Public Relations Journal

Editor's Column: Public Relations Journal — Vol. 9, No. 4

February 2, 2016

Welcome to the Winter 2015 edition of Public Relations Journal. This issue contains six articles that should offer good reading. The PR Journal is an avenue where scholarly research and professional application come together to advance the profession; therefore, we hope that all professionals as well as academics who read these articles can benefit from what is included here. 

As our dynamic world accelerates the complexities of communications, inspiring leadership becomes ever important to the field. The ongoing studies headed up by Bruce Berger of the University of Alabama offer a critical barometer into public relations leadership. Leading off this issue, Shirley Serini and Diane Krider add another component to the research. Their article, Millennials and Public Relations Leadership in the 21st Century, suggests that the traditional paths into leadership in the industry are no longer sufficient. Due to relatively small numbers of Generation X’ers (between Baby Boomers and Millennials), Millennials will be pushed into leadership positions much sooner than their predecessors. Will they be prepared to handle these responsibilities? The article recounts a large-scale study of PRSA members to help answer that question.

Related to leadership is the analytical thinking of stakeholder management. In Exploring a Process Model for Stakeholder Management, Hyun Soon Park and communication consultant Yun Hee Lee combine stakeholder relations and issues management theories to provide intriguing insights into both areas of the practice. They note the difference between issue attention and issue processing. Attention argues that issues arise from media coverage, leaving stakeholders to react. In issue processing, by contrast, issues are framed by the stakeholders themselves (which may include but is not limited to media). This worldview sees an organization’s environment as highly dynamic, rather than static and reactive, and challenges the notion that organizations can choose or prioritize stakeholders when they have no idea when or from where stakeholders may arise.

Also in the realm of leadership is the handling of internal communication as more Millennials enter the workforce. Marlene Neill, in Emerging Issues in Internal Communications, interviews executives in marketing, public relations and human resources to identify challenges and opportunities of these changes for internal communicators. Trends include the emergence of internal social media channels and programs to implement and measure employee engagement. Her study looks at the strengths and weaknesses of different organizational structures for internal communication, and she suggests that public relations seems to be leading internal communications initiatives in close collaboration with human resources and executive management. She also reports that internal communication is becoming a strategic function and is shifting from one-way communication to more complex communications processes.

Two of the articles delve into crisis communication in a world where crises seem to be occurring more frequently.

In Student Evaluations of a University Crisis Communication Response, Tatjana Hocke-Mirzashvili, Stephanie Kelly, and Patrick MacDonald assess communications when a gunman was reported on the campus of North Carolina A&T in 2013—later proven to be a student with an umbrella instead of a rifle protruding from his backpack. One of the intriguing aspects of this paper is its introduction of a paracrisis—one that is nothing more than a threat but which can be equally important in terms of communication. In this case, students viewed university emails positively when they were off campus and saw the emails before receiving any other information. Students who received messages from non-university sources, and were usually on campus, evaluated the university response negatively. Social media also played a large role as information sources, increasing the number of voices in the crisis.

Erika Johnson and Seoyeon Hong explore the role of social media in crisis response. In Social Media as a Loudspeaker for Nike, they examine the tone of consumer comments on Facebook after Nike had technical problems with its Nike Plus Sports Kit and issued an apology through its online platform, Nike Running. The authors’ study reveals that consumers seemed to respond to Nike when they felt that Nike’s was responsible for the crisis. However, such attribution of responsibility did not seem to generate any stronger emotional venting from the consumers involved. Thus, attribution of responsibility may be of concern to an organization when using social media; however, corrective action by that company may quell emotional reaction over social media.

The final article, Conceptualizing Credibility in Social Media Spaces of Public Relations, explores how organizations employ social media to strengthen the time-tested concept of credibility. Authors Carolyn Kim and William Brown argue, “There is not an organization today that can afford to ignore the power of social media.” However, organizations need to make sure they leverage social media in a credible way that will foster strong relationships. The authors conduct a national study to re-conceptualize our understanding of credibility in the context of social media and find that trustworthiness, expertise, personable interaction and invitational rhetoric are critical dimensions for building credibility in social media interactions.

So, again, we hope you enjoy these articles as you read through them. Because the PR Journal is strictly an online publication, the articles are posted for accessibility and convenience in readership. Please feel free to send us any feedback you may have about the articles and the way they are presented here.

Rob Wakefield
Editor

Robert I. Wakefield, Ph.D., APR, is the editor of the Public Relations Journal. Wakefield is an associate professor with the Department of Communication at Brigham Young University. He has been chair of PRSA’s International Section and served as a consultant to PRSA’s Global Initiatives Committee.
Email: publicrelationsjournal at gmail.com

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