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Public Relations Journal — Vol. 2, No. 1

Title: Risk Communication and Community Right to Know: A Public Relations Obligation to Inform

Author: Michael J. Palenchar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, School of Advertising and Public Relations, College of Communication and Information, The University of Tennessee.

Abstract: Risk communication and community right to know are increasingly important functions of public relations within communities that face a considerable amount of health, safety and environmental risk related to chemical manufacturing. Following Susan G. Hadden’s claim that community right to know is not only a legal subject but a powerful approach to risk communication and by extension public relations, this research used an ethnographic case study of participant observations, interviews and focus groups to analyze how community residents perceive and construct their awareness and understanding of significant federally mandated and industry initiated community-right-to-know initiatives within risk communication. Findings include a general lack of awareness and understanding of community-right-to-know programs and risk management protocols, with differences among communities, cultures and genders, and the social justification of risks via narratives.

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Title: A Hierarchical Model for Employee Benefits Communication Based on Media Richness Theory

Authors: Alan R. Freitag, Ph.D., APR, Fellow PRSA and Gaelle Picherit-Duthler, Ph.D. University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Abstract: This report summarizes data stemming from a major research project concerning employee benefits communication and considers whether findings extend to other areas of employee communication.  Our previous research surveyed HR managers and employees. This article addresses focus group analysis comparing results to salient findings from the two surveys and inquiring whether media richness theory, coupled with a hierarchical view of sequential benefits communication needs, offers a suitable approach to this aspect of employee communication. It also provides quantitative analysis of benefits communication. Results reveal an employee preference for a mixed-media approach to benefits communication, leading to a proposed hierarchical model of channel choice based on category of information conveyed. Although employees actively seek information through formal channels to aid in option choice, they frequently fall back upon the informal “grapevine” for information not available through other channels.

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Title: Time to Get a Job: Helping Image Repair Theory Begin a Career in Industry

Authors: Peter M. Smudde, Ph.D, APR, Associate Professor, Department of Communication, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Jeffrey L. Courtright, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Communication, Illinois State University.

Abstract: Image repair theory (IRT) has garnered an ever-widening following, as indicated by the range of scholarship over the years since William Benoit introduced it. The theory, however, still lives within the province of academia as a critical method that looks back on cases of image restoration/repair. This in and of itself is not problematic; except we believe image repair theory must move on and become fully useable, useful, and used by public relations practitioners. This can only be done by formulating a pragmatically prospective approach for applying the theory to future situations in terms of strategic planning. This paper analyzes the importance of IRT on the field, presents a plan template for planning image repair efforts, and asserts benefits of this approach to practice, theory, and pedagogy.

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Title: Corporate Social Responsibility Priming and Valence of CSR Framing on CSR Judgments

Authors: Alex Wang, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Sciences, University of Connecticut-Stamford and Ronald B. Anderson, Ph. D., Associate Professor, Department of Advertising, University of Texas at Austin.

Abstract: This study tested the effects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) priming (without CSR priming vs. CSR priming) and valence of CSR framing (positive framing vs. negative framing) on how participants judged a target corporation’s CSR practices and formed attitude toward the target corporation. Results suggested that the main effects of CSR priming and valence of CSR framing affected participants’ judgments of the target corporation’s CSR practices and attitudes toward the target corporation. The crucial effects, however, were the interaction effects between CSR priming and valence of CSR framing. The interaction effects captured the degree to which the impact of valence of CSR framing depended on whether participants were primed with messages about CSR practices. Implications for public relations professionals are also presented.

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Title: User Perceptions of Dialogic Public Relations Tactics via the Internet

Author: Sheila M. McAllister-Spooner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Monmouth University

Abstract: A usability study of New Jersey’s 19 community college websites was conducted to determine users’ perceptions of dialogic relationship-building communication principles in their design and everyday use. The results of the study—which encompassed a two-stage usability test with a sample of 119 undergraduate students—indicate that the full sample of New Jersey’s community colleges are not capitalizing on the interactive potential offered by the Internet. Despite negative user experiences, the data suggests that users did not have strong feelings for or against the sites. Of Kent and Taylor’s five dialogic Internet principals, users only had negative reactions to the lack of Dialogic Feedback Loop features.

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