One of the Institute for Public Relations’ oldest and most prestigious prizes, the Ketchum Excellence in Public Relations Research Award goes this year to Minjeong Kang, a Ph.D. student at Syracuse University. She will receive a $2,500 grant to support her work on measuring social media credibility. A six-stage research project will seek to validate methods for measuring social media and examine its impact on public engagement and branding.

The award has been around since 1992. Originally known as the Smart Grant and Internship, it was sponsored by Ketchum from the beginning. We do this to foster the development of new public relations research methods, especially when it comes to measuring effectiveness. The resulting research papers are published by the Institute, and many are now available free on the website.

Miss Kang earned her master’s degree in public relations at the University of Maryland, and her bachelor’s degree in economics at Chonnam National University in South Korea. She also holds an associate degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and her work history is strongly oriented to the fashion industry. So what is it that moved her toward a career in public relations teaching and scholarship?

It appears to be the never-ending intellectual challenges of our field, judging from the research proposal she submitted when applying for this award.

The management of credibility is key, she believes, to the relationships we build between the organization and its publics. The credibility of any communications channel helps determine what audiences choose to get involved, and how. So as our publics pay ever more attention to social media, what do we really know about the credibility of those channels? What roles do authenticity, authority and passion play in determining who the real influencers are?

Miss Kang’s research will employ focus groups, new scales designed to measure social media credibility, a multi-sample survey to validate the scales, and laboratory experiments to investigate causality and connections between social media credibility, engagement and branding.

“Without valid and reliable measurement, the management of credibility in social media will hardly be feasible,” she says.

You’ll be hearing more about this project in the months ahead, and about this bright young researcher as well.

David Rockland
Partner & Managing Director
Global Research & Interactive Communications

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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2 thoughts on “David Rockland: New Ketchum Award Winner (and Why We Do This)

  1. Credibility is indeed key, according to a newly published study by University of Iowa doctoral candidate Raluca Cozma, who researched the correlation between health “myths” (carrots improve eyesight, for example) and social media.  Findings included:

    1) News and health industry Web sites (Example: were perceived as both more interesting and more credible than blogs. Thus, both healthcare and news Web sites have equally high potentials of changing health misconceptions.

    2) Communication interactivity—such as that found in blogs—does not guarantee effective communication (i.e., belief change).

  2. I completely agree with with Miss Kang’s statement about credibility. Without credibility (as well as maintaining those vital relationships between a company and its publics) the entire purpose of public relations is moot. We have been moving towards Grunig’s two-way symmetrical model for quite some time now, but with the emergence of social media, we’re enabling our publics to voice their concerns and thoughts with more ease then ever thought possible. But with this causes potential problems she lists – how trustworthy are these channels?

    The fact that she is employing research to study social media and how organizations can evaluate the effectiveness of this new tool is absolutely amazing. You can tweet and facebook all day, but in the end, how will you know your message is really getting across to your publics, and how authentic are our publics, or even our message using these tools?

    Congratulations to you on this achievement and award.

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