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«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»

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Shell, Glaxo-SmithKline, and World Vision). Some also provide tips for ensuring secured online transactions (e.g. Standard Charter). Child-oriented websites (e.g. Disney) offer online advice to parents and guardians on ensuring safe internet surfing. This development suggests that while more organisations realize the value of internet resources to advance their goals and build better relations with their publics, they are also cautious about the possible negative implications of internet use for their stakeholders, which may also affect the organisation's reputation. As organisational use of online interactive features are intensified, risks also increase for both the organisation and its online visitors.Thus, internet use by organisations for public relations needs to take into consideration features that ensure the protection of users and the security of transactions made by publics online, an aspect which seems to have received limited attention in previous studies of online public relations and can be explored in greater detail by future studies.

Table 2. Use of Web Features (2009)

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*Online shopping and donation include signing in of forms (i.e. online/pledge) and may not cover e-payment

Conclusion and Future Research

This time lag study, a snapshot of online public relations at two points in time (2004 and 2009), has yielded some interesting findings on the use of web sites by corporations and nonprofits. First, there is a marked difference in how corporations and non-profit organisations practice public relations online through the use of web sites. Second, compared to 2004, in 2009 more organizational websites had linkages to social media sites such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Third, aside from increased use of social media, more organizations used feedback mechanisms such as e-surveys and e-polls embedded in their websites, in 2009 enhancing interactions with a variety of stakeholders.

These findings also show that for the most part, both corporations and non-profit organizations generally utilize their websites as information-dissemination tools, where the information flow is one-way, although the percentage of corporations and non profits that used two-way communication has increased between 2004 and 2009. We note that two-way communication does not imply symmetry. One also has to recognize that the majority of corporations favoured two-way asymmetrical public relations, while non-profits preferred the public information model. By examining the methods that both for-profit and non-profit organisations use to engage their publics, we can see that the nature and industry of the corporation influences the choice of public relations practiced through its website. The inherent difference between corporations and non-profits makes them define their stakeholder groups differently, which seems to affect their use of web sites for public relations. Even their use of social media reflected this difference.

772 A finding that would be worthy of further study is why as of 2009 many for-profit and non-profit organizations were still a long way from fully utilizing the interactive features of social media to create, among other things, a sense of community among their respective stakeholders. One would have expected that since many of the social media applications are freely available and widely used by millions, corporations and non profits would have jumped at the opportunity to use the interactive features of social media to further enhance their relationship building efforts.

While this study included multinational corporations and non profits, it is limited in that the domestic organizations are from a single Asian country (Singapore). Future studies could do comparative research on how corporations and non profits (local and global) use social media in various countries and across regions (Asia, Africa, Latin America, etc.). Such studies could also make comparisons between developed and less developed countries (particularly assessing the impact of the Digital Divide within and among countries), to better assess the way that organizations around the world are embracing social media for public relations purposes. In addition, future studies could explore whether there are specific sectors (e.g. manufacturing, service, retailing, etc.) that seem to more aggressively embrace social media to enhance the communication with their publics. The possibilities are plentiful for research agendas on online public relations, enough to keep scholars busy for the decades.


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On January 2, 2006, explosions rocked a small coal mining town in West Virginia, trapping 13 miners in the Sago Mine. Some 41 hours later, the miners’ families and media worldwide celebrated the astonishing news that 12 men had survived the accident. As we now know, the news proved inaccurate, and only 1 of the 13 miners was found alive. This disaster captured the nation’s attention for its drama and media coverage mistakes, and in its aftermath, Congress passed tougher mine safety legislation. Ironically, that legislation has led to such a backlog of cases that repeat mine violators could go longer before being caught. 19 However, coal mining disasters are nothing new to West Virginia or the nation, and it was another highprofile coal mine disaster that had led to tougher regulations nearly 40 years before.

Even earlier, in 1946, national media were reporting on mining dangers. An Aug. 10 article that year in the Saturday Evening Post, titled “They Don’t Have to Die,” brought the profession’s dangers to light in an emotional feature spread that included the following pull quote: “Spectacular explosions and hair-raising rescues are commonplace in the coal industry.

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