April 3-4, 2014
The focus of our conference and book is Strategic Communication. Communication can be defined as strategic if its development and/or dissemination is driven by an expected outcome. These outcomes can be attitudinal, behavioral, persuasive or knowledge-related; they can lead to change or engagement, or they can miss their mark entirely.
Strategic communication is a thread that runs through a great deal of research produced in our college – in Advertising and Public Relations, Communication Studies, Journalism (though our colleagues might be reluctant to use the term strategic, the goal of community engagement and the harnessing of user generated content can be described as strategic indeed). Under the broad umbrella of communication research, we see strategic communication in each element of the old standby, "Who says what to whom via what channel with what effect?" Think: Source-message-audience/receiver-channel-outcome.
At present we have several junior scholars studying strategic communication across disciplines: Homero Gil de Zuniga in Journalism studies the ability of the media to build civic engagement (channel - audience – outcome); Talia Stroud in Communication Studies looks at how people selectively expose themselves to partisan messages (message – receiver); Yongjun Sung in Advertising studies how individuals make meaning of brand-related messages to shape their self-concept (message - audience - outcome); and Anthony Dudo, who will join the Public Relations faculty in fall, studies how scientists can take ownership of their messaging to increase the potential for their science to have public impact (source – message – audience).
These scholars are important to this book because the collective research they are generating covers strategic communication in ways that are meaningful across disciplines. We say this because we often forget that well-trained scholars should be able to move easily between sub-disciplines, given that each of these sub-disciplines is drawing seamlessly from the same pool of communication theory and, at times, methods. Thus, a graduate student in a persuasion course housed in Advertising and Public Relations could gain valuable insights from the diverse perspectives emerging from the scholars listed above, despite this body of work not being completely tailored to the sub-discipline of advertising or public relations. In this way, this book is progressive in its acknowledgement that societal shifts and technology now allow for interpersonal communication to merge with mass communication, for sources to generate messages without a third party (the media), for strategy to breach the great wall surrounding journalistic objectivity – and have that breach lead to positive audience outcomes.
Both LeeAnn Kahlor and Anthony Dudo are faculty in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations.
LeeAnn Kahlor (Ph.D., 2003, University of Wisconsin): Over the past decade her work has spanned various perspectives on how individuals use and make meaning of messages; most recently she has focused this research more specifically on how audiences actively seek information to meet various challenges posed by personal risk and social pressures. In a risky situation, information seeking is often quite strategic, both in terms of sources sought and effort expended in the search. This work is of value both to practitioners looking to reach audiences with risk-related information and to theoreticians looking to better understand the role of uncertainty and social pressure in driving individual differences in information seeking behavior. Kahlor will likely co-write a chapter on information seeking with one of her research partners (who is a junior scholar), Janet Yang (see below).
Anthony Dudo: Anthony Dudo comes to UT from the University of Wisconsin (Ph.D., 2011), where he has studied mass media framing of messages and the impact of those frames on audiences. Most recently, he has turned his attention to the active role that scientific experts can play in the framing of science in the media, and how that role can impact public attitudes. His dissertation is titled, “Pathways to the public communication of science and technology: Toward a model for scientists' public communication activity.” In addition to providing editorial support, Dudo will author a chapter on experts as sources in strategic communication.