s image has been distorted in many countries. That led the Chinese government to use a different medium to deal with the crisis, one of which is social media platforms. As Saudi Arabia is one of China’s important economic partners, Beijing is concerned that health crises could affect negatively its economic interests in Saudi Arabia. In fact, China has faced serious obstacles in terms of import and export goods (Hayakawa & Mukunoki, 2021).

China decided to employ digital diplomacy by making its ambassadors communicate with the local and international communities (Brandt & Schafer, 2020). Chinese ambassador, Chen Weiqing, speaks to Saudis via Twitter as Saudi Arabia is ranked eighth in the world with 12.45 million users (Statista, 2020).

This paper examines the image repair strategies that the Chinese ambassador in Saudi Arabia employed during the coronavirus pandemic to restore China’s image there. This study adopted rhetorical analysis, building on the theoretical framework proposed by Brinson & Benoit (1999).

An examination of the ambassador’s tweets revealed a variety of image restoration strategies, including denial, bolstering, compensation, and minimization.”

Research Paper • Student • Student competition • Zahedur Arman, Southern Illinois University Carbondale • The Networked Huawei Agendas during the US-China Trade War: The Interrelationships between Huawei, the News Media, and Public Tweets • This study examines interrelationships between the networked Huawei agendas, the U.S. and Chinese news media agendas, and Twitter users’ issue agendas on Twitter during the US-China Trade War. Social network analysis is used as a theory and method to analyze Huawei’s public relations activities on Twitter, news media, and Twitter users’ network. This study found that Huawei’s direct networked agenda setting to Twitter users is more successful than the news media’s networked agenda-setting to the Twitter users. This study is among the first to explore cross-nation networked agenda building and networked agenda setting effects on Twitter. It also found that the US media did not follow Huawei’s networked agendas, but the Chinese media followed the corporation’s issue agendas during the US-China trade war. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.

Research Paper • Student • Student competition • Bugil Chang, University of Minnesota • I Distrust You All Because One of You Did Something Wrong: Spillover Effect of Distrust Elicited by an NPO’s Crisis on Overall NPOs • This study examined how public distrust formed by the crisis of an NPO spills over to other organizations in the same and different sectors through experiment. Overall, when faced with a crisis, the participants distrusted not only organizations in the same sector as the crisis-stricken organization but also organizations in a different sector. The effect was fully mediated by participants’ perceived distrust toward the crisis-stricken organization.

Research Paper • Student • Student competition • Enzhu Dong, University of Miami; Dongqing Xu • From CSR to Employees’ Megaphoning Behavior: The Roles of Communal Relationship and Corporate Reputation • This study examined how employees’ perceived overall CSR activities impact employees’ positive megaphoning through the mediation of employees’ perceived communal relationship and communal willingness, taking the moderation effect of perceived reputation into consideration. To address the hypotheses, a survey among employees across different organizations was conducted. Results of the moderated mediation examination supported the hypotheses. These findings contributed to the understanding of CSR effects on employee communication behavior and provided implications for organizational management.

Research Paper • Student • Student competition • Yoosun Ham, Indiana University; Ejae Lee, Indiana University; Eugene Kim, The Media School, Indiana University Bloomington; Sung Hyun Lee • Examining Publics’ Comparative Evaluations of Government Communication and Strength Ties as Predictors of Country Reputation • During the COVID-19 outbreak, media tended to report on how different Asian countries — China, Japan, and South Korea — were handling the situation by using comparisons. U.S. citizens have been exposed to information about Asian countries and could compare and evaluate how those countries’ governments communicate with their citizens to help contain the new coronavirus. This study attempted to examine how country reputation could be associated with publics’ comparative evaluations about the dialogic communication competency of a foreign country’s government through news media exposure about how that government contained and/or mitigated the new coronavirus. This study also investigated associations between the perceived tie strength between the U.S. and Asian countries and those countries’ reputations. This study used online experimental surveys. Its findings suggest that country reputation was significantly associated with comparative evaluations about mutuality and openness in Asian countries’ government dialogic communication and perceived tie strength with the U.S. government. Theoretical implications and practical contributions are discussed.

Research Paper • Student • Student competition • Jie Jin, University of Florida • Can CEO Activism be Good for the Organization? The Way CEO Activism on Sexual Orientation Equality Achieves High Young Employee Work Engagement • “Whether a CEO should speak out about controversial issues is a hotly debated topic across the United States. In today’s politically polarized environment, Americans have changed their expectations about whether companies and CEOs should lead social change. Contrary to the conventional wisdom that CEOs shouldn’t avoid taking actions unrelated to their business, the purpose of this study is to examine how CEOs’ pro-sexual orientation equality statements may lead to young employee work engagement from the perspective of social exchange theory. A conceptual model with nine propositions is proposed to reveal how CEO activism generates positive employee outcomes.

Keywords: CEO activism, sexual orientation equality, work engagement, social exchange theory”

Research Paper • Student • Student competition • Nana Kwame Osei Fordjour, University of New Mexico; Timothy Kwakye Karikari, University of International Business and Economic, Beijing, China • Twitter styles by the leaders of the 116th US House: A concurrent triangulation • Situating our study in the context of a global pandemic and a time of seeming polarization in the US, we analyzed the tweets (n = 480) of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. We employ the concurrent triangulation approach and blend three theoretical approaches to analyze their credit-claiming behavior, position-taking, attacks as well as the salient frames in their tweets. Findings indicate there is no significant difference in their position-taking and credit-claiming tweets, however, Majority Leader McCarthy tweeted more negatively than Speaker Pelosi. We uncover four salient frames which are: Economic debate, electoral integrity, COVID-19 response, and the appointment of Supreme Court Justice. Ultimately, we juxtapose the qualitative frames with the quantitative findings to give deeper understanding into the three quantitative categories and provide insights into the implications of such tweets.

Research Paper • Student • Student competition • Michelle Rossi • How has the United Nations portrayed International Women’s Day before and after founding UN Women? • By applying feminist theory and framing for public relations, this research explored the range of debate within press releases distributed about International Women’s Day before and after the founding of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, UN Women, in 2011. Using Ethnographic Content Analysis (ECA), this study found that press releases were more descriptive about events in the decade before, and more focused on actions in the decade after.

Research Paper • Student • Student competition • Dongqing Xu • Different Brands Stealing Thunder: How Brand Personality Impacts Crisis Response Strategy Choice • This study aimed to examine the impact of brand personality on participants’ brand perceptions and crisis response evaluation. To be more specific, the study aimed to examine how stealing thunder (i.e., brands disclosing the crisis and response before revealed by the third-party) as a proactive response strategy could impact brands with different personalities in crises. Employing a 2 (brand personality: sincere vs. exciting) × 2 (crisis response type: proactive vs. reactive) experimental design, the study found the buffering effect of sincere brand personality on participants’ perceived credibility, brand attitude, and purchase intention in crisis. In terms of crisis performance evaluations, brand personality was found moderating the effectiveness of the stealing thunder strategy, such that stealing thunder lost its power when employed by a sincere brand. These findings contributed to the extant brand personality literature and suggested a potential boundary of the stealing thunder strategy.

Research Paper • Faculty • Teaching competition • Virginia Harrison, Clemson University • Teaching Philanthropy: How Can Public Relations Courses Prepare Future Fundraisers and Motivate Giving? • Scholars have suggested that fundraising education is a specialty of public relations. This study examines how a fundraising-specific service-learning project may help prepare future fundraisers. A survey of qualitative and quantitative data was administered to public relations students in a fundraising-focused class and in other service-learning classes. Students in the fundraising-focused class were more knowledgeable about nonprofits but were not more inclined to enter the profession. However, they were more motivated to donate after graduation.

Research Paper • Faculty • Teaching competition • KiYong Kim • Dynamic Capabilities and Social Media Education: Professional Expectations and Curricular Preparation • “When Covid-19 impacted regular communication dynamics for organizations, social media became even more prominent in brand communications. A growing body of research confirms training in social media is an essential part of knowing “”how to”” reach one’s organization’s publics (Kruset et al., 2018; Plowman et al., 2015), making social media a mainstay in the public relations educational curriculum (Meganck et al., 2020). This study seeks to bridge the themes found by Kim (2021) related to public relations practice and dynamic capabilities (Teece, 2007) with social media educational practices. This study suggests that there is a link between dynamic capabilities and social media educational practices.


Dynamic Capabilities, Social media education, public relations professionals, Case studies, scenarios, experiential learning, digital leadership, VUCA”

Research Paper • Faculty • Teaching competition • Amanda Weed, Kennesaw State University; Adrienne Wallace, Grand Valley State University; Betsy Emmons, Samford University; Alisa Agozzino, Ohio Northern University • Leveling the Playing Field: Assessing Issues of Equity, Transparency, and Experiential Learning in the PRSSA Bateman Case Study Competition • This study provides the first academic research examination about the Public Relations Student Society of America Bateman Case Study Competition. Research-based insights identify varying perspectives on if the competition meets current students’ needs. Through insights gained from a survey of faculty and professional advisers of 2017-2020 Bateman competition teams, the authors have identified critical perspectives and areas for improvement to the competition along the issues of equity, transparency, and experiential learning. Study results address alignment of knowledge, skills, and abilities identified by the Commission on Public Relations Education and university curricula.


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