• Research interests

    • Deception and credibility in strategic communication
    • Public relations ethics
    • Dialogue and online publics
    • Corporate responsibility communication
    • Communication controlling
  • Short CV

    Kerstin Thummes, *1983, is an Assistant Professor of Communication Science and Strategic Communication at the University of Münster, Germany

    In 2017, she has been invited as a guest professor to the University of Greifswald, Germany. She was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland (2013-2014) and a research associate and lecturer at the University of Münster (2011-2013). Furthermore, she has been working as a lecturer at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. She obtained her PhD degree in Communication Science from the University of Münster for her work on deception in strategic communication. At that time she was awarded a doctoral fellowship by the German Academic Scholarship Foundation. She holds a degree in Applied Media Science from the University of Ilmenau, Germany, where she also worked as a student assistant at the Department of Empirical Media Research and Political Communication.

    Kerstin Thummes is currently vice chair of the Public Relations Division of the German Communication Association (DGPuK). Her work was awarded with several scientific prizes, including the Bob Heath Top Paper Award and the Albert-Oeckl-Award for best doctoral thesis. She published in Public Relations Review, International Journal of Strategic Communication and Studies in Communication and Media.

  • Awards

    • Bob Heath Top Paper Award for the Paper entitled „Veracity and Transparency as Myths. A Framework for the Analysis of Deception in Public Relations.”, awarded by the Public Relations Division of the International Communication Association, 2015
    • Sybille-Hahne-Award for Outstanding Achievements in Humanities and Social Sciences awarded by the Sybille-Hahne Foundation Münster, 2013
    • Albert-Oeckl-Award for Best Doctoral Thesis awarded by the German Association for Public Relations (Deutsche Public Relations Gesellschaft, DPRG), 2012
    • Best diploma thesis awarded by the Federal Association of German Spokespeople (Bundesverband deutscher Pressesprecher, BdP), 2008
  • Current research projects

    Professional Norms and Morality in Strategic Communication (11/2017 – 05/2019)

    Every profession is characterized by a specific culture that guides individual decision-making. In this project the influence of professional norms and expectations on moral conduct of communication professionals is analyzed. The research contributes to a better understanding of ethical decision-making in the communication and media industry. Based on the results, incentives for moral conduct will be outlined.

    Information Problems and Deception on Online Review Sites (02/2017 – 10/2018)

    This research inquires into the potential of consumer review sites and employer rating platforms to overcome information asymmetries to the disadvantage of consumers and employees. It builds on the assumption that deceptive reviews subvert the informational progress online review sites could facilitate by sharing experiences and evaluations among peers. The longitudinal study is based on online surveys and aims to propose structural solutions for information problems on online review sites.

  • Completed research projects

    Legitimacy of Corporate Deception (08/2015 – 07/2016)

    In their effort to attain legitimacy, corporations are tempted to resolve ethical dilemmas that arise from conflicting stakeholder expectations by ambiguous and misleading communication. Such processes of organizational decoupling may in turn threaten corporate legitimacy. Therefore this project explores public acceptance of deceptive corporate practices that range between the poles of veracity and lying: They involve half-truths and concealment but no blatant lies and they neglect veracity only to conform to conflicting ethical values. The analysis builds on the assumption that specific types of corporate deception fulfill protective functions, such as privacy protection, self-defense, and social cohesion, and are therefore socially accepted. Results from an experimental online survey (n = 1,417) indicate that protective functions are ascribed to corporate deception, yet participants show only moderate levels of acceptance and advocacy on behalf of the corporation.

    Dialogic Interactions in Online Public Relations via Facebook (02/2014 – 01/2016)

    While dialogue is mostly conceptualized as an ethical ideal in public relations research, in this project a framework is developed that considers a broad range of more or less demanding types of dialogic interactions in public relations. Based on the differentiation of front stage and discursive types of dialogue, results from a content analysis of Facebook fan pages (Fanpages: n = 40; Posts: n = 1,526; Dialogues: n = 1,365) indicate, that corporations engage in a variety of dialogues including customer service, small talk and normative discourse. The findings support the necessity of a broader understanding of dialogue in public relations research to fully assess the potentials and risks of dialogic practices.

    Doctoral Thesis: Deception in Strategic Communication (04/2008 – 06/2012)

    In this conceptual thesis I explored the limits of veracity and transparency as principles to support organizational legitimation by analyzing protective and malicious functions of deception in public relations. The thesis follows two objectives: 1. Defining the concept of deception from the perspective of communication science; 2. Developing a profound theoretical basis for analyzing deception in strategic communication. Both aspects address challenges, central to debates on PR credibility and on moral conduct in the profession. The argument is guided by the following research question: What are limits and potentials of deception in strategic communication?

    Based on organizational institutionalism and Goffman’s theory of impression management, it can be shown that public relations relies on deception to maintain corporate legitimacy in society. Different motives and functions of deception are systemized and transferred to public relations. The analysis reveals that deception in public relations not only serves malicious functions, but also protective functions in cases of emergencies, of threats to privacy concerns and to social cohesion.

    Diploma Thesis: Is Communication Measurable? (06/2007 – 12/2007)

    This conceptual thesis inquires the measurability of communication as a necessary precondition to apply frameworks for evaluation and controlling in strategic communication. Demands to measure the impact of intangible assets like reputation on profitability have constantly increased. However, the question, to what extent a quantitative or even monetary evaluation of communication efforts is in fact possible and reasonable remains unsolved. The thesis comprises a critical discussion of the limits of evaluation and controlling in strategic communication based on different understandings of communication, research on media effects and the explanatory power of empirical methods in social sciences.

  • Publications

    Books (Monographs)

    • Thummes, Kerstin. (). Täuschung in der strategischen Kommunikation. Eine kommunikationswissenschaftliche Analyse. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
    • Thummes K. (). Ist Kommunikation messbar? Eine kommunikationswissenschaftliche Analyse der Quantifizierbarkeit von Kommunikation und aktueller Ansätze des Kommunikations-Controllings. Berlin: Helios.


    Articles in Journals
    • Thummes Kerstin. (). In the Twilight Zone Between Veracity and Lying: A Survey on the Perceived Legitimacy of Corporate Deception in Reaction to Ethical Dilemmas. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 12(1). doi: 10.1080/1553118X.2017.1385463.
    • Röttger Ulrike, Thummes, Kerstin. (). The Perspective of Citizens on the Responsibility of Corporations: A Multidimensional Study of Responsibility Assessments. Studies in Communication Media, 6(3), 301-315.
    • Seiffert-Brockmann Jens, Thummes Kerstin. (). Self-deception in public relations. A psychological and sociological approach to the challenge of conflicting expectations. Public Relations Review, 43(1), 133-144. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pubrev.2016.12.006.
    • Thummes Kerstin. (). Zwischen Schutz und Manipulation. Eine Befragung zur Akzeptanz von Täuschungen durch Unternehmen. M&K Medien & Kommunikationswissenschaft, 64(3), 359-378. doi: 10.5771/1615-634X-2016-3-359.
    • Thummes Kerstin. (). Die Grauzone der Halbwahrheiten. Voraussetzungen für die Verantwortbarkeit täuschender PR infolge organisationaler Entkopplungen. Communicatio Socialis, 46(3-4), 419-431.
    Articles in Edited Books
    • Thummes Kerstin. (). Vertrauensbruch durch Täuschung. Eine Systematik zur Analyse des Schadensausmaßes täuschender PR. In Hoffjann Olaf, Seidenglanz René (Hrsg.), Allmächtige PR, ohnmächtige PR. Die doppelte Vertrauenskrise der PR. (S. 329-352). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
    • Thummes Kerstin, Röttger, Ulrike. (). Public Discourse on the Responsibility of Corporations. A Holistic Framework for the Analysis of Corporate Responsibility Assessments. In George, C. (Eds.), Communicating with Power. 2016 ICA Annual Conference Theme Book. (p. 99-117). New York: Peter Lang.
    • Thummes K, Malik M. (). Beteiligung und Dialog durch Facebook? Theoretische Überlegungen und empirische Befunde zur Nutzung von Facebook-Fanseiten als Dialogplattform in der Marken-PR. In Hoffjann O., Pleil T. (Hrsg.), Strategische Onlinekommunikation – Theoretische Konzepte und empirische Befunde (S. 105-130).
    • Thummes Kerstin. (). Die Notwendigkeit schützender Täuschungen in der Online-Kommunikation. Zur Gratwanderung zwischen Ehrlichkeit und Ausgrenzung im Netz. In Emmer M., Filipovic A., Schmidt J., Stapf I. (Hrsg.), Echtheit, Wahrheit, Ehrlichkeit. Authentizität in der Online-Kommunikation (S. 121-134).
    • Thummes Kerstin. (). Offenheit um jeden Preis? Konsequenzen des Strukturwandels der Öffentlichkeit für den Einsatz von Täuschungen in der strategischen Kommunikation. In Gehrau V., Röttger U. (Hrsg.), Strategische Kommunikation – Umrisse und Perspektiven eines Forschungsfeldes (S. 37-57).
    • Thummes Kerstin. (). Grenzen der Authentizität. Eine Analyse der Funktion authentitischer PR-Kommunikation. In Szyszka Peter (Hrsg.), Alles nur Theater. Authentizität und Inszenierung in der Organisationskommunikation. (S. 121-137). Köln: Halem.
  • Talks

    • Thummes K, Winkler P (): „“. Jahrestagung der DGPuK Fachgruppe PR/Organisationskommunikation, Hochschule der Medien, Stuttgart, .
    • Thummes K, Röttger U (): „“. Jahrestagung der DGPuK Fachgruppe PR/Organisationskommunikation, Hochschule der Medien, Stuttgart, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin (): „“. Jahrestagung der DGPuK-Fachgruppe Rezeptionsforschung, Universität Hohenheim, Hohenheim, Deutschland, .
    • Röttger, Ulrike; Dudenhausen, Anna; Thummes, Kerstin (): „“. Jahrestagung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Publizistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft, Düsseldorf, .
    • Eisenegger, Mark; Sandhu, Swaran; Thummes, Kerstin; Winkler, Peter (): „“. Jahrestagung der DGPuK Fachgruppe PR/Organisationskommunikation, Hannover, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin (): ‘’. EUPRERA Annual Conference, Groningen, Niederlande, .
    • Seiffert-Brockmann, Jens; Thummes, Kerstin (): ‘’. ICA Annual Conference, Fukuoka, Japan, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin; Roettger, Ulrike (): ‘’. ICA Annual Conference, Fukuoka, Japan, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin (): ‘’. ICA Annual Conference, San Juan, Puerto Rico, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin; Malik, Maja (): ‘’. ICA Preconference “Discussion, Dialogue, Discourse: Meanings and Methods”, San Juan, Puerto Rico, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin (): ‘’. EUPRERA Annual Conference, Brüssel, Belgien, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin; Malik, Maja (): „“. Jahrestagung der DGPuK-Fachgruppe PR/Organisationskommunikation, Wolfsburg, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin (): „“. Gemeinsame Jahrestagung der DGPuK-Fachgruppen Computer-vermittelte Kommunikation und Kommunikations- und Medienethik sowie des Netzwerks Medienethik, München, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin (): „“. Jahrestagung der DGPuK-Adhocgruppe Werbekommunikation, Pforzheim, .
    • Thummes, Kerstin (): „“. Jahrestagung der DGPuK-Fachgruppe PR/Organisationskommunikation, Offenburg, .