Fending off Unverified Accusation with Narratives: The Role of Primary and Secondary Narratives in Organizational Response Effectiveness in an Ongoing Crisis

Yen-I Lee (PhD alum), Xuerong Lu (PhD candidate), Taylor Voges (PhD candidate), and Yan Jin. (forthcoming). “Fending off Unverified Accusation with Narratives: The Role of Primary and Secondary Narratives in Organizational Response Effectiveness in an Ongoing Crisis”. Journal of International Crisis and Risk Communication Research.

Abstract: A challenge confronting crisis communication practice is how to communicate about crisis situations involving unverified accusations of sexual harassment attributed to an organization’s members. The investigation and verification of the original accusation take time, but the organization needs to respond to the concerned publics. This study integrates theories of metanarration (Venette et al., 2003) and crisis narratives (Seeger & Sellnow, 2016) to identify optimal approaches to manage uncertain and high-pressure crisis situations. An online experiment used a U.S. adult sample (N = 697) to examine how 1) the primary narrative in a news story about the victim and 2) the secondary narrative with different crisis narratives used by the accused organization impacted the outcomes of the organization’s public communication about the ongoing crisis situation. The results showed that the secondary narrative, emphasizing renewal, played a significant role in 1) lowering perceived organizational crisis responsibility, 2) lessening organizational reputation damage, and 3) boosting supportive intention toward the organization. In addition, findings revealed that perceived organizational crisis responsibility and perceived organizational reputation functioned as sequential mediators for the relationship between the secondary narrative (using renewal crisis narrative) and participants’ intended support of the crisis-stricken organization. Our findings advance crisis narrative theory and offer prescriptions for effective and ethical organizational responses in managing an ongoing crisis triggered by an unverified sexual harassment accusation against its members.

Approaching the public relations profession with ease and ethical expertise: A class project to encourage, equip, and empower students entering the internship market

David E. Clementson, (in press). “Approaching the public relations profession with ease and ethical expertise: A class project to encourage, equip, and empower students entering the internship market.” Communication Teacher. https://doi.org/10.1080/17404622.2022.2072922

Abstract: Public relations and strategic communication are offered in communication departments with a field of study largely geared toward professional communicators. The majors place a heavy emphasis on internships, which seem to be more competitive than ever. A class project can jumpstart students’ preparation for entry-level positions in the industry by bolstering their ability to receive and excel at an internship. This paper provides instructors of courses in public relations and strategic communication with the tools to implement a semester-long class project. The series of assignments will embolden students to enter the communication profession with confidence and ethical certitude, grounded in practice and theory of ethics in public relations and strategic communication. Grading rubrics and further detailed instructions for each assignment are provided in the Supplementary Information.

Understanding and building communication and information needs in rural Georgia

Karin Assmann presented “Understanding and building communication and information needs in rural Georgia” at the 2021 Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC) Annual Conference at Penn State (held virtually) on September 15, 2021. This is an ongoing project that grew out of an undergraduate reporting class and is a collaboration with Ev Andrews (Master’s in Emerging Media Studies ’21). Undergraduate CURO research assistant Josie Lipton is joining this project as it moves into the pilot project stage.

Measuring the value of public relations: An international investigation at how communication practitioners view the challenges and suggest solutions


This research is motivated to advance our understanding of measurement challenges in communication practice and coping strategies from a global perspective. To do so, we relied on data from a global online survey of communication practitioners in more than 20 countries, which result in five country clusters for final analysis and comparisons. Communication practitioners across investigated country clusters shared different strategies used to cope with measurement challenges. Our results also confirmed that certain leadership qualities (i.e., strategic decision-making, possessing communication knowledge) are particularly important in managing measurement challenges. Our findings provide solutions, leadership skills, and prioritization to improve the measurement of communication effectiveness.

How College Students Assess the Threat of Infectious Diseases: Implications for University Leaders and Health Communicators.

Abstract: Higher education institutions and their students face a wide range of infectious disease threats (IDTs). However, there is a lack of theory-driven research on how to provide communication for multiple IDTs to motivate protective action taking. To close this gap, this study focuses on college students and two IDT types: respiratory and sexually transmitted infections. We tested an IDT appraisal model with data from an online survey conducted at two U.S. universities with 842 students. Findings indicate that IDT type led to different patterns of threat appraisal and protective action taking intentions. More specifically, participants perceived sexually transmitted threats as significantly more predictable and more controllable than respiratory threats. Participants also had higher intention to take protective action in response to respiratory threats than sexually-transmitted threats. We also found that external-attribution-dependent (EAD) emotions (i.e., anger, sadness, surprise, and confusion) and an internal-attribution-dependent (IAD) emotion (i.e., hope) were sequential mediators in the relationship between IDT appraisal and protective action taking intentions for both infectious disease types. Implications for IDT communication research and practice are discussed.

Communication Challenges during Influenza Pandemics.

Abstract:  Influenza pandemics have the potential to cause much illness and death and are thus a major focus of public health planning and preparation. As the influenza pandemic that took place in 2009-2010 illustrated, many communication issues and challenges arise during influenza pandemics, ranging from the need to daily update the news media and public about new developments and public health recommendations to effectively communicating with key stakeholders, including healthcare providers, who are directly involved in treating and preventing illness. This presentation highlights communication lessons learned during the 2009-2010 influenza pandemic and offers guidance for those involved in preparing for future pandemics.

Interactive infographics’ effect on elaboration in agricultural communication.

Abstract: In public health, politics, and advertising, interactive content spurred increased elaboration from audiences that were otherwise least likely to engage with a message. This study sought to examine interactivity as an agricultural communication strategy through the lens of the Elaboration Likelihood Model. Respondents were randomly assigned a static or interactive data visualization concerning the production of peaches and blueberries in Georgia, then asked to list their thoughts in accordance with Petty and Cacioppo’s thought-listing measure. Respondents significantly exhibited higher elaboration with the interactive message as opposed to the static, extending the results of past research in other communication realms to agricultural communication as well. This increase in attitude and cognition encourages agricultural communicators to pursue the use of more interactive elements in their messaging. (2019). Interactive infographics’ effect on elaboration in agricultural communication.

Communicating about Infectious Disease Threats: Insights from Public Health Information Officers

Abstract: The public health communication challenges that arise in times of infectious disease threats (IDTs) were examined using the Risk Amplification through Media Spread (RAMS) Framework and in-depth phone interviews with 40 national, state, and local public health information officers (PIOs).  Interviewees shared their experiences and insights related to how IDTs are communicated to the public, including the different types of traditional and social media used, how they develop and assess IDT messages, and their perceptions regarding the IDT risk amplification process.  Theoretical and practical implications for health public relations and public health communication are discussed.