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Capstone Research – Presentations

Kim Garraway, MCM
Employees as Reputation Drivers: Risk or Reward?
Advisor: Professor Jacquie Hoornweg
Second Reader: Dr. Terry Flynn
Degree Granted: June, 2020

Employee advocacy is a growing public relations strategy to enhance reputation in a time when trust in organizations is declining and consumers are more likely to want to hear from employees than CEOs and brands. This study explores whether higher education institutions in Ontario, Canada are using employee advocacy to differentiate themselves in a high-touch, highly competitive sector. Chief communication officers and chief human resource officers were asked whether their practices meet the antecedents of employee advocacy: symmetrical internal communication and strong employee-organization relationships. The in-depth interviews revealed most institutions embrace symmetry but have training gaps that need to be filled to better equip and enable employees to effectively take part in reputation management strategies. Sector-specific rewards and risks of employee advocacy were identified. Furthermore, a content analysis of one institution’s employee ambassador social media program revealed such programs can be effective as employee posts consistently out-performed corporate posts for engagement and positive commentary.

Keywords: employee advocacy, employee ambassadors, Ontario higher education, symmetrical internal communication, employee-organization relationship, situational theory of problem solving, social media, reputation

Rosie Hales, MCM
Thought Leadership for Non-Profit Followers: How do Canadian non-profits use thought leadership to maintain trust, build relationships and fuel good reputation?
Advisor: Dr. Terry Flynn
Second Reader: Professor Mark Stewart
Degree Granted: June, 2020

There is little academic research about thought leadership, and even less available is information on thought leadership with regards to its use as a communications technique. This capstone research project sought to learn more about how thought leadership is currently being used by the communications function in Canadian non-profits, and how thought leadership can maintain trust, build relationships, and fuel good reputations. Ten in-depth interviews with communications leaders at Canadian non-profit organizations were conducted as well as an analysis of thought leadership content shared by those organizations over social media. Results showed that, firstly, thought leadership content from Canadian non-profits is being created in such a way that enhances organizational credibility and trust, and secondly, Canadian non-profits are using thought leadership as a strategic communications technique to a high degree, but there is room for improvement. Finally, this study found that thought leadership content aligned with public relations literature on trust, relationship building and reputation. A new definition of thought leadership for Canadian non-profit communicators is also proposed.

Keywords: Thought leadership, Canada, non-profit organizations, trust, reputation, relationship building, communications


Pauline Berry, MCM
The scoring economy: Reputation management in the age of algorithms
Advisor: Professor Michael Meath
Second Reader: Dr. Terry Flynn
Degree Granted: June, 2020


We live in an algorithmic age, an age where algorithms influence our smallest, most miniscule choices to our largest, most life-defining decisions. The proliferation of algorithms and mounting public concern present challenges for not only individuals, but also organizations. The purpose of this study is to understand how and to what extent algorithms impact corporate reputation management. This research is quite novel in that it attempts to marry two fields that have yet to be united; notably, algorithms and organizational reputation management. Current research explores these topics independent of one another. This study intends expand current research by highlighting the impact search engine and automated journalism algorithms have on organizational reputation management in hopes that it helps organizations better understand how to build and maintain their reputations – on and offline. The practical and social implications of this study are both educational and directional for both communications practitioners and organizations. The results of this research have the potential to alter the practice of reputation management altogether. The practical intent of this study is to provide communicators with a guide of how to mitigate and manage reputational issues that might arise from our new scoring economy.

Key words: reputation management; search engine algorithms; automated journalism; algorithmic selection; credibility; trust

Capstone Research – Summaries

The following are summaries of some of our MCM graduates’ final capstone research projects.

Onyinye Oyedele, MCM
“Cultural Intelligence and Strategic Partnerships: Examining communication protocols in emerging markets.”

Advisor: Prof. Michael Meath
Second reader: Dr. Alex Sevigny
Degree Granted: June 2017


Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is an asset for organizations embarking on strategic partnerships. The ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds, build, and translate that relationship into

one of mutual understanding is important for a successful venture. Despite the communications barriers, risks, and challenges faced during cross cultural expansions, the rewards and opportunity of exploring new markets, meeting needs, attracting and keeping new talents are prospects worth pursuing.

With a combination of content analysis of 21 articles from business magazines and in-depth interviews with nine experts on emerging markets from Canada , the UK, Bangkok, Senegal, and the US, this research captures their unique experiences, the communications protocols and channels that worked for their organizations.

These experts with a combined experience of about 30 years in establishing new ventures in emerging markets like China, India, Africa and South America all agreed that the role of communications in helping to broker, foster, and maintain relationships relied greatly on understanding and using effective communication channels. It is not a one size fits all approach, but one that is adaptive and flexible within the cultural landscape.


Martin Waxman, MCM, APR
“My BFF is a chatbot: Examining the nature of artificial relationships, and the role they play in communications and trust.”
Advisor: Dr. Alex Sevigny
Second reader: Dr. Terry Flynn
Degree Granted: June, 2019


Artificially intelligent machines are becoming a bigger part of people’s lives. Consumers ask Google Assistant for directions, talk to Siri about the weather, or buy something via a voice request on Amazon’s Alexa. While these interactions are far from perfect, each new development or enhancement in AI performance leads to more data that can be used to train an AI agent to do its job better and become more lifelike. Soon it might be difficult to distinguish humans from. And that could have a profound impact on society, trust, and the way we communicate. Through a series of in-depth interviews, this paper examined human AI agent relationships, what the nature of those relationships might be, and how and to what extent two-way communications and trust played a part in establishing beneficial human AI agent relationships. It also provided a framework for evaluating relationships and trust based on Grunig & Grunig’s Communications Models.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, AI, human AI agent relationships, communications, two-way symmetrical communications, trust, organization-public relationships, human-machine communication

Josie Cassano Rizzuti, MCM, APR
“A Study of Social Media and the Challenge of Communications in a Global Digital World”
Advisor: Dr. Alexander Sevigny
2nd Reader: Professor Dave Scholz
Degree Granted: September, 2017
Proud Graduate #67! born in 1967:)

A key aspect of understanding communications in a global environment is understanding social media usage. With the recent dramatic increase in social media usage of the past decade, the incorporation of social media and online platforms into communication strategies of organizations has been intensively discussed and researched. This study investigates social media usage across the different countries at ArcelorMittal a global steelmaker to understand how it is being used for business purposes. Are personal and professional lines blurring with social media use?  Ultimately do we see a generational divide emerging?  A population of 19 professionals was interviewed from 7 different countries working at different hierarchical levels in Communication and in other areas such as IT, Human Resources, Legal, and Marketing.   Content Analysis, a quantitative method of research was also used as a tool to gain further insights into each of the questions.   Results of the study show that social media usage is in its infancy of use in most regions and countries at ArcelorMittal.   A blurring of lines regarding professional and personal use is concerning, along with evidence of a generational divide emerging.


Tammy Quigley, MBA, MCM, APR
“What’s up Doc? How to effectively share performance data with physicians.”
Advisor: Professor Michael Meath
2nd Reader: Professor Dave Scholz
Degree Granted: June, 2018


This study aimed to gain insight into the effective means of communicating performance data with physicians in an academic health sciences centre setting.  Using both qualitative (one on one interviews) and quantitative (on-line survey), the researcher assessed the experiences of physicians with individual scorecards, along with their opinions on factors important to using data to increase engagement and improve patient care.  Five key recommendations emerged, including the importance of involving physicians directly in indicator selection, the use of comparator data and benchmarks, frequency of reporting, the impact of culture, and the importance of accurate data.

Rob Lamberti, MCM
“Police use of social media during a crisis”
Advisor: Dr. Philip Savage
2nd Reader: Dr. Alex Sévigny
Degree Granted: June, 2015


Periods of crisis require emergency services to effectively communicate with people who are at risk of being injured or killed. They must efficiently and quickly issue statements that alert the public to the risk, its operations in response to the crisis, continued alerts to keep the public updated and to sound the all-clear.

But there is no time during the crisis to develop on-going relationships with the public during a crisis when ending the threat is considered to be the top priority for police services. The time between crises is used by police services to develop lasting and meaningful relationships with its publics. Those open channels will be alerted to the crisis.

Two-way symmetrical communication on social media between a police service and its publics is the norm during a non-crisis period. The development of positive and strong relations is important to develop as the traditional earned media news model has changed to an owned-media communications model.

However, the interviews suggest the dynamics change during a crisis, where the open conversation is stalled in favour of a communications system that is issuing statements to ensure the service’s message is reaching people. In other words, a crisis demands — at least temporarily — a two-asymmetrical model rather than the two-way symmetrical model. The public has a right to know what the crisis is, and what’s being done to alleviate it, but police services don’t want to necessarily want to receive messages during a crisis. The two-way symmetrical model is reestablished following the end of the crisis.

Paula Bernardino, MCM, CSR-P, SCMP

“Exploring the Reputation of the Ontario Wine Industry: Organizational identity vs organizational image.”

What is making wine consumers in Toronto buy or ignore wines from Ontario?
Advisor: Dr. Laurence B. Mussio
2nd Reader: Dr. Alex Sevigny
Degree Granted: November, 2015


This research project investigates what is making wine consumers in Toronto buy or ignore wines from Ontario. The concept of organizational identity: the features of the company that appear to be central and enduring to internal publics, the internal public in this case being the winery owners, was explored and compared to the organizational image: the perception held by customers, in this case wine consumers. The comparison helped determine the corporate reputation.

This research project involved in-depth telephone interviews with 15 winery owners and other winery staff members from the Niagara Peninsula and Prince Edward County wine regions. Toronto wine consumers were also solicited to complete a short online survey.

Based on the research findings, the Ontario wine’s industry organizational identity can be defined as an industry with high quality products and beautiful wine regions. The organizational image based on the research findings can be defined as an industry with delicious products and beautiful wine regions. This research project also demonstrate that both groups (key players in industry and wine consumers) are aligned with regards to the importance of quality of the product, an intrinsic attribute. Consequently, having a winery experience and the quality of wine are the two main factors playing a role in building the reputation of Ontario wines.

Finally, this research project delivers an assessment tool designed to determine which wine consumers in Toronto represent the greatest potential of loyal consumers of wines from Ontario.

Keywords: organizational identity, organizational image, corporate reputation.

Kristine Leadbetter, MCM

“Reputation and Social Capital: A Hammer for the Glass Ceiling”
Advisor: Jacquie Hoornweg
2nd Reader: Dr. Philip Savage
Degree Granted: September, 2018


Researchers believe the main reason women are not achieving parity in leadership roles is they are less likely to have extensive networks to support and promote them as potential leaders (Vongalis-Macrow, 2012). Through a case study of the DeGroote Women’s Professional Network, this study investigated how and to what extent women’s networks can contribute to building the female leadership pipeline by combating women’s barriers to obtaining leadership roles. This study built off previous research, which defined barriers for women as lack of reputation, role models, mentoring, and social capital (Brown, Menasce Horowitz, Parker, Patten, & Wang, 2015; Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2016). The study examined the perceived and potential value members acquired from the Network. The results revealed while the DWPN may have the structure to support these elements, both network facilitators and members must consciously utilize the network strategically to support their advancement. Further study insights included seven recommendations on how networks can build members social capital and five pillars a network must incorporate to be positioned to support the advancement of women.

Keywords: women’s network, reputation, social capital, thought leader, mentorship, role model, glass ceiling, women in leadership

Peter Bailey, MCM
“Social Media for Social Licence in Canada’s Industrial Sector.”
Advisor: Dr. Laurence B. Mussio
2nd Reader: Dr. Alex Sevigny
Degree Granted: June, 2015


Industrial companies are using social media to influence their permission to operate
also know as social licence. This research investigates how and with what effect, testing
established theories and best practices found in the literature. The study demonstrates that
social media and social licence are complementary public relations management strategies.
When aligned, they provide the most value to industrial companies and their communications
practitioners. Many studies and practical guides explore the use of social media for
commercial or reputational benefit, yet very few have investigated how social licence or
‘public approval’ is achieved or maintained through social media. This study bridges that
divide, uncovering new as well as supplemental contributions to the literature.


Gabriel Roy, MCM

“Bridging two solitudes: The effect of Québec’s language laws on t­­he practice of public relations”
Advisor: Dr. Alex Sévigny
2nd Reader: Dr. Philip Savage
Degree Granted: June, 2017


Aislinn Mosher, MCM
“@Askyourdoctor: How Canadian Physicians use Twitter to Communicate in Healthcare”
Advisor: Dr. Alex Sévigny
2nd Readers: Dr. Terry Flynn, Dr. Philip Savage
Degree Granted: June, 2017


The use of social media in Canada’s healthcare landscape is undergoing a significant shift, with some organizations predicting that physicians in Canada will increasingly use social channels to educate patients, and to provide patient and family support. To understand how Canadian physicians who use Twitter perceive the platform and its influence on communication with their communities, the author interviewed 18 physicians of assorted medical backgrounds and levels of experience from across Canada. The author posed questions around why physicians chose to join Twitter, what obstacles they faced upon joining, how they overcame obstacles, and what they viewed as the most beneficial aspect of using Twitter. Physicians were also asked to describe their overall experience of using Twitter, and to describe how Twitter has influenced the way they practice medicine.

Results demonstrated that physicians use Twitter for professional development, to work toward changing health policy, and to raise health awareness (health literacy). Participants suggested the importance of establishing parameters for managing the platform, emphasizing the importance of online professionalism and ensuring that Tweets stand up to the scrutiny of peer review. The majority of physician participants (13) said that Twitter has influenced the way they practice medicine, with nine of those physicians stating that Twitter has had a direct or indirect impact on their interactions with patients