How public relations executives perceive and measure the impact of social media in organizations

DiStaso, Marcia W.; McCorkindale, Tina; & Wright, Donald K. (2011). How public relations executives perceive and measure the impact of social media in organizations. Public Relations Review, 37, 325-328.

Decisions about social media in organizations are not made lightly. Corporate executives are faced with an ever changing and in many cases, uncontrollable opportunity with social media. This study provides insights obtained from 25 interviews with communication and public relations executives to identify their opinions about what drives social media in organizations, what challenges they face, and what questions they have about social media and its measurement.

Method

Qualitative web-based interviews of 25 public relations and communication executives conducted in May and June 2010 by the Social Media Understanding Group (a group composed of academic and executive social media subject matter experts). Interview participants included members of the Board of Trustees of the Arthur W. Page Society, Board of Trustees for the Institute for Public Relations, and four participants in the Future Leaders Program of the Arthur W. Page Society.

Key findings

1)      The most common challenge executives faced was accepting the lack of control associated with social media, especially in regulated industries. Staying current with the rapidly changing social media environment was another challenge.

2)      Understanding the drivers of change and learning best practices were two critical areas executives wanted to know more about.

3)      Measurement was an important consideration for executives in terms of the best way to connect it to behavioral outcomes and strategy, rather than just reach.

Implications for practice

Most executives interviewed understood the importance and value of engaging with their stakeholders on social media sites. Companies must find effective ways to measure social media that is not focused merely on impressions or reach, but rather impact. This may require training employees on effective social media use through social media policies and/or training programs. Using best practices and insights, companies must be prepared to efficiently and strategically navigate through the ever changing landscape of social media tools as each day brings new forms of social media.

Article Location

The full article is available for purchase at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811111000750

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