The European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA), a body of academic institutions, researchers and senior professionals in the field of strategic communication with nearly 500 members from 40 countries, has awarded authors for their excellent research in strategic communication at the EUPRERA annual congress in Zagreb, on September 27. The congress is known as the major gathering of scholars and professionals interested in advancing the profession of public relations and corporate communications on the continent, hosted this year by University of Zagreb in Croatia.

Academic awards for research on
communication strategies to activate citizens,
Twitter as a lobbying tool, communication in Disaster Management

EUPRERA Best Paper Awards were given to the authors of three papers with the highest rankings in a two-stage, blind peer-review process performed by a scientific committee of renowned international scholars, headed by Sabine Einwiller from University of Wien in Austria. Sabine Einwiller, Head of the scientific committee, and Ralph Tench, EUPRERA President, delivered the awards for the three winning papers:

“Small But Mighty. Communication Strategies Of Dutch Local Energy Initiatives” by Petrus ter Halle, Pascal de Vries, Liesbeth Hermans.
The paper addresses the role of communication strategies in activating citizens in private Local Energy Initiatives (LEIs) to stimulate engagement in a common social cause. In phase one, authors interviewed representatives of LEIs to then, in phase two, extend and deepen the insights by presenting them to other LEIs using dedicated workshops. It shows that LEIs do not appear to have a clear communication strategy, but elements of such a strategy are readily identifiable, and LEIs activate enormous civic potential. The paper is very innovative with a high level of practical significance and an inspiring methodological approach.

“The Democratic Success of Twitter as a Lobbying tool” by Øyvind Ihlen, Ketil Raknes, Anders O. Larson.
The paper discusses the contribution of Twitter to democratic goals of engagement and debate by asking “What type of interest groups and organizations succeed in having members of parliament react on (retweet) their Twitter messages?”. To answer this question, the authors analyzed the extent to which Norwegian politicians retweet messages from interest groups and lobbyists during normal parliamentary activity. Despite the touted democratic potential of Twitter, the researchers find that it is the powerful groups and organizations that get heard more by politicians, also on Twitter. The paper is excellently written with solid links to the relevant literature and sound methodology.

“Building Community Resilience: Strategic Communication in Disaster Management”, by Gayadini Imesha Dharmasena Madho Kandage, Margalit Toledano, Kay Weaver.
The authors analyze the use of strategic communication for building community resilience to natural disasters in two different socio-cultural contexts, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Based on 50 in-depth interviews of communication managers in government and non-profit organizations involved in disaster management, it shows that Sri Lanka has a fatalistic approach to disasters relying on collectivistic values, while in New Zealand the challenge is to persuade people to seek help from others and to be familiar with good sources of help and information. This highly interesting paper has a solid theoretical basis, sound methodology and contributes to our understanding of building community resilience in different cultures.

Moreover, Emerald Group Publishing, publisher of Journal of Communication Management, presented the yearly Emerald Professional Impact Award for the best research-based paper that is not only academically sound, but which makes an important and useful contribution to the practice of communication management. The paper addresses issues of current concern to managers and also successfully discusses the research’s implications to managers and for practice. The winning paper is:

“Happy or End: The Role of Strategic Communication in Start-ups”, by Markus Wiesenberg, Alexander Hagen Godulla, Katharina Tengler, Inga-Marit Noelle, Julia Kloss, Natalie Klein and David Eeckhout.
The paper is based on very sound theorizing, and takes an effort to ground the research in wider concepts and theoretical discussions that go beyond a mere observation of startup communication. Based on a systematic literature, the authors chose a qualitative-explorative approach reflecting the external perspective of consultants and funders as well as the internal perspective with start-up founders and the communication managers (where existent). Results reveal eight areas in which start-ups face strategic communication challenges including the basic orientation of strategic communication. This is an excellent paper combining a tight theoretical framework with practical and professional impact.

Special recognition to the best reviewer

EUPRERA Best Reviewer Award recognizes the work done by the reviewer because it is an essential contribution to the quality and the success of the annual congress. The scientific committee identified as this year’s winner:

Grazia Murtarelli from IULM University, Milano, Italy, who has contributed to careful, thorough and useful reviews.