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College of Information and Communications

Faculty and Staff

Holly Overton, Ph.D.

Title: Assistant Professor
Department: School of Journalism and Mass Communications
College of Information and Communications
Phone: 803-777-5238

School of Journalism and Mass Communications
800 Sumter Street, Room 334
Columbia, SC 29208



B.A., Communication/Journalism, Shippensburg University
M.S., Communication Studies, Shippensburg University
Ph.D., Mass Communications, The Pennsylvania State University


Dr. Holly Overton teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in public relations and strategic communications. She designs her courses to encourage students to embrace critical thinking and reflection, experiential learning and practical application, diversity, and to evaluate and analyze the ways in which messages are constructed in the constantly growing and evolving field of mass communications.


Overton conducts public relations research in the areas of corporate social responsibility communication and sustainability communication with a focus on environment. Her research also focuses on examining psychological factors that impact information processing and engagement among publics, nonprofit public relations, and the persuasive impact of messages and technological factors in public relations contexts. Her work has appeared in journals including Mass Communication & SocietyPublic Relations Review, Public Relations Journal, and Journal of Promotion Management, among others. She has received multiple top paper awards for her research from AEJMC, ICA, and PRSA.

Recent Grants

Four Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication Legacy Scholar Grants.

2018: Moment of Truth: Understanding Corporate Rumors and the Psychology of Rumor Spread on Environmental Issues via Social Media (Co-PI with Fan Yang.)

2018: Understanding Native Communication of Corporate Social Responsibility. (Co-PI with Linwan Wu.)

2015: Communicating Social Responsibility: An Experimental Analysis of Message Strategies in Nonprofit and For-profit Sectors.

2014: Embracing the opportunity: How Big Ten Schools Communicate Sustainability to Key Stakeholders.

Recent Publications

Xiao, A., & Overton, H.K. (2018). Examining the impact of value orientations on CSR evaluations and expectations among U.S. and Chinese publics. Public Relations Journal, 11(4). 

Ott, H.K., & Xiao, A. (2017). Examining the role of culture in shaping public expectations of CSR communication in the United States and China. Asian Journal of Public Relations 1(1), 57-83.

Kim, J.K., Ott, H.K., Hull, K., & Choi, M. (2017). Double Play!: Examining the relationship between MLB’s Corporate Social Responsibility and sport spectators’ behavioral intentions. International Journal of Sport Communication, 10(4), 508-530. Available here»

Harrison, V., Xiao, A., Ott, H.K., & Bortree, D.S. (2017). Calling all volunteers: The role of stewardship and involvement in volunteer-organization relationships. Public Relations Review, 43(4), 872-881. Available here»

Yang, F. & Ott, H.K. (2016). What motivates the public? The power of social norms in driving public participation with organizations. Public Relations Review, 42(5), 832-842. Available here» 

Ott, H.K., Wang, R., & Bortree, D.S. (2016). Communicating sustainability online: An examination of corporate, nonprofit, and university websites. Mass Communication & Society (Climate and Sustainability Communication Special Issue), 19(5), 671-687. Available here» 


Social Event Committee Chair, Public Relations Division, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC)

At-Large Director, Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Educators Academy

Editorial Board Member, Journal of Public Interest Communications

Reviewer for academic journals including Public Relations Journal, Journal of Promotion Management, International Journal of Strategic Communication, and Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

Graduate Council, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina 

Graduate (M.A. & Ph.D.) Admissions Committee, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of South Carolina

Faculty Director, Public Relations/Strategic Communications Research Group