The early stages of the pandemic created a breeding ground for COVID-19 conspiracy theories, which, on Twitter, spread almost as fast as the virus itself. But out of the pandemic’s most prominent early conspiracies, which were shared the most and why?
To find out, a team of researchers, led by Itai Himelboim, the Thomas C. Dowden Professor of Media Analytics at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, collected nearly 400,000 tweets sent between Jan. 19, 2020, to June 30, 2020, about COVID-19 conspiracy theories surrounding Bill Gates, QAnon, the vaccine, 5G networks and Agenda 21. They then analyzed the content of the webpages shared in the tweets.
The most tweeted about COVID-19 conspiracy theories
The overwhelming majority, roughly 87 percent, of webpages linked in tweets and retweets centered on the conspiracy theory surrounding Bill Gates, a villain-based conspiracy theory blaming Gates for creating the virus and financially benefiting from the pandemic. Following Gates, in order of most to least tweeted about, were QAnon, 5G networks, the vaccine and Agenda 21.
“Looking for who to blame for the pandemic was a major motivator in the early stages of the pandemic-related conspiracy theories, illustrated by the Bill Gates-related theory being the most popular,” Himelboim explained.
Not only were the Bill Gates-related conspiracy theory webpages the most popular in terms of being shared on Twitter, but there were also the most of them. Tweets related to the Bill Gates conspiracy linked back to 144 different webpages, while there were only 67 unique webpages associated with the conspiracy claiming 5G networks contributed to the pandemic and 79 unique webpages associated with conspiracies surrounding the vaccine, for example.
“I was surprised by the prevalence of COVID-19 vaccination in conspiracy theories,” Himelboim explained. “In the first six months of the pandemic in the United States, which is what the study focused on, not only were vaccines not available, but they were also only in the very early stages of development.”
Persuasion strategies used to support the conspiracies
The researchers also sought to understand the different types of content, or persuasion strategies, being used to support each conspiracy theory. Overall, the majority of sources were sharing information that simply implied the theories were true. Although, more established conspiracy theories, such as those involving Agenda 21 and QAnon, focused less on supporting “belief” than some of the newer or lesser-known conspiracies.
For example, just above 22 percent of the sources related to the Agenda 21 conspiracy, which claims that the United Nations and governments around the world are colluding to wipe out 90 percent of the global population, feature content highlighting the malicious purposes of those claimed to be behind the COVID-19 virus. Likewise, the majority, roughly 30 percent, of COVID-19 conspiracy theory webpages related to QAnon featured content that zeroed in on who the specific conspirators are.
Understanding the makeup of different conspiracy theories and what type of content is more likely to resonate can be very helpful when addressing such theories, explained Himelboim. However, the researchers found few examples of specific types of content predicting higher engagement, such as retweets.
Only content explaining the “malicious purposes” behind a specific conspiracy, such as suggesting conspirators are making money off of the virus, and content highlighting the “secretive actions” the conspirators take were directly correlated with predicting higher engagement.
They fit together like BBQ sauce and a pulled pork sandwich.
When Kim Landrum, a senior lecturer in the Advertising and Public Relations (AdPR) Department at Grady College, reached out to Katie Throne, the founder and owner of Porky Goodness, Athens’ first female-owned BBQ sauce brand, she knew the brand would be a perfect fit for her Integrated AdPR Campaigns capstone class.
In the class, students pair with local brands, such as Porky Goodness, to serve as their agencies for a semester. The idea is that students are able to gain real world experience while they support the advertising and public relations efforts of the brands they pair with.
“I always try to find small business owners or student organizations, because then we’re able to make an investment back in the community and support small business,” said Landrum. “Porky Goodness was just right. Katie had tangible requests that students could meet. It aligned really well for our team.”
Early on in the fall 2022 semester, Throne met with the seven-student team assigned to the Porky Goodness brand. The students interviewed her and asked her about the challenges she was facing. From there, they wrote up a plan.
Throughout the semester, the students took a deep look at the analytics behind Porky Goodness’ social accounts, developed content designed to do well on social, helped Throne shoot cooking videos, put wholesale information on the website, allowing interested retailers to easily submit a request for the Porky Goodness product, gave Throne a few lessons on creating TikTok videos and Instagram Reels, and put together a template for a recurring newsletter, which Throne said has already led to several orders.
“The students listened really well to what I needed done in a short period of time and knocked it out,” said Throne, who started Porky Goodness in March 2021. “At the end of the semester, I was blown away with all that they had completed for me. I hope they learned something from me, but I really learned a lot from them.”
For senior advertising and public relations students, this class is a chance to put what they’ve learned to the test and gain practical experience in their future industry. The value of the class is not lost on the students.
“Working with Porky Goodness has been such a rewarding experience,” said Coley Warren (AB ‘22), a December graduate who was on the Porky Goodness team. “From being able to work with a local client to producing portfolio-quality content, my classmates and I were able to gain real world experience far beyond the classroom setting.”
“Katie was so good about giving the students access and really listening to what they had to say,” added Landrum. “It made the experience as good for the students as it was for her.”
It became clear, throughout the term, just how passionate the students were about working with Throne and the Porky Goodness brand. One student, who drives race cars, put a Porky Goodness decal on his car before an upcoming race, Throne said. Another student, Nina Boone, still works with Throne and the Porky Goodness brand.
“When you’re a little company like we are, you don’t have a lot of money to spend on marketing, photos, graphics and so on,” said Throne. “The students were a tremendous help. I appreciated everything that they did.”
Brands and organizations want to attract consumers and gain their trust. Accomplishing both of these tasks, though, is no easy feat. Two factors that greatly impact the attractiveness of advertisements and consumer trust are the personalization of advertisements — adding names and images to ads, for example — and disclosing if and how an advertisement, whether its an image, video or user review, may be manipulated or influenced by a brand.
In this episode, Dr. Alexander Pfeuffer, an assistant professor of advertising in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Grady College, speaks about his research addressing those very topics.
Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for clarity and brevity.
Grady Research Radio: To start, I want to ask you a little bit about your recent research work. I know you recently worked on a study for the Journal of Interactive Advertising that evaluated the effectiveness of personalized recruitment ads. Can you walk me through that study — what you were seeking to learn and what you found?
Alexander Pfeuffer: Yes. So this is a study that was led by Jean Pfiffelmann at EM Strasbourg Business School. The study aimed to address the challenge of organizations recruiting new talent to replace retiring workers.
We have globalization, technological change and all of that shaping the job market. So organizations sometimes find themselves in the position of, you know, having skill shortages. The study wanted to see whether advertising could help organizations meet that challenge.
We looked at personalization as one potential strategy, and that means including personal identifiable information in the ads. We looked at literature on personalization that was out there. We saw that recruitment advertising had rarely been examined and that the insights there are on personalized product, service or commercial advertising in general may not easily translate into the recruitment advertising context.
What we found was actually pretty cool. In the recruitment ad context, we found that personalization could be beneficial to organizations. When an organization addresses potential employees on social media by using both their image and name, they feel treated more considerately. They perceive that organization as more attractive, and they were much more likely to subsequently want to pursue that job or to click on the ad and learn more about the organization. That strategy worked specifically for individuals who perceived the message as less relevant to them on the outset.
Grady Research Radio: Great. So were those the results that you expected to find in your hypothesis for this study, or were you surprised by those results in any way?
Alexander Pfeuffer: I think from the existing literature, we thought that maybe using a name of a person was enough personalization. We thought that using images might be perceived as being too intrusive.
But we saw that using just the name actually was not effective. I don’t know if that has to do with the context of it being recruitment ads or if it has to do with, you know — personalized names have been used a lot in email marketing and in commercial ads. Maybe the effects of that, which have previously shown to be effective, may no longer be novel and may no longer exert that effect.
So we saw that it really took the name and the image of that person to have that effect. And it needs to be someone who wasn’t really that involved with a message to begin with.
Grady Research Radio: Backing up a little bit, can you give a more holistic introduction to your research — what the majority of it focuses on?
Alexander Pfeuffer: My research focuses on digital advertising effects, broadly. I look at that through a lens of consumer protection and empowerment, and I explore effects that focus on theories of persuasion and the construct of trust.
So the majority of my research has focused on approaches of ensuring that consumers are informed about the persuasive nature of their content and how that empowerment influences advertising effects.
Grady Research Radio: Great. So, reading through a little bit of your research, I noticed there seems to be this overlying trend that transparency is often a good idea for marketers in terms of boosting consumer trust. So, is this true? Can you explain where it is true and why that might be?
Alexander Pfeuffer: I’ve looked at a variety of disclosure messages that aim at making sure that consumers are informed. Originally, I started looking at that in the sponsorship disclosure context, and I found that consumer responses to those disclosures were nuanced.
So, in terms of the effects that we see, it matters what type of sponsorship was entered — what sort of deal was entered and was disclosed. We saw that, for sponsorship, consumers were much more likely to accept a message that was sponsored by the reviewer receiving a free product, as opposed to receiving payments or a commission.
I think the interesting bit was that we saw that the free product sponsorship was statistically equivalent to a review that ostensibly was not sponsored and didn’t have a disclosure at all.
Grady Research Radio: Okay, great. So this might be asking you to speculate slightly, but are there any instances where a marketer or brand can be too transparent — where transparency can hurt them or their brand?
Alexander Pfeuffer: In the context of my research, we’ve seen that being more forthcoming was of benefit to brands. So, giving that additional information instead of just a general disclosure was more accepted by consumers.
(Consumers) are actually somewhat cynical or suspicious of more general disclosures that simply thank the brand for making something possible, versus saying specifically what they received in return.
Grady Research Radio: In that regard, do you believe that this is a trend that will continue? Will consumers continue or increasingly want to see specifics in disclosure messages, rather than the general disclosure messages such as, as you mentioned, thanking a brand for making something possible.
Alexander Pfeuffer: I think it’s a trend that we’ll see in different contexts as well. I’ve expanded my research to looking into disclosures in the context of image manipulation. So we’re seeing that there are certain countries that are already putting requirements in place that photoshopping would need to be disclosed.
We actually just presented a study at an international advertising conference in Europe, in Prague, that focused specifically on that. In that case, we were less concerned with, you know, how that would affect the effectiveness of the ad and more interested in, can we mitigate potentially harmful effects of image manipulation, which has been linked to issues of mental health and negatively affecting beauty standards.
We saw that those disclosures, and specifically if they are more detailed, through different mechanisms, have the potential to reduce some of those negative effects, particularly in terms of the extent to which we compare our own bodies to maybe unrealistic depictions of human proportions that are often depicted in those social media posts.
Grady Research Radio: Following up on that — if governments start to mandate that you have to disclose the information that this image has been manipulated, do you think that image manipulation will continue at the same rate that it might be at right now?
Alexander Pfeuffer: I will have to speculate. I don’t have the data on that. But those limitations apply to sponsored content specifically. We also saw that those disclosures had some negative effects on how consumers perceived brands and also content creators.
So, I would think that it could be beneficial to brands to have less retouched images. We’ve seen brands already trying to show more realistic depictions in their ads, even outside of the social media space.
Grady Research Radio: Now moving forward — what’s next for your research? Is there anything that you’re working on right now or in the near future that you’re particularly excited about?
Alexander Pfeuffer: Yeah, so as an extension of the research that I just talked about with image retouching, we’re also looking at CGI influencers and how disclosing to consumers that an influencer that they’re seeing is actually computer-generated might affect how they perceive the brand, how they perceive that content creator, and how much they would be willing to rely on that information.
So that’s research that’s going on right now. I’m working on that together with Haley Hatfield and Jooyoung Kim, and Nate Evans was also part of the image retouching project. We’re going to be presenting that at the American Academy of Advertising conference in Denver next March.
And then another thing going on is — so one of my research lines has been striving to apply marketing principles and my interest in trust in the context of health and sustainability. So, an ongoing project right now, which was actually funded by the American Academy of Advertising and also by the Coleman Group, which is a consulting firm in Atlanta, looks at the role of trust in social media content about the Covid-19 vaccine.
Essentially, we’ve seen a lot of content come out, be it from institutions and organizations, but also from fellow social media users about their personal accounts and personal experiences with (the Covid-19 vaccine).
We’re interested in seeing, what are the content attributes? So — what are specific aspects of the content that would let audiences generate an initial level of trust so that in a polarizing context we can get to a point where we have a base level of trust so we can engage with the information rather than outright rejecting it before evaluating it in the first place.
Grady Research Radio: Great. Well, thank you for joining today.
Alexander Pfeuffer: Thank you so much for having me.
AdPR Academy of Grady College’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations has changed its name to the Myra Blackmon AdPR Academy for Diversity and Inclusion.
The six-year-old educational outreach program is designed to amplify the power of diversity, equity and inclusion while growing the pipeline of diverse advertising and public relations professionals. This year’s Academy will happen in Atlanta from Nov. 9-13.
Myra Blackmon (ABJ ’72, M.Ed ’08) has enjoyed a long and varied career in industry and nonprofit organizations. For many years, she owned M. Blackmon Public Relations in Athens, serving a diverse clientele in finance, food products, health care, public affairs and fundraising. She and her husband, the late Dr. Thomas P. Holland, consulted internationally on management and governance of nonprofit organizations. Blackmon also taught public relations courses in Grady College’s AdPR Department for several years.
“For communications professionals to be truly effective, they have to reflect their varied audiences,” said Blackmon. “A visceral understanding of our diverse audiences requires constant commitment. I am proud to be able to support such an effort through the college that has been such an important part of my life since 1969!”
Students in the Academy receive over 35 hours of training and mentoring by experts working in the advertising and public relations industries, participate in daily networking opportunities with corporate executives and agency professionals, and compete in teams representing real-life clients for cash prizes.
“We truly appreciate Myra’s generosity,” said Dr. Juan Meng, Head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations. “Her commitment in advancing diversity and inclusion plays a huge role in supporting the success of this program.”
This year, Grady College invited partner institutions Albany State University, Clemson University, Georgia State University, Florida A&M University, Howard University, Kennesaw State University, Tuskegee University and the University of South Carolina to hand-select cohorts of their own students to participate in the program. Interested students not attending one of the partner institutions were invited to apply directly.
“It’s really about creating and amplifying the importance of diversity and building a pipeline with a particular focus on students of color,” said DeShele Taylor, Director of the Myra Blackmon AdPR Academy for Diversity and Inclusion. “We’ve really seen a nice rippling effect of the benefits of this program. Everyone who has gone through this program has said that they feel they have a clear pathway forward.”
Over its history, the program has graduated 99 students from 21 U.S. colleges and universities. Many of the program’s alumni have stayed in the fields of advertising and public relations, working for agencies, corporations or nonprofits. Several have gone on to pursue advanced degrees before launching their careers.
In years past, the AdPR Academy happened in the spring. This year, however, the program will run in the fall, giving students the opportunity to put the experience on their resumes before submitting applications to competitive summer internships and jobs.
“The Department of Modern Languages, Communication, and Philosophy at Tuskegee University is excited to have our Communication majors as part of AdPR Academy,” said Dr. Adaku T. Ankumah, chair of the aforementioned department. “The goal of advancing diversity is in line with the University’s mission of being a center of diversity and its strategic goals for the next five years. In addition, we seek strategic partnerships that will provide our students with hands-on experiences, so they are ready for the job market. We look forward to the opportunities that will open for them from this collaboration.”
Mira Lowe, Dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communications at Florida A&M University, added: “We are excited to work with AdPR Academy at the University of Georgia in helping to close the diversity gap in the advertising and public relations industries. Our partnership will open new doors to our PR students seeking career opportunities and connections in various professional networks. This collaboration with UGA enables us to expand the professional development of our students in a consequential way.”
While other students are getting ready to go out or studying for finals, Hayden Swank only has one thing on his mind as he watches his competitors circle the track at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. His best lap time is 0.3 seconds behind the leader. No matter what his team does, they can’t manage to close that last gap.
Between brainstorming sessions in the trailer and running out to make last-minute changes, Swank is intensely focused on his car.
The skill to navigate a racetrack at top speed is one that Swank has been working on since he was a small child. Members of his race crew say that he has been a sound driver since the age of 7, when he first started racing in quarter-midget cars on local tracks.
As the tires wear down and the light fades, the team calls it quits for the day. After all, they spent all day Wednesday following the exact same motions to dial in every point of contact between the car, the track, and Swank.
Saturday, 7:16 p.m.
Swank dons his fireproof suit in the trailer as the previous race runs its last laps. His race should start at 7:30, but an old transformer blows on the back half of the track, killing the lights. This means a later start for Swank and more time for strategy.
Swank has spent his entire life preparing for the wave of the start flag. His opponents now are big names with big money backing them—racers like Josh Berry and Chad McCumbee.
“It’s like, man, I asked him for an autograph when I was 12 and came to watch these races,” Swank said. “And we haven’t looked out of place against them. But for me, this isn’t the end goal.”
Swank’s ultimate target is to race in the NASCAR Cup Series, a future goal that his team says Swank is always working toward.
While it is tough for Swank to compete against teams with seemingly endless financial backing, this isn’t the only hurdle that Swank has had to overcome in his racing career.
“Nine times out of 10, I’m going to be the only Black driver—not only in my division but in the whole competition,” Swank said. “It’s not uncommon for me to walk into a track and not only be the only mixed driver or the only Black driver, but the only person of color on the premises.”
Swank says that this division puts extra pressure on him as a driver: “I feel like I have an extra responsibility and extra obligation to represent, you know what I mean? I want to put on a good show and prove that I have a place in the sport, and I want to prove to everybody else that anybody can make it.”
Despite the differences and setbacks, Swank remains unfazed as he pulls off a 13th place finish at his third race of the season, and on this tour. While not on the podium, this is no small feat considering his starting position amongst 26 other drivers, including several with more years behind the wheel than Swank has been alive.
Monday, 8:47 a.m.
Swank is back in Athens, and his focus shifts to college life.
Double majoring in advertising through the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and marketing through the Terry College of Business, Swank is in his third year at the University of Georgia.
Going to school while managing a racing career is a challenge, but it’s one he’s up to.
“I think being one of the very few drivers pursuing a degree that’s very relevant to what we do on a day-to-day basis does give me an edge,” Swank said. “I take a lot of what I learn in my advertising and marketing classes and apply that to the racing industry, like the pitches I make when I have to approach a company for the funds to keep the team alive and actually go racing.”
But he likes to keep those two worlds separate.
“I try not to talk about racing too much or let people know that I race because once I do, I guarantee you that’s all I will talk about with them,” Swank said. “I want to have a life outside of racing, and school’s the best way to do that.
“But I do get a certain sense of fulfillment when I can get somebody interested in racing that would have had no exposure to racing otherwise. I’ve gotten my roommates to the point where they can carry on a conversation about racing. And I’m like, ‘OK, I did my job here.’”
The above feature was originally written and posted by UGA Today, and can also be found on the UGA Today website.
This summer, a total of 52 campers from eight U.S. states and Puerto Rico traveled to Grady College to attend Summer Media Academies in Advertising and Public Relations (AdPR), Journalism and Entertainment and Media Studies (EMST).
The weeklong camps were run in partnership with the University of Georgia Summer Academy program and introduced students between the ages of 13-17 to the tools they need to become multi-skilled professionals in their desired fields.
“We were excited to return to hosting in-person camps this year,” said Stephanie Moreno (ABJ ‘06, MA ‘20), scholastic outreach coordinator at Grady College. “Participants explored our majors and learned about the variety of career paths available in the media industry. They also got a glimpse of what life is like on a college campus.”
The AdPR camp was instructed by Tom Cullen (MA ‘18, MFA ‘21), a lecturer in the AdPR Department, and Cameron Shook (AB ’22), who graduated in May with a degree in Public Relations. They taught students how to become creative problem solvers, writers, decision-makers and persuasive communicators within traditional and new media.
Participants studied ways to reach target audiences and effectively communicate messages to the general public. They visited Jackson Spalding Public Relations and Marketing Agency to gain a sneak peak at life working for an agency, listened to guest lecturers, and designed an integrated campaign for a local non-profit organization, Project Safe. The camp ran from June 13-17.
“I highly recommend this summer camp,” said high school student MC O’Brien. “This camp not only teaches you the basics of AdPR but also life necessities and qualities about how to approach problems.”
Likewise, participants in the Journalism camp studied the art of interviewing, multimedia reporting, writing, editing, producing and social media storytelling. Instructors were Joe Dennis (MA ‘07, PhD ‘16), co-chair of the mass communications department and associate professor of mass communications at Piedmont University, and Heaven Jobe, a Journalism master’s student at Grady College.
The participants were also introduced to principles in visual journalism with a session led by Akili Ramsess, executive director of the National Press Photographers Association, headquartered at Grady College.They took a visit to The Red & Black independent student newspaper, where they caught a snapshot of a working newsroom. Throughout the week, they listened to guest lecturers, wrote articles and produced a news website, Rockstarwriters.blog. The Journalism camp also ran from June 13-17.
Ten days later, from June 27-July 1, a new group gathered for EMST camp led by Jeffrey Duncan, a third-year Ph.D. student focusing on entertainment media law, and Kimberlee Smith, a master’s student. EMST camp taught students interested in careers in film, television, radio, online, mobile and other new media industries valuable content production skills, from screenwriting to digital editing.
“I really love how we get hands-on presentations,” said Psalm Arias, a high school student who recently moved to Watkinsville, Georgia, from the Philippines. “Before this camp, I didn’t have a huge interest in filming. When I saw how cameras work and how lighting works, It got me very interested in it.”
“This camp has given me more options and allowed me to see more spaces that I have to go into,” added Kristina Buckley, a high school student from Buford, Georgia.
Students in the AdPR Summer Academy took a visit to Jackson Spalding Public Relations and Marketing Agency in Downtown Athens. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)
Students in the EMST Summer Academy listened to a lesson on lighting led by Jim Black, instructional resources coordinator at Grady College and former Atlanta Braves camera operator. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)
Students in the Journalism Summer Academy had a conversation with professor Carlo Finlay (right) and Taylor Vismor (AB '22) (left) of the Atlanta Falcons. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)
Students in the Journalism Summer Academy visited The Red & Black where Charlotte Norsworthy shared details about what it's like to work at a student newspaper. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)
Students in the Journalism Summer Academy posed for a photo with their certificates after presenting their final projects. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)
Students in the AdPR Summer Academy posed for a photo with their certificates following their final presentations. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)
Students in the EMST Summer Academy visited the set of Grady Newsource. (Photo: Stephanie Moreno)
Students in the EMST Summer Academy presented their final projects on the last day of camp. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)
Students in the EMST Summer Academy posed for a picture with Booker T. Mattison, an assistant professor in EMST, following his presentation. (Photo: Stephanie Moreno)
From September 2021 to April 2022, a cohort of eight juniors and seniors from four local high schools participated in an immersive internship program with Talking Dog, Grady College’s in-house, full-service, student-led public relations and advertising agency.
Each intern was placed on a team consisting of six to eight Grady Talking Dog students assigned to a national or local client. The interns were also individually paired with a Grady student mentor who helped guide them throughout the process.
“Talking Dog gives students an inside look into what working in an agency is like,” said Valentina Drake, the interns relations director at Talking Dog.
In addition to being on client teams, each intern was also assigned to one of Talking Dog’s departments, which include copywriting, art, public relations, digital media, production and research and strategy.
Throughout the seven-month program, interns grew their skill sets and had the opportunity to network at regular department meetings, agency-wide meetings, client meetings and intern-only meetings, which often included lectures from guest speakers.
“Being an intern showed me that I am capable of having a career in advertising and public relations, which I never would have thought possible before,” said Sydney Elrod, a productions intern from Athens Academy.
“I worked with real-world clients to create advertisements that made an impact on the client and their target market and audience, so it was very fun to see the ideas the team and I made come to life,” added Sophia Beasley, a copywriting intern from Oconee County High School.
While designed to introduce students to life working for an AdPR agency, The internship is not only for those set on pursuing such careers. It provides valuable professional development and networking opportunities that are applicable to students no matter the path they choose.
“Even if I do not pursue a career in public relations or advertising, I will be more comfortable with any workplace I go into in the future and more familiar with how that experience will look and feel,” said Erin Wyatt, a public relations intern from Clarke Central High School.
Yerahm Hong, a research and strategy intern from North Oconee High School, added: “As the year progressed, I was able to make very good friendships and long-lasting connections. It really felt like a family! It was also very inspiring to be working alongside such high-achieving individuals.”
Echoing the interns’ overall sentiment, Kathryn Nichols, an art intern from Athens Academy, said: “I am so grateful for this experience, and it will be incredibly beneficial for my future endeavors.”
Now three years old, the Talking Dog internship has grown significantly since its start in 2019. At that point, the program had a total of two interns from one local high school, Athens Academy, dedicated to two client teams.
In 2020, despite having to go virtual due to the pandemic, the program grew to include a total of seven students and welcomed two new high schools, North Oconee High School and Oconee County High School. This year’s program, which was open to students from five local high schools, was the biggest yet, and it will only continue to grow.
“Our goal is to continue our outreach and increase participation from these schools to provide invaluable experiences for students interested in advertising and public relations,” said Missy Hill, program manager for Grady’s AdPR Department. “Working with local area high school administrators to collaborate on community outreach and experiential learning opportunities has been invaluable. The support from them has been overwhelming.”
“This is an outreach program that we are really proud of,” added Bryan Reber, head of the AdPR Department. “I’m really grateful to Missy Hill for initiating this three years ago and to the Talking Dog student intern directors who do such a great job integrating the high school students into the Talking Dog Agency.”
The high school administrators Hill has worked with to make the program happen include the late Jean Bennett, a former school counselor at Oconee County High School, Christy Conley, a school counselor at North Oconee High School, Wesley Mellina, the workforce development coordinator for the Clarke County School District, and Brian Olsen, the dean of student life at Athens Academy.
“We loved the experience that our students had access to over the past few years and are looking forward to participating in the years to come,” said Conley.
“We are pleased to help recruit CCSD students from programs that connect with this opportunity, including our students studying marketing, A/V film technology, journalism and graphic design,” added Mellina.
Additional interns not quoted above include Andrew Cash, a public relations intern from Oconee County High School, Alexandra Navas, an art intern from Clarke Central High School, and Kyla Scott, a digital media intern from North Oconee High School.
Current department head, Bryan Reber, will retire effective August 1, 2022.
“Dr. Meng adds to the long line of distinguished faculty who have stepped up to lead AdPR over the decades,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “She possesses the leadership skills needed for this demanding position, and she’s earned the role through years of strong service to the college. I’m so excited to work with her.”
Meng joined the AdPR faculty in 2012 and is an affiliate graduate faculty member, serving as the founder and advisor of the UGA/SHNU cooperative education 3+1+1 degree program, which recruits undergraduate students of Shanghai Normal University in China to complete their undergraduate and graduate degrees at UGA. Meng’s teaching focus includes public relations foundations, public relations campaigns, PR ethics, diversity and leadership, and global PR. Her research specialization includes public relations leadership, leadership development, diversity and leadership in PR, measurement in PR, and global communication.
She is a graduate of the UGA Women’s Leadership Fellows program, the Office of Service-Learning Fellows program and UGA Teaching Academy Fellows program.
Meng earned Ph.D. and Master of Science degrees from the University of Alabama; a Master of Arts degree from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio; and a Bachelor of Science degree from Fudan University in Shanghai, China.
“I am honored and thankful for this opportunity. I look forward to working more closely with our talented students, dedicated colleagues, passionate alumni, and other brilliant leaders in the field to continue upholding AdPR’s legacy of excellence in education, research and service.” — Juan Meng
After Trump’s 2019 tweet telling four congresswomen, known as “The Squad,” to “go back” to their home countries, the number of incivil replies to tweets made by the congresswomen almost doubled, new research finds.
Despite all four congresswomen — Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts — being U.S. citizens, many of the remarks echoed Trump’s sentiment that the congresswomen don’t belong holding office in the United States. In particular, two types of incivility towards the congresswomen increased significantly after Trump’s tweet — the use of stereotypes and threats to individual rights.
According to the researchers, these four women “represent the racial, gender and religious minority in the United States” and have been the target of a large amount of incivility online. This research provides insight into incivility on Twitter, particularly when it is directed towards members of minority groups.
“Conceptually, we were trying to figure out what incivility is,” said Itai Himelboim, a co-author of the study and the Thomas C. Dowden Professor of Media Analytics at Grady College. “Part of it is vulgarity, name calling and so on, but another element is a threat to one’s rights and democracy as a whole.”
To conduct their study, the researchers collected all replies to all tweets made by the four congresswomen from June 1, 2019, to August 31, 2019 — six weeks before and six weeks after Trump’s July 14 tweet.
Out of the total 102,815 replies to the congresswomen’s tweets during the time period, a sample of 20,563 were coded for 14 variables, including tones and popular topics such as immigration, Muslim ban, abortion, LGBTQ rights and more.
The researchers determined that just under two-thirds of all replies during the 12-week time period included at least one type of incivility. The findings also showed that, after Trump’s comments, the total number of replies to the congresswomen’s tweets jumped by roughly 20 percent.
Overall, the most common type of incivility used against The Squad was “name calling,” identified as using disparaging remarks, such as “idiot” or “stupid.” Second was “stereotype,” which was identified as associating an individual with a group and using terms, such as “Muslim,” in a derogatory manner. Third was “threats to individual rights,” which is implying someone should not have rights, such as freedom of speech. Fourth was “vulgarity,” which is the use of swear words.
Less frequent types of incivility included “aspiration,” which is making disparaging remarks about a policy, such as immigration, “pejorative wording,” which is using disparaging words about how someone is communicating, and “threats to democracy,” which is stating or implying a threat to the democratic method of governance as an ideal or system, such as advocating an overthrow of the government.
“We need to understand that it is more than being vulgar and calling names — not that there is justification for that — but it comes down also to threatening individual rights and threats to democracy,” said Himelboim.
Additional authors include recent Grady Ph.D. graduate Bryan Trude (PhD ’22),Kate Keib (PhD ‘17), associate provost of non-traditional programs and an assistant professor of communication studies at Oglethorpe University, Matthew Binford (PhD ‘21), assistant professor of practice at Western Carolina University, Porismita Borah, an associate professor in the College of Communication at Washington State University, and Bimbisar Irom, an assistant professor in the College of Communication at Washington State University.
Seven Grady College students have been selected by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) Foundation to participate as fellows in the 2022 Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP).
These students, along with a group of over 200 of their peers from colleges and universities across the country, are engaging in a 22-week fellowship program that prepares them with the skills and connections they need to build a foundation in the industry.
“Being selected as a MAIP fellow has been the highlight of my advertising journey thus far,” said Smera Dhal, a third-year Advertising major. “This program emphasizes the unique experiences that shape multicultural students and the significance of their representation in the advertising world.”
In the spring, MAIP fellows participate in a 12-week virtual training series on topics within the industry, which is geared to prepare them for their 10-week paid summer internships with top agencies across the United States.
“I’m looking forward to spending the summer gaining hands-on experience with real clients!” said Priya Desai, a fourth-year Advertising major. “I’m especially grateful to the 4A’s Foundation for creating a program that values my diverse experience and champions equity and inclusion throughout the industry.”
Throughout the program, fellows also have the opportunity to learn from a team of over 200 volunteer coaches and participate in advertising workshops and panels. The fellowships are available in over 16 disciplines, including social strategy, copywriting, design, public relations, communications planning and many more.
“I feel lucky to have found an internship that isn’t just another desk job,” said Midori Jenkins, a second-year Entertainment and Media Studies major. “Additionally, I cannot wait to move to Los Angeles for the summer and will be using this time to maximize networking opportunities and explore the city.”
Since it started in 1973, MAIP has grown a vast and diverse alumni network of more than 4,100 who have come from more than 80 colleges and universities across the United States. Nearly 80 percent of MAIP’s participants are female, and 100 percent are members of minority groups.
“I am honored to be a MAIP fellow and to contribute to the diversification of predominantly white spaces,” said Dhal. “I hope to see a future where more Indian girls can wholeheartedly and unapologetically pursue their creativity.”
The seven Grady students participating in the program are Priya Desai (SSCG Media Group), Smera Dhal (Digitas Boston), Melissa Flores (Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners), Madison Greer (MSL Group), Midori Jenkins (Ignition Creative), Jocelyn Peña (Sony Music Group) and Heaven Robinson (Saatchi & Saatchi).