Dr. Ferguson has been a professor in the University of Florida ’s College of Journalism and Communications for 27 years. She teaches public relations research methods, ethics and social responsibility, and corporate social responsibility. She is an expert in applied communication research methods. Professor Ferguson has directed many large-scale social evaluation research and needs assessment projects on tobacco, gambling, environmental health, health communication, and disaster planning, as well as statewide opinion polls for Florida newspapers, city and county governments, the university, and numerous associations. Overall, she has been awarded more than $1.3 million in grants while at the University of Florida. Most recently she supervised a large-scale eyetrack content analysis project of 600 readers of print and online news for The Poynter Institute.
Industry Expertise (3)
Public Relations and Communications
Areas of Expertise (16)
Experimental Applied Research Methods
Applied Research and Evaluation
Corporate Social Responsibility
Public Relations Campaign
Public Relations Research
Content Analysis Methods
Survey Research Methods
Public Relations Strategy
Proactive Versus Reactive CSR in a Crisis: An Impression Management PerspectiveInternational Journal of Business Communication
Hyejoon Rim, Mary Ann T Ferguson
2020 This study investigates the effects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices on protecting and restoring company reputation in crisis situations. The results suggest the ability of proactive CSR to counter potential damage to corporate reputation caused by a crisis but not to serve as a remedy after a crisis. The findings further indicate a significant interaction effect between crisis type and the fit of reactive CSR for a company without proactive CSR. For a preventable crisis, a company is better off choosing low-fit reactive CSR than not engaging in reactive CSR at all. In a victim crisis, low-fit reactive CSR is more effective in improving company reputation than high-fit reactive CSR. When a company has been previously engaged in proactive CSR, the impact of fit across crisis types disappears. The mediating role of perceived altruism suggests the importance of sincerity in CSR.
How CEO Social Media Disclosure and Gender Affect Perceived CEO Attributes, Relationship Investment, and Engagement IntentionJournalism & Mass Communication Quarterly
Cen April Yue, Yoo Jin Chung, Tom Kelleher, Amanda S Bradshaw, Mary Ann Ferguson
2020 How does a chief executive officer (CEO)’s social media content disclosure on Twitter affect perceived CEO attributes, relationship investment, and public engagement, and to what extent does the CEO’s gender (male vs. female) moderate how publics evaluate content disclosures? A 2 (CEO gender: male vs. female) × 4 (level of disclosure: 100% corporate vs. 70% corporate and 30% personal vs. 30% corporate and 70% personal vs. 100% personal disclosure) between-subject experimental design was used to address these questions with a random sample of 465 adult Twitter users in the United States. Results showed that posts that featured high personal disclosure did not increase the perceived likability or competence of the CEO. Nor did CEO gender impact these outcomes. However, CEO professional disclosure proved to be an effective means to gain high levels of perceived relationship investment from publics. Finally, publics may hold implicit gender bias in cognitive (i.e., perceived relationship investment) and behavioral evaluation (i.e., engagement intention) of a female CEO.
Toward effective CSR communication in controversial industry sectorsJournal of Marketing Communications
Baobao Song, Jing Wen, Mary Ann Ferguson
2020 This study is aimed to unveil the effects of philanthropic corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs on consumers’ perceptions toward CSR communication from corporations in ‘issue-riddled’ controversial industries, compared to noncontroversial industries. Particularly, this study examines how industry sector controversy, corporate reputation, and CSR company-cause fit jointly affect the outcomes of CSR communication. A total of 307 participants participated in a 2 × 2 × 2 between-subjects factorial experiment. The study finds that corporate reputation interacts with industry sector to influence consumers’ attitude and behavioral intention. The effects of company-cause fit on CSR outcomes are overshadowed by corporate reputation and industry sector. This study implies that CSR communication could shorten the attitude gap between corporations in controversial and noncontroversial industries. More importantly, compared to employing specific communication tactics, maintaining good corporate reputation is more important for corporations in controversial industry sectors to enhance communication effectiveness. For companies with good corporate reputation in controversial industries, shifting reputation management strategy to industry reputation management can improve the effectiveness of CSR communication.
Examining the Effects of Internal Communication and Emotional Culture on Employees’ Organizational IdentificationInternational Journal of Business Communication
Cen April Yue, Linjuan Rita Men, Mary Ann Ferguson
2020 As one of the first empirical attempts investigating the emerging role of positive emotional culture within organizations, the study examined how a symmetrical internal communication system and leaders’ use of motivating language contribute to fostering a positive emotional culture featured by joy, companionate love, pride, and gratitude. Furthermore, the study examined the linkage between a positive emotional culture and employees’ organizational identification. A quantitative online survey was conducted with 482 full-time employees in the United States. Results showed that both symmetrical internal communication and leaders’ use of motivating language, including meaning making, empathetic, and direction-giving languages, induced employees’ perception of a positive emotional culture of joy, companionate love, pride, and gratitude, which in turn enhanced employees’ organizational identification. Positive emotional culture fully mediated the impact of corporate and leadership communications on employee identification with the organization. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed.
Bridging transformational leadership, transparent communication, and employee openness to change: The mediating role of trustPublic Relations Review
Cen April Yue, Linjuan Rita Men, Mary Ann Ferguson
2019 Based on a random sample of employees (n = 439) in the United States, this study examined the effect of transformational leadership and transparent organizational communication on cultivating employee organizational trust during an organizational change event. We also investigated the interplay between transformational leadership, transparent communication, and organizational trust, and their impact on employee openness to change. The findings suggested that transformational leadership and transparent communication were positively associated with employee organizational trust, which in turn, positively influenced employee openness to change. Theoretical and managerial contributions of the study were discussed.