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Capstone Research – Presentations

Scott Anderson, MCM
“Prepare for Impact: A case study of the Queen’s University Alumni twitter account examining of the determinants of message engagement.”
Advisor: Dr. Alex Sévigny
Second Reader: Professor Dave Scholz
Degree Granted: August, 2020

Abstract:
Public relations practitioners are tasked with creating impactful communications but often do not understand the level to which they are succeeding. As well, social media have become ubiquitous within the practice of public relations. Yet, public relations practitioners have been slow to take advantage of social media to advance their ability to fulfill the need for the two-way symmetrical communications prescribed by the excellence model of public relations. This study takes the form of a single case study and integrated literature review and is designed to explore the determinants of impact in messaging in order to attempt to understand the attributes of communications that can be used as predictors of impact. As well, it explores whether a unifying framework be developed to help public relations practitioners and potentially others understand the determinants of impact. Specifically, this case attempts to measure the presence of the attributes of impactful communications in Twitter messages posted by the Queen’s University Office of Advancement on the Queen’s Alumni account @queensalumni.

Keywords: Impact, engagement, dialogue, co-creation, public relations


Alison Gelata, MCM
“Building Trust with Digital Seniors: Exploring how older adults determine online sources of information and communication about health to be trustworthy and credible.”
Advisor: Dr. Terry Flynn
Second Reader: Professor Dave Scholz
Degree Granted: August, 2020

Abstract:
Canada’s population of older adults is the fastest growing demographic in both volume and digital communication adoption. They are also extraordinarily diverse and often deemed less tech savvy. The risks they may encounter online are complex. Seniors are often the target of scams, fraud and disinformation. When it pertains to their own health, credible and trust worthy information is of the utmost importance, especially for those striving to age well. With more health organizations and services relying on web-based technology to facilitate communications,the needs of older adults must be better understood. Connecting digital behaviour and perceptions with regard to health information and communication online was the focus of this study. This single case study sought an improved understanding of the variables that determine trust and credibility among older Canadians when evaluating health information. Ten in-depth interviews were conducted and 206 online surveys were completed during the COVID-19 global pandemic when Canadians were forced online for information and interactions. Health information overwhelmed many Canadians, particularly at risk seniors. It was hypothesized that trust and credibility were intertwined as dependent variables. Yet, the findings demonstrate that trust is the dominant dependent variable and perceptions of credibility and risk significantly impact trust. Results indicated opportunities for a framework to enable health communicators to better inform and engage older adults. Content authorship and expertise, emphasis on B2B2C strategies, improved sector collaboration, barrier reduction in usability, and a focus on education to bridge health literacy and digital literacy, were among the final recommendations

Keywords: Trust, digital communication, risk perception, source credibility, digital literacy, health, older adults.


Cheryl Crocker, MCM
“School of Hard Knocks: Exploring how and to what extent leaders in Ontario colleges and universities balance the repuational benefits and risks of intercollegiate athletics”
Advisor: Professor Jacquie Hoornweg
Second Reader: Dr. Terry Flynn
Degree Granted: August, 2020

Abstract:

This exploratory, single-case study investigated how and to what extent leaders in Ontario colleges and universities balance the reputational benefits and risks of contact intercollegiate sports. This study investigated athletics’ alignment with academic mission, how leaders respond to changes in stakeholder and societal values; and how leaders define, assess and respond to risk.
To achieve these objectives, the study reviewed theories regarding reputation and reputation management in the context of higher education. It extended these theories into the establishment of identity, organization-stakeholder relationships, assessment of risk, and threat mitigation in the context of intercollegiate athletics. The study examined multiple sources of data including in-depth interviews with athletic directors and deans, a survey to members of the Ontario College Athletic Association; and a content analysis of mission, vision and value statements of institutions represented in the study.
The study found that Ontario schools may be vulnerable to changing societal perceptions about risk in contact intercollegiate sports due to limited environmental scanning and limited engagement with stakeholders outside of higher education and athletics. The study may provide insight for academic institutions in Canada to assess academic and athletic value alignment and make changes if gaps are identified to protect reputation.

Keywords: Canada, Ontario, colleges, universities, athletics, values, risk, contact sports, reputation, reputation management, concussion


Lisa Hepfner, MCM
“Earned Media in a Digital World: Relationships with modern journalists.”

Advisor: Dr. Alex Sévigny
Second Reader: Dr. Terry Flynn
Degree Granted: August, 2020

Abstract:
This study examines positive and negative experiences between journalists and public relations professionals through in-depth interviews with six daily news reporters and six practitioners who deal regularly with the media. The author sought to answer how and to what extent relationships can be cultivated between the professionals. Interviews yielded several examples in which journalists and practitioners were able to develop a measure of trust. However, in many cases, trust was earned through consistent honesty and transparency over time and could be irreparably broken with any transgression. While both types of professional continued to harbour misgivings, the establishment of trusting relationships was perceived to be beneficial by both journalists and practitioners. The study concludes that when journalism and public relations are practices according to their established, and largely parallel ethical codes, the professions can achieve harmony and mutual gains. Public relations should advocate for journalism, and journalists should be taught how ethical public relations is a partner, and not an obstacle to fair, open and truthful news reporting.

Keywords: Media relations, journalism, Canada, fully functioning society theory, excellence theory


Kristine D’Arbelles, MCM
The Social Media Election: A statistical analysis of social media communications during the 2019 Canadian federal
Advisor: Dr. Alex Sévigny
Second Reader: Professor Dave Scholz
Degree Granted: August, 2020

Abstract:
As the industry of political communications redefines itself in the digital age, it is important to ensure scholars can continue to measure its effectiveness. In this study, the author uses data analytics and statistics to find connections and correlations between social media variables and the results of the Liberal Party of Canada’s (LPC) 2019 federal elections campaign. The uniqueness of this study is that the author doesn’t look at just one politician, or one region, but at 338 campaigns running at the same time all striving for the same election outcomes. Using standardized data, the study measures the performance of all 338 LPC candidates’ social media presences in relation to raising money for their campaign, gaining positive public opinion and ultimately being elected as a Member of Parliament. The author built a comprehensive database that houses publicly available data, which has more than 272,000 records. The results revealed that the presence of a political candidate on social media, the number of times they post, the popularity of their posts and the use of photos and videos have significant correlations with positive election outcomes.

Keywords: Politics, political communications, political campaigns, data science, social media, digital campaigns, statistics


Ashika Theyyil, MCM
“Excellence in Digital Storytelling: Exploring how best practices of digital storytelling are embraced by professional communicators.”
Advisor: Dr. Terry Flynn
Second Reader: Adine Carter, MCM
Degree Granted: July, 2020

Abstract:
This study examined how professional communicators attribute value to digital storytelling in the workplace. Specifically, this study analyzed the gap in how communicators are adapting to the changing digital landscape. The study further sought to investigate the following questions: How and to what extent do organizations embrace best practices? How and to what extent does digital storytelling affect the organization’s reputation? And how and to what extent is executive-level management aware of digital storytelling’s potential ROI and its impact on organizational reputation. This study is novel as it explored best practices in digital storytelling. While the value of storytelling is evident, there is room to explore how digital storytelling is embraced in organizations as we emerge into a new post-pandemic communications world. This study evaluated best practices with an extensive literature review, followed by 12 in-depth interviews and a content analysis that analyzed peer-reviewed digital storytelling content. Finally, ten key takeaways were recommended by the researcher for communications professionals to implement the best practices in digital storytelling.

Keywords: Digital storytelling, communications, public relations, organizational reputation, reputation management, multi-media platforms, video content, audience engagement, user-generated content


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

Abstract:
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

Abstract:
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

Abstract:

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 Sévigny
Degree Granted: June 2017

Abstract:
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 Sévigny
Second reader: Dr. Terry Flynn
Degree Granted: June, 2019

Abstract:
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. Alex Sévigny
2nd Reader: Professor Dave Scholz
Degree Granted: September, 2017
Proud Graduate #67! born in 1967:)
Abstract:
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

Abstract:
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

Abstract:
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 Sévigny
Degree Granted: November, 2015

Abstract:
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

Abstract:
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 Sévigny
Degree Granted: June, 2015

Abstract:
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

Abstract:
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