About Digital Media Research Center (DMRC)

Welcome to the IPR’s Digital Media Research Center, a comprehensive source for information about the social science of digital media, best practices, measures and benchmarking. If you want to learn more about digital media and how it is impacting the field of public relations, this is the place.

This research center is a continuously growing database of research articles and information about digital media and its impact on public relations. The DMRC delivers premier research insights through scholar overviews, each focused on significant studies about many digital and social media topics. Each overview summarizes a research study in about 250 words and provides specifics about its methodological approach and key findings. Then it suggests implications for practice and includes a link to the full text, if available. Find the latest overviews here.

The Digital Media Research Center is far more than a database. It’s interactive. It’s a space for conversation among professionals and academics who share interests in and a passion for research about digital media. We want you to express your thoughts, insights and experiences about the research and the topic. We also hope you’ll alert us to other important research studies and/or research needed involving digital media.

Definition of Digital Media

Digital media refers both to content that has been delivered in digital form as well as the platforms that deliver the content. Incorporating concepts such as social media, smartphone apps, virtual reality and interactive story telling, the influencing of digital media has significantly impacted the practice of public relations.

Digital media allows people and organizations to form groups, deliver information, and create immersive experiences designed to influence values, opinions, beliefs and behaviors in dynamic ways. A growing number of scholars and organizations have dedicated significant resources to understand the impact of digital media on relationship building and communication with the public. As new platforms and software provide additional opportunities for engagement, studies focused on the application and effectiveness of digital media are all the more significant.

Why Digital Media is So Important

With the rapid development of digital media, many organizations have changed how they communicate and engage with external and internal stakeholders. Digital media can have a significant impact on an organization’s reputation, both good and bad, in a matter of minutes.

Even though organizations might not have entered the digital media space, conversations may be happening about them, without their input. Listening to what’s being said about an organization on social media sites may be as important as engaging with the organization’s stakeholders. Communicating effectively on social media sites can increase stakeholder satisfaction, increase trust and enhance an organization’s reputation.

Digital media continues to change the expectations for interaction with key audiences. The nature of digital media is that it seems to constantly change and evolve, often making it challenging for organizations to provide research based analysis and application prior to launching digital media initiatives. Due to the profound impact on trust and loyalty as a result of digital media engagement, exploring the impact, effectiveness, and implications for digital media has become a paramount focus within public relations.

Benefits of Studying Digital Media

As digital media continues to grow, so do the benefits for companies. To stay relevant in today’s digital era, organizations must adapt. Digital media allows organizations to deliver the right content at the right time to the right people. Consumers are using digital media to connect to friends, family and brands. They ask questions, provide feedback and have become accustomed to receiving immediate responses.

Organizations that make effective use of digital media strategy can understand their stakeholders, respond quickly to criticism and attract attention. They also can turn passive stakeholders into brand advocates. Organizations communicating effectively with key influencers via digital media can let others tell their story for them.

Positive digital media experiences can lead to building trust, goodwill and reputations. By understanding what others have experienced or what the research finds, companies can position themselves to engage, improve and/or maximize social media use.

Research in Digital Media

Digital media have impacted the practice of public relations, and hundreds of studies about social and other new or emerging media exist in the literature of psychology, sociology, business, technology, mass communication and public relations. Public relations scholar Sandra Duhé, who has extensively researched what’s been written about public relations and new media, claims these studies have focused primarily on predictions, relationships, usability, application, perceptions and concerns.

How IPR Manages the Research Center

Our process for selecting, abstracting and sharing digital media research consists of five steps:

Step #1: We identify relevant studies by reading professional and academic journals, attending conferences and otherwise seeking out new research from diverse sources.

Step #2: We select appropriate studies, articles, book chapters, and books for inclusion in the data base. Once studies and articles are identified, an academic team reviews the research to determine whether it is appropriate for inclusion in the research center. Criteria for inclusion are: a clear focus on some aspect of digital media, high quality of the research methodology and overall research project, significance of the findings and “newsworthiness,” among other factors. In particular we seek articles that will be relevant to those practicing public relations.

Step #3: We work closely authors of appropriate articles to prepare a professional overview for each selected article. This includes brief summary of the study and methodology along with key findings, implications for practice and a link for the full article or text, when available. Not all research articles are freely available online.

Step #4: We enter the research overview and document/link into the appropriate research center topical category so that it is available. As the database expands we will ensure that all new entries are headlined on the research center’s home page.

Step #5: We evaluate use of this research center by regularly monitoring the: 1) number of visitors to the site, 2) frequency of visits to particular research documents, 3) number of downloads, 4) comments of visitors to the site, and 5) other measures that may allow us to continuously improve the site and its value.

IPR Digital Media Research Steering Committee

The Institute for Public Relations and its Digital Media Research Team are grateful for the support provided to this project by the following organizations:

  • APCO Worldwide
  • Hormel
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Rockwell Automation
  • Southern Company

Digital Media Research Team

Marcia W. DiStaso, Ph.D., APR, is the Director of the Digital Media Research Center and an Assistant Professor of Public Relations in the College of Communications at Pennsylvania State University. She is a Senior Research Fellow of the Arthur W. Page Center, Chair of the PRSA Financial Communications Section, and Co-Chair of the PRSA National Research Committee. Her research focuses on exploring and informing the practice of social media, financial communication and investor relations. She serves on the Editorial Review Board of Public Relations Journal and is a member of the Research Advisory Committee of the International Public Relations Research Conference. She is a past recipient of IPR’s Ketchum Excellence in Public Relations Research Award and was recently recognized as a Promising Professor by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Prior to entering academia she worked in the global investment industry. She also has worked in agency, nonprofit and university public relations. Her Ph.D. degree is from the University of Miami. She also holds an M.A. degree in mass communications and a B.A. degree in economics from the University of South Florida. Her M.A. thesis won the IPR’s Northwestern Mutual Masters Thesis Competition.

Carolyn Mae Kim, Ph.D., APR, is the Chief Research Editor and an Assistant Professor of Public Relations in the Department of Journalism, Media and Public Relations at Biola University. Her research interests include digital strategy, social media, public relations pedagogy and credibility. In addition to her textbook that focuses on social media campaigns, journal articles and book chapters, Kim has presented her research at numerous academic and professional conferences. She currently serves in leadership with the AEJMC Public Relations Division, on the Executive Committee for the PRSA Educators Academy, and as a co-chair for the Commission on Public Relations Education. She developed and launched the public relations major at Biola, including rebuilding their PRSSA Chapter and designing a nationally affiliated student run firm. She has received awards from PRSA National, Orange County PRSA, AEJMC PRD, and the AEJMC Small Programs Interest Group due to her scholarship and teaching. Her background includes working in agency and in-house settings, focused primarily on non-profits as well as small businesses. She is a national speaker who regularly addresses audiences on the topics of social media and digital communication. She received her PhD in communication from Regent University, writing her dissertation on organizational credibility within social media. She received her MA and BA from Biola University.

Digital Media Research Center Advisory Committee