There's never been a more challenging time to to be in public relations. The media landscape seems to change daily. The rise of blogs and e-magazines has fragmented public awareness like never before. The dominance of social networks like Facebook and Twitter has blurred the line between editor and reader. Graduate students in this field have the opportunity to do research that will make a meaningful contribution to answering questions that practitioners in the field are obsessing about right now.

Characteristics of Viral Messages

It's any PR exec's wildest dream: having a message catch fire and spread overnight across the world via the Internet. But what is it exactly that makes a message "go viral?" Can viral messages be engineered and controlled? Are there negative impacts to having a campaign go viral? Is the loss of message control worth the global notoriety? Much research needs to be done to answer these questions. Content analysis of viral messages can yield a wealth of material for grad students.

Following/Friending Preferences

Marketers in all industries are rushing to establish Facebook pages and are tweeting their every move. But promoting campaigns on social media does little good if you've got no friends or followers. What kinds of consumers friend or follow commercial personae on social networks? What are they looking for? How does friending behavior breakout by age, income, ethnicity and other important demographics? Many PR practitioners wish they had the answers to questions like these.

The Role of Social Media

"Integrated marketing communications" has been a catch phrase now for almost two decades. What are the best practices for integrating social media messaging into a company's overall marcom strategy? How do social media messages reinforce--or detract from--the general campaign's communication goals? What strategies should be used to plan the timing of social media campaigns in product and service roll-outs? This field is in its infancy and ripe for useful research by graduate students.

Online Video

We know that hot videos on YouTube and other Internet video services can cause a story to break through to the traditional print and broadcast media. But not all videos with millions of views capture the attention of the press. What kind of popular Internet videos wind up gaining traditional media coverage? What are some of their pertinent characteristics? Content analysis and interviews with editors could be the source of valuable insights in this important media phenomenon.