The Deadline Doth Approach – PR Division Call for Papers

Reminder #1: Paper Deadline

The Public Relations Division invites submissions of original papers that advance the theories and practices of public relations. Submitters should carefully review the specific submission instructions published in the winter issue of PR Update

Submission Categories: A paper may be submitted in one of the five PRD categories this year: (1) open, (2) student, (3) teaching, (4) Newsom Award, or (5) PR History Award.

Top Papers: Monetary awards are given for the top three papers in the teaching, open and student categories. Thanks to a generous gift from Dennis Wilcox, Professor Emeritus, San Jose State University, top papers in open and teaching categories will be awarded: $750 for the top paper, $500 for the second-place paper, and $250 for the third-place paper. Top teaching papers will also receive expedited review in the Journal of Public Relations Education, provided they are submitted by December 31, 2017. Thanks to the generous support of The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations at the University of Alabama, the first author of each of the top three student research papers will receive $300, $200, and $100, respectively.

Winnters of The Doug Newsom Award and PR History Award each receive $250.

Questions? Please contact Research Chair Lan Ni, University of Houston, or

Vice Chair Nathan Gilkerson, Marquette University,

Reminder #2: We still need reviewers

To participate as a reviewer, you must be a faculty member. Graduate students are not eligible to serve as reviewers. You will not be assigned to review in categories in which you have submitted papers for the competition.First, please sign up at AllAcademic:

Even though you may have done this service last year, the AllAcademic website is unique each year and you must sign up for this year to serve as a reviewer. Time is running out.

In order to assign papers that best match your areas of topical and methodological expertise, please click the following link for our reviewer interest survey:

Reminder #3: Roschwalb Call

Call for Applications

Applications are now being accepted for the Susanne A. Roschwalb Grant for International Study and Research. This award is intended for both graduate and undergraduate students in public relations whose plans include study or research outside of the United States. The grant, awarded annually by the Public Relations Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), provides the winning student with $250 to offset the cost of travel associated with international study or research.

Award Criteria

Full-time undergraduate and graduate students majoring in or emphasizing in public relations at four-year colleges and universities in the United States are eligible to apply.

Application Process

Applicants must provide a one-page description of their intended international program of study or research, a letter of support from a full-time public relations faculty member, and the completed application form (


Deadline for receipt of applications is May 1, 2017 at 5 p.m. (EDT), for international study or research during the 2017-2018 academic year. The Roschwalb Grant Committee will notify the winner no later than June 1, 2017.

Reminder #4: VOTE

AEJMC voting has opened; you should have received an email with that ballot link. We wanted to point out several of our PR Division members who are running.

Publications Committee: Pat Curtin and Karen Miller Russell

Research Committee: Kay Colley, Jae-Hwa Shin and Richard Waters. Teaching Committee: Brigitta Brunner

Please support our fellow PRD members as they seek leadership roles within AEJMC!

The deadline to vote online is April 3.

Profiles of those running can be found here:

Semester of Service: Embracing Uncertainty through Service Learning at West Virginia University

By Julia Daisy Fraustino, West Virginia University

Chances are that if you’re reading this, you work at an institution of higher education that holds some form of service to others as part of its identity. Give me a virtual nod if that’s the case?

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I can feel you nodding from all the way over here in wild, wonderful West Virginia. And I’m not surprised. Thousands of American universities have service-focused missions. There is at least one major land-grant institution in each state, all holding at their core the goal to educate and give back to their home state’s people. Numerous community colleges seek similar ends. Add on the myriad faith-based institutions founded in values inextricably connected to service and public good, and you can see where I’m heading here.

On top of that, I know our PRD’s #prprofs are public intellectuals with hearts as big as their brains. Even if you weren’t at a school with a service-based mission component, my bet is that you personally embrace the value of service and civic engagement through relationship building, and your classrooms reflect that in some way.

The LEAP Challenge from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) treats education in ways that could serve such missions and goals. It encourages students at all stages to engage a problem from more than one analytic perspective. As AACU President Shneider explained in a post on the organization’s site, “college students need to prepare to contribute in a world marked by open or unscripted problems—problems where the right answer is far from known and where solutions are necessarily created under conditions of uncertainty.” She continued to note that these students “are entering a world of extraordinary complexity and uncertainty. The solutions they create will hold lasting consequence for our shared future.”

Leaping into the Complexity of Our Shared Future

At West Virginia University’s Reed College of Media, strategic communications and public relations faculty leap into uncertainty to help students learn to build and manage relationships in real communities in a world marked by the unscripted problems and solutions Schneider speaks of.

West Virginia is a breathtaking state deserving its “almost heaven” moniker. Yet it is also a state with growing food deserts and the highest adult obesity rate in the country, with the second-highest level of lost lives and property from extreme flooding in recent months, has many struggling rust-belt communities declining with loss of coal and related industry, experiences a widening digital divide, and has low recycling and high waste along with pollution and water contamination concerns—to name just a few of the issues our students have identified through service-learning secondary and primary research.

In celebration of PRD’s semester of service initiative, we’d like to share with you a few of the areas our faculty-student teams are passionately working on to grow students’ real-world skills and portfolios through coursework while championing our land-grant mission and commitment to the public interest. We welcome your comments and look forward to seeing what you’re all up to in this realm throughout the semester as well.

Community Branding

Last year, Dr. Rita Colistra served as the project director for the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation-funded Community Branding Initiative. Along with faculty leaders Dr. Julia Daisy Fraustino and Dr. Geah Pressgrove, Rita launched BrandJRNY, a service-learning capstone course project aimed at revitalizing West Virginia communities through integrated branding efforts in three struggling communities. The BrandJRNY website details various experiences, work, and resources related to place-based branding in those service-learning efforts.

At the end of that preliminary effort, Rita decided that BrandJRNY was missing a research arm to provide long-term tracking of and overall legitimacy to the branding work being executed in the three pilot (and future) communities. That’s the focus for Rita’s capstone course this spring.

Distinct from BrandJRNY, Appalachian Insights is a research collaborative that brings together WVU-affiliated experts from various disciplines who conduct research and create projects with a specific focus on West Virginia and the greater Appalachian region. Guided by an advisory board of both professional and faculty experts, Dr. Colistra’s strategic communications capstone students are conducting research and creating the brand and plan to launch this innovative startup that will serve as a comprehensive knowledge base for Appalachia-related research occurring at the University.

Natural Disaster Storytelling

During this semester of service, Dr. Geah Pressgrove is leading an innovative course alongside Harrison/Omnicom Innovator-in-Residence Ben Roffee, who is the digital director at RYOT, an immersive storytelling affiliate of The Huffington Post. Their students are using virtual reality and 360° video storytelling to create empathy and inspire action for flood recovery still underway months after devastating natural disasters in Southern West Virginia. For example, Geah’s and Ben’s student teams are working with partners to tell the stories of:

Clay County High School – Students in all grades of the high school are learning business acumen, website development, and vocational skills as they build a tiny home. When completed, the home will be donated to a family that lost theirs in the flood.

Herbert Hoover High School – The flood led to this school’s closing. Now high school students take half-day classes in the afternoon at the middle school. Two teachers are trying to provide opportunities to students with coding and engineering. These teachers personally purchased supplies for the classes before the flood, but all the supplies were lost.

Rainelle Elementary – The Agriculture Learning Center is a high tunnel where elementary students, teachers, local veterans, and Master Gardeners work together to grow produce for the community, which is located in a food dessert. In addition to helping those who may have lost their homes and transportation in the flood, students are learning to see rain positively again as it waters their plants, and they are inspired by growth at a time when sadness surrounds their community.

NGO Communication through International Agency Work

Professor Chuck Harman’s capstone course is working with a client of Porter Novelli’s London office. The award-winning agency’s founders realized more than 40 years ago that “classic marketing disciplines could be reapplied to public relations communications to make a positive social impact on the world,” according to the Porter Novelli website.

The account that Chuck’s team is working with is Destination Florida, a Manchester (UK) NGO that provides an international trip of a lifetime to Orlando theme parks for 75 seriously ill children every two years. A team of doctors and nurses accompany the children, giving parents a well-deserved weeklong respite.

The class will spend time in Manchester and London working with the client and the agency.

Local Non-profit Advocacy   

Dr. Elizabeth Oppe is partnering with a diverse set of local organizations that is impressive in both size and scope for this Spring Semester of Service. Students in her classes are working with the organizations listed below to provide public relations, advertising, or other strategic communication strategy and deliverables. Through the service-learning approach, students become advocates for their non-profit agencies by planning and organizing fundraising events and promotional materials.

Strategic Writing Course Partners

American Red Cross

Falling Run Trail

Health, Science and Technology Academy

In Touch and Concerned

Literacy Volunteers of Monongahela and Preston County

Mountaineer Boys and Girls Club

Operation Welcome Home

Unity Manor

WVU Office of Student Conduct

Strategic Communication Campaigns (Capstone) Course Partners

Mason Dixon Historical Park

Once A Mountaineer, Always A Mountaineer Day of Play

As Elizabeth puts it, “Let’s make sure the strategic communication and public relations learning outcomes and objectives taught in the classroom are aligned and on track with current industry trends, practices and philosophies.”

Social and Entrepreneurial Action

Dr. Julia Daisy Fraustino’s senior capstone course students are the inaugural Enactus West Virginia University team. They are working to develop sustainable, healthy livelihoods in West Virginia communities through social and entrepreneurial action. Enactus is a global community of student, academic, business, and community leaders who are committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world.

This semester, with guidance from industry experts and a growing Business Advisory Board, four Enactus WVU campaign teams are working on:

Green is the New Blue & Gold—This team is partnering with the WVU Office of Sustainability to decrease waste and increase recycling education and behaviors on campus through educational signage on indoor recycling cans and outdoor experiential marketing efforts.

Create Your (Wellbeing) Adventure—Partnering with myriad local healthy living providers and educators, this team is working create the first regional Earth Day Celebration Street Fair spanning the downtown Grafton Main Street and extending to wellness activities at Tygart Lake State Park.

Branding & Introducing Buffalo Flats—This team is branding, promoting, and launching the grand opening of Buffalo Flats Arts Association, a new non-profit start-up with a mission to make creative expression in its many forms accessible to all.

The Shack Neighborhood House + WVU Mentorship Program—Recognizing a lack of big-brother/big-sister-type mentorship programs in Northern West Virginia as well as a high volume of low-income families, this team is partnering with The Shack to create a sustainable volunteer service and internship program that unites WVU students in various disciplines with area youth.

Leaping into (Un)Certainty

While we all start with rigorous plans and behind-the-scenes setup for the kinds of teaching endeavors outlined above, the uncertainty inherent in numerous facets of the service-learning experience might be the only certain part. Ok, well, maybe that and extreme exhaustion. Kidding! (kind of)

Although students might start the semester excited and overwhelmed (or even terrified), throughout the semester, they reap benefits in learning to wade strategically through uncertainty and complexity to ultimately produce positive outcomes for clients, issues, and communities they care about. They grow not only their real-world knowledge, skills, networks, and portfolios, but oftentimes they also leave with a new commitment to community and civic engagement. And what #prprof wouldn’t want that?

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Faculty Profile: James Gruing

Interview by Diana Sisson, Auburn University

  1. How has your scholarship influenced your teaching?

In essence, I would have had little to teach if it had not been for my scholarship. I like to tell the story of my first public relations class, which I taught in 1969. At the time, I did not really see myself as a public relations scholar or professional. I had studied mass communication theory and economics at the University of Wisconsin, along with having taken a number of courses in other social sciences. My dissertation had been on communication and agricultural development in Colombia. In that dissertation, I developed a theory of information, entrepreneurship, and economic development, which I saw basically as a theory of the communication behaviors of potential recipients of economic development information. I had practiced agricultural public relations at Iowa State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the International Harvester Company, and the University of Wisconsin while I was a student at Iowa State and Wisconsin. However, I thought of myself mostly as a communication theorist and researcher. I was assigned a public relations course at Maryland, so I had to teach something in the course. My work experience filled a week or two of classes, so I turned to my theoretical research to fill out the semester. My dissertation theory of information behaviors became the situational theory of publics when applied to public relations. Psychological theories of communication effects and sociological theories of organizations also became relevant. Soon, I discovered that the theories I was teaching in public relations classes were untested as public relations theories. As a result, I began a lifetime of research in which my teaching informed my research and my research informed my teaching. Graduate courses, in particular, became research laboratories in which my students and I explored and tested theories. I then used those theories as the basis of my undergraduate teaching.

  1. What research habits have you adopted to help you enhance your scholarship?

Research is a problem-solving process, so I constantly look for interesting and relevant problems in the public relations profession and in the theories we teach in public relations classes. For me, these problems have produced such research questions as what is a public, what are the publics of a given organization and how can the organization communicate with them, why do organizations practice public relations in the way they do, what is the value of public relations, how do you evaluate public relations, what is the nature of a relationship, how do you measure the qualities of a relationship, and what are the tools necessary for a strategic management approach to public relations? Thus, as a researcher, I am a habitual problem solver. I look for problems, and I take pleasure in developing theories to solve the problems.

  1. How have you developed a research path/stream over the course of your career? Have you ever left that path, and if so, why? 

Fifty years ago, I had no idea of what I would be researching today. I started with one interesting problem: How and why do people communicate? When I had a theoretical answer to that question, another problem suggested itself: What is a public? When I discovered that organizations generally tried to communicate to their predesignated publics (but not with their actual publics) without much effect, I asked why organizations practice public relations in such an ineffective way? That question led to a theory of public relations behavior that eventually produced the models of public relations and the dimensions that now make up those models. Then, however, I had to ask what effective public relations is. That question produced an evaluative theory for public relations programs and a relationship theory to explain and evaluate the overall contribution of public relations to organizations, publics, and society, Eventually, all of these questions came together in the Excellence study, where we asked what characteristics of a public relations function, the organization itself, and the environment are most likely to provide value for the organization and publics and to produce communication programs through which organizations and publics communicate effectively with each other and cultivate quality long-term relationships. In short, I never really had a research plan or path in mind at the beginning of my career. I started with one interesting problem, which led to another interesting problem, and so on. I have been on a path my entire career, but I never really knew where that path would take me. I have been an explorer.

  1. There’s lots of advice out there for pre-tenured faculty. What research-based advice do you have for associate professors looking to move to full professor? (But if you have great advice for the pre-tenured among us, feel free to offer that as well!) 

To become a full professor, I believe you have to become known for something—to make an important contribution by solving an important problem. Generally, you do that by constructing a series of studies related to that problem that are published in important journals or in a book. You have to do the same thing to become an associate professor, but to a lesser degree. At that point, you need to have identified a problem and have begun to publish good research related to that problem. Early in my career, it was much easier to become known for something because there were so few scholars in the field and so few theories. Today, it is much more difficult because we have lots of scholars and lots of theories. Unfortunately, I believe that too many young scholars think that they have to attack and discredit theories we already have in order to make a name for themselves—a process that I describe as destructive criticism. That is not necessary. There usually are theoretical problems within the theories we have that can be resolved through constructive criticism and research. There also are other theories that can be used to address the same problems that seem to have been resolved with older theories. The solutions are different, but different solutions to the same problems have value. Finally, there are many research problems that we haven’t yet recognized and solved. For example, digital public relations offers many new research problems. Many of these problems can be solved with classical theories. Others cannot. In short, life (including life in public relations) is filled with problems. To be successful, we must recognize the important problems and solve them.

  1. What are your thoughts on helping PR practitioners find and utilize PR research? How can academics help improve this? 

Public relations professionals become interested in research when they believe that it helps to solve the problems they experience in their work. That is why it is important to work in the profession for long enough to understand its problems and to work with professionals to understand what problems they are asked to solve and how they think. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should allow practitioners to define all of our research problems for us. Many get stuck on one problem—for example, how can I get more media coverage for my clients? Others have only one solution (one theory) for a lot of problems—for example, what they know how to do or what a PR firm can offer (such as media pitching or information campaigns). As scholars, therefore, we need to expand the problem-recognition capacities of practitioners. That’s not easy to do. As long as they are earning a salary or making money for a firm doing the same things over and over, they won’t recognize new problems—such as how to develop a strategic management role for public relations—and they won’t learn. People recognize new problems when their situations change, so we have to look for changes affecting practitioners that open their minds to new ideas. Examples have been the call to evaluate and explain the value of public relations and the entirely new situation created by digital media. To recognize these changes, again, scholars must be active in the profession. We can be change agents, but we have to be aware of the situations in which change is required.

  1. What directions do you see or hope PR research takes over the next 5 years? 10 years? 

As I said in one of the last journal articles I wrote, called Furnishing the edifice: Ongoing research on public relations as a strategic management function, I would like to see public relations scholars flesh out a strategic management role for public relations. There are lots of research questions remaining about what that role is, the tools required for that role, and the institutionalization of that role in the minds of organizational executives, journalists, and the population at large. I would like public relations to be than a messaging function that tries to publicize an organization and to persuade publics to do what the organization wants. I would like it to be a true profession that serves publics as well as organizations.

In addition, public relations researchers have an enormous opportunity from the digital revolution. Digital media truly make symmetrical, interactive, or dialogical communication possible and indeed may make it mandatory. In addition, the advanced metrics available in data bases provided by digital media offer enormous possibilities for research and environmental scanning. We need to use these data bases as a way to listen to publics, identify problems faced by publics, and to observe and measure the quality of relationships between organizations and publics. As scholars, we also need to learn how to use these data bases to test our theories.

  1. What trends in public relations scholarship have you observed throughout your career?  

Typically, someone gets a new idea for a research problem or a theory and then everyone else jumps on the bandwagon. Two examples from my career are public relations roles and public relations models. Another is crisis communication. We have hundreds of studies of crisis public relations, which actually is not a common public relations problem for practitioners. We need to move forward and out, not just keep replicating the same studies over and over without seeming to learn anything. I think the examples of roles and models are instructive. Public relations roles have evolved into the strategic management function of public relations—well beyond the classic technician and manager roles. Models of public relations have evolved into dimensions of public relations behavior and to strategies for cultivating organization-public relationships. Crisis communication theories also can be integrated into relationship cultivation strategies. What is the trend? Too much blind acceptance and not enough constructive thinking.

  1. What is the most important thing to remember about doing PR research? 

Always keep recognizing new problems and always continue to think about how to solve those problems—either by using existing public relations theories, adapting theories from other disciplines, modifying existing theories, or constructing completely new theories. At the same time, don’t try to destroy older theories if they have successfully solved problems in the past but don’t seem to solve new ones. The same theories most likely will be reinvented in the future, and future scholars will think they are new.


PRD Leadership: Research Committee

Interview by Matt Kushin, Shepherd University

Committee name:

Research Committee

Your name and Position on the Committee

Chair: Lan Ni
University of Houston

Vice Chair: Nathan Gilkerson

Marquette University

  1. Primary responsibilities of the committee within the PRD:

Our committee’s primary responsibility is the management and coordination of the annual conference research paper process. Key tasks include preparing the call for papers, recruiting reviewers, making decisions related to paper disqualifications (based on PRD submission rules), assigning papers to reviewers, and making accept/reject decisions. Our work also includes selecting the top papers (based on reviewer data and feedback), forming paper sessions by themes, notifying authors of acceptance or rejection to the conference, and evaluating paper reviewers for reviewer awards.  We also help to create and submit a report on research for the PRD’s broader annual report to AEJMC.

  1. Big Wins For Last Year (i.e., something accomplished in 2015-16):

We’ve had a long-term research goal of improving the quality of the reviews for the papers in our division. For our 2015-2016 objective of decreasing the number of reviews that do not provide comments (from 8% to 5%), we made some progress. In the open competition, the “no comment” rate dropped to 7.1%, but we hope we can continue to improve as a division next year.

We also awarded, for the first time, incentives to those who submitted high quality reviews on time. And this helped enhance the quality of reviews.

We made some progress toward fully endowing the Susanne A. Roschwalb Grant for International Study and Research. We raised $400 – specifically, $250 for this year’s award and $150 for the endowment.

  1. Goals for 2016-2017:

We have set the following goals and objectives for the upcoming year:

  1. Improve the quality of the reviews for the papers in our division.

2016-2017 Objective: Reduce the number of reviews without comments to 5%.

  1. Encourage reviewers to complete their reviews on time or early.

2016-2017 Objective: Have 90% of reviews submitted to AllAcademic by the deadline.

  1. Make progress toward fully endowing the Susanne A. Roschwalb Grant for International Study and Research, which provides $250 toward a graduate student’s research outside the United States.

2016-2017 Objective: Once again, raise $500, half of which would be allocated to the endowment and half of which would pay for next year’s award.

  1. Start a tradition of offering PRD members the chance to participate in the AEJMC Midwinter or Colloquium.

2016-2017 Objective: Program at least one panel at either the Midwinter or Southeast Colloquium.

  1. Top Memories from Your Experience on the Committee

Lan: I thoroughly enjoyed working with Weiwu, the executive committee, and everyone else on the paper competitions. I learned so much about the process. A most interesting part on the committee, something I didn’t know in the past, was that we got to walk around the poster sessions and evaluate the artistic design of those posters. We even gave out awards for the Best Poster Design!

Nathan: I’m looking forward to learning the ropes from Lan, and am excited about gaining an inside understanding of how the PRD’s research paper review and competition process works. There is so much that goes into the planning and coordination of the annual conference each year.  It’s also been a lot of fun to meet new people within the division!

  1. Fun question! If the committee was a TV sitcom (either current or from anytime in the past), it would be:

Lan: “Friends,” since Nathan and I have been supporting each other’s work.






PRD Leadership: Teaching and Student Paper Competition Committee

Interview by Matt Kushin, Shepherd University

Committee Name: Teaching and Student Paper Competition Committee

Committee Members:

Chair: Lucinda Austin, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Vice-Chair: Katie Place, Quinnipiac University

Brigitta Brunner, Auburn University

Michele Ewing, Kent State University

Primary responsibilities of the committee within the PRD

Review Teaching Panel Proposals

Coordinate and Review GIFT Submissions

Facilitate Review and Invitations of Teaching Papers and Student Research Papers

Create and Curate Teaching Materials and Resources (e.g., PR Update newsletter articles, Speaker’s Bureau, etc.)

Big Wins For Last Year (i.e., something accomplished in 2015-16):

Last year, the committee created a PRD Speaker’s Bureau to connect individuals willing to speak on specific topics to classes interested in hosting them.

Goals for 2016-2017:

One of the big goals for this year was to create a new format for teaching submissions: a Great Ideas for Teaching (GIFT) roundtable discussion. We had a tremendous number of high quality submissions and will be programming some for roundtable discussions, as well as for poster presentations.

Top Memories from Your Experience on the Committee, or, if you’re a new member, instead answer what you’re looking forward to this year.

From a committee member serving last year: “One of my favorite experiences last year was skimming through all the fascinating teaching paper submissions and teaching panel ideas. Already this year, we have seen some incredibly innovative GIFT submissions, which I would love to implement in some of the classes I teach.”

From one of our new committee members: “I look forward to seeing how the review process works. I have seen it from the side of the programmer at NCA and SSCA, but I have not at AEJ so I am curious what similarities and differences there are.”

Fun question! If the committee was a TV sitcom (either current or from anytime in the past), it would be:

It’s a toss-up! Fuller House or Designing Women. This is the first year the teaching position has been a full-fledged committee with a chair, vice-chair, and two committee members; it’s exciting to see the committee growing, given the large responsibilities of the committee. We are also a group made up entirely of talented, hard-working women with a good sense of humor!