I am currently enrolled in a graduate public relations program through Kent State University. The following information is part of a paper I submitted for my Public Relations Management course in spring 2013.
Relationships (and the study of how they are formed, maintained and developed) are one framework from which to examine public relations. This framework allows both academics and professionals to explore the link between pr efforts and their outcomes. And, coincidentally, it is a framework that makes total sense for examining social media in the context of public relations.
Public relations has always been about relationships. In fact, Bruning and Ledingham (1999) encourage researchers to view public relations as the “management of relationships between organizations and publics.” This perspective shifts the practice of public relations from the manipulation of public opinion toward a focus on building, nurturing and maintaining organization-public relationships.10
Social media are also about relationships: creating them, maintaining them, and growing them. Therefore, social media should be a modern pr practitioner’s dream come true. The key to success is understanding how these conversations contribute to more meaningful engagement with publics and how social media can be used in a purposeful and strategic way. Therefore, it is imperative for social media managers to have a close relationship with the organization’s leadership in order to provide the conduit between publics and management.
Social media are redefining how we relate to each other as humans and how we, as humans, relate to organizations; therefore, they are important communication channels to study. Social networks are also dramatically changing the way public relations is practiced, and are helping, “move public relations into the direction of facilitating more two-way communication by “opening up channels of communications between organizations and their publics.” Social networks provide excellent opportunities for public relations practitioners to build relationships with strategic publics.
Stanford Engineering created a digital and social media strategist position because they knew they needed some presence on social media. I am the first person to hold the position, which was created in the fall of 2011, and the only person in our school to officially communicate with our publics via social networks. So the topic of organization-public relationships within the context of social media management is of great interest to me.
In order to learn more about how my counterparts were managing social media in their engineering schools I created a 10 question survey and reached out to engineering schools via Twitter to ask them to participate in my research. Seven people, from seven engineering schools completed the survey, myself included.
The data collected via my survey were designed to provide a quick sample of current attitudes toward social media as well as management structures in engineering schools.
Although this survey provided some insight into the management of social media by engineering schools, there are still many questions to ask and to answer. Additional research should be conducted to find out why engineering schools choose to create accounts on particular social networks and to examine their strategic goals for these channels as they pertain to the overall organizational goals and the function of public relations.
Brian Solis, “The Essential Guide to Social Media.” Accessed April 22, 2013, http://www.briansolis.com/2008/06/essential-guide-to-social-media-free/.
Brian Solis and Deirdre K. Breakenridge, “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media Is Reinventing The Aging Business of PR.” (New Jersey: Person Education, 2009.
Bruning, Stephen D., and John A. Ledingham. “Relationships between organizations and publics: Development of a multi-dimensional organization-public relationship scale.” Public Relations Review 25, no. 2 (1999): 157-170.
Donald K. Wright and Michelle D. Hinson, “How Blogs and Social Media are Changing Public Relations and the Way it is Practiced.” Public Relations Journal 2, no. 2 (Spring 2008): 1-21.
Jim Macnamara, “Social Media Strategy and Governance,” Sept. 2011, 4.
Larissa A. Grunig, James E. Grunig, and William P. Ehling. “What is an effective organization.” Excellence in public relations and communication management, 1992.
Larissa A. Grunig, James E. Grunig and David M. Dozier, “Excellent public relations and effective organizations: A study of communications management in three
countries.” (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002), 156.
Linda Hon, “How Public Relations Knowledge Has Entered Public Relations Practice.” In The Future of Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management, ed. Elizabeth L. Toth. (New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates,2007.
Mary Ann. Ferguson, “Building theory in public relations:
Interorganizational relationships” (paper presented to the Association for
Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Gainesville, Florida, August, 1984).
Nora Ganim Barnes and A. M. Lescault. “Social media adoption soars as higher-ed experiments and reevaluates its use of new communications tools.” Center for Marketing Research. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, North Dartmouth, MA (2011).
Robert J. Key, “How the PR Profession Can Flourish in this New Digital Age: Why You Must Challenge Old PR Models.” Public Relations Tactics, 12, no. 11(2005): 19.