Gainesville, Fla. – The Institute for Public Relations (IPR) has launched the creation of a new research center, the Behavioral Insights Research Center (BIRC), to investigate factors that influence attitude and behavioral change to enable effective communication.

IPR Trustee Peter Debreceny of Gagen MacDonald (Chicago) will chair an industry advisory committee that includes:

  • Linda Rutherford, Chief Communications Officer, Southwest Airlines;
  • Doug Pinkham, President, Public Affairs Council;
  • Karen Tripp, Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs for Phillips 66; and,
  • Pat Stortz, Vice President, Corporate Communications, AT&T.

The primary role of the advisory committee is to help raise awareness of the Center and to provide practice-based insights to help develop and contextualize the Center’s research effort.

IPR Trustee Dr. Terry Flynn of McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) will serve as the Center’s first Research Director and the following individuals as BIRC research fellows:

  • Dr. Jon White, a fellow of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Public Relations, is a visiting professor with Henley Business School, University of Reading, and Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. He works from London with private and public sector organizations, such as the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and institutions and agencies of the European Union. He is a chartered psychologist with the British Psychological Society with a career-long interest in applied psychology as a basis for public relations practice.
  • Dr. Yi-Ru Regina Chen, is an assistant professor of public relations in the School of Communication at Hong Kong Baptist University. Her research areas include strategic communication and social media engagement, government affairs, health informatics, and CSR and sustainability in greater China. Dr. Chen resides in Hong Kong.
  • Dr. Melissa Dodd, APR, is an assistant professor of advertising and public relations at the University of Central Florida’s Nicholson School of Communication. Her research areas include social capital theory, CSR/advocacy, social media, and public relations measurement. Dr. Dodd resides in Orlando, Florida.

For the past two years, Dr. Flynn has conducted preliminary research to understand the interconnections between public relations and communications with the growing body of behavioral insights research in the fields of business, cognitive behavior, psychology and neuroscience. The BIRC research fellows will engage in a series of research projects designed to broaden the industry’s understanding of these intersections.

The IPR Behavioral Insights Research Center has two fundamental objectives:

  1. To determine the key factors that influence attitude/opinion formation and therefore the resultant actions and or decisions; and
  2. To develop and apply processes, methods, pathways that enable effective communication.

Insights garnered from the research conducted by the director and fellows will be shared with the industry through blog postings on the IPR website, publication in the IPR Research Journal, publication in peer-reviewed academic journals and presentations at IPR conferences and events over the next year.

“IPR is thrilled to open our new Behavioral Insights Research Center, and continue to support research that matters to the practice,” said Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., President and CEO of IPR. “BIRC can help professionals understand how and why people think and behave the way they do in this ever-changing business environment.”

The mission of the new center is “to conduct research on the factors that influence attitude and behavioral change to enable effective communication.”



Tina McCorkindale, Ph.D., APR
President & CEO
Institute for Public Relations

Peter Debreceny
Chair, BIRC Advisory Committee

Terry Flynn, Ph.D., APR, FCPRS
BIRC, Research Director

Share this:

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
Follow on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *