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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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This result is relevant for judging the public relations outcomes is a critical antecedent of corporate reputation. As once Davies et al. (2002) said “reputation is at the heart of a company’s success”, our research suggest that by improving public relations outcomes, a corporation can improve its reputation. In recent years, companies achieve competitiveness from being better regarded than their peers-from reputation. In this view, managers build strategic advantage by generating favorable perceptions about the company in the minds of key stakeholders (Fombrun, 2002). Especially after the financial crisis we witnessed all around the world consecutively in the last decade, we experienced that a corporation’s reputation enables corporations to survive and managers to act in a positive manner, defusing potentially difficult situations. Lastly, it is worthwhile to point out that public relations is more than disseminating the information and press agentry; it is an important management function which manages the relationships between organizations and all actors in its environment and should be considered as a strategic function.

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In this study, our aim was to collect more survey however due to the contagious swine flu; we were not allowed to visit hospital, therefore, the participant number was limited to 176.

Future research should attempt to search which factors of public relations outcomes (such as control mutuality, trust, etc.) have more impact on corporate reputation factors (emotional appeal, product/ service and etc.). Public Relations Department in any organization can benefit from these results. We believe that future research could greatly benefit from including more objectively measured variables as mediator or moderator in this model. In all these streams of research, our understanding of the impacts would be enhanced by longitudinal studies. For instance, in this case the impact of public relations outcomes on corporate reputation could be measured before TQM is applied and after TQM is in process in the hospital. This observation at different points in time may reflect that stakeholders may prefer to evaluate reputation differently. Therefore, it remains unknown whether the relationship needs manifest in this investigation would be consistent across time. Finally, future research should examine the view 831

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Aksu, A. and B. Özdemir. (2005). Individual learning and organization culture in learning organizations. Managerial Auditing Journal. 20. 4: 422- 441.

Bursalıoğlu, Z. (1987). Okul Yönetiminde Yeni Yapı ve Davranış. A.Ü. Eğitim Bilimleri Fakültesi Yayınları, 154. Ankara.

Bronn, P. S. (2007). Relationship outcomes as determinants of reputation. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 12, 4: 376-393.

Cutlip, S. M., A. H. Center and G. M. Broom. (1985). Effective Public Relations (6th edition).

Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Davies, G., R. Chung, R. V. Da Silva and S. Ropes. (2002). Corporate Reputation and Competitiveness. Routledge, London.

Dowling, G. R. (1986). Managing your corporate image. Industrial Marketing Management, 15: 109-115.

Fombrun, C. J. (1996). Reputation. Realizing value from the corporate image. Boston:

Harvard Business School Press.

Gordon, S. S., W. H. Stewart, Jr., R. Sweo and W.A. Luker (2000). Convergence versus strategic reorientation: The antecedents of fast-paced organizational change. Journal of Management. 26, 5: 911-945.

Grunig, J. E. and Hung, C. F. (2002). The effect of relationships on reputation and reputation on relations: A cognitive, behavioral study. PRSA Educator’s Academy 5th Annual International, Interdisciplinary Public Relations Research Conference, Miami, FL.

Grunig, L. A., Grunig, J. E. and Dozier, D. M. (2002). Excellent public relations and effective

organization: A study of communication management in three countries. Mahwah, NJ:

Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Grunig, J. E. and Huang, Y. (2000). From organizational effectiveness to relationship indicators: Antecedants of relationships, public relations strategies and relationship outcomes. In J. A. Ledingham and S. D. Bruning (Eds.), Public relations as relationship management: A relational approach to the study and practice of public relations, 23-53.

Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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Hagan, L. M. (2003). Public Relations, Relationships and Reputation: A Case Study of a Safe Recall in the U. S. Automotive Industry. Doctoral Thesis, University of Maryland.

Hon, C. L, and Grunig, J. E (1999). Guidelines for measuring relationships in public relations, Gainesville, FL: The Institute for Public Relations.

Hutchison S. (2001). Communicating in times of change. Strategic Communications Management. 5, 2: 28-32.

Klein, D., J. Motwani and B. Cole. (1998). Quality improvement efforts at St Mary’s Hospital: a case study. Managing Service Quality. 8, 4: 235- 40.

Koeck, C. M. (1997). Doing better: a global medical interest in Kazandjian, V.A. (Ed.), the effectiveness of CQI in health care: stories from a global perspective. ASQC Quality Press, Milwaukee, WI.

Lakhe, R.R. and R. P. Mohanty. (1994). Total quality management-concepts, evolution and acceptability in developing countries. International Journal Of Quality & Reliability Management. 11, 9: 9-33.





Ledingham, J. A. and S. D. Bruning. (1998). Relationship management in public relations:

Dimensions of an organization-public relationship. Public Relation Review, 24, 55-65.

McLaughlin, C.P. and K. N. Simpson. (1999). Does TQM/CQI work in health care?, in McLaughlin, C.P. and Kalunzy, A.D. (Eds), continuous quality improvement in health care-theory, implementation and applications. (2nd edition). Aspen Publishers, Gaithersburg, MD, 34-56.

Savas, B. S., O. Karahan and R. O. Saka (2002). Health care systems in transition.

http://www.euro.who.int/document/e79838.pdf Topalian, A. (1984). Corporate identity: beyond visual overstatements. International Journal of Advertising. 3, 1: 55-62.

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Introduction

The development of new technologies of the last twenty years has introduced essential changes regarding how people access, share and create information (Pavlik 2007). Especially, social media have opened up new ways of interactions between organizations and publics.

Several scholars have pointed out the relevance of social media for public relations in fostering two-way communications but also in terms of issues management, relationship management, environmental scanning, and story placement (e.g. Hallett 2008; Kent 2008). However, little is known about the implications of social media use in relation to organizations' promotional activities and specifically in respect to the tourism sector (L'Etang et al. 2007). Studies on viral marketing have emerged in order to explain the relevance of person-to-person conversations in consumer behaviors and attitudes towards products and brands (Dobele 2005). A long with this line of work, Kaikati and Kaikati (2004: 7) and others refer to the "growing popularity" of stealth marketing as a way to capture consumers' attention, including highly successful emotional branding campaigns (Martin & Smith 2008). However, this approach is frequently criticized for being unethical and damaging consumers' rights (Langer 2006).

Not only firms and corporations use stealth marketing approaches, but also government agencies. One recent case of covert marketing through social media is a campaign launched by VisitDenmark, the Danish National Tourism Board, which is a government agency, seeking to promote Denmark as a tourist destination. VisitDenmark posted a video on YouTube that was seemingly created by a single mother who was looking for the father of her baby boy, the result of a one-night stand with a foreign tourist. A few days after the video was posted on YouTube, it turned out that VisitDenmark was behind the campaign. While the campaign drew enormous attention of YouTube users and received coverage in Danish and foreign news media, VisitDenmark faced criticism from the Danish media on a number of issues. The goal of this paper is to illustrate the ethical implications of stealth marketing via social media and discuss the implications for VisitDenmark's relations with its primary stakeholders.

The paper is structured as follows: We will first review the literature on social media, viral and stealth marketing, in relation to tourism sector and public relations' perspectives. Next, we present the methodology behind the data collection and analysis, before we describe the case in detail and present the findings of a content analysis of news coverage of the case. Ultimately, we discuss the implications of our findings for theory and practice.

Public Relations in the Tourism Sector According to L'Etang and others (2007: 69), tourism has a “massive social, political and environmental impact on global, national and local arenas” and consequently on “community relations and social responsibility”. Nevertheless, studies on tourism and public relations are very few (L'Etang 2006; Fall & Lubbers 2004; Piggott et al. 2004) and have focused more on risk and/or crisis situations (Gonzales-Herrero & Pratt 1998; Lerbinger 1997; Beck 1992) and relate to events and their sponsorship (cf. Roche 2000; Stipp 1998). Some public relations studies have dealt with the role of tourism agencies' communication activities in promoting and marketing destinations, funding of media campaigns abroad, sustaining trade centers, promoting tourism offices and supporting the most important initiatives and facilities to attract tourism (L'Etang et 836 al. 2007; Tilson & Stacks 1997; Gold 1994). Beside the little literature on tourism and public relations, at present there is no scholarly contribution on the use of social media for tourism purposes. Public relations studies in social media have mostly focused on practitioners' adoption of social media (Eyrich et al. 2008; Kelleher 2008), the main characteristics of users of social network sites and social media tools (Diga & Kelleher 2009), and discuss the influence of the blogosphere on mainstream media and vice versa (Wallsten 2007), or investigate the attributes and trends of blog posts, comments, and trackbacks (Trammell 2005).

Public relations scholars have not yet deeply explored the dichotomy ‘tourism sector’ and ‘social media’ although today more and more travel and tourism companies have started to integrate social media into their promotional strategies (New Media Age 2009; Murray 2009).

Scholarly works in this regard come from viral marketing and online advertising. In these fields, research on social media sites, such as YouTube, Facebook and MySpace, shows that social media are an ideal platform for ads and marketing because of their characteristics and their influence on purchasing behavior (Kim et al. 2008). Among the most common reasons for using social media for marketing purposes, scholars point out their inexpensiveness and easy-to-use characteristic, their capacity to reach different virtual communities and their 'reputation' of providing 'unfiltered', as opposed to 'slick', information (Grossman 2006).

It is important to underline that, within the tourism industry, public relations and marketing are frequently conceptualized as two sides of the same coin and the functions of public relations often support marketing as publicity (Dore & Crouch 2003; Jenkins 1999; Gladwell & Wolff 1989). Hence, an organization's public relations and marketing communication efforts are frequently integrated, so that promotional activities do not clash with relationship building. In order to seize the contribution of public relations for the tourism sector, we shall look at the role of marketing strategies in relation to social media environments.

Publicity in viral environments

Marketing activities in online networks are classified as viral marketing when they are “unpaid peer-to-peer communication of provocative content originating from an identified sponsor using the Internet to persuade or influence an audience to pass along the content to others” (Porter & Golan 2006: 33). The goal of viral marketing is to “manufacture a marketing message—typically online and in a tangible format such as a video clip or e-mail—that can spread among consumers quickly and exponentially” (Balter & Butman 2006: 49).

Viral marketing strategies have encountered certain popularity not only by profit-making organizations. According to some recent studies on political campaigns and the use of ‘viral videos’ had somehow influenced the campaign agenda as well as persuaded undecided voters and mobilized supporters to take decisions (Heldman 2007; Gueorguieva 2008; Wallsten 2008).

Previous research on the use of the Internet as a tool to promote and facilitate political participation have focused on issues of trust and intimacy in online networking (Boyd 2003), participants’ strategic representation of their selves to others (Boyd 2004; Donath & Boyd 2004), and harvesting online social network profiles to obtain a distributed recommender system (Liu & Maes 2005). However, no research has been conducted so far on the use and impact of viral contents on tourism in social network sites.

837 A parallel marketing approach is stealth marketing, also known as shill, undercover, or masked marketing (Balter & Butman 2006; Petty & Andrews 2008). Stealth marketing is defined as all hidden marketing activities that fail to disclose information on the relationship between the sender of the massage and the company that produces or sponsors the marketing message (Martin & Smith, 2008; Balter & Butman 2006; Kaikati & Kaikati 2004). The goal of stealth marketing is to create a buzz about a product or service, by making people talk about it and by making conversations easier to take place.



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