Q&A with Dr. Hyojung Park

Posted by on Nov 8, 2017 in Cover Stories, MEL Notes Blog | 0 comments

Below, Dr. Park discusses her research, her research process, and what she wants her students to know about research. 


Dr. Park received her Ph.D. in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia and her dissertation focused on crisis communication. Before that, she received a Master’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Georgia, and another Master’s degree in Communications from Korea University in Seoul. Her B.S. was in Mathematics from Kyung Hee University, also in Seoul. Her research areas are crisis communication, health communication, and strategic communication. She is an associate professor at the Manship School of Mass Communication in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Hyojung park

MEL: How did you originally become interested in doing academic research about mass communication?

Dr. Park: My major during undergraduate studies was mathematics. I found that mathematics was not my thing, so I took a Mass Communication class as a Junior. I became very interested in advertising and public relations, and how the strategies would work in getting peoples attention and changing their behaviors and perceptions. So I collaborated on a research project with a faculty member at Korea University, and he was interested in knowing about how consumers were getting engaged with their favorite brands. During that study, I became interested in being a scholar in Mass Communication, so I went to graduate school at Korea University. During that time I found myself wanting to come to the United States to study public relations, so that was my background about how I became interested in doing academic research.


MEL: Could you discuss your work on corporate social responsibility communication

Dr. Park: Specifically focusing on public relations topics, my primary area of research is corporate communication, and so one of my recent studies was on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) communication. And I wanted to examine how participatory CSR programs versus traditional CSR programs shape people’s perceptions about CSR and their attitudes towards a company doing CSR activities and their willingness to collaborate with a company to promote goodwill in the society. So, I used the Facebook setting. The condition was a company doing a participatory CSR campaign by inviting customers to their social media campaign and asked them to share their CSR messages to other people in their social networks. And then I compared that condition with the condition in which a company ties their good deeds to other people. I found that people feel more valued in the participatory CSR program because they feel they are part of doing a good thing for society. And so in that way, they are more willing to share CSR messages and encourage other people to participate in the same CSR campaigns. So there is a practical implication for companies to use in their future CSR programs. The CSR campaigns can create values for the company and also values for society and on the part of the consumers.


MEL: Could you tell me about the findings in your recently published article, “One size does not fit all: Health Audience Segmentation and Prediction of Health Behaviors in Cancer Prevention”?

Dr. Park: So I did a study with one of my Ph.D. students. We used secondary data, so we didn’t collect our own data to examine health audience segmentation. But in that study, we wanted to investigate how practitioners can segment health audiences into smaller manageable groups to better target people in need. Cancer is one of the important causes of death in America, but there are ways for us to help them better manage their health and also prevent from getting cancer sometime during their lifetime. Based on demographics and psychographics we divided them into 3 different segments. We found that people who are less educated and earn less money than other people were less likely to care about their health status. And they tend to think that their health is not quite good. But, they don’t have resources to manage their health by getting health information, and also their health literacy is kind of low compared to people in other segments. So we need health campaigns or health interventions to educate them on how to eat and how to exercise and how to manage their health to prevent from getting cancer.


MEL: What motivated you to study cancer prevention communication strategies?

Dr. Park: I participated in a big research grant project when I was a Ph.D. student in Missouri and one of the big topics on that project was health literacy, so how to promote health literacy in society. Also, one of the specific topics that we looked at was how health organizations were communicating with people in a society to address health literacy issues. So, definitely, we need a collaboration with organizations and groups and people in different segments of society. So, health organizations can be liaisons between media and ordinary lay people because sometimes health information is too difficult to understand for a lay person. So health organizations make the information more digestible for people and media can deliver important information to people in the society. So the concept of health literacy is what got me into this topic.


MEL: Could you briefly describe your general research process? How do you get ideas?

Dr. Park: So I get research ideas from different sources. One is from journal articles that are recently published. They usually have suggestions for future research studies. So if I find a topic in that journal article really interesting, I will examine that topic further. And also I get research ideas from my own, personal observations. So several years ago when I was a student and when social media was so new, still new, in the field, I did a study about how organizations can use twitter differently by posting their social media team. I compared a human presence condition and an organizational presence condition. I got the idea for that study from the staples twitter page because at the time they displayed their social media team members on their twitter page and they posted tweets with their names on it. I found that really interesting and useful to study because we can know what kind of strategies and what kind of approaches companies use are actually grabbing people’s attention and promoting their purchase intention or intention to engage in interactive communication with companies.


MEL: How have you used the Media Effects Lab for your research in the past?

Dr. Park:  I’ve used the subject pool several times before. But I would use it if I were to do some research on how people process different types of messages. For example, with different message frames, I would measure their facial expressions or maybe I could measure heart rate because when people see different messages in different frames they consume those messages in different ways. Individuals information processing may result in different perceptions of the messages and different perceptions of an issue featured in those messages. I collected video data several years ago when I was a student at Missouri. So I participated in a big project where we measured heart rate and actually we measured how muscles on the face were moving when they were browsing on social media and searching for some information on Facebook. And there were different conditions, and their perceptions and cognitive process like emotions were different when students were browsing Facebook posts compared to when they were actively involved in searing for certain information.


MEL: Could you briefly discuss what you are currently working on?

Dr. Park: In relation to the CSR study I talked about, I am planning on doing a study on how companies can use crowdsourcing as part of their CSR campaign. A lot of companies these days are inviting their loyal customers or active social media users to share their ideas for doing something good. Like, working on some causes. In that way, companies can create goodwill in the society by working together with consumers. Another project I am doing right now is I’m collaborating with some faculty at other institutions and also KDI school of policy and management in Korea, and we are looking at how people are willing to adopt government social media sites to get information about emerging risks, and we are also measuring their willingness to interact with the government. The government can be one of the credible sources in a crisis situation and also for risk management. We have collected data, but we haven’t analyzed the data fully yet, but one of the primary findings was that initial trust is important. So when people have high levels of trust towards a government, they are more likely to trust information given by the government. And they are more likely to be willing to adopt social media sites to get information about emerging risks and also they are more likely to ask questions and contact government officials through social media.


MEL: What topics do you hope to research in the future?

Dr. Park: I have a bigger picture for a future CSR project. So consumers part is really important in promoting goodwill in society. Of course, companies have to collaborate with consumers. There has been a perception that companies want to make more money by presenting how good they are in doing CSR activities. But they are not really self-serving because they are doing those good activities and good deeds both for the companies and for society. So, they have the potential to create goodwill and also they can do bigger things for society. Companies are important in that process and consumers can be active participants in those CSR campaigns. Employees are also important, and they are one of the internal publics of the companies. And so employees and companies and consumers can collaborate together for a good cause in society. And so I want to do some type of survey with employees and maybe a field experiment.


MEL: What would you want your students to know about research?

Dr. Park: Research can be beneficial for actual practice. So, as a student I felt that when I was in Korea and working as an intern and a full-time employee for a short period of time I felt that there was a lack of appreciation for research-based and theory based strategies, so I want students to know that research is not just for academic or theory building purposes. Research can be beneficial for practice as well because it can broaden our knowledge about how strategies will work on target audiences and also theory and research can make suggestions for policy change. So for example, media violence research can provide implications that violent media may have negative influence on children as well as adults. And so then the policy makers can make laws and regulations against violent content and programs that children watch. So in that case we can get insight and better understanding about how media content works in the real life. And also how can we change people’s behavior, in the context of health communication, and help them manage their life better.


Mentioned articles:

Kim, Soo-Yeon & Park, Hyojung. (2011). Corporate Social Responsibility as an Organizational Attractiveness for Prospective Public Relations Practitioners. Journal of Business Ethics, 103, 639-653.

Myoung-Gi Chon & Hyojung Park (2017). One does not fit all: Health audience segmentation and prediction of health behaviors in cancer prevention. Health Marketing Quarterly, 34(3), 202-216.

Park, Hyojung & Lee, Hyunmin. (2013). Show Us You Are Real: The Effect of Human-Versus-Organizational Presence on Online Relationship Building Through Social Networking Sites. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking, 16(4), 265-271.