Faculty Research and Creative Profiles

In addition to being excellent teachers and mentors, our faculty are on the frontier of research with the goal of expanding the overall knowledge and understanding of mass media and communications.

Strategic social media use in public relations

This is a photo of Hua Jiang

Hua Jiang

Associate Professor

Public Relations

What was the focus of the project? 

As an unintended consequence of social media management and leadership performance, increasing job responsibilities may potentially lead to a high level of work-life conflict, which may result in adversarial outcomes such as burnout, turnover intentions and reduced commitment. Using the E-leadership theory from the management literature as an umbrella framework, this study examined the impact of social media use on communication professionals’ strategic communication work, leadership behaviors, and their perceptions of work- life conflict.

What questions did your project seek to address? What were the research questions, hypotheses, etc?

Research Question 1: How is use of social media tools (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) related to the enhancing and aggravating impact of social media use upon communication professionals’ work?

Research Question 2: How is social media use in strategic communication functions (e.g., media relations, employee/internal communications, community relations, etc.) related to the enhancing and aggravating impact of social media use upon communication professionals’ work?

What were your findings?

There were seven key findings:

  1. Using Facebook and YouTube in their work and engaging in proactive environmental scanning helped E-leaders in communication departments enhance their leadership.

  2. The use of YouTube in strategic communication, social media use in media relations, employee/internal communications, and cause-related marketing/social marketing were identified as significant positive predictors of the enhancing impact of social media use.

  3. Social media use in crisis management and employee communications significantly, positively predicted professionals’ perceptions of social media’s aggravating impact (e.g., extended work hours, increased workload) on their work.

  4. The use of Facebook and YouTube in strategic communication, the use of social media in environmental scanning, as well as the positive and negative impact of social media use all significantly and positively predicted communication professionals’ leadership behaviors.

  5. Strategic social media use enhanced communication professionals’ leadership behaviors even when it contributed to heavier workload, longer working hours, and increased job stress.

  6. When the unintended negative effects of social media use occurred, communication professionals perceived a low control over their work and thereby experienced a high level of time-based and strain-based work-life conflict.

  7. Public affairs/governmental relations professionals who were frequent users of social media for their work reported a high level of strained-based work-life conflict.

What do you think are the implications for the discipline/profession?

Results of this study strongly suggest that managers think about how the intensive use of social media may affect employees’ physical and psychological well-being. Despite the advantages (e.g., flexible working hours, improved work productivity, additional time to fulfill other non-work responsibilities, etc.), technologically mediated work renders unintended negative consequences (e.g., extended work hours, increased workload, more stress, etc.), which in turn contribute to a high level of conflict between employees’ work and personal life. Particularly, the more social media tools that professionals used in practicing public affairs/governmental relations, the higher their perceived level of stain-based work-life conflict. Public affairs/governmental relations professionals therefore may need extra supportive resources and networks to help them reconcile the conflict and be better off in both professional and personal arenas.

If there are implications for the future or new directions for the work, what are they?

Future research is needed to discover the features of social media and connect them to the variables in the present study. This study is also merely based on one national sample of communication professionals. The findings cannot be generalized beyond the current study’s scope. Future research is needed to theorize on social media use, communication leadership behaviors, and work-life conflict, by sampling members of international professional communication organizations, such as International Public Relations Association (IPRA) and International Association of Business Communication (IABC). Last but not the least, qualitative research may help uncover individual professionals’ narratives that explain how social media use, its impact, leadership behaviors, and work-life conflict are all interrelated to one another. The integrated E-leadership conceptual model is preliminary at the current stage and needs to be further developed in future scholarly research and professional communication practices.

Original Abstract:

Using the E-leadership theory as the conceptual framework, the study examined strategic communicators’ perceptions of the impact of social media use on their work, leadership behaviors, and work-life conflict. Through a national sample of communication professionals (N = 458), this study revealed the following key findings. The use of YouTube in professionals’ work, social media use in media relations, employee communications, and cause-related marketing/social marketing were significantly, positively associated with participants’ perceptions of the enhancing impact of social media use. Social media use in crisis management and employee communications significantly, positively predicted professionals’ perceptions of social media’s aggravating impact (e.g., extended work hours, increased workload) on their work. The use of Facebook and YouTube in strategic communication, the use of social media in environmental scanning, as well as the positive and negative impact of social media use all significantly and positively predicted communication professionals’ leadership behaviors. When the unintended negative effects of social media use happened, professionals perceived a low control over their work and thereby experienced a high level of time-based and strain-based work-life conflict. Finally, public affairs/governmental relations professionals who were frequent users of social media for their work reported a high level of strain-based work-life conflict.

This is a photo of Hua Jiang

About Hua Jiang

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