Based on the theoretical framework of social representations, the possibility that exposure to sided news coverage of an organization and subsequent interpersonal communication might affect audiences directly as well as interact in their effects was experimentally assessed in this research. Also, following a social network analysis perspective, the extent to which social network characteristics, such as social network density and presence of strong ties, determine the degree of independent as well as interactive effects of media information and subsequent interpersonal communication on public relations outcomes was examined.
Sided media exposure significantly affected audiences' attitudes and behavioral intentions toward an organization covered in the media. Also, sided media exposure significantly accounted for intensity of subsequent interpersonal communication in a social network, as a two-sided media information flow with mixed evaluative cues led to more intense subsequent interpersonal communication than did a one-sided media information flow. Intensity of subsequent interpersonal communication, in turn, helped predict duration of audiences' attitudes toward as well as their future WOM intentions about the covered organization in the media.
Interpersonal communication after media exposure caused rather non-intuitive effects. When allowed to talk with others in a social network, audiences reported significantly less amount of knowledge, weaker personal issue stance, less durable attitudes/behavioral intentions, and less media influence. Such negative effects of interpersonal communication after media exposure, however, varied in its magnitude across different levels of social network density. In a disconnected social network, negative effects of subsequent interpersonal communication on attitudes and behavioral intentions disappeared, whereas effects of sided media exposure prevailed. In a connected social network, on the contrary, subsequent interpersonal communication exerted significantly negative influence on attitudes and behavioral intentions, while effects of sided media exposure were completely nullified.
Social network density also significantly accounted for intensity of interpersonal communication after media exposure; such interpersonal communication was more intense in a densely connected social network than in a loosely connected social network. Presence of strong ties in a social network, in addition, helped predict the degree of interpersonal influence that network members perceived in terms of determining their opinions about the covered issue and organization.
Despite some limitations, the findings of this research offered both public relations scholars and practitioners considerable implications in their future work. Demonstrating an occasion when media effects may not be pronounced as theoretically expected, because of different interpersonal influence on audiences across different interpersonal settings, this research calls for more scholarly as well as practical attention to the social interaction of media and interpersonal communication in understanding and evaluating public relation outcomes.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2011. Major: Mass Communication. Advisor: Brian G. Southwell. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 190 pages, appendices A-E.
Lee, Hyung Min.
Social representations, social networks, and public relations effects: the consequences of exposure to sided media content in different interpersonal settings..
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