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1.1 Background of the study
Although social networks, corporate websites, chat-rooms, email customer response facilities and electronic news release distribution are now viewed as standard aspects of public relations practice (Galloway, 2005) many public relations practitioners are struggling with the impact of new media, and especially the Internet. Research has shown that practitioners are not fully embracing new media, are ill-equipped to do so and have a fear of the technology (Alfonso & de Valbuena Miguel, 2006).The terrain of public relations practice is also shifting with new media bringing about substantial increases in stakeholder strength through facilitating communication within stakeholder groups and between different stakeholder groups (Van der Merwe, Pitt &Abratt, 2005). Information ‘pours out of digital spigots (Stephens 2007, p. 35) and news now arrives ‘astoundingly fast from an astounding number of directions’ (Stephens 2007, p. 35) and it is often free.
The Internet was originally developed in the 1960s at the U.S. Defense Department by a group of researchers headed by Dr. Robert W. Taylor. It was an extension of their network called ARPANET. The researchers soon realised the importance of networking and by 1986, the U.S. National Science Foundation established NSFNET to extend the network to more research institutions. ARPANET ceased to exist in 1990, but the Internet spread rapidly across the globe and grew to one million users in 1992 (Falk, 1994; Giovannetti, Kagami& Tsuji, 2003). The Internet began impacting on our ordinary lives only in the late 1990s, with the development of the World Wide Web (Gillies&Cailliau, 2000; Giovannetti et al., 2003). Since then, the Internet has been used extensively for accessing instantaneous information and communicating across geographical boundaries. Due to its characteristics of speed, efficiency and economy, the Internet began to be applied increasingly across industries ranging from retail and banking to the media (Giovannetti et al., 2003). The emergence of social media in the new millennium gave the World Wide Web a new name, ‘Web 2.0’ (Breakenridge, 2008). Though social media has various definitions, in essence, it is a medium for people to collaborate and share content via Internet tools ranging from video-sharing, photo-sharing and blogs to social networking websites, virtual worlds and micro-blogs (Mersham, Theunissen&Peart, 2009). Seitel (2001, p.298) cites British futurist, Peter Cochrane, who in 1998 predicted what the world was heading towards in the 21st century by saying, “If you are not online, you don’t exist.” It is beyond doubt that since the last decade, the Internet has evolved faster than any other communication channel and has dynamically changed our lives and professions. The practice of public relations is one such profession that has considerably been affected by this online revolution (Phillips, 2001).The contemporary practice of public relations was defined back in 1976 by the pioneer in public relations education, Rex Harlow, who examined close to 500 definitions and concluded that: 2 Public relations is a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and co-operation between an organization and its public; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management to keep informed on, and responsive to, public opinion; defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the public interest; helps management keep abreast of, and effectively utilize, change; serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and ethical communication techniques as its principal tool (Cutlip, Center & Broom, 2000, p.4) In response to this definition, Broom (2009, p.25) offers a more succinct definition of public relations referring to it as, “the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and the publics on whom its success or failure depends.” From the two above definitions, it is evident that public relations is essentially about communicating effectively in order to build valuable relationships and therefore the Internet being a medium for communication is bound to have implications for the practice. The impact of the Internet on public relations has been subject to considerable discussion (see 2.2 and 2.3) in the existing literature but the scope of the research has largely been limited to assessing the use of e-mails and websites in the public relations functions of media relation and crisis communication. The overall observation regarding the application of the Internet by public relations practitioners is that they tend to apply the online tools in a fashion similar to traditional media tools such as print and broadcast and fail to include the Internet in their strategic planning process (see 2.4). While several advantages of the Internet have been identified which include reduced costs, enhanced speed, customization and direct contact with the target publics, practitioners participating in earlier studies have expressed their concerns over several challenges such as the accentuation of crisis due to the globalized networking on the Internet and the difficulty in keeping up to date with the constantly evolving Internet world. Today’s public relations practitioners are confronted by a changing media environment that is significantly more complex, diverse and dynamic than the traditional media sphere and requires them to share information in a far more transparent and interactive manner than ever before. The implication for the practitioners is to acknowledge and understand the changing demands and perspectives of their publics and fully utilize the opportunities offered by the new media channels.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
The Internet gives public relations practitioners a unique opportunity to collect information, monitor public opinion on issues, and engage in direct dialogue with their publics about a variety of issues. (McAllister & Taylor, 2007) However, much of the academic literature has an overall tone of lament that practitioners were simply transferring traditional approaches and models of public relations practice to the web and were not evolving their practice. With past evidence suggesting that public relations practitioners were open to using new technology (Porter &Sallot, 2003), it seems incongruous that even a traditional mainstay of public relations practice like media relations is not taking advantage of the possibilities offered by the web and social media’s.it is in view of this that the researcher intend to investigate the effect of social media on practice of public relation.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The main objective of the study is to ascertain the effect of social media on practice of public relation. But to aid the completion of the study, the researcher intend to accomplish the following sub-objective;
i) To ascertain the effect of social media on the practice of public relation
ii) To ascertain the impact of social media on the growth of public relation profession
iii) To evaluate the relationship between social media and modern public relation profession
iv) To evaluate the role of social media on the efficiency of public relation profession
1.4 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
For the successful completion of the study, the following research hypotheses are formulated by the researcher;
H0:social media does not have any significant effect on the practice of public relation
H1:social media does have a significant effect on the practice of public relation.
H02:social media does not have any significant impact on the growth of the public relation profession
H2:social media does have a significant impact on the growth of the public relation profession
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
It is believed that at the completion of the study, the findings will be of great importance to the public relation profession and practitioners as the study seek to enumerate the effect of social media on the profession, this is because social media has integrate and simplify the formal nature of public relation, the study will also be of importance to public relation officer of organization, as the study seek to simplify the job of the public relation officer by enumerating the merit of social media to the profession, The study will also be of great importance to student who intend to embark on a study in similar topic as the findings of the study will serve as a pathfinder to them. Finally the study will be of great importance to students, teachers and the general public as the finding will add to the pool of existing literature.
1.6 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The scope of the study covers the effect of social media on practice of public relation, but in the cause of the study, there are some factors which limited the scope of the study;
(a) Availability of research material: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study.
(b) Time: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
(c) Finance: The finance available for the research work does not allow for wider coverage as resources are very limited as the researcher has other academic bills to cover.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Social media are computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available introduces challenges of definition; however, there are some common features.
Public relations are a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics." Public relations can also be defined as the practice of managing communication between an organization and its publics.
The Internet is the global system of interconnected computer networks that use the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to link devices worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of private, public, academic, business, and government networks of local to global scope, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies.
1.8 Organization of the study
This research work is organized in five chapters for easy understanding as follows Chapter one is concern with the introduction which consist of the (overview, of the study), statement of problem, objectives of the study, research question, significance or the study, research methodology, definition of terms and historical background of the study. Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study it’s based thus the review of related literature. Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding. Chapter five gives summary, conclusion and recommendations made of the study.
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