Theoretical literacy within the communication discipline demonstrated by the ability to articulate at least one theoretical framework and use it to illuminate a real-life communication problem, strategy, or initiative.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 4.41.20 PMThroughout my studies, there were many opportunities to explore the practical applications of communications theories in real-world situations. One of the best examples came early on during COM 610 – “Social Creation of Organizing.” I applied Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to analyze the effects of crisis on internal culture, using paid advertisements by Duke Energy in the aftermath of its infamous coal-ash spill in 2014. Among other learnings, I demonstrated that although such “mea culpa” texts ostensibly target public or external audiences, a major organizational goal in using them is to shore up internal culture. A crisis disrupts employees’ progression along Maslow’s hierarchy, and such ads are designed to restore a sense of unity, pride, and interdependence between management and workers.

In COM 613 – “Constructing Messages and Audiences,” a research project was the basis for creating a strategic communications plan based on Robert Putnam’s theories about social capital. The Charlotte, NC chapter of the Public Relations Society of America Screen Shot 2017-03-07 at 10.20.15 PMgave me permission to survey its members with 15 or more years of experience in the field, to assess why their participation in chapter activities had waned. (In exchange, I gave the finished plan to the chapter board to use for its program planning.) Applying Putnam’s ideas, particularly the concepts of bonding and bridging capital, provided a theoretical framework strategy to increase participation by senior PRSA members in more substantive and sustainable ways.

Here’s a copy of the paper.


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