Student dominates on the track and on campus

 

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.

Hayden Swank sits in his car, and his reflection is shown through the rearview mirror.
Hayden Swank prepares for his race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley, South Carolina. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith AB ’18/UGA Marketing and Communications)

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.”

Hayden Swank sits in the stands in preparation for a race.
Hayden Swank at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley, South Carolina. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith AB ’18/UGA Marketing and Communications)

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.”

Hayden Swank gives an interview prior to the race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley, South Carolina.
Hayden Swank gives an interview prior to the race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Easley, South Carolina. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith AB ’18/UGA Marketing and Communications)

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.

Grady Summer Media Academies attract dozens of students from across US

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). 

Akili-Casundria Ramsess of NPPA talks with students attending the Journalism Summer Camp.
Akili Ramsess of NPPA talks with students attending the Journalism Summer Academy. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

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. 

Students take notes during a lesson at Jackson Spalding.
AdPR Summer Academy students take notes during a lesson at Jackson Spalding. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)

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.

Journalism Summer Academy Students sift through papers and stickers at the Red & Black headquarters.
Students in the Journalism Summer Academy visited The Red & Black, where Charlotte Norsworthy (AB ‘19, MA ‘20) shared details about what it’s like to work at a student newspaper. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

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. 

Over the course of the week, the campers listened to guest lectures led by professionals in the field. A highlight was a screening of a short film and discussion with director Booker T. Mattison, an assistant professor in EMST. They also made short films, wrote scripts or designed posters for their portfolios.

Booker T. Mattison speaks to a group of students attending EMST Summer Academy in Studio 100.
EMST Summer Academy students listened to a lesson led by Booker T. Mattison, filmmaker and assistant professor in Entertainment and Media Studies. (Photo: Stephanie Moreno)

“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. 

A showcase of projects is available at summermediaacademy.wordpress.com. Below is a slideshow of images taken during all three of Grady’s summer camps. For more images, visit Grady’s Flickr account

Information about 2022 Summer Media Academy opportunities will be available in late fall at grady.uga.edu/apply/high-school-discovery and www.georgiacenter.uga.edu/youth/summer-academy.

 

  • AdPR campers receive a lesson at Jackson Spalding Public Relations and Marketing Agency in Downtown Athens.
    Students in the AdPR Summer Academy took a visit to Jackson Spalding Public Relations and Marketing Agency in Downtown Athens. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)

Talking Dog internship gives local high schoolers immersive advertising and public relations agency experience

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.

Interns Relations Director Valentina Drake (left) stops for a picture with copywriting intern Sophia Beasley (right)
Interns Relations Director Valentina Drake (left) stops for a picture with copywriting intern Sophia Beasley (right). (Photo: Submitted)

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.

Interns pose for a picture at Grady College.
Interns pose for a picture at Grady College. From left to right: Andrew Cash, Yerahm Hong, Kathryn Nichols, Kyla Scott, Sophia Beasley and Sydney Elrod. (Photo: Submitted.)

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. 



Juan Meng named Department of Advertising and Public Relations Head

Juan Meng, an associate professor of public relations and founder and director of the Choose China Study Abroad program, has been tapped to direct the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Grady College effective August 1, 2022.

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.

Meng has published more than 70 refereed journal articles, scholarly book chapters and research reports on leadership-related topics. She is co-editor of the book, “Public Relations Leaders as Sensemakers: A Global Study of Leadership in Public Relations and Communication Management,” published by Routledge in 2014. Her most recent scholarly book, “PR Women with Influence: Breaking through the Ethical and Leadership Challenges” (Peter Lang, 2021), is the Volume 6 of the AEJMC-Peter Lang Scholarsourcing Series. Meng has presented her research at various panels, workshops, webinars, podcasts, and symposiums nationally and internationally.

Meng serves on the editorial advisory board for six leading scholarly journals in the field of public relations and communication management, including Journal of Public Relations Research and Public Relations Review, among others. She was recently named to the advisory board of PR Daily. Meng was recently tapped to serve as an inaugural member of the Institute of Public Relations new initiative called IPR ELEVATE, a group of PR leaders dedicated to advancing the research-focused mission in the industry. She currently also serves as the Research Co-Chair on the executive leadership committee of the Educators Academy at Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Meng serves on the national advisory board of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama. She has collaborated with The Plank Center over the past ten years on several signature research projects, including the largest global study of PR leadership, Millennial Communication Professionals in the Workplace, the biennial Report Card on PR Leaders and the biennial North American Communication Monitor.

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

AdPR is the largest department at Grady College and graduated more than 200 advertising and public relations students this past Spring 2022. The department, one of the most prolific in terms of research productivity and cited articles according to a 2019 study, houses several certificate programs, labs and key programs within the College including the Crisis Communication Coalition, the student-run agency Talking Dog and the Center for Health and Risk Communication.

Incivil replies to ‘The Squad’ nearly doubled after Trump tweet, researchers find

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.

The study, titled “‘You are a disgrace and traitor to our country’: incivility against ‘The Squad’,” was published in the journal Internet Research.

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. 

7 Grady students recognized as 2022 Multicultural Advertising Intern Program fellows

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).

Grady researchers explore the effectiveness of humor in STD advertising

For decades, companies, government systems and other organizations have incorporated humor into their advertisements as a way to grab consumers’ attention and help them retain information. 

It’s clear that humor is a powerful tool when advertising, for example, chips and beer during the Super Bowl. But could it be effective when presenting information about stigma-associated health issues, such as human papillomavirus (HPV)? 

That’s the primary question Hye Jin Yoon, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at Grady College, set out to answer through her most recent research. Yoon worked with Eunjin (Anna) Kim, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, and Grady Ph.D. student Sung In Choi, to conduct the research. 

“I wanted to see how humor can help communicate health information, especially health information that people are not very comfortable communicating or talking about,” said Yoon. 

As noted in the research paper, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. It is known to infect almost all sexually active adults at some point in their lives, causing health problems such as genital warts and cervical cancer. However, despite how common the disease is, there is still a significant lack of public knowledge about HPV, the researchers explained in their paper. 

“In 2022, it has shifted a bit for sure, but it is still the case that people hear HPV and don’t necessarily know that it is a sexually transmitted disease,” said Yoon. 

Therefore, there is a clear need for health communicators to develop ways to effectively educate people about HPV prevention and treatment methods. 

While conducting their research, Yoon and her team showed HPV advertisements, some that incorporated humor and others that did not, to a diverse group of more than 150 individuals. Ultimately, they determined that, among those who did not know much about the disease, incorporating humor, without including information about HPV being an STD, proved to be effective in creating greater attention and more positive responses. 

However, when information stating that HPV is an STD was brought into the ads, the researchers found that the ads without humor proved to be more effective for those with low HPV knowledge. To those who already knew a lot about HPV, incorporating humor had no impact on the effectiveness of the ads. 

“It is likely the case that once you tell them it is an STD, they have to focus on that information,” explained Yoon. “Humor takes up our cognitive space in order to process it. You have to process humor to find it funny.”

Yoon explained that the takeaway from this research is that when advertising HPV prevention and treatment methods to people who don’t know too much about the disease, it is best to use humor without explicitly mentioning that HPV is an STD. However, if HPV advertisers do decide to give explicit STD information in their ads, it is better to not use humor. 

The study, “Will Humor Increase the Effectiveness of Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Advertising? Exploring the Role of Humor, STD Information, and Knowledge,” was published in the March 2022 edition of the Journal of Marketing Communications.

New book ‘Social Media and Crisis Communication’ (2nd edition) bridges gap between theory and practice

Yan Jin, the Georgia Athletic Association Professor and a professor of public relations at Grady College, has released a second edition of her book “Social Media and Crisis Communication.”

Co-edited by Lucinda Austin, an associate professor and the Ph.D. program director at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media, the book integrates theory, research and application to orient readers to the latest thinking about the role of social media in the field. 

“This book offers the most updated research insights in the field of social media and crisis communication,” explained Jin. 

 It features chapters written by dozens of researchers and professionals from around the world, including many Grady College faculty members, graduate students and alumni. 

“For this edition, we have a really strong UGA presence,” said Jin. 

Jonathan Peters, an associate professor of journalism, Bryan Reber, the C. Richard Yarbrough Professor in Crisis Communication Leadership and Joseph Watson, Jr.,  the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications, Advertising and Public Relations, all contributed to the book. So did Grady graduate students Marilyn Broggi, W. Scott Guthrie, Xuerong Lu and Taylor Voges and alumni LaShonda Eaddy (PhD ’17), Yen-I Lee (PhD ’17) and Logan White (MA ’21). 

The mission of the book, which Jin describes as one of a kind, is to bridge the gap between theory and practice. The book takes a deep look at specific crisis arenas, including health, corporate, nonprofit, religious, political and disaster, as well as emerging social media platforms and newer technology. It provides a fresh view of the role of visual communication in social media and a more global review of social media and crisis communication literature. 

“We want to connect research and practice,” said Jin. “You learn theory and insights, but also there are tangible cases and ongoing dialogues from practitioners shining light on what is important for the industry.” 

With an emphasis on ethics and global perspective, a brief overview of social media research in crisis communication and case studies for each area of application, the lessons in the book, Jin explained, are useful for scholars, advanced students and practitioners who wish to stay on the edge of research. It will appeal to those who are in public relations, strategic communications, government and NGO communications, corporate communications and emergency and disaster response, among others. 

The first edition of “Social Media and Crisis Communication” was published in 2017. Austin served as the lead editor of the first edition, while Jin co-edited the book. 

UGA and UMD researchers partner to explore strategies for combatting misinformation during health crises

Yan Jin and Brooke Fisher Liu lead FDA sponsored research to gather evidence to guide future messaging.

In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) and the University of Georgia (UGA) are collaborating with researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Office of Communications to develop and test messaging strategies that can help overcome misinformation that arises during public health emergencies.

Brooke Fisher Liu, professor in UMD’s Department of Communication, and Yan Jin, professor of public relations and Georgia Athletic Association Professor at UGA’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, will develop and test message strategies concerning vital health information that can help keep people safe.

“Past research found a clear link between COVID-19 misinformation exposure and vaccine hesitancy,” said Liu, the project’s principal investigator. “Research also connects misinformation exposure to lower compliance with government health and safety guidance. In short, misinformation is just as great of a threat to public health as the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, but our knowledge is limited on how to combat misinformation.”

Through two large-scale experiments on how messages containing misinformation and various types of responses are interpreted by U.S. adults, the researchers will be among the first to explore how public health misinformation can be corrected through strategic risk communication and what methods work best in thwarting misinformation.

“This project exemplifies the importance and promising future for more collaborative risk and crisis communication research across universities and with the government to provide theory-driven, evidenced-based insights to protect public health and safety,” said Jin, the project’s co-principal investigator.

The FDA is investing nearly $225,000 to fund the three-year project, which began in October 2021. The research team will  recommend best practices for how public health agencies can combat health misinformation for the COVID-19 pandemic and future threats.

The team defines misinformation as a claim of fact that is false due to a lack of scientific evidence or conflicting scientific evidence. The researchers will conduct online experiments gathering information on how adults respond to medical and health misinformation. The research team will also provide a targeted deep-dive analysis of previous research to identify best communication practices that promote safety during public health crises.

Liu and Jin are two of the leading risk and crisis communication scholars in the world. Their collaborative work dates back to 2001, when they both studied in the graduate program at the Missouri School of Journalism. They are joined by Tori McDermott, graduate research assistant from the UMD, and Xuerong Lu, graduate research assistant from the UGA.

“It is a great opportunity for me, as a young scholar in crisis communication, to collaborate with Dr. Liu and Dr. Jin to significantly advance research and practice in misinformation management,” said Lu.

The research findings will provide an opportunity to address real-time challenges, and the lessons learned from them, to guide future leadership decisions in health communication. The mission behind this research is to equip authorities with communication to respond to misinformation in a way that protects public health and safety.

“As an emerging scholar, I am so grateful to work on a project of this magnitude not only to help mitigate the negative effects of infodemics, but also to learn from Dr. Liu and Dr. Jin how scholarship can inform and change practice and policy to better society,” said McDermott.

 

Hooper & Sanford podcast: Kendell Williams (AB ’17)

Kendell Williams (AB ’17) has competed in two Olympic Games (2016 in Rio de Janeiro and 2020 in Tokyo). She graduated with her undergraduate degree in advertising and is currently pursuing her Master’s degree while also training for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. In this episode, learn more about Williams’ decorated track and field career, her plans after athletics, and why returning to Grady College for her Master’s degree was a priority. Williams joins Dayne Young (ABJ ’11) to share her story.

Listen to this episode on Apple PodcastsYou can also hear it on Spotify. Learn more about Grady College podcasts here.