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Since extensive academic attention has been paid to organizational studies within recent decades, more topics associated with organizational development and leadership have been revealed and explored. This trend is specifically relevant to rapidly developing economies, such as that of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A specific topic that can be addressed in the context of UAE organizations is the relationship between media and economic impacts and event success. It can be argued that some organizations tend to perceive a dilemma of whether achieving success in specific activities or making an impact in general should be pursued. However, it can also be argued that this perception is misleading because the two notions are connected to different aspects of organizations’ operation. To research the relationship, it is necessary to explore background information, choose research methods, conduct a literature review, and discuss the results in the chosen theoretical framework.
A crucial component of any projects or any initiatives and activities aimed at attaining positive change is evaluation. The concept of evaluation refers to the ability of implementers (e.g., project teams) to confirm or disconfirm the successfulness of their efforts. However, in order to design instruments for measuring the successfulness, it is primarily necessary to define success; i.e., establish the outcomes that are pursued in a given case. Therefore, there are two separate questions that are pivotal in evaluation: “What will be considered a success?” and “How will it be established that success is achieved?” In this regard, it is important to distinguish project outputs from project outcomes (“7. Project evaluation,” n.d.). The former refers to immediate results of project activities; they may include certain products or services provided in the framework of a project. Project outcomes are derivatives of project outputs and refer to broader impacts indirectly caused by the implementation of a project.
There is a similar differentiation suggested by Napoli (2014) in the context of media. What the author refers to as media effects may include changes in beliefs and attitudes of the audience, while there is also the notion of media impacts which is “a bit more macro” (Napoli, 2014, p. 8). Media impacts are systematic outcomes that may be expressed in institutional or regulatory changes. It may be challenging to confirm causality for certain media impacts, but it is generally agreed among media theorists that mass communication can lead to systematic modifications; i.e., go beyond affecting individual perceptions. From this perspective, the notion of event success can be viewed as an effect or output: it is associated with the fulfillment of specific objectives and measured based on initial expectations and predesigned criteria. Media and economic impacts, on the other hand, are more large-scale outcomes associated with the achievement of general goals as opposed to specific objectives.
The research method adopted in the presented research is literature review. The method can be approached both quantitatively and qualitatively; the former approach allows obtaining more definitive data, such as the number of mentions of certain factors in relevant academic literature. However, for the purposes of the presented study, the qualitative approach will be adopted, as it is more flexible in terms of identifying pertinent trends and describing current developments in the way researchers, theorists, and practitioners view certain phenomena. In this context, Onwuegbuzie, Leech, and Collins (2012) refer to the method of qualitative literature review as “research synthesis” (p. 1). The method allows exploring themes and comparing them to one another for the purpose of building an integrated understanding of a given topic shared to a particular extent by researchers who study the topic. Therefore, the strength of the selected method is the researcher’s ability to approach the issue of media and economic impacts compared to event success from different theoretical perspectives, ultimately constructing an integrated perspective based on empirical studies or previous analyses.
However, the review of literature as a method has weaknesses, too; a major one is that the method can be regarded as interpretative. Since qualitative research does not normally imply the use of scales or other measurable instruments, interpretation (e.g., as part of theme analysis) plays the central role in qualitative research studies. At the same time, different interpretations can be demonstrated by different researchers, which means that a qualitative study’s reproducibility (the possibility of repeating it in a different setting by different researchers and obtaining the same results) can be undermined. This, in turn, would make the study’s accuracy and reliability questionable. However, to avoid jeopardizing the reliability of research results in the presented study, the researcher will commit to a lower degree of using the interpretative approach and a higher degree of referring to specific findings and theoretical frameworks provided in the relevant academic literature.
Literature used in the review was found through online services that allow accessing academic publications (the Google Scholar service primarily). Various word combinations were used to ensure that the results are relevant to the selected topic: first of all, these combinations included “media impacts,” “economic impacts,” and “event success.” However, variations, such as “event successfulness,” were used, too, in order to ensure that relevant studies are not overlooked. Two major inclusion criteria were used: the articles must provide data related to the UAE and be published not earlier than 2012. Out of the results of this search, four articles were selected that addressed the issue of interest from different perspectives, including perspectives from different industries.
It was established in the search for literature process that the two industries that were often discussed in the context of media and economic impacts as opposed to event success in the UAE were tourism and public relations. Concerning the former, it is evident that, while consisting of certain events (which often attract tourists in larger numbers than normally), it also has sociocultural and economic effects on host regions. Zaidan (2016) explored the perceptions of Dubai residents of tourists, cultural differences between tourists and themselves, and the impacts of tourism on the country in general. The author found that the perceptions of cultural differences were not significantly correlated with the perceptions of either positive or negative effects of the tourism industry. However, the mixed study with the use of both qualitative and quantitative methods revealed that no respondents denied the impacts of tourism on their lives and their country.
In the context of the relationship between such impacts and event success, it is important that the study by Zaidan (2016) showed the perspective of Dubai residents on events as short-term occurrences that nonetheless have lasting effects on the economy. For example, a certain positive influence was recognized, and the effect that was most frequently referred to by the respondents as positive was improved quality of life followed by “[b]ecoming more proud of their city” (Zaidan, 2016, p. 109). Also, the contributions made to the infrastructure by the development of the tourism industry (such as an increased number of leisure locations and shopping facilities) were acknowledged. However, the residents recognized negative impacts as well, such as higher prices and cultural conflicts. Therefore, event success expressed in a large number of tourists, large amounts of money they spend in the UAE, and higher expectations for more tourists in the future does not necessarily lead to positive economic impacts in the long term from the locals’ perspective.
In compliance with these results, Prabhu and Subramanian (2015) examined the tourism industry in the country, too, noting that this is the most rapidly growing national tourism industry in the world. The authors specifically explored sports events and pursued analyzing the way such events and the flow of tourists they attract impact on the UAE economically. Media impacts that were identified in the study included an increased number of viewers and tourists, as the media coverage of such events was a strong factor in attracting new audiences. However, it was also found that, although more and more people were coming to the UAE for sports events, they tended to stay in the country for shorter and shorter periods. Possible explanations for this tendency include “a lack of room availability for longer stay or… having to split their [tourists’] loyalty in the tourist destinations” (Prabhu & Subramanian, 2015, p. 5); along with this, hotels’ revenues significantly increased during the period of observation.
If the number of people coming to the UAE for tourism purposes and the quality of their stay are considered to be criteria for measuring event success, the authors suggest that the country currently demonstrates favorable results in terms of achieving such success in various examples. In terms of media impacts, Prabhu and Subramanian (2015) refer to the UAE’s prospect of hosting the world’s largest sports events in the future. From this perspective, event success is regarded as a contributor to the development of an industry. Therefore, the authors do not imply that event success and media/economic impacts are either unlinked or negatively correlated; instead, it is suggested that a higher level of event success and an increased frequency of it constitute media and economic impacts on the country.
Another UAE industry, in which the relationship between media and economic impacts and event success has been addressed by the selected studies, is the public relations industry. Public relations can be seen as a field that features both ongoing processes (such as continuous communication with target audiences, which may include current and potential customers) and separate events (such as campaigns, projects, or limited-time offers). However, one-time events can rarely be expected to bring extensive benefits to organizations engaged in active public relations; instead, such organizations tend to adopt systematic approaches to their public relations efforts, and events in such approaches are seen as parts of constant communications.
Al-Jenaibi (2013) explores a specific recent development in the public relations field in the UAE: the use of social media. The author primarily states that the role of social networking services in public relations, although it has been extensively studied, is still far from being fully understood. This is particularly due to the complexity of social media as communication channels: unlike traditional (e.g., non-electronic) media, social media are not used to deliver messages and receive feedback only. Instead, they are highly interactive informational spaces, in which information is produced, exchanged, and received by all the participants with different levels of intensity and activity. This is why the evaluation of media impacts may be especially challenging. Similarly, economic impacts are hard to measure because it is not always evident that certain behaviors and actions displayed by an organization in social networking services lead directly to such economic changes as increases in sales.
At the same time, organizations in the UAE pay more and more attention today to social media as a tool they can use in their public relations initiatives. In this regard, Al-Jenaibi (2013) suggests (based on studying 40 companies that use the tool) that organizations tend to see the difference between event success and impacts, and the difference is primarily associated with short-term, objective-centered results as opposed to long-term, accumulative results respectively. The latter category is comprised of socio-economic effects of social media. From this perspective, it can be argued that a strategic approach to social media public relations should consider the way messages and discourses delivered via social networking services shape the socio-economic context of the industries, in which organizations that use social media for their public relations purposes operate. Event success is a separate measurement, which is nonetheless crucial for assessing an organization’s ongoing performance.
Another perspective on the use of social media was adopted by Strong and Hareb (2012); the authors studied the behaviors of young Emirati women in social networking services. The rationale for conducting the study was the recognition of the fact that the indicated group was growingly empowered and expected to supply future leaders; moreover, more and more young women in the UAE are educated and digitally fluent. Therefore, the patterns of using social media that they demonstrate may be relevant for understanding the way they will contribute to the development of the country in the future. Strong and Hareb (2012) revealed several such patterns; however, what is particularly pertinent to the topic of interest is the media impact of social networking services in general as opposed to specific reasons for which young women may engage in the use of such services.
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It can be argued in this context that social networking services as a type of media have various impacts (including economic) not only because of the content that is shared in them but also the very form of sharing. Strong and Hareb (2012) suggest that young women often choose certain social media over other social media based on the consideration of speed; i.e., the active lifestyle is an important factor in this choice. Therefore, the use of social networking services in public relations or other fields may be seen not only as event-centered but also process-centered. The importance of the content is thus reduced, while the importance of the form (instant communication and succinct format) increases. It shows that media and economic impacts of online communication as a modern-day medium are much greater than the effects of the successfulness or unsuccessfulness of a given event.
The review of relevant literature has shown that there are different understandings demonstrated by researchers of the relationship between media and economic impacts and event success. On the one hand, it is argued that event success is determined based on initial objectives, and such success can be relevant to the current operation of an organization. However, events are parts of ongoing processes that may impact the social, cultural, and economic situation of a country in various ways. Examples from the tourism industry demonstrated above (see Literature Review) show that event success is more likely to be the result of specific activities aimed at organizing it; however, the event itself may have broader (often indirect) consequences associated with the overall development of the UAE.
Based on the presented evidence, it can be argued that the issue of greater importance (i.e., whether event success is more important or media and economic impacts are more important for organizations) is not fully relevant to organizational development. If an organization wants to prioritize one or the other and pursue either impact or success, it can be stated that the organization’s strategic planning requires improvement. As it was shown in the examples from two industries (tourism and public relations) and from the field of modern technology and communication (social media), impacts and success are regulated by different elements of the organizational development. Event success is associated with the processes of setting objectives and implementing plans. Media and economic impacts, in turn, are associated with the processes of strategic planning. The former category of processes should be aligned with the latter; however, it is not a favorable choice for organizations to deny any of the two altogether.
Limitations, Recommendations, and Conclusions
A major limitation of the presented study is the sample size. With larger samples, it will be possible to reveal more themes related to the addressed topic in future research. Also, it is possible to adopt the quantitative approach that can help researchers measure the successfulness of organizations’ efforts aimed at pursuing event success, media and economic impacts, or both. Concerning recommendations, the presented study allows recommending organizations in the UAE to develop different mechanisms within their organizational structures. Some of such mechanisms should be designed for setting objectives and ensuring that they are fulfilled during implementation. Other mechanisms, in turn, will ensure that specific activities, such as programs, projects, and campaigns, adhere to overall organizational goals and contribute to the achievement of those goals as opposed to the achievement of success in particular cases without promoting positive large-scale outcomes. Such outcomes may be related both to the organizational development and to the development of the society in which an organization operates.
The initial assumption that pursuit of event success and pursuit of media and economic impacts are related to different aspect of organizational development has been supported by relevant academic literature. Although researchers acknowledge that there is, in fact, a difference between output and outcomes (the former can be understood as success, while the latter can be understood as impact), the two are highly interconnected in the organizational context if the strategic approach to operation is adopted. Therefore, the evaluation of organizations’ activities should rely on both output and outcomes instead of relying on only one of these considerations. The strategic approach, in turn, allows linking success in particular initiatives to a broader context of impacts; i.e., large-scale changes that may not directly affect the implementing organization but still contribute to nationwide social, cultural, and economic processes in a country.
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