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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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Respondents were asked to assess their own competence in four different technology applications on a 5-point Likert scale where 1 indicated “not at all competent” and 5 indicated “completely competent.” The average score (M= 3.44, S.D.=.97) shows that respondents believed that they were more than “somewhat competent” but less than “quite competent.” Respondents felt the most competent was technology and visual literacy such as their competence to use the internet or manage desktop publishing. They felt the least competent to design and layout messages using new media such as updating websites. Table 1 shows respondents’ competence level for each area.

Table 1. Competence towards new media (n=170)

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Perceived significance of new technologies among PR practitioners Respondents reported the perceived significance of each technology tool by indicating how common of a public relations tool they believe each technology might be in 5 years.

Respondents believed that all of the 21 technology tools would be “quite common” (M = 3.96, S.D.= 1.05) in 5 years. However, respondents foresaw that some technologies would be more common than others. Ten most common technology tools in their predictions: web browsing (M =4.67, S.D.=.57), e-mail (M =4.59, S.D.=.74), video sharing (M = 4.42, S.D.=.779), text messaging (M = 4.40, S.D.=.94), blogs (M = 4.39, S.D. =.82), social networking (M = 4.37, S.D.=.88), intranet (M =.436, S.D.=.90), RSS (M = 4.33, S.D.=.1.01), podcast (M = 4.22, S.D.=.854), and photo sharing (M = 4.19, S.D.=.98) tools.

The technology tools ranked low on this question: virtual world (M= 3.33, S.D.= 1.92), gaming (M= 3.38, S.D.= 1.87), audio/video editing (M= 3.97, S.D.= 1.08), video conferencing (M= 4.01, S.D.=.99), wikis (M= 4.04, S.D.= 1.22), photo editing (M= 4.08, S.D.=.92), web page production (M= 4.08, S.D.= 1.01), social event (M= 4.09, S.D.= 1.17), layout tools (M= 4.12, S.D.=.10), social bookmarking (M= 4.14, S.D.= 1.36) tools.

The relationship between technology use and respondent characteristics

To determine the relationship between respondent characteristics such as age, gender, education, work experiences, and job titles and their technology use, statistics of association were utilized. Unlike other studies that found males tend to use new technologies more frequently than females (e.g., Eyrich et al., 2008), this study found that there was no statistically significant relationship between gender and technology use. However, age mattered in the use of some technological tools. Younger practitioners used blogs (Pearson’s r= -.31, p.001), video sharing (Pearson’s r= -.20, p.01), micro-blogging (Pearson’s r= -.28, p.001), social 419 bookmarking (Pearson’s r= -.21, p.05), and RSS (Pearson’s r= -.22, p.01) tools. Age was not statistically associated with either deeply adopted technologies such as e-mail and web browsing or the newest technologies such as gaming and virtual reality.

Years of experience were negatively associated with two technology tools: blogs (Pearson’s r= -.22, p.01) and micro-blogging (Pearson’s r= -.18, p.05). The level of education was also negatively associated with two technology tools: e-mail (Pearson’s r= -.28, p.001) and RSS (Pearson’s r= -.18, p.05). Negative association between technology use and the two variables above might be due to the negative association between age and technology use.

Whether respondents perceive their companies as innovators when it comes to the adoption of new technology was associated with several technology tool uses. Those who believed their companies to be innovators utilized new technology tools in their work activities more frequently. They used audio/video editing (Chi-square= 30.76, df= 18, p.05), page production (Chi-square= 33.29, df= 18, p.05), blogs (Chi-square= 50.32, df= 18, p.001), podcast (Chi-square= 30.42, df= 18, p.05), video sharing (Chi-square= 35.76, df= 18, p.01), photo sharing (Chi-square= 32.45, df= 18, p.05), social networks (Chi-square= 30.64, df= 18, p.05), micro-blogging (Chi-square= 45.27, df= 18, p.001), social bookmarking (Chi-square= 34.62, df= 18, p.01), RSS (Chi-square= 29.10, df= 18, p.05), and gaming (Chi-square= 30.23, df= 18, p.05) more often than respondents who thought their companies adopt new technology slowly or very slowly.

Attitude towards the impact of technology on work

The study asked respondents to indicate on a five-point Likert scale how much they agree or disagree with eight statements that gauge the impact of technology on their work. Four statements mentioned positive impacts and the other four statements indicated negative impacts.

Overall, respondents believed that technology has had more positive than negative impacts on their work. The average score on positive impacts was 3.70, and the average score on negative impacts was 3.17 (1 indicated “strongly disagree” and 5 indicated “strongly agree”). Table 1 shows scores on each statement.

Table 2. Attitudes towards the Impact of New Technology on Work (n=152)

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Distribution of technology-related work and support for new technology use Respondents’ companies or departments took various venues to stay at the front of the new technology wave. Among those who reported how their companies distribute technologyrelated work, a quarter of the respondents stated that it was too early to tell because their companies are just starting to use the latest technologies (n= 37, 24.7%). A little more than a quarter said that everyone was doing a little of everything in their companies (n= 41, 27.3%). In a little more than 10 percent of companies, personnel specialized in the area (n= 19, 12.7%).





Another 10 percent of companies seemed to be incorporating more than one method to apply the latest technologies in their work (n= 18, 12.0%). Close to 20 percent of respondents (n= 26, 17.3%) stated that their companies do not use any of the latest technologies in their work.

In order to help them better incorporate the latest technologies to their work, respondents said on-site technology support (M= 3.73, S.D.= 1.31), at work technology training or workshop (M=3.72, S.D.= 1.17), and attending workshops or conferences (M=3.65, S.D.= 1.06) are more useful than taking university-level courses on-line (M= 3.18, S.D.= 1.37) or on-campus (M= 2.97, S.D.= 1.51).

Discussion/Conclusion

This study asked working public relations practitioners various foundational questions to diagnose their use of and attitude towards new technology in their work activities. While this study confirms some of the previous research findings, further findings in this study help us better understand how new technologies are changing public relations practitioners’ work activities. This study only measures use at the point in time it was done, early 2009. This use is rapidly changing as the Twitter use surge came in April 2009, for example.

We found that e-mail, web browsing, and intranet were most frequently utilized in public relations practitioners’ work as a majority of respondents incorporated these technologies into their work on a daily basis. Social media technologies such as text messaging, social networking, and blogs were not as widely used as e-mail or web browsing, but more than half of practitioners used them at least once a month.

While gender was not associated with technology use, two other factors were associated with how often one uses new technology. Younger respondents tended to use new technology, especially social media technology, more frequently than older practitioners. Also those people who believed their companies adopt technology early used new technology more often than those who thought their companies adopt new technology very slowly. Older practitioners often have more work experience, and they have further knowledge acquired through work experience.

Employers need to help older practitioners utilize the knowledge they acquired through experience in today’s new communication environment by helping them learn and use new technologies.

When asked how competent they are in using new media technology, respondents were highly competent to use the well-established technology (e.g., internet use), but they were less competent to apply the latest technologies (e.g., blogs, podcasts) to public relations campaigns.

As the web 2.0 media environment and its social media technology can extend and newly create venues for practitioners to build effective relationships with their public, practitioners need to work harder to actively adopt, learn about, and utilize the benefits of social media technology.

421 Social media technology rapidly changes the dynamics of the communication environment today, and audiences are becoming increasingly versatile in retrieving information in many different ways. No doubt that public relations practitioners who can determine the best ways to reach their publics and to deliver the messages in optimal ways would be most effective in communicating and building relationships with their audiences. This study found that technologies respondents used most frequently were almost identical with the technologies they were familiar with. A simple and intuitive finding it may seem, but it is a significant finding because it emphasizes the importance of training. In addition, a large number of respondents believed new technologies have mademore positive than negative impacts on their work, and respondents believed that most of the new technology items used in this study would be quite commonly used in their work in five years. These findings give us more reasons to believe that public relations practitioners would use various technologies in their work if and when they are familiar with the technology. To help practitioners perform effectively in the new media environment, employers need to search for ways to help both young and older practitioners learn new technology applications.

422

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Curtis, L., Edwards, C., Fraser, K., Gudelsky, S., Holmquist, J., Thornton, K., & Sweetser, K.

(2010). Adoption of social media for public relations by nonprofit organizations. Public Relations Review. 36, 90-92.

Eyrich, N., Padman, M., & Sweetser, K. (2008). PR practitioners’ use of social media tools and communication technology. Public Relations Review. 34 (4), 412-414.

Grillin, P. (2008). New media, new influencers, and implication for the public relations profession. Journal of New Communications Research. 2(2).

James, M. (2008). A review of the impact of new media on public relations: Challenges for terrain, practice and education. Asian Pacific Public Relations Journal. 8. 137-148.

Smith, A. (2009). Online participation in the social media era. Pew Internet & American Life Project. http://www.pewinternet.org/Presentations/2009/RTIP-Social-Media.aspx Weber, L. (2007). Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Wright, D. & Hinson, M. (2008). Examining the increasing impact of social media on the public relations practice. Institute for Public Relations. www.instituteforpr.org Wright, D. & Hinson, M. (2009a). Examining how PR practitioners actually are using social media. Public Relations Journal. 3 (3).

Wright, D. & Hinson, M. (2009b). An updated look at the impact of social media on PR practice.

Public Relations Journal. 3 (2).

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Abstract

This study investigates how both positive and negative emotions relate to stakeholders’ attributions of crisis responsibility, relational trust and intentions to seek crisis-related information. The primary purpose of this study is threefold: (a) to identify discrete emotions experienced in the context of an influenza pandemic, (b) to illuminate differential roles of positive and negative emotions in evaluating outcomes related to crisis management, and (c) to test a model predicting relationships between variables proposed to be involved in emotion-based interpretations of a crisis. Structural equation modeling was used to analyze data obtained from a survey of 429 students enrolled in a university that experienced a large H1N1 influenza outbreak.

Results provide support for a theoretically derived causal path model that explains substantial variance in the relationships between crisis responsibility, trust and information seeking.

Implications for crisis communication are discussed.

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Introduction

An outbreak of pandemic influenza would represent a major crisis on a college campus by directly involving a large number of students and bringing severe consequences for student health, academic progress, and college operations. In the fall of 2009, many universities were faced with a major outbreak of H1N1 influenza (“swine flu”). College health centers responded by devoting resources to inform and assist students in response to the crisis. While trust between an organization and its stakeholders is important in every organizational situation, trust plays a particularly important role in delivering necessary information at an early stage of a crisis.

When a crisis strikes, stakeholders who are either directly or indirectly influenced by the situation generally experience emotional reactions. Functional Emotion Theory (e.g., Eagly & Chaiken, 1993; Jorgensen, 1998) suggests that these emotions could be a critical factor that changes the dynamics of a crisis situation by framing stakeholders’ view on the issue and the organization involved in the crisis. In light of these predictions, exploring the influence of stakeholders’ emotional response to a crisis is important for further understanding the dynamics of crisis management.

Research on emotional responses to crises have focused primarily on negative emotions such as anger, sadness, and anxiety due to these emotions’ relative intensity and impact on stakeholder’s behavior (Folkman, Moskowitz, Ozer, & Park, 1997). Yet, research in social psychology (e.g., Fredrickson, Tugade, Waugh, & Larkin, 2003; Folksman & Moscowitz, 2000) emphasizes that positive emotions co-occur alongside negative emotions and play a meaningful role in the process of coping with stressful situations.



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