Elon professor takes top honor for paper at PRSA conference

Barbara Miller Gaither, associate professor of communications, explored corporate social responsibility initiatives and public perception in her recent study, titled “Redefining Fit: Examining CSR Company-Issue Fit in Stigmatized Industries.”

A research paper co-authored by Associate Professor Barbara Miller Gaither received the Top Faculty Research Paper Award from the PRSA Educators Academy “Super Saturday” Conference, scheduled for October in Indianapolis, Ind. Miller Gaither collaborated with former Elon University colleague Lucinda Austin, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Associate Professor Barbara Miller Gaither
The research paper, titled “Redefining Fit: Examining CSR Company-Issue Fit in Stigmatized Industries,” will be presented at the Oct. 22 conference hosted by Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI).

The paper’s abstract reads: “This study explores the impact of the ‘fit’ of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives in industries stigmatized by society, particularly when a high-fit CSR initiative is also an initiative to which the organization contributes negatively. An experiment involving a cola company and its promotion of anti-obesity and literacy CSR activities examined the effect of fit and negative contribution on skepticism, attitudes towards the company and the CSR initiative, and participants’ stated supportive intentions towards the company. Findings revealed that skepticism was higher for the high-fit, negative contribution CSR initiative—anti-obesity—versus the low-fit CSR initiative—literacy. Additionally, the high-fit CSR initiative prompted greater negative attitudes about the company and participants expressed fewer supportive intentions for the company. Attitudes about the social initiatives of anti-obesity versus literacy were not significantly different, as participants felt obesity was more important for the cola company specifically to undertake. The practical and ethical implications for CSR are discussed.”

Miller Gaither and Austin published a separate article this summer titled “Examining Public Response to Corporate Social Initiative Types: A Quantitative Content Analysis of Coca-Cola’s Social Media,” which appeared in Social Marketing Quarterly. The article investigated how the Coca-Cola Co. uses social media to promote corporate social initiatives.

Additionally, the two frequent collaborators will have another paper published in Public Relations Review in the coming weeks titled “Campaign and Corporate Goals in Conflict: Exploring Company-Issue Congruence through a Content Analysis of Coca-Cola’s Twitter Feed.”

The Educators Academy of the Public Relations Society of America invites public relations educators, public relations graduate students and public relations professionals to submit competitive research papers, teaching abstracts and panel session proposals for presentation during “Super Saturday” of the 2016 PRSA International Conference.

This year’s international conference will be held Oct. 23-25 in Indianapolis.