This summer, I was selected as the 2015 Grunig PRIME Research Fellow and spent six weeks in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as an intern in one of the firm’s eight research centers. PRIME Research is a global research firm working with many of the world’s largest companies and brands on media content analysis.
At the beginning of my fellowship at PRIME Research, my supervisor, Patty Lin, showed me the basic steps of media coding. I learned how PRIME coders analyze each paragraph for every mention of clients, their competitors, and relevant issues. I also learned how to create newsletters and the many variables in PRIME’s coding system.
The most-challenging skill I learned was running PRIME’s big data set and writing reports for clients. I used PowerPoint, statistical tools such as SPSS, and PRIME’s proprietary social media platform to go beyond the basic information such as media tonality and corporate brand reputation. For instance, PRIME Research designed a user-friendly social media platform for MasterCard and tracked 85,000 conversations across all types of social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to determine how online users feel about mobile payments (MasterCard, 2015).
At the end of my internship, I applied what I learned at PRIME to produce a research paper entitled “Who is Leading Whom in General Motors’ Recall: Understanding Media Impacts on Public Relations Efforts, Public Awareness, and Financial Markets.” Through theoretical sampling, this study adopted Vector-Auto Regression (VAR) modeling and the Granger causality method of case-study research to study the 2014 General Motors (GM) recall. This approach allowed for a discussion of multiple interrelationships using GM press releases, media coverage about GM and its products, public awareness data and GM stock price and share-trading volume.
Results revealed that within the context of the GM recall crisis, media coverage was a useful predictor and played a strong role as an agenda-setter. Data supported previous findings on the impact of media coverage on public opinion as well as corporate brand reputation in a crisis (Fan, Geddes, & Flory, 2013). First, the increasing amount of corporate and product news effectively predicted the increase of public attention toward this recall. The media coverage demonstrated a statistically-significant relationship with public awareness which supported the agenda-setting effects in a corporate crisis context (Carroll & McCombs, 2003). Second, results also showed the media coverage on GM seemed to influence the organization’s public relations efforts. With the heated discussion on controversial issues (e.g., cost- or customer-oriented GM culture) and an increasing amount of negative news (Himsel, 2014), the media coverage on GM superseded the organization’s desire to lead the agenda under high-risk conditions. Future public relations practitioners may proactively and consistently monitor media coverage on both corporations and products to prevent and manage crises through both online and offline communication.
Overall, the Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship offered me a wonderful opportunity to learn the practice and increase my understanding of media content measurement as a young researcher. I would like to thank the Institute for Public Relations, PRIME Research, and James and Larissa Grunig for their sponsorship of the Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship. I would also like to thank Mark Weiner, Timo Thomann-Rompf, Gary Warrick, Patty Lin, Sean Merriman, and Matthew Kuhlmeier for their continued assistance on my project.
Carroll, C., & McCombs, M. (2003). Agenda-setting effects of business news on the public’s images of major corporations. Corporate Reputation Review, 6, 36-46. doi:10.1057/palgrave.crr.1540188.
Fan, D., Geddes, D., & Flory, F. (2013). The Toyota recall crisis: Media impact on Toyota’s corporate brand reputation. Corporate Reputation Review, 16 (2), 99-117. doi:10.1057/crr.2013.6.
Himsel, D. (2014, May 16). General motors, Avon, and the devastating power of entrenched corporate culture. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2014/05/16/general-motors-avon-andthe-devastating-power-of-entrenched-corporate-culture/
MasterCard. (2015). Infographic: MasterCard and Prime Research Uncover What Social Media Users Really Think About Mobile Payments. Retrieved from: http://newsroom.mastercard.com/photos/infographic-mastercard-and-prime-research-uncover-what-social-media-users-really-think-about-mobile-payments/
Yang Cheng is a Ph.D. student in the School of Journalism and M.B.A. student in the Trulaske College of Business at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Cheng won the 2015 Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship, which promotes applied research as a public relations career choice. To learn more about the Fellowship, click here.