Date of Award

Summer 8-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Chair

Dr. Jae-Hwa Shin

Committee Chair Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 2

Dr. Christopher Campbell

Committee Member 2 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 3

Dr. David Davies

Committee Member 3 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 4

Dr. Vanessa Murphree

Committee Member 4 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Committee Member 5

Dr. Fei Xue

Committee Member 5 Department

Mass Communication and Journalism

Abstract

The primary purpose of this study is to describe public relations programs in state and local government-based health departments nationwide. Using the H1N1 communications and public relations activities as a frame, or basis of comparison, this study will further seek to identify if Contingency Theory of public relations may be an apt descriptor of public relations activities during this particular response effort. This study uses Contingency Theory as a theoretical perspective to explain the strategic management of the organization-public relationships and add to the body of knowledge about Contingency Theory of public relations in the field of health communications. Contingency Theory has been tested in other areas of for-profit and nonprofit sectors, but not specifically in the field of health communication.

While the practice of public relations in the field of health care has been studied extensively, most work has centered on pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and other health care facilities. The work performed in state and local public health departments has been rarely examined, other than to review which campaigns prove effective in what areas, primarily in the development of campaigns to measure or improve a particular health indicator. Previous studies in the area of public health have tended to focus on specific aspects of campaigns rather than the general practice of public relations in public health. This study examines the practice of public relations in public health to describe and explain the approach taken with various publics and to determine if Contingency Theory proves appropriate as a descriptor of practice. This study will add to the body of knowledge by linking public relations to public health and in building public relations theory by beginning to test Contingency Theory in the area of public health.

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