AN INVESTIGATION OF TWO-WAY SYMMETRICAL COMMUNICATION AND

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Oct 13, 2013 (3 years and 9 months ago)

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Michelle Newton



AN INVESTIGATION OF TWO-WAY SYMMETRICAL COMMUNICATION AND
SOCIAL MEDIA AND THEIR VALUE IN BUILDING B2B STAKEHOLDER
RELATIONSHIPS IN THE LOGISTICS SECTOR

DATE: JULY 2010




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Michelle Newton

Title: An investigation of two-way symmetrical communication and social
media and their value in building B2B stakeholder relationships in the
Logistics sector
Aim: To determine the value of social media and two way symmetrical
communication for building B2B stakeholder relationships in the logistics
sector
Question: What are the main benefits and drawbacks of using social media for
building B2B stakeholder relationships in the logistics sector?

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Contents
Introduction 4 – 5
Methodology 6 -7
Findings and Analysis 8 – 15
Limitations of the study 16
Conclusion 17 – 18
Appendix 1 – The Survey 19 - 25

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Introduction
Public Relations as a discipline is constantly evolving and the role of PR is becoming
more and more vital to organisations and society alike. The profession is constantly
facing new challenges, from a more complex and diverse audience to developing
communication methods and new technologies. As a result previous theories that have
guided the profession are becoming less relevant and practitioners need to constantly
evolve with the changing media landscape. With the growth of online virtual
environments, virtual communities and information sharing sites, the emergence of the
writable web means that the environment in which people communicate is far more
transparent than it used to be.
Philips and Young (2009) call upon public relations practitioners to explore and
experiment with new technologies to ensure their message gets across in rapidly
changing media landscape.
How do new communication techniques fit in with the dominating theory of public
relations practice, the two-way symmetrical approach? Grunig (1992) and his
collaborators hail the model as the ideal in public relations practice. Its value is not just
its strong, ethical dimension in being able to change both a publics and an organisations
stance, but because of its value to organisations. Those with the best reputations stay
close to their customers using two-way communication, Grunig argues, and excellent
communication can help to make organisations excellent.

Two-way model critics such as L’Etang (1996) and Pieczka (1995) suggest that this model
is too idealistic, and point to conflicts of symmetry and advocacy and PR’s unchanging
position within and organisations dominant coalition. Online PR writers such as Holtz,
Philips and Young and Grunig suggest there are parallels between social media and two-
way symmetry, citing common elements like dialogue and relationship building. But how
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far can public relations use this approach to manage reputations with an increasingly
powerful and critical online community?
This investigation will attempt to determine the value of social media and two way
symmetrical communication in building B2B stakeholder relationships in the logistics
sector.
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Methodology
The methodology for this research was designed to determine the value of social media
and two way symmetrical communications for building B2B stakeholder relationships in
the logistics sector. Primary and secondary data was collected for this project in a
number of ways:

Primary quantitative data was gathered through a survey distributed and
collected online

Primary qualitative data was gathered via the social networking site LinkedIn,
using the ‘questions’ tool

The survey
The survey was produced and powered utilising online, hosted survey freeware
Zoomerang (www.zoomerang.co.uk). This was deemed to be the most cost and time
effective way of building the survey. Once the survey was completed a test survey was
conducted across a sample a five carefully selected recipients. Upon completion of the
sample, minor changes were made and the survey was distributed. The survey was
distributed in a number of ways to maximise the response rates. Initially a link to the
survey emailed to a wide range of industry contacts, colleagues, fellow CIPR students
and media and agency suppliers. Recipients were also encouraged to forward the link to
other colleagues who might be interested in completing the survey, thus attempting to
create a snowball effect. To extend the reach of the survey a link was posted on my
profile pages on LinkedIn and Facebook as well as a direct posting to groups industry
relevant groups; namely the ‘Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport’ and
‘Women in Logistics’. The international nature the social media used resulted in the
survey being completed beyond the UK. The survey was based on 12 questions. (Copy
available in appendix 1).
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Using the ‘questions’ tool on LinkedIn
LinkedIn has over 70 million members in over 200 countries. A new member joins
LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of LinkedIn members are outside
the U.S. Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members. (LinkedIn
‘about us’ tab of website)
In order to gain some expert unbiased knowledge the LinkedIn ‘Questions and Answers’
tool was chosen to gather qualitative data. Users of LinkedIn can become an expert, by
providing the best answers to questions; experts are featured on the Answers home
page, and in each category of questions. In comparison if my research was focused on
the B2C audience then the question would have been posed on facebook.

The following question was posted and 3 individual answers were received:

What are the main benefits and drawbacks of using social media for building
B2B stakeholder relations?

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Findings and Analysis
Over a period of nearly four weeks, the survey had 86 visits. In total 29 people
completed the survey, as depicted in table below
(Raw data available in appendix 3)
33% of people viewing the survey completed it in full, there were no partial
completions. The survey’s primary objective designed with the following in mind; to
determine the value of social media and two way symmetrical communication for
building B2B stakeholder relationships in the logistics sector.

Figure 1 depicts the breakdown of the 29 respondents by job tile, shows the
Figure1
PR /
Communiations
Officer
17%
Communications
Manger
4%
Communications
Director
7%
Product Manager
3%
Marketing Executive
7%
Marketing Manager
10%
Marketing Director
3%
Business
Develeopment
Director
7%
Sales General
Manager
7%
Other, please specify
35%
Job title breakdown

Figure 2 below, illustrates that the majority of the respondents to the survey are
employed within the Distribution / Transport / Logistics sector. This is testament to the
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distribution list used and the location of the survey on LinkedIn groups. It was also a
fundamental aim to get a majority response from this sector due to the nature of the
question being researched.
Figure2
0%0%0%0%
7%
0%0%
4%
4%
61%
0%0%
4%
0%0%0%0%
4%
4%
0%0%
7%
0%0%
7%
Agriculture
Forestry & Fishing
Arts, Museums and Culture
Banking and Financial Services
Business Services
Construction
Central Government
Charity
Voluntary Organisation
Distribution / Logistics /
Transport
Education

In conjunction with the results from question 2, the results for question 3 indicate that
the majority respondents of the survey fall into the exactly the target audience required.
79% of the organisations that the responders owned, were employed by, associated
with focused on activities within the B2B sector.
94% of responders indicated that 25% or less of their companies marketing budgets is
spent on social media and other digital channels see figure 3. It would be very
interesting to delve into this question further, in terms of the reasoning behind
companies investing only a small percentage of the budget into this area; is this because
some aspects of social media can be utilised for by practitioners free of change? Is there
a lack of confidence on return on investment or a lack of measurement tools available?

Figure3
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94%
3%
3%0%
0% - 25%
26% - 50%
51% - 75%
Over 75%


76% of respondents rated the importance of using social media as part of an
organisation’s overall communications strategy ‘important’, including 28% who said it
was ‘very important’, 14% of respondents rating social media as ‘not important’. 79% of
respondents rated the importance of using social media to build stakeholder relations as
‘important’ 31% of those responders said that it was ‘very important’ with 14% saying
that it is ‘not important’.
When asked ‘what do you think are the primary benefits of social media for building
stakeholder relations’ the most popular answer was ‘build brand awareness and
consideration’, closely followed by driving website traffic’, the least popular option
being to drive offline mainstream media coverage. Results of this question are
illustrated in figure 4 below.
Figure4
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0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
Effective reputation management
Effective crisis communication
Build brand awareness and consideration
Drive offline mainstream media coverage
Increased stakeholder engagement
Drive website traffic
Increased sales / leads
Research and product development
Higher customer satisfaction and retention
Other, please specify


An interesting comment was made by a respondent when selecting ‘other’ on the
survey; “Increased communication within the sector therefore creating effective and
long lasting relationships that support the business for long term future”

When asked in question 9 – ‘how have you embraced social media in your day to day
relationship building activities’ 18% responded to say that it is a core part of their daily
activities, 36% of respondents say that it is an element of what I do on a weekly basis,
29% used on a regular basis with 4% having experiment and 18% of respondents do not
use social media at all in relationship building activities. A contrasting response with
the same percentage of respondents on one side using social media as a core activity
and on the other not using at all.
In a similar contrasting response, the answers from question 10 reveal that 11% of
respondent’s organisations have embraced social media with it being core part of their
communications strategy, 26% state that social media is used as an element of most
campaigns, 26% state that their organisations use on an ad hoc basis, 19% of
organisations have experimented and 19% do not use al all.

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Figure 5, below illustrates the responses from question 11, what do you see as the key
barriers preventing wider adoption, comments resulting from this question included;
“Not applicable”, “Lack of client presence although growing all the time” and “Not
critical for our core B2B stakeholders”
Figure5
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
Inability to demonstrate clear ROI
Lack of effective measurement
Lack of digital knowledge and understanding
Lack of senior buy-in
Company culture
Lack of resources and budget
Regulatory concerns
Other, please specify


Question 12 was designed to address their personal attitude towards using social media
to build stakeholder relations; figure 6 illustrates the results below.
Figure6
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18
There is a real communication and business
opportunity
There are major challenges and risks to our
communication approach and business
I'm open minded, but need to see more hard
evidence of the potential value to my specific
organisation
I don't know enough about the subject yet to make a
judgement
Other, please specify

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55% of respondents believe that there is a real communication and business
opportunity when using social media to build stakeholder relations. Comments left for
this question suggest that “it is more effective for B2C”.

Findings and Analysis – LinkedIn Question
Over a two week period 3 answers were received from the question that was asked on
LinkedIn, using the ‘questions and answers’ tool. (Data available in appendix 4)

Respondent 1: Received July 8
th

Benefits:

can target people in their preferred media

can finely target according to criterion

can discover influencers, especially those in complex supply chains

can get to know personalities behind a brand or company

by profiles know who is more likely to be open to exploring your ideas, win wins
or opportunities

increases opportunities to discover and access those you would not ordinarily
have access to
Downside:

not everyone wants to be accessed by Social Media

exposure of your supply chains and valuable relationships unless you use privacy
controls links

Analysis: Respondent 1 appears to be in favour of using Social Media and makes valid
points for both sides of the question, a great benefit of using social media identified by
respondent 1 “increase opportunities to discover and access those you would not
ordinarily have access to” , however respondent 1 has highlighted a key downside, that
will resonate with potential users not adopting social media, is “the exposure of your
supply chains and valuable relationships unless you use privacy control links”. This could
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be a major factor for the logistics sector when using social media to build stakeholder
relations – exposing information to the outside world is generally a “no, no” for this
sector and users of social media would certainly need to be mindful of privacy settings
and controls.
Respondent 2: Received July 8
th
2010
Benefits:

Initiate conversations you might never have started

Progress existing relationships in an easy, informal way

Listen to what people are saying about your company and about any relevant
issues

Promote your thought leadership content (blog posts, eBooks, videos)

Show you're a good community member, giving value back

Address negative stuff in an open way
Drawbacks:

Time!
Analysis: It is clear by respondent 2s answer that they are in favour of using social media
to build relations, the point made about addressing negative ‘stuff’ in an open way, is a
close to

the two-way symmetrical theory first introduced by James Grunig and Todd
Hunt in 1984. The only drawback identified is ‘time’ users of social media need to be
conscious of the ever increasing number of tools available. New users of social media
could easily be deterred and confused about which tools they should engage with.

Respondent 3: Received July 12
th
2010
Some builds on the ideas and views already expressed:
Drawbacks:

You may not see results for many months. If the business is looking for
immediate or overnight results, they are probably going to be disappointed!
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The tone of communication needs to be right for each type, i.e. the way you
communicate on your company website should be different to Twitter.

Compelling content is key - outsource if creative content is not a core skill. It
needs monitoring and testing to find out what works best for your brand and
company - learning over time.

Social media must form part of the integrated brand planning process and funds
allocated accordingly.

Testing and playing about with it for a few months may do more harm to your
brand then good.

Benefits:

Done carefully, you can control more aspects of your brand image aswell as
being able to react directly to concerns, complaints, or praise of your brand with
interested parties and advocates.

Connect with your core customers on the basis on which all successful
businesses are built: Trust.

The scale of reach that can be achieved if done well.

Can be relatively low cost compared to more traditional brand building
techniques.

Analysis: Respondent 3 makes extremely valid points for both the benefits and
drawbacks of using social media to build stakeholder relations. The point regarding
‘testing and playing’ with social media is interesting and suggests that users need to be
fully prepared when engaging with social media. A key benefit of using social media to
build relations and one that I presume will be widely accepted is that it can be ‘relatively
low cost’ in comparison to using more traditional communication methods.

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Limitations of the study
I would have liked to have seen more respondents to the survey and in hindsight there
are additional personal questions that would have been useful to acknowledge when
analysing results. For examples the sex of the respondents and their age range.

Although using the questions and answers tool on LinkedIn provided some extremely
useful insight and qualitative data, a face to face interview with a select number of
people may have driven out more opinion that I could have delved into further.
Although for the purpose of this study – using social media to gather qualitative data
seemed appropriate but may have alienated key opinions from non users.

It is worth noting that the content analysis, although a useful insight into the
competitors and customers of Norbert Dentressangle, was very limited. The search
methods for the information could have been improved on – a basic search using each
of the social media types was carried out, using only the company name to gather
information, results may have been slightly different having dug a little more deeper
using different and supplementary search criteria, which was realised part way through
the research. However in order not to sku the results the original method of search
continued.
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CIPR Membership Number: 43487
Conclusion
The PR profession is constantly facing new challenges, from a more complex and diverse
audience to developing communication methods and new technologies.

The research attempted to establish the main benefits and drawbacks of using social
media for building B2B stakeholder relationships in the logistics sector? The research
was designed using primary and secondary research; primary, through a survey and
using the ‘questions and answer’ tool on LinkedIn.

The results of the survey and the answers from LinkedIn, demonstrate a clear view that
social media represents a potential additional channel and not a wholesale replacement
for traditional communication channels. The research results indicate that social media,
used in the correct way can be utilised when building stakeholder relations.

76% of people that responded to the survey agreed that it was import to use social
media as part of an organisation's overall communication strategy.

“Increased communication within the sector therefore creating effective and
longlasting relationships that support the business for the long term future”

The above comment came from a respondent of the survey, in respect to answering
question 8. What do you see as the primary benefits of social media for building
stakeholder relations? A view that was shared by 52% of respondents.

I found it very interesting that 18% of respondents stated that they have not embraced
social media in their day to day relationship building activities at all. It would have been
interesting to see if the response was similar if asked about using social media to build
personal relationships.
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CIPR Membership Number: 43487
Effective measurement and return on investment were found to be the most popular
barriers preventing wider adoption of social media for organisations, if I were to
undertake this study again, research into the measurement and return on investment
values for the use of social media, would give the results and conclusions from this study
more gravitas.
B2B users need to carefully select their chosen media and be mindful of what works in a
B2C audience will not always have the same result in a B2B environment. Having said
that I firmly believe that social media can accelerate the speed of which you can engage
with people and it is clear through my research that social media could be used,
alongside more traditional methods in the B2B sector to strengthen relationships,
enabling communicators to be more intimate with their audiences.

Linked in advocate that “Relationships Matter” They argue that “your professional
network of trusted contacts gives you an advantage in your career, and is one of your
most valuable assets.” LinkedIn exists to help you make better use of your professional
network and help the people you trust in return. Their mission is to connect the world’s
professionals to make them more productive and successful. They believe that in a
global connected economy, your success as a professional and your competitiveness as
a company depend upon faster access to insight and resources you can trust.
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CIPR Membership Number: 43487

Appendix 2 - Survey
1



Which of the following job titles best describes your role?




PR / Communications Officer


Communications Executive


Communications Manager


Communications Director


Head of Brand


Product Manager


Product Director


Marketing Executive


Marketing Manager


Marketing Director


Business Development Director


Sales General Manager


Other, please specify












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CIPR Membership Number: 43487


2



Which of the following sectors does your organisation primarily
operate in?



Agriculture


Forestry & Fishing


Arts, Museums and Culture


Banking and Financial Services


Business Services


Construction


Central Government


Charity


Voluntary Organisation


Distribution / Logistics / Transport


Education


Energy & Water Supply


Healthcare


Hotels & Catering


Entertainment


IT


Leisure & Tourism


Local Government


Manufacturing
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CIPR Membership Number: 43487


Engineering


Publishing


Media


Property / Real Estate


Retail Telecommunications


Other, please specify







3



Does your organisation focus on business to business activities
or business to consumer?



B2B


B2C


Both


4



Approximately how much does your organisation invest in
marketing and public relations each year?



Less than 50k


50k – 100k


100k – 150k


150k – 200k

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CIPR Membership Number: 43487

200 - 400k


400 – 800k


800 – 1.5m


1.5m – 2m


2m +

5



Approximately what percentage of your organisations budget is
spent on activities using social media and o
ther digital
channels?



0% – 25%


26% – 50%


51% – 75%


Over 75%









6



How do you rate the importance of social media a
s part of your
organisation's overall communication strategy?



Very important


Quite important


Not important

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CIPR Membership Number: 43487

Neither

7



How do you

rate the importance of using social media to build
stakeholder relations?



Very important


Quite important


Not important


Neither

8



What do you see as the primary benefits of social media for
building stakeholder relations? (Tick all that apply)



Effective reputation management


Effective crisis communication


Build brand awareness and consideration


Drive offline mainstream media coverage


Increased stakeholder engagement


Drive website traffic


Increased sales / leads


Research and product development


Higher customer satisfaction and retention


Other, please specify



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CIPR Membership Number: 43487




9



To date to what extent have you embraced social media in your
day to day relationship building activities?



Now a core part of my daily activities


Is an element of what I do on a weekly basis


Used on an ad-hoc basis


Have experimented and will use again


Not at all

10



To date to what extent has your organisation embraced social
media?



Now a core part of our communications strategy


Is an element of most campaigns


Used on an ad-hoc basis


Have experimented


Not at all

11



What do you see as the key barriers preventing wider adoption
of social media for your organisation? (Please select up to three)



Inability to demonstrate clear ROI


Lack of effective measurement
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CIPR Membership Number: 43487


Lack of digital knowledge and understanding


Lack of senior buy-in


Company culture


Lack of resources and budget


Regulatory concerns


Other, please specify







12



On a personal level, which of the following most closely
describes your own attitude towards using social media to build
stakeholder relations?



There is a real communication and business opportunity


There are major challenges and risks to our communication
approach and business


I’m open minded, but need to see more hard evidence of the
potential value to my specific organisation


I don’t know enough about the subject yet to make a judgement



I think it is all hype and a passing fad


Other, please specify