Institute for Public Relations
The third annual Institute for Public Relations (IPR) “Disinformation in Society” study examines and tracks how disinformation — defined as deliberately misleading or biased information — is spread in U.S. society. The poll of 2,200 Americans was conducted Nov. 10-14, 2021 by Morning Consult, and new to this year’s study are the impact of disinformation on topics such as COVID-19, vaccinations, and elections.

Some of the key findings:
  • More than two-thirds of Americans on both sides of the political aisle believe disinformation and misinformation are “major problems” in society, a significant jump from 63% in 2020 to 69% this year.
  • Disinformation was perceived to be a bigger problem than infectious disease outbreaks, terrorism, and climate change.
  • 72% of respondents agreed that disinformation will prolong COVID-19, and nearly that same percentage (73%) said that a lot of disinformation exists about the COVID-19 vaccination.
  • 71% of respondents said disinformation increases the polarization of political parties, while 63% said it infringes on human rights.
  • 52% of respondents said encountering disinformation makes them feel anxious or stressed.
  • Republicans and Democrats find common ground in local news sources but still differ in other areas. 
  • Mainstream media outlets saw starkly different perceptions of trustworthiness based on political affiliation by as much as 40 percentage points.
  • Both Republicans and Democrats agree local sources are trustworthy, specifically local broadcast news (64%) and local newspapers (63%).

Thanks to our sponsors Public Affairs Council and the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication for supporting this research.

Institute for Public Relations
IPR is featuring some of the many Black American pioneers and landmark events to celebrate Black History Month.

Born in Atlanta, Texas, on January 26, 1892, Bessie Coleman was the first African American and Native American female pilot. Her mother, Susan Coleman, was an African American maid, and her father George Coleman was a sharecropper of mixed Native American and African American descent. Coleman attended the Colored Agricultural and Normal University (now Langston University) in Langston, Okla., but had to drop out after only one semester because she could not afford to attend.

At 23, Coleman moved to Chicago, to live with her brothers. She learned from her brother that women were able to become pilots in France, which was not yet possible in America. Coleman applied to many aviation schools was accepted at the Caudron Brothers' School of Aviation in Le Crotoy, France. She received her international pilot’s license on June 15, 1921, from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. 

In 1922, Coleman performed the first public flight by an African American woman. She toured the country giving flight lessons, performing in-flight shows, and she encouraged African Americans and women to learn how to fly. In February 1923, Coleman survived her first major airplane accident in which her engine suddenly stopped working and she crashed. She was badly hurt in the accident and suffered a broken leg, a few cracked ribs, and cuts on her face, but was able to fully heal from her injuries. This accident did not stop her from flying. She went back to performing dangerous air tricks in 1925 until she died in an accident on April 30, 1926.

Cassandra Hayes, Texas Tech University, Cision Insights Fellowship Winner
The world of politics has seen its fair share of dark PR campaigns, where powerful groups have launched targeted investigations and spread warped information to tear down reputations. However, with the ease of message dissemination due to social media—and related difficulty of correcting misinformation—the widespread use of dark PR has become a big worry.

As part of my recent fellowship with Cision’s Insights team, I carried out a narrative analysis to examine the structure, elements, and dissemination of dark PR stories in social media conversations about the Newsom recall election. My analysis provides lessons to guide PR practitioners in combating destructive campaigns against individuals, organizations, and brands.

Using Brandwatch’s digital tool that allows for sorting and tracking vast amounts of traditional, digital, and social media content, I examined 1.12 million social media mentions from Aug. 1 – Nov. 30, 2021, relating to the Newsom recall election.

Recommendations for PR practitioners facing dark PR narratives include:
  • Recognize that dark PR stories work through allusions.
  • Stay above the fray.
  • Use competing narratives to your advantage.
  • Have brand reputation management strategies at the ready.
  • Know the distinct qualities of quest narratives.

The Harris Poll and Grammarly
The Harris Poll and Grammarly examined the barriers to collaboration, productivity, and output in the hybrid work era.

A survey of 251 business leaders and 1,001 knowledge workers in the U.S. was conducted Oct. 1–28, 2021.

Key findings include:
  • Poor communication is costing businesses $1.2 trillion annually.
  • 96% of business leaders agree that effective communication is essential for delivering the business results expected of their team in the coming year, but 74% of leaders say their company underestimates the cost of poor communication.
  • 75% of business leaders say they spend too much time and energy resolving miscommunications.
  • 92% of businesses who grew revenue in the last year said their team communicates effectively compared to 81% of those whose revenue declined or did not change.
  • Knowledge workers said the top challenges they face in communication at work are "receiving timely responses from others" (49%) and "communicating clearly so everyone understands my message" (37%).

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