Strategic Communication professor wins top research award

Exactly how to gauge the effectiveness of public relations has been a hot button topic for years. There simply is no standard formula to measure earned media coverage. That’s why public relations scholars like Dr. Julie O’Neil, associate professor and director of graduate studies for the School of Journalism and Strategic Communication, are creating and testing ways to establish replicable, comparable and transparent measures for media coverage. Dr. O’Neil’s latest research won her the Jackson Sharpe Award, the $2,000 top award at the 17th Annual International Public Relations Research Conference in Miami, Florida. The award recognizes the co-authored academic/practitioner paper that best demonstrates ways to improve the work of public relations practitioners in practice. PR-measurement guru Katie Paine has called the same paper “the best new thing in the measurement world” on her popular blog. Co-authored with Marianne Eisennmann of Chandler Chico Companies and David Geddes of Geddes Analytics, the award-winning paper is titled “An Examination of the Validity, Reliability, and Best Practices Related to the Proposed Standards for Traditional Media.” The paper is “phase two” to a previous “phase one” research paper, which O’Neil and her co-authors presented at last year’s International Public Relations Research Conference. It examines two years’ worth of results from testing the reliability and validity of the proposed standards for media analysis. The researchers found that by using trained coders, a detailed code book and the measurement standards proposed by the Institute of Public Relations, practitioners can yield reliable results. “This award is meaningful because it recognizes research that impacts professional practice,” said Dr. O’Neil. “I’m hopeful that public relations professionals and media analysis firms will use our tested media standards so that media coverage can be evaluated using consistent definitions and measurement. Doing so will give public relations more credibility and satisfy client demands.” Full text of the paper is available on the website of the Institute for Public Relations. O’Neil, Eisenmann and Geddes are also currently in conversation with the Public Relations Society of America to develop a webinar based upon the study.