The field of public relations has been identified by scholars as a very dynamic industry that has been under constant change. This change has been warranted by the particular fact that the target population that public relations depends on is always exposed to a number of environmental factors that are in themselves changing.
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The fact that there has been a constant change in the field has meant that professionals in the field have had to review their practices to suit the demands of their target population. This has kept them on their toes, which has ensured that they apply a certain level of creativity in their daily practices.
While some people may identify the volatility in the field as an uncertainty, others may note that it is encourages positive change, which in turn ensures efficiency and cost effectiveness in customer service (Evans and McKee, 2010). This paper seeks to explore how the proposed Big Brother legislation impact Public Relations with regards to social networking sites.
Businesses all over the world have been applying public relations techniques to keep in touch with their customers. This is often geared at increasing customer satisfaction as well as customer loyalty, which in turn translates to increased profits as well as secured revenue flows for the company (Evans and McKee, 2010).
The current popularity of social media has changed communication not only between individuals, but also among corporate (Loh, 2006). This has warranted its adoption in the public relations strategies of companies as they seek to reach more customers in the market.
The advent of social media as a communication platform has provided businesses with a cheap and more reliable form of communication that has been identified to produce even better results than the previously adopted forms of communication. Some of the commonly used social media sites include Facebook, Twitter,Linkedin, MySpace and YouTube (Barfield and Welfens, 2003).
These have been identified to be quite popular especially with the youth. It is identified that every company is currently trying to capture a huge following of the youthful population in their market so as to take advantage of their loyalty for future revenue flows (Laudon and Traver, 2007).
While the social networking field may be identified to be quite liberalized and free, a couple of recent legislations are threatening to undermine this autonomy through restrictions and regulations. These have been identified as outright threats not only to the free communication of people, but also to that of corporate.
The need to ensure that these legislations do not see the light of day has forced a number of organizations to sponsor some rather radical campaigns aimed at discouraging the support of their enactment.
While the reasons raised by the legislators on their campaigns may identify to be valid to some point, they still remain a threat to free speech and development of the social networks. The impact of such legislations has, however, been identified by some analysts to be less of a threat on the business community since they are mainly targeted at issues of national security.
The need to understand the impact of the legislations on the field of public relations lies in the need to identify efficient forms of communication that will ensure that a company interacts with its customers in a cost effective way (Loh, 2006). It is identified that the public relations department in every company is responsible for identifying and receiving customer complaints as well as giving the appropriate feedback.
The more people that a company can communicate on a one-on-one basis with, the more successful their public relations strategies are (Laudon and Traver, 2007). The need to communicate directly with more people is not limited to the public relations department alone as it is also a major concern for the marking department in their endeavor to fulfill the company’s marketing strategies.
The need to increase customer satisfaction often forces companies to invest in communication infrastructure that will make them reach as many people as possible (Barfield and Welfens, 2003).
The current developments in technology that have warranted the development of the internet has reduced the amount of money invested in communication as well as increased the number of people that are communicated to and the efficiency of the communication in terms of quality (Evans and McKee, 2010).
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According to Evans and McKee 2010, social media is a platform that has salvaged the field of public relations from increased challenges as previous communication platforms only allowed the customers to communicate between them, leaving the business to play the role of a spectator who is unable to salvage the situation (Evans and McKee, 2010).
The advent of social media has allowed organization to control both positive and negative information about them that may be circulating in the market.
This has allowed them to maximize the impact of positive information while at the same time reducing the impact of negative information in the market (Doyle, 2002). Companies are in a position to clarify negative information that may be in the market or at times contact the source of the negative information directly and try to resolve any inefficiency that the person may have had with the company’s goods or services.
Social networks also serve as a cheap marketing tool where customers who are satisfied with good services or products from a particular company, recommend the same to their family and friends (Anderson, 2010). This has a multiplying effect where more people recommend the same to their friends and increase the number of customers that a company serves in the market.
Customer satisfaction is one aspect of public relations that most organizations are keen on improving and upholding. Most organizations engage in social media conversations so as to identify the personal needs of their customers and ensure that they fulfill them.
The fulfilling of personal needs is often identified to increase customer satisfaction and build customer loyalty, which in turn translates to future revenue flows and market security as well as an increased competitive edge in the market (Miletsky, 2010). It is also identified that the communication between a company and its customers is often valued in market as the customer identifies more with the company and becomes more loyal.
Loyal customers are harder to poach and any competitors that may be advancing on to such a loyal market will obviously have a harder time marketing their products to the loyal population (Anderson, 2010). The need to understand market forces also leads market researcher to scrutinize the social media traffic on particular companies through key word searches (Laudon and Traver, 2007).
The understanding of these market forces then allows companies to make major decisions on how best to serve the market and increase customer satisfaction through the serving of customer needs that their competitors are yet to identify and serve (Doyle, 2002).
This particular debate is not limited to the corporate scene as it is identified that the particular legislations that are being suggested may have a negative impact on the democracy of the country in regard to the freedom of speech and association (Evans and McKee, 2010). It has also been identified that the right to privacy may be compromised as the personal communication between individuals will be scrutinized.
What is, however, unclear is the particular autonomy that the corporate world has enjoyed in regard to communication (Tuten, 2008). While some people may identify that the information associated with corporate may not be identified as a risk against national security, there is still a need to ensure that there is as little interference in the communication as possible.
The need to reduce the effects of this legislation has warranted a number of reviews, but this has not had the desired success in increasing its popularity among the corporate as well as the general population (Laudon and Traver, 2007). This is mainly because the legislators have ignored the basic principle that ensures the development of social networks all over the world, which is autonomy (Müller, 2011).
The freedom to say anything that one may want to say at anytime and about anyone has often led people to appreciate social networks more than any other forms of communication. The current generation is identified to be quite jittery about any personal information that may be leaked to a third party especially in a network that guarantees their anonymity (Miletsky, 2010).
The breeching of this anonymity has the negative effect of discouraging people from engaging in any conversation over unsecure platforms, which would then end up making the platform redundant (Laudon and Traver, 2007). The redundancy that may be experienced after reduced traffic on social sited may kill social sites, which would not only be a loss to the society as a whole, but also the organizations that have grown to depend on them in their communication with their customers and clients.
According to Müller 2011, the problem lies in the particular perception that the population will have on the use of social media in communication. It is identified that social media as a platform to communicate with the environment, has thrived on the fact that it has given people the freedom of expressing themselves in a number of ways that they were not able to in the past.
The fact that this has also come at an almost negligible cost to them has increased its popularity even further. The undermining of the basic principles that ensure the efficiency of the social networks as well as their popularity will eventually discourage people from using them (Miletsky, 2010).
This will in turn make social networks an obsolete platform of communication, which will then result in its shunning by public relations officials (Tuten, 2008). The lack of a viable communication platform that is cheap and efficient will obviously have a negative impact on the public relations strategies of a company.
Some of the obvious implications will be the lack of customer satisfaction as well as the lack of control over the information that circulates in the market. The field of public relations is identified to thrive in the availability of information (Laudon and Traver, 2007).
The more recent the information, the better placed a public relations team is in dealing with their customers as well as potential customers in the market.
Social media has helped organizations in keeping track of public perceptions of their products in the market and even though the organizations may not be directly affected by the legislation, it is almost certain that this legislation will spell doom on social media, which would in turn negate the advances made in the field of public relations (Doyle, 2002).
This research is meant to identify how the proposed ‘Big Brother’ legislation impact the public relations efforts of business with regards to the social networking sites that are currently in use by the corporate. This is done against the following hypotheses:
H1: The ‘Big Brother’ legislation will discourage free communication on social networks.
H2: The ‘Big Brother’ legislation will negate the developments made by public relations departments in different companies.
This section of the study involves the survey of the ‘Big Brother’ legislation in relation to its impact on the public relations efforts of business with regards to the social networking sites as well as other e-business organizations and it employs on-line and postal questionnaire surveys (Punch, 2006).
There is more preference of online surveys since they are more efficient, have downloadable responses to questions, are fast, are unlimited in content access, convenient, they seek a response to every question and they are technology based (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2007).
The collected data, which is in form of answers to the questions asked in the questionnaires, is then transferred to particular statistical packages where they are then analyzed (Fisher, 2004). Where the online survey cannot yield substantial responses there is the use of mail surveys that are meant to complete the data collection process (Punch, 2006).
Tools for Data Collection
There is the development of a set of questions, which evaluate the ‘Big Brother’ legislation impact the public relations efforts of business with regards to the social networking sites on organizations (Walliman, 2004). The questionnaire is divided into sections that had open-ended questions as well as closed questions that are presented on a likert scale (Bryman and Bell, 2003).
The whole online survey questionnaire is provided to the respondents in HTML pages, which have a submit option at the end after they have been completely filled. There was the provision of a tracking number after the submission of a page.
This allows the respondents to continue with the next page at their own convenience especially if they feel constrained by time (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2007). These questionnaires were sent to a randomly selected population of 700 respondents who were engaged in a business of any kind that adopts social networks as a platform to further their public relations programs (Bryman and Bell, 2003).
The questionnaires are sent through email and are accompanied by a short description of the research objectives. This short explanation is meant to inform the respondents of the purpose of their contributions to the study and it reiterated the significance of the study (Müller, 2011).
There is also the use of hard copy questionnaires, which are sent along with a cover letter detailing the purpose of the research as well as the questionnaire (Fisher, 2004). It also includes a link for the on-line questionnaire for those who would have preferred it and had not received or checked the emails sent to them.
It is identified that in the process of conducting the research, it is very important to observe a number of ethical guidelines that will ensure that the study is fair to the respondents chosen (Bryman and Bell, 2003). The first is consent where the respondents chosen for the research, have to be communicated to before the interviews are done so as to ensure that they are aware of the study and the purpose behind it (Punch, 2006).
Before the research is done, all the important details on the research, which often include the purpose and the aim behind the study, are provided to the chosen respondents so that they can make an informed decision on participating in the study (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2007). There is the need to ensure the anonymity of the respondents where personal information is not required (Bryman and Bell, 2003).
This is because the study is only interested in their personal opinions on the ‘Big Brother’ legislation impact the public relations efforts of business with regards to the social networking sites and not their personal information (Punch, 2006). The respondents are given the freedom to charter the course of the study and have the option of withdrawing from the research at any time if they wish to cease participating (Fisher, 2004).
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