Weilu Zhang

Doctoral Student

Weilu Zhang is a Ph.D. candidate (ABD) in strategic communication at the Missouri School of Journalism. Her research explores and validates a theoretical model for emerging technology (i.e., artificial intelligence, AI) in digital advertising by applying advertising and persuasion theories. Her research utilizes methods mainly from quantitative traditions. As a scholar, she is devoted to understanding the antecedents of AI advertising in promoting desirable persuasion outcomes, as well as the drawbacks and ethical concerns when applying AI into persuasion. Her dissertation, Human vs. Machine as message source in advertising: examining the persuasiveness of brand influencer type and the mediating role of source credibility for advertising effectiveness in social media, has received a research award provided by the AEJMC advertising division and a Graduate Student Research Grant from MU.

Weilu teaches J4952 Strategic Communication Research I. She is devoted to helping her students gain essential knowledge and skills in persuasive messaging and strategic planning and research, meeting needs for the rapidly changing media environment due to technology development. She also provides emotional supports for her students to success, as one student of her previous students commented, “Weilu is a great teacher. She is very approachable, genuine, nice and encouraging. To me, she was all of the things you would want in a good teacher.”

Weilu has also actively collaborated in interdisciplinary contexts, including research regarding health and science communication (e.g., opioids, STEM research communication training), working with Dr. Shelly Rodgers as a collaborator, data analyst, and research assistant on her NSF, CDC, and USDA grants. She also strives to understand diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues in the strategic communication field. Across the research projects she participated in, she studied group hostility toward the Asian community due to politicizing the COVID-19 crisis, gender stereotyping in cancer narrative campaigns, racial discrimination in social media’s ethnic affinity targeting tool, and the gender/racial disparity in social media scholarly performance. She believes that applying scientific research methods to identify the problems, search for viable ways to promote social justice, and ultimately make society more inclusive are the best ways to contribute as a scholar in the long run.

To better connect to the advertising industry, Weilu took part in the “VCU ad camp” in the summer, 2021. She serves as a strategic planner in her team to develop a communication strategy for the non-profit organization, Buy from A Black Women, getting more donations to support black women-owned businesses. This experience kept her updated on the newest development of the industry so that she could better serve her students and get fresh perspectives in research. Her team earned first place in the competition with their campaign “The missing half for the black women-led business.”


Zhang, W., Hu, L., & Park, J. (in press). Politics Go “Viral”: A Computational Text Analysis of the Public Attribution and Attitude Regarding the COVID-19 Crisis and Governmental Responses on Twitter. Social Science Computer Review. Online First. https://doi.org/10.1177/08944393211053743

Rodgers, S., & Zhang, W. (2021). Evaluating Reliability of Google Scholar, Scopus and Web of Science a Study of Faculty in U.S. Advertising and Public Relations Programs. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator.Online First. https://doi.org/10.1177/10776958211064687

Academic Conferences

Zhang, W., Tsou, T., Belobrovkina, E. & Rodgers, S. (Accepted). Fighting Cancer “Like a Girl” and “Taking it Like a Man:” Examining Gender Stereotypes in Online Breast and Prostate Cancer PSAs. American Academy of Advertising (AAA) Annual Conference. March 24-27. St. Petersburg, FL.

Zhang, W., & Rodgers, S., (2021). “Examining Black/African Americans’ persuasion knowledge and coping of advertisers’ use of ethnic affinity targeting in social media.” American Academy of Advertising (AAA) Annual Conference, virtual, March 18-20.

Zhang, W., Hu, L., & Park, J. (2020) “When Virus Goes Political: A Computerized Text Analysis of Crisis Attribution on COVID-19 Pandemic.” Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication (AEJMC) Annual Conference, virtual, Aug 6-9.

Tsou, T., & Zhang, W. (2015) “Humanizing Brands Get Back Fire – How Anthropomorphization, Crisis Type, and Response Strategy Impact Brands in Crisis.” the International Conference on Research in Advertising (ICORIA), European Advertising Association Annual Conference, London, United Kingdom; July 2–4.

Tsou, T., & Zhang, W. (2014) “To Open or to Close? The Effect of Consumers’ Need for Closure on Message Design in Openness Advertisements.” International Communication Association Regional Conference, Brisbane, Australia; October 1–3.

Zhang, W. (2014) “The Effect of the Strength of the Arguments and Consumers’ Need for Cognitive Closure on Message Design in Metaphor Advertisements.” International Forum on Public Relations and Advertising, Bangkok, Thailand; August 13–15. (in Chinese)

Updated: January 18, 2022