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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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differences among the two (Z=0.37, p0.05). An additional non-parametric test (Mann-Whitney) that compared the response time of businesses and nonprofit associations to the second attempt also did not reveal any significant differences (Z=1.36, p0.05). Although no significant differences were found among the response time of businesses and nonprofit associations, the findings indicated that a large gap existed between the average response time of businesses (M=2266.77) and the average response time of nonprofit associations (M=3292.08). In order to detect the source of these differences, we divided the response time into four separate time periods: responses that arrived within 0−1 hours, 1−3 hours, 3−24 hours, and more than 24 hours (Table 4).

Table 4: Responsiveness time periods of businesses and nonprofit associations

–  –  –

The time period divisions reveal that although the differences between the number of businesses and nonprofit associations that responded within the different time periods is not significant, more nonprofit associations than businesses responded within the first and the fourth time periods. In other words, more nonprofit associations than businesses were very fast or very slow to respond. Furthermore, when analyzing only the responses that arrived after one week (N=48), the findings indicate that most of those responses (72.9%, n=35) were from nonprofit associations located on the “tail” of the distribution.

Number of responses The vast majority of businesses and nonprofit associations (87.5%, n=699) sent only one e-mail message as a response to the online request for information. Only 12.5% (n=100) of the businesses and nonprofit associations sent 2−18 messages. (overall mean=1.30 messages;

median=1.00 messages; mode=1 message; SD=1.34).

A Chi-square test reveals no significant differences among the average number of responses sent by a business or a nonprofit association (χ2 (1) = 1.26, p0.05).

Phone calls One hundred twenty-one phone calls were received during the period of the field experiment. Sixty-seven phone calls were received after sending the first request for information, and 54 were received after sending the second request for information. Since the calls were intentionally not answered, we do not know exactly which businesses or nonprofit associations called and how many times. It seems that several organizations left a message on the cell phone, but the messages could not be detected, probably because of the long period that passed from the beginning of the field experiment until the analysis of the results (approximately three months).

38 Hypothesis and research questions A cross tabulation and a Chi-square test revealed that nonprofit associations were significantly (p0.001) more responsive than businesses. H1 was rejected.

In addition, a non-parametric test (Mann-Whitney) did not reveal a significant difference (p0.05) among the time of response of businesses and nonprofit associations, although an interaction was detected among the nonprofit associations themselves: nonprofit associations that responded to the second attempt responded significantly (p0.01) more slowly than nonprofit associations that responded to the first attempt. The findings also revealed that most businesses and nonprofit associations responded by sending only one e-mail message.

Number of dialogic elements and responsiveness rates Research question 2 (RQ2) asked whether businesses and nonprofit associations with more dialogic Web sites were also more responsive than businesses and nonprofit associations with less dialogic Web sites. In order to answer this question, the findings of a previous study (Avidar, 2009) were used. The study content analyzed the dialogic elements (elements that enable two-way communication) in the Web sites of the same 1200 businesses and nonprofit associations that were explored in the current study. The content analysis was based on a codebook that contained 13 dialogic elements, divided to Web 1.0 elements (elements that did not allow the user to add content to the Web page) and Web 2.0 dialogic elements (elements that enabled the user to add content to the Web page). The Web 1.0 dialogic elements included: email and/or contact form, giving donations, volunteering, mailing list and/or customer/membership club, a toll free telephone number, online purchase mechanism, surveys and/or voting; and the Web 2.0 dialogic elements included: user-generated text, blog, social network, user generated podcast and/or vidcast and/or photo sharing, wiki and/or micro blogging, forum and/or chat room (Avidar, 2009).

Two independent samples t-tests were conducted. The first t-test that included only the businesses revealed that there was a significant difference between the amount of dialogic elements found in the Web sites of businesses that responded to the request for information and businesses that did not respond to the request for information (t (502) = 3.16, p0.01).

A second independent samples t-test was conducted for nonprofit associations. The t-test revealed that there was a significant difference between the number of dialogic elements found in the Web sites of nonprofit associations that responded to the request for information and nonprofit associations that did not respond to the request (t (243) = 4.69, p0.001).

When exploring response times, two non-parametric tests (Mann-Whitney) were conducted in order to reveal whether the response time of businesses and nonprofit associations with more dialogic Web sites was faster than the response time of businesses and nonprofit associations with less dialogic Web sites.





The dialogic elements were divided into two groups: Web sites with 1-2 elements (68% of the cases) and Web sites with 3-8 elements (32% of the cases).

The first non-parametric test (Mann-Whitney) did not reveal any significant difference among the response time of businesses with more or less dialogic Web sites (Z=1.09, p0.05).

Similarly, the second non-parametric test (Mann-Whitney) did not reveal any significant difference among the response time of nonprofit associations (n=426) with more or less dialogic Web sites (Z=0.26, p0.05).

39 Hypothesis and research question 2(1) Two independent samples t-test revealed that businesses and nonprofit associations with more dialogic Web sites were significantly more responsive than businesses and nonprofit associations with less dialogic Web sites. H2(1) was supported.

In addition, no significant difference (p0.05) was found among the time of response of businesses and nonprofit associations with more or less dialogic Web sites.

The inclusion of Web 2.0 dialogic elements and responsiveness rates Two Chi-square tests were conducted in order to find out whether businesses and nonprofit associations that included Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites were more responsive than businesses and nonprofit associations that did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites.

The first Chi-square test did not reveal any significant difference among the responsiveness rates of businesses that included or did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites (χ2 (1) = 3.08, p0.05).

A second Chi-square test did reveal a significant difference among the responsiveness rates of nonprofit associations that included or did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites. Nonprofit associations that included Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites were significantly more responsive than nonprofit associations that did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites (χ2 (1) = 5.57, p0.05).

As for response times, two non-parametric tests (Mann-Whitney) were conducted in order to reveal whether businesses and nonprofit associations that included Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites responded faster than businesses and nonprofit associations that did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites.

The first non-parametric test (Mann-Whitney) did not reveal a significant difference among the response times of businesses that included or did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites (Z=0.24, p0.05). A second non-parametric test (Mann-Whitney) also did not reveal a significant difference among the response times of nonprofit associations that included or did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites (Z=0.39, p0.05).

Hypothesis and research question 2(2) A Chi-square test did not reveal a significant difference among the responsiveness rates of businesses that included or did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites. A second Chi-square test did reveal a significant (p0.05) difference among the responsiveness rates of nonprofit associations that included or did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites, while nonprofit associations that included Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites were significantly (p0.05) more responsive than nonprofit associations that did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites. H2(2) was partially supported.

In addition, no significant difference was found among the response times of businesses and nonprofit associations that included or did not include Web 2.0 dialogic elements in their Web sites.

Discussion This study was based on a field experiment among 1,200 businesses and nonprofit associations. Its aim was to reveal whether businesses and nonprofit associations were actually responding to an online query sent to them by an individual member of a public.

Responsiveness rates Two-thirds (66.6%, n=799) of all the requests for information received responses.

Nonprofit associations performed better than businesses and demonstrated higher rates of 40 responsiveness. These findings suggest that a request for information is a “summons” that invites an “answer” in order to complete a “summons−answer” pair (Schegloff, 1968). Indeed, compared to other studies previously mentioned, Israeli businesses and nonprofit associations demonstrated rates of responsiveness that were equal to or high than those of organizations worldwide. This is true especially for nonprofit associations that were reported in various studies to have low responsiveness rates (Taylor et al., 2001; Kent et al., 2003), and in this study they demonstrated a responsiveness rate of 71.0%. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that while in the other studies only one request for information was sent, in the current study, two requests were sent, and only 57.0% (n=684) of the businesses and nonprofit associations responded to the first request. Hence, an individual member of a public who sends only one e-mail message to an organization has almost an equal chance of receiving or not receiving a response.

Although two-thirds of the requests received responses, we cannot ignore the fact that one-third of the organizations did not respond or the messages sent to them bounced back. Since these businesses and nonprofit associations do not know the sender and had no previous contact with her, they could not know whether she was a potential investor, donor, volunteer, customer, or a member of any of their strategic publics. Nevertheless, they simply ignored her request.

According to Dwyer, Schurr and Oh (1987), relationships evolve through five phases identified as awareness, exploration, expansion, commitment, and dissolution. By not responding to an individual member of a public who tries to approach them, businesses and nonprofit associations prevent the occurrence of the second phase of relationship building, which is “exploration.” Dwyer, Schurr and Oh (1987) argue that in this stage there is a search and trial phase in relational exchange, while a trial purchase may take place, and it may be a very brief phase or include an extended period of testing and evaluation. This stage is “very fragile in the sense that minimal investment and interdependence make for simple termination” (p. 16). The exchange outcomes from the exploratory phase influence the parties’ motivation to maintain the relationship. Since population ecology theory and institutional theory (Hatch, 1997) suggest that organizations compete for publics from the same resource pool, and that in that environment choices are made about which organizations will succeed and which will fail (Mazzini, 2004), businesses and nonprofit associations that do not respond to a request for information simply play to the hands of their competitors. Hirsh (2002) stated that “countless online sales have been lost because a company did not respond in a timely manner to customer concerns that arose in the middle of the transaction process” (para. 2).

While referring to Grunig’s typology of active, aware, latent, and non-publics (Grunig, 1975, 1978), Hallahan (2004) suggested making a distinction among publics according to their level of involvement and knowledge regarding an organization; hence, there are aware publics, active publics, aroused publics, inactive publics, and non-publics. Inactive publics were defined as “stakeholder groups that demonstrate low levels of knowledge and involvement in the organization or its products, services, candidates or causes, but are important to an organization” (Hallahan, 2000, p. 499). Hallahan (2000) suggested that organizations not ignore inactive publics since they can become aware or aroused publics if the situation changes. This is especially true in the era of the Internet when individuals have a lot of power and can use Web

2.0 and social media elements in order to “tell the world” about a bad experience with a product, service, or an attitude of an organization. Similarly, “individual-to-firm” communication (Iacobucci & Ostrom, 1996) has also changed. Social media enable individual stakeholders to be informed online about organizational actions, to communicate with other stakeholders, and to 41 quickly spread rumors about an organization and its products or services (Krime, 2001). Hence, organizations should not ignore individual members of any public who try to approach them.

Since inactive publics are unlikely to initiate contact with organizations other than to satisfy routine personal needs (Hallahan, 2000), they place the burden of relationship building on organizations. The organizations have to initiate and establish communication with individual members of a public and therefore should not ignore their attempts to contact them online.



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