Texas Tech University

Weiwu Zhang

Associate Professor & Chairperson
Public Relations

Email: weiwu.zhang@ttu.edu

Phone: +1.806.834.5967

Research: Social media, Political, Organizational, Public relations and strategic communication

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Weiwu Zhang


I am a political communication, political public relations, and public opinion scholar with an overriding concern about utilizing communication in making democracy work. My research program attempts to answer one overarching research question: What is the role of legacy/traditional media, interpersonal communication, new and emerging media, public relations and strategic communication in politics, public opinion processes, social capital and civic engagement? I hope to contribute theoretically-driven, methodologically sound, and socially significant insight into the enhancement of democratic governance.

The problem of communication in a democracy is inherently multidimensional, complex, and incompatible at times and it pays to conceptualize and operationalize it that way from the beginning. My research avoids simple chain of cause and effect but delineateas the reality of competing sources, types of messages, messengers, and types of audiences, and different contexts. It comprehensively examines multiple causal factors: interpersonal communication, mediated communication, and public relations/strategic communication in politics, public opinion and social capital. It also investigates multiple consequences of communication and new/emerging media such as the positive effects of social media in stimulating political participation and the dark side of increasing selective exposure and political polarization. It is interdisciplinary and spans communication, journalism, public relations, psychology, sociology, and political science.

My research is grounded primarily in survey methodology in combination with relevant content analysis and experimental methods. I authored and co-authored 23 peer reviewed journal articles, two peer-reviewed book chapters, and six encyclopedia entries. I expect to grow significantly federal and private foundation grant funding to support my research and scholarship.


1. the role of legacy media, new/emerging media, and public relations media in social capital and civic engagement;

2. the role of legacy media, new/emerging media, and public relations media in political participation;

3. the role of legacy media, new/emerging media, and public relations media in political polarization;

4. examining mass communication theories developed in the legacy media era (e.g., spiral of silence) in the social media environment;

5. utilizing mixed methods (e.g., surveys, experiment, and psychophysiology) to examine various political communication, public opinion, and public relations topics.


  • Content Analysis
  • Survey

Research Areas

  • Social media
  • Political
  • Organizational
  • Public relations and strategic communication

Selected Publications

  • Zhang, W., Johnson, T., Seltzer, T., & Bichard, S. (2010). The revolution will be networked: The influence of social network sites on political attitudes and behaviors. Social Science Computer Review, 28, 75-92.

  • Seltzer, T., & Zhang, W. (2011). Toward a model of political organization-public relationships: Antecedent and cultivation strategy influence on citizens' relationships with political parties. Journal of Public Relations Research, 23(1), 24-45.

  • Gearhart, S., & Zhang, W. (2018). Same spiral, different day? Testing the spiral of silence across issue types. Communication Research, 45(1), 34-54. 

Teaching Focus

Undergraduate level:
Political public relations
Public relations writing
Applied public relations research
Applied public relations theory

Graduate level:
Mass communication theory
Advanced mass communication theory
Survey methods
Publishing academic research
Communication and public opinion
Political communication
The professoriate

Leadership & Awards

  • Fellow for AEJMC's Institute for Diverse Leadership in Journalism and Communication (2018-19)
  • Outstanding Researcher from the College of Media and Communication for the Barnie E. Rushing Jr. Faculty Distinguished Research Award, 2015
  • The Bill and Avis Ross Mass Communication Faculty Achievement Award, College of Media and Communication, Texas Tech University, 2012
  • Texas Tech University Transdisciplinary Research Academy, 2012
  • Alumni Association New Faculty Award, Texas Tech University, 2011
  • Fellow at the Institute for Inclusive Excellence, Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Community Engagement, Texas Tech University, 2011
  • The Michael G. and Marie Parkinson Award for Public Relations Scholarship, Texas Tech University, fall 2009; fall 2010; fall 2011; fall 2012
  • Editor, Communication Booknotes Quarterly (2015-2016)
  • Research Chair, Public Relations Division, AEJMC (2015; 2016)
  • President, Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research (MAPOR), 2010
  • Conference Chair, Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research, 2008