Public relations PhD student Xuerong Lu was recently announced as the winner of the 2021 IPR-Ketchum Don Bartholomew Award for Excellence in Public Relations Research. The award honors the work of a public relations scholar and helps them connect their research to public relations practice in the professional setting.
“I was on cloud nine for several hours,” Lu said. “I called my parents who were in China and proudly told them I won it.”
Lu’s research focus is crisis communication. Specifically, she examines how organizations communicate crises to audiences on social media when conflicting information exists.
The award links Lu to a legacy of renounced public relations scholars, including two members of the Grady College faculty. María Len-Ríos, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, won the same award in 2000 and Bryan Reber, Advertising and Public Relations Department Head, won it in 1999.
“I’m glad that Ketchum continues to support this award,” Reber said. “I received it more than 20 years ago and it’s exciting to have one of our own earn the honor and experience of the Bartholomew Award. I’m glad to have Xuerong in the fraternity of winners of this award.”
“It’s a huge inspiration for me,” said Lu. “Dr. Reber and Dr. Len-Ríos are big names in the PR field. It was my dream to have my name listed with their name somewhere one day.”
In her research, Lu worked with Yan Jin, AdPR Assistant Department Head, on a study published by Public Relations Review that focused on how information is vetted when be used to manage crisis communication. Jin, who also serves as Lu’s faculty advisor and dissertation chair, also guided Lu through the IPR-Ketchum Award application process.
“Xuerong’s passion for advancing communication theory and practice via social and behavioral scientific research is remarkable,” Jin said. “As doctoral student, Xuerong has published in some of the top journals in our field and received external research funding, with extensive experience of leading projects and collaborating with scholars and practitioners in the U.S. and worldwide. She is bright, diligent, optimistic, creative and perseverant.”
Lu says the experience with a leading global public relations agency gives her greater perspective on the field of public relations.
“Such experience really opened my eyes to the PR industry, which is also really helpful to my own PR research,” Lu said. “It helps me to rethink “so what” questions in a deeper and wider manner when doing my own research.”
Lu plans to pursue a faculty position at a research university to continue her passion and contributions to scholarly work in public relations and crisis communication.
You can learn more about the Bartholomew Award and see the full list of previous winners at their website.