Department of Advertising and Public Relations and Public Relations Organisation International create research venture

The University of Georgia Department of Advertising and Public Relations (ADPR) recently embarked on an innovative joint research venture with Public Relations Organisation International (PROI) Worldwide designed to gather insights into crises across the world.

The ADPR department and PROI created this longitudinal research project to harness the power of international perspectives and strengthen understanding of crises that befall countries worldwide. The research project, led by UGA Crisis Communication Coalition faculty and student scholars uses the latest technology from UGA’s SEE Suite Lab to identify the most significant global crises of the preceding three months. The UGA research team drafts quarterly reports that outline the crises and provides the reports to PROI for their international readership. Concurrently, the UGA research team develops a quarterly survey—sent to PROI’s members—to capture unique global insights about the preceding quarter’s crises. The project analyzes global perspectives to bridge the gap between academic scholarship and professional best practices in crisis communication.

Because the research will continue on a quarterly basis, longitudinal opportunities arise to cross-analyze significant crises and the survey insights on each crisis report. This analysis will identify which crises are covered the most by news outlets, help researchers and practitioners identify key crisis trends across the world, and keep UGA’s ADPR department on the cutting edge of international crisis research and teaching. The team offers insights into preliminary findings on “sticky crisis” issues confronting global business community and communication industry.

“We offer mix-method driven and analytics-enhanced insights for communication executives around the world to dive deeper into and learn from these challenging and complex crisis issues, such as the Missouri Amtrak collision and the US Federal Trade Commission actions on Cryptocurrency fraud,” says Dr. Yan Jin, ADPR assistant department head and Crisis Communication Think Tank (CCTT) director and co-founder. “We hope this type of knowledge generation and intelligence sharing will help practitioners to understand and lead through crisis effectively and ethically.”

PROI is an organization made up of communication firms around the world that collectively push the market standard by setting trends and continuously identifying the communication’s next best practices. The organization is made up of more than 7,000 employees in more than 165 cities and 50 countries.

The ADPR department research team is led by CCTT co-founders Dr. Yan Jin and Dr. Bryan Reber, with doctoral students Jeong Hyun (Janice) Lee and Taylor Voges as inaugural student scholars.  The research team continuously reaches for new and innovative ways to develop joint projects that offer both graduate and undergraduate students unique opportunities to interact with crisis communication professionals on mutually beneficial research. This progressive research project exemplifies the department’s commitment to offering students prestigious opportunities at a Top-5 nationally-ranked advertising and public relations program.

Cox International Center welcomes group of journalists from Sri Lanka

On July 14, 2022, the James M. Cox Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research welcomed seven journalists from Sri Lanka to Grady College, where they spent the day touring College facilities and taking classes on digital media and journalism in the United States. 

The visit to Grady was as a part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program’s Media in a Democracy Project.

Amanda Bright speaks in front of the journalists visiting from Sri Lanka.
Amanda Bright speaks with the visiting journalists about key concepts in news literacy. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)

While at Grady, the group of Sri Lankan journalists listened to lectures and participated in discussions led by Tudor Vlad, director of the Cox International Center, Amanda Bright, director of the Cox Institute Journalism Innovation Lab, Janice Hume, the Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism and incoming associate dean of academic affairs, and David Hazinski, professor emeritus. 

“We were pleased and honored to put together a training program for the Sri Lankan journalists here at Grady College,” said Vlad. “This is an extraordinary time for Sri Lanka, and all my colleagues who contributed to the sessions were aware of the turmoil that the country is going through and by the important role that journalists will play in the following weeks.” 

The Grady faculty members led discussions about the responsibility of the media, the need to inform citizens while avoiding incitement, and about the opportunities for journalists to contribute to the process of democratization, Vlad explained. 

The visitors, who are managers, editors and producers of newspapers, television stations, radio stations and news websites in Sri Lanka, were also led on a tour through the College, making stops by the Grady Newsource facilities, the Social Media Engagement and Evaluation Suite and elsewhere.

Tudor Vlad gives Sri Lankan visitors a tour of Grady Newsource.
Before lunch, Tudor Vlad (left) walked the visitors through a tour of Grady Newsource, the SEE Suite and elsewhere.

“The topics are not new to us, but the technologies and the approach are. So, it’s really good for us and helps us think differently,” one visiting Sri Lankan journalist explained. “The University and the media school, we don’t have these types of facilities in Sri Lanka, but I’m hoping that younger Sri Lankan students can come here and get this experience.”  


SEE Suite collaborates with College of Engineering on plastic pollution research

Even as the world faces new challenges today, issues like plastic pollution remain a growing threat. Interns in the Social media Engagement & Evaluation Suite at the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication collaborated with UGA’s College of Engineering and found that social media platforms allow researchers to understand environmental problems in new ways.

The SEE Suite provided social media analytics support for a holistic assessment of plastic usage in a community, known as the Circularity Assessment Protocol, or CAP. The CAP methodology, developed in the Jambeck Research Group led by Jenna Jambeck of the College of Engineering and associate director of the New Materials Institute, provides a diagnostic tool to understand plastic pollution from a systemic perspective that assesses seven spokes: input, consumers, product design, use, collection, end of cycle and leakage.

“This unique collaboration reflects one key mission of the SEE Suite – to provide students real-life experience of social media analytics, by providing services to local institutes, while addressing issues of great societal importance,” says Itai Himelboim, the Thomas C. Dowden Professor of Media Analytics and director of the SEE Suite.

To capture consumer perspectives, the Jambeck Research Group tasked SEE Suite interns with providing insights into discussions of plastic pollution in marine environments for field projects in India, Chile and the Philippines.

Jimmy Jensen, a SEE Suite intern, called working on the project an “insightful experience” and added that “plastic pollution is a universal issue, but I think it’s easy to forget about how it applies to the countries outside of the United States.”

Facebook post from Beat Plastic Pollution Philippines
As a relevant social media account for the study, Beat Plastic Pollution Philippines was one of the many pages explored for environmental conversations on Facebook. (graphic: Itai Himelboim)

Data was collected from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in two major ways. First, the interns explored expected conversations that UGA scientists and local partners anticipated finding based on their expertise and previous research. A list of relevant social media accounts, topics and hashtags were provided to collect data.

Second, the interns probed additional marine debris themes and key influencers. They used a carefully constructed keyword search to capture all conversation on topics related to marine debris and pollution for each country. With this approach, the team made unanticipated discoveries that provided a more well-rounded overview of how users in India, Chile and the Philippines are discussing issues through social channels.

“Our deep dive into Chile’s social media network helped me learn more about their people than I could ever hope,” said Jay Tanguay, another SEE Suite intern, of his work examining online communities.

The project started in fall 2019 and continued successfully after the suspension of classes due to COVID-19. Working as partners, there was an emphasis on virtual collaboration during the latter half of the semester. The interns used Zoom to present initial project reports for the marine debris leadership team, and then revised those reports based on questions and feedback from Jambeck and her collaborators.

“It was exciting to work for a real client and present our findings directly to them,” Gabby Melfi, another SEE Suite intern, said. “This work was different than typical class projects because we really had to understand our data in order to answer any questions from the client.”

“Social media creates opportunity for such novel interactions between environmental advocates, policymakers, major brands, and consumers,” said Kathryn Youngblood, a research engineer in Jambeck Research Group. “With plastic pollution increasingly in the spotlight in recent years, this expanding dialogue offers a rich source of data on community attitudes towards, and perceptions of, plastic pollution. We felt it was important to capture these conversations as part of our holistic view of plastic pollution, and working with SEE Suite allowed us to tap into existing expertise at UGA to conduct this analysis.”

Graph on spike analysis data from the study.
The SEE Suite interns included additional research on spike analysis through spring 2019 for environmental discussions on social media. (graphic: Itai Himelboim)

This project will also create a greater understanding of how social media data analysis can support the fight against environmental waste. Additional research focused on spike analyses over time and specific overviews of major cities in the targeted countries.

Jambeck reflected, “We knew we wanted to do social media sentiment analysis for our CAP work, and so we were so excited to find SEE Suite right here at UGA, with the exact expertise we needed. And then to be able to engage and involve interdisciplinary students in our work on real-world projects is even better. I look forward to continued collaboration with SEE Suite, Itai and his students.”