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.
Throughout 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 gave 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.