Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship

The award supports and encourages graduate student interest in applied public relations research as a career opportunity.

The Institute for Public Relations awards the Grunig PRIME Fellowship on an annual basis, sponsored by PRIME Research. The Fellowship is named for James E. Grunig and Larissa A. Grunig, professors emeriti, University of Maryland.

2015 Winner | Yang Cheng

See Yang Cheng’s full paperWho is Leading Whom in the General Motors Recall: Understanding Media Impact on Public Relations Efforts, Public Awareness, and Financial Markets.”

Award Content

  • The Fellow will work at PRIME Research’s Ann Arbor, MI, offices for six weeks in the summer following the end of the academic year to learn more about public relations research including data collection, data analysis, interpretation of research results and consultation.
  • The Fellow will be responsible for carrying out work as assigned by his or her supervisor along with other tasks to be determined in advance of the Fellowship.
  • In exchange for the above, the Fellow will be awarded a $5,000 stipend along with free walk-to-work lodging.
  • At the end of this experience, the Fellow will produce a research paper intended for practitioners. IPR recommends the following topics:
    • What drives choice and changes behavior?
    • Organizational communication.
    • A broader context for social networking and what it means.
    • Restoring reputation in an environment of extremely low trust.
    • Models to predict the probability of public relationship outcomes.
  • The Fellow will receive a $2,500 stipend for the research paper after it has been accepted for publication by IPR.
  • The Fellow will be recognized at IPR’s Annual Distinguished Lecture & Awards Dinner on November 17, 2015.

Who May Apply

  • Graduate students in public relations, communications or business who are studying in the United States.
  • Applicants must have completed at least one year of study toward a graduate degree, and at least one methodology course in research methods (e.g., survey, content analysis, experimental design, etc.).
  • Additional requirements include: basic knowledge of statistics, computer and internet proficiency, fluency in English (written and spoken), and appropriate legal status to work in the US in such a Fellowship position.

Required Application Materials

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Research Prospectus that outlines the type of research project you contemplate designing and carrying out, should you be awarded the grant.
  • Personal statement explaining why the applicant is qualified for the Fellowship
  • A copy of official transcript
  • Recommendation letter sent directly from the applicant’s faculty advisor

Address for Submissions: Email to Jenn Moyer

Selection Process

  • Applications will be reviewed by an Advisory Council of distinguished public relations researchers and educators including:
    • Larissa A. Grunig
    • James E. Grunig
    • Patty Lin (PRIME Research)
    • Mark Weiner (PRIME Research)
    • Sarab Kochhar (Institute for Public Relations)
  • Telephone interviews will be conducted with the finalists
  • After the Advisory Council has made its recommendations, the final selection will be made by PRIME Research

Past Winners

[2015] Yang Cheng, University of Missouri-Columbia

The Institute for Public Relations (IPR) Annual Distinguished Lecture & Awards Dinner 2015

Wendi Strong, Mark Weiner, Yang Cheng and Tina McCorkindale

Download Full Paper: Who is Leading Whom in the General Motors Recall: Understanding Media Impact on Public Relations Efforts, Public Awareness, and Financial Markets


Who is Leading Whom in the General Motors Recall: Understanding Media Impact on Public Relations Efforts, Public Awareness, and Financial Markets

Purpose of the Study

The recall by General Motors (GM) in 2014 was one of the largest crises in the history of the automotive industry. According to The Guardian (2014), U.S. Attorney Kenneth Feinberg announced 229 deaths and 1,986 injury claims had been made in December 2014 as more than 16.5 million cars had been recalled for ignition-related defects (Ivory, 2014).

This study investigated the antecedents (i.e., GM trading volume, press releases), agenda-setting (i.e., public awareness) and agenda-building process (i.e., corporate coverage, product coverage), and consequences (i.e., stock price) of news coverage in the GM recall. Agenda-building and agenda-setting theory relate to how influential the media or a corporation are on setting the public or media agenda. After conducting an extensive literature review, the author proposed a model to test the relationships among the variables (see study).


Data were collected from January 1 through December 31, 2014 from four searchable databases including trading volume and share price on Yahoo Finance, press releases on the GM official website, news coverage from Factiva, and public awareness using Google trends. Specifically, data on news coverage were available from PRIME Research, which is one of leading global companies in media analysis since 1987. To analyze the causal relationships among GM trading volume, press releases, news coverage on products and corporations, public awareness, and share price in this crisis, a vector auto regression (VAR) model and pairwise granger causality test were applied for data analysis.  These have been widely applied in time series analysis of agenda-setting research.

Discussion and Conclusion

Results revealed that with the context of the GM recall, media coverage was a useful predictor, playing a strong role as an agenda-setter, and could lead to setting of public and organizational agendas. Therefore, the increase of media coverage led to the increase of other variables, for example, and when more coverage emerged, public awareness of this recall event also increased. In this way, media agenda acts as a predictor, or an agenda-setter of the public agenda. Based on the findings, there are three theoretical and practical implications of the results:

Strong impact of media agenda

Data supported the impact that media coverage has on public opinion and corporate brand reputation in a crisis. First, the increasing amount of corporate and product news effectively predicted the increase of public attention toward this recall. The media coverage demonstrated a statistically-significant relationship with public awareness which supported the agenda-setting effects in a corporate crisis context. Second, results also showed the media coverage on GM seemed to influence the organization’s public relations efforts, With the heated discussion on controversial issues (e.g., cost- or customer-oriented GM culture) and an increasing amount of negative news (Himsel, 2014), the media coverage about GM superseded the organization’s desire and ability to lead the agenda under high-risk conditions.

Lack of effects on media agenda

This study also found that GM lacked influence on media coverage, which challenged the traditional wisdom of agenda-building theory. When GM began to conduct more accommodative activities such as expanding recalls significantly in February, apologizing to the public in March, and compensating the victims in June, the tonality of media coverage actually became more negative and generated higher visibility from the general public. Several factors listed below could help explain this phenomena.

The first factor could be the timing for crisis responses. As Huang & Su (2009) suggested, timely crisis responses could successfully improve crisis response effectiveness. In the GM recall, this ignition switch problem first occurred in 2001, however, the company did not report this issue officially. These delayed crisis responses left enough time for large quantities of news reporting to frame  the event.

Second, as an organization, GM went through bankruptcy in 2009, reorganized itself, and became a company with a new culture. As the new CEO Mary Barra promised, the new GM was focusing on the safety of customers instead of the cost-driven production in the old GM (Himsel, 2014). However, the restructuring of the company, changes in corporate culture, and the high cost of recalls restrained GM from an active and timely response to the ignition-switch problem, which led to a large amount of negative news coverage before its official responses (Business Insider, 2015).

Third, the nature of the crisis event could constitute another important contingency factor. In the crisis situation, especially within which more deaths occurred, the corporation could easily lose its credibility and draw attention from both media and publics (Sweetser & Brown, 2008). Journalists also attributed the product problem to the corporation itself and intensified the crisis (Putnam & Shoemaker, 2007).

Comparison between corporate and product media coverage.

 It was well known that this recall occurred because of the quality of products. However, data showed it was not the products that were most frequently reported by the media. Media coverage on GM corporate led its product coverage in this crisis with larger quantities, more negativity, and higher visibility of reports. Moreover, the corporate media coverage led the organization’s agenda through the crisis and journalists framed this crisis as a corporate management issue rather than only reporting it as a product issue. In this way, although GM had differentiated its brands such as GMC, Buick, and Chevrolet, the public awareness focused on the whole company instead of specific products.

Recommendations for practice:

  1. Public relations practitioners may proactively and consistently monitor and analyze media coverage on both corporations and products to prevent and manage crises through both online and offline communication.
  2. GM and other automotive companies might consider applying a more transparent, consistent, thematic, and dialogic communication model at the earliest stages of communication in order to gain trust and retain good stakeholder relationships (Balser & McClusky, 2005).
  3. Future GM crisis communication strategies should diverge attention from the corporate brand to products by providing a transparent disclosure of information on certain types of products and minimizing the media coverage on the whole corporation.


Balser, D., & McClusky, J. (2005). Managing stakeholder relationships and nonprofit organization effectiveness. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 15(3), 295-315. doi: 10.1002/nml.70

Himsel, D. (2014, May 16). General motors, Avon, and the devastating power of entrenched corporate culture. Forbes. Retrieved from

Huang, Y. H., Su, S. H. (2009). Determinants of consistent, timely, and active responses in corporate crises. Public Relations Review, 35 (1), 7-17. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2008.09.020.

Ivory, D. (2014, September 15). G.M.’s ignition problem: Who knew what when. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Putnam, L. L., & Shoemaker, M. (2007). Changes in conflict framing in the news coverage of an environmental conflict. Journal of Dispute Resolution, 1, 167-175.

Sweetser, K. S., Brown, C. W. (2008). Information subsidies and agenda-building during the Israel–Lebanon crisis. Public Relations Review, 34(4), 359-366.

The Guardian. (2014, December 1). Death toll from crashes linked to faulty GM ignition switches rises to 36. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

Yang Cheng is a full-funded PhD student at the School of Journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia, USA. Her research interests include new media effects, public relations effectiveness and value, crisis communication and management, conflict resolution, and cross-cultural communication. 

[2014] Anna Kochigina, University of Oklahoma

Anna Kochigina [Grunig PRIME Winner]Anna Kochigina, a master’s student at the University of Oklahoma, will work at PRIME Research’s Ann Arbor, MI, office for six weeks this summer. Receiving a $5,000 stipend and free walk-to-work lodging, she will learn more about public relations research, including data collection, data analysis, interpretation of research results, and consultation.

Looking forward to enriching her knowledge and demonstrating what she has already learned, Kochigina said she is grateful for the selection committee’s belief in her and the education she received from her university’s faculty.

[2013] Kelly Robinson, Virginia Tech

DKelly Robinsonownload PDF: Information Subsidies and Social Media: The Effect of News Value Presence on Social Media Conversation

As social media becomes increasingly ubiquitous, organizations are looking for the best way to use these new communication tools. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter present numerous opportunities to organizations for sharing information, engaging with the public, and monitoring discussion. This article examines the relationship between news values, press releases, and social media. Specifically, the researcher looks at six months of press releases from a Fortune 500 company and relevant posts from the public on Twitter to ascertain whether the number of news values and presence of particular news values in a press release affect the volume and sentiment of conversation on Twitter. The researcher found that certain news values do predict greater conversation and better sentiment on social media, and that a higher number of news values present in a release also predicts a higher volume of conversation on Twitter.

[2012] Nicole Lee, San Diego State University

The Relationship between CEO Media Coverage and Overall Organization Media Coverage (PDF)

Nicole Lee PhotoThis study examines the relationship between the tone and visibility of media coverage about a CEO and an organization’s overall media tone and visibility. This paper also examines how the topic of media coverage (strategy/vision, product, CSR, positioning, financial performance) impacts the relationship between CEO media tone and organization media tone. A content analysis was conducted of media coverage for 36 Fortune 100 companies and their CEOs within 53 opinion-leading U.S. media outlets between January 2010 and June 2012.

The findings show a positive relationship between CEO visibility and organization visibility, as well as CEO media tone and organization media tone. A negative relationship was found between CEO media tone and organization media visibility, as well as CEO visibility and organization media tone. The tone of media coverage related to organization strategy, CSR and positioning had the strongest relationship with CEO media tone. The results from this study can inform practitioners what organization stories benefit most from CEO involvement.

[2011] Shana Meganck, Virginia Commonwealth University

Shana 1GAINESVILLE, FL – March 28, 2011 – Shana Meganck, a second-year PhD student at Virginia Commonwealth University, is this year’s winner of the Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship. The fellowship − named for James E. Grunig, Ph.D., and Larissa A. Grunig, Ph.D. − is presented by the Institute for Public Relations (IPR) and sponsored by PRIME Research.

Meganck will be enter a six-week fellowship in the PRIME Research offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan during summer 2011. She will receive a $5,000 stipend and will submit a research paper to be published by IPR. Her research interests include the effects of advertising and public relations on society, public relations and new media technologies, and ethical issues in public relations and advertising.

“We are delighted to have Shana Meganck as the third recipient of the Grunig PRIME Research Fellowship,” said Mark Weiner, CEO for PRIME Research in North America.  “The Fellowship aims to foster interest in public relations research as a career path; Fellows take an active role in providing research-based consulting for PRIME’s global clients.”

“We congratulate both Shana Meganck and PRIME Research for what we believe will be a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Jim Grunig. “Selected from a strong field of applicants for the 2011 PRIME Research Fellowship, Ms. Meganck will glimpse life inside one of the world’s premier research operations.”

Lauri Grunig added: “Ms. Meganck brings an academic understanding of both qualitative and quantitative methods. Her graduate studies have prepared her well for the challenges of applied research. We expect the relationship between PRIME Research staff, its clients and Ms. Meganck to endure long past their six weeks together in Ann Arbor.”


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