Associate Professor Cheryl Ann Lambert, Ph.D., conducted two research studies on different Governments' responses to the COVID-19 pandemic through a public relations lens.
The first study Dr. Lambert conducted in 2021, with the help of a doctoral student, Samuel Noi, in The College of Communication and Information at Kent State University, is titled “Credible, collaborative, cautionary: How Ghana’s government communicated about COVID-19”. Dr. Lambert and Noi presented their findings in August at the 2023 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in Washington, D.C.
“What we often think about when it comes to COVID is how these organizations communicate to individuals, and yes, that’s important,” Dr. Lambert said, “But these organizations also have a step in between.”
In the study, Lambert broke down Ghana's methods and tactics to reach that step in between that allowed them to influence the media and individuals in COVID safety.
“These health organizations were using public relations tactics and strategies,” Dr. Lambert said. “They were using press releases, speeches, statements, infographics, all of those things on their different platforms.”
They implemented these tactics and strategies on their social media, online and in-person on their news outlets. These organizations also used emotional appeals to get through to their publics.
“Ghana is a culture closely aligned with religion and taking care of those who are older in your family and honoring them,” Lambert said. “With these organizations, you had a lot of language there about how God will take care of you if you take care of others by doing things like social distancing and vaccination.”
The other study Lambert and co-author Foluke Omosun, Ph.D., conducted is titled: “Shaping the news agenda: A thematic analysis of CDC and WHO COVID-19 news and releases statements”. They presented their research at the Public Relations Society of America Educators Academy Summit at the 2022 ICON conference.
Lambert looked at how press releases and media statements from the World Health Organization and CDC utilized public relations tactics and strategies to get their information across to their publics.
“Certain language they used was meant to convey the fact that you can trust us, we’re reputable, we trust science, you can trust us. It was a simultaneous message of we’re trustworthy,” Lambert said.
Lambert noticed in both sets of studies that the organizations were working on establishing themselves as authorities so people would trust them and believe in the messages they were conveying.
“I think these (studies) can benefit PR students because they are real-world examples,” Lambert said. “It’s always beneficial to have these illustrations but also modern-day examples and to see how they work.”
Lambert is working to get both studies published so PR professionals and students can read and learn from them.