Ethical challenges of digital communication in public relations: A comparative study of individual, organizational, and national factors in 52 countries

Abstract: Digital communication enables PR professionals to analyze audiences using their personal data, or to distribute messages via paid channels. Although effective, these practices are often assessed critically from an ethical perspective. Several studies have highlighted how individual dispositions like gender and age, but also organizational and national backgrounds shape ethical perceptions and decisions of PR practitioners. However, a combined investigation of these micro, meso, and macro level determinants on moral assessment of the aforementioned communication practices covering a broad variety of professionals, organizations, and countries is still lacking. The research deploys a secondary analysis of merged data collected in four quantitative cross-national online surveys among PR professionals, overall comprising 5,970 respondents in five different types of organizations from 52 countries.

Examining the characteristics and virtues associated with servant leadership in public relations

Abstract: The purpose of this study is to understand the extent to which servant leadership and ethics of care are being practiced by public relations leaders. This study provides in-depth insights on how public relations leaders define and practice servant leadership. The study involved in-depth interviews with 21 public relations leaders working in a variety of organizational settings in the United States. We found evidence of an “other oriented approach” to leadership that involved prioritizing the needs and concerns of employees and a genuine concern for the wellbeing of others. The findings are consistent with characteristics associated with both servant leadership and ethics of care. The public relations leaders were able to provide specific examples of how these perspectives affected their decision-making. The leaders also discussed specific examples of how they demonstrate that they care about their employees.

How Diverse Publics’ Perceptions of Health Information Channel Credibility and COVID-19 Risk Impacted Their Preventive Behavioral Intention: Insights from a U.S. National Survey

Abstract: Using an online survey of a representative U.S. adult sample, this study revealed how publics perceived COVID-19 risk and credibility of information channels differently, which further predicted intention to follow health authority’s recommendations as moderated by age, gender and race/ethnicity. Implications on optimizing risk information dissemination effectiveness are discussed.

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

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.

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

Abstract: 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.  Paper at:

Gender equality in public relations and communication: A comprehensive study bridging the knowledge between North and South America

Abstract: our research endeavors to provide the current reality of gender equality in the profession of public relations in the geographic region of America (i.e., North America and South America). Specifically, we explore the perceptions of gender equality in four regions in America, including North America, Northern South America, Central America and the Caribbean, and Southern South America. By doing so, we aim at exploring the following four issues, including: 1) whether gender equality in communication has improved in the four regions, 2) how communication professionals have perceived the impact of the glass ceiling; 3) what are the potential barriers causing the glass ceiling issue for women in public relations in those regions; and 4) who is most capable of leading the change in gender equality.

The impact of crucibles in developing public relations character and competencies as servant leaders

Abstract: Crucibles are essential in the development of leaders. Crucibles refer to trials and challenges that test and mold the character, values, and behavior of leaders. Through in-depth interviews with 31 public relations leaders, we examined how crucible experiences specifically shaped them to practice servant leadership. Through the narratives they constructed about these experiences, we were able to learn specific details about these experiences, the lessons they gleaned and how they shaped and transformed their character, virtues, and leadership style.

Women in public relations: Ascribed and avowed leadership identities and expectations

Abstract: Women who aspire to leadership positions in public relations have to develop political astuteness when it comes to addressing ascribed identities and expectations associated with gender and race. Through 51 in-depth interviews with women working in mid-management and senior-executive level positions in public relations in the U.S., this study provides new insights into women’s perceptions regarding the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to succeed in public relations leadership. The study revealed some women’s preferences for contemporary management styles such as servant leadership and transformational leadership as well as barriers to advancement and influence, particular for women of color.

Inclusive leadership and women in public relations: Defining the meaning, functions, and relationships

Abstract: The purpose of this research is to introduce inclusive leadership as a new theoretical framework to understand its meaning and functions in advancing gender equalities and empowerment in public relations leadership. By proposing an inclusive leadership theoretical model, we explored the roles of inclusive leadership in fostering an organization’s diversity climate and facilitating its practice of participative leadership in empowering women in public relations to reach their full potential in leadership advancement. Moreover, our results confirmed both direct and indirect impacts inclusive leadership could have on women’s perceptions of continued career growth opportunities. Our findings provide theoretical implications and practical solutions to address women’s leadership challenges through an inclusive leadership lens.

The Power of Myth and Truth: Uncovering the History and Growing Role of Native Americans in Public Relations

Yan Jin (PI), Shelley Spector (Co-PI), and Taylor Voges (PhD Candidate, Co-PI). “The Power of Myth and Truth: Uncovering the History and Growing Role of Native Americans in Public Relations.” The Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication, Penn State University ($7,040), 2022-2023.

Description: This proposed project aims to make the diverse voices of Native Americans heard louder and clearer by 1) raising attention to the true histories as in archives, oral histories, and reflected collective memories, 2) unlocking the power of storytelling of Native Americans (PR practitioners, educators, students, and the communities practitioners and organizations present and advocate for), and 3) providing truth-based communication guideline for organizations on how to communicate effectively and ethically with Native Americans and on issues concerning them with genuine understanding and sincere respect of their diverse cultures and rich heritages. This multi-phase, theory-practice integrated inquiry of the history and the role of Native Americans in PR will generate insights from multiple data sources, offering timely and actionable recommendations for more effective and ethical organizational communication and more accurate and just representation in media and other public space.