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.
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