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McCorkindale awarded 2013-14 social media research grant

BOONE—Tina McCorkindale, assistant professor of communication at Appalachian State University, has been awarded a grant from the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication at Pennsylvania State University for 2013-14. The $6,000 grant will support a collaborative project that focuses on ethics in corporate social responsibility and social media.

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Penn State awarded 15 grants totaling $79,343, and named 20 communication researchers and teachers worldwide as recipients this year.

McCorkindale and her co-investigator, Dr. Marcia DiStaso of Penn State will complete a project titled “Does Ethics Matter? An Analysis of How Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts of Facebook Affect Stakeholder Perceptions and Intended Behavior,” will examine how companies use Facebook posts to promote their products or services while engaging with the community through corporate social responsibility (CSR), or an organization’s philanthropy or social projects for promoting goodwill.

Some businesses choose to give back to the community through donating money to certain causes, volunteering their time and expertise, or partnering with non-profits, McCorkindale said.

“What we want to see is whether corporate social responsibility posts (on Facebook) actually impact public perception of the organization,” McCorkindale said. “Little research has been done on corporate social responsibility and social media, so I think it will be interesting to see what the public perceives.”

Corporate social responsibility poses ethical issues, McCorkindale said, and there’s a debate among researchers whether CSR actually impacts the bottom line or perception of the organization. Another ethical question is whether it matters what the motivation of the company is as long as it gives back to the community in which it operates. “Ethics is at the cornerstone of everything anyone in business should do so it is really important to study social media and CSR from this standpoint,” said McCorkindale.

This is the second time McCorkindale has received a grant from the Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication. Her last project was a solo venture called “Clouded Transparency: An Analysis of the Perspectives and Policies of Social Media in Organizations.” She interviewed top social media managers to find out how their organizations were managing social media, both internally and externally.

McCorkindale consults nonprofits and Fortune 50 companies, serves as the chair for the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Educators Academy and co-chairs PRSA’s National Research Committee. She is a committee member of PRSA’s MBA Initiative, a research advisory board member for the International Public Relations Research Conference and an associate editor for the Social Science of Social Media Research Center. She received her Ph.D. in communication from the University of Miami, her master’s degree in corporate communication from the University of South Alabama and her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi.

McCorkindale has published multiple articles with her frequent co-author DiStaso, an assistant professor of public relations. DiStaso has taught since 2002 and has more than 10 years of practical experience, including positions in corporate nonprofit and agency public relations.

The Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication is a research center at the Penn State College of Communications that is dedicated to the study of ethics in corporate and public communication.