Listening to and conversing with stakeholders has become a basic requirement for the survival of any organization in a society with insistent demands for transparency and dialogue. The purpose of this paper is to examine how Latin American practitioners are using social media for corporate and networking purposes, and their perceptions about which social media activity is more relevant for organizational stakeholders.
A population of 803 public relations professionals from 18 Latin American countries working on different hierarchical levels, both in communication departments and agencies across the region, were surveyed as part of a larger online survey. For this research, five questions about social media usage have been included in the first edition of the Latin American Communication Monitor (LCM) project.
The study shows that despite the massive incorporation of social media into communication strategies of organizations, Latin American professionals report less intensive use of these collaborative channels than do peers in the Asia-Pacific, but they are in line with colleagues from Europe. Practitioners report a cautious optimism on the success achieved in the social media arena, as well as an insignificant use of these tools for professional networking purposes.
This paper touches only four sections of the LCM 2014/2015. Participant fatigue may have negatively impacted the quality of the data. A large sample of professionals was approached, but a much small number initiated and completed the online survey. This resulted in the lack of representation of some countries in the subcontinent. In the future, greater participation is needed to allow for a more comprehensive comparative analysis.
This research provides a more in-depth look at the current state of public relations practice in Latin America and the use of social media channels to communicate with stakeholders. Even if social media continue to create unprecedented opportunities, social media platforms have not been widely adopted by professionals in the region, probably due to the lack of appropriate structures, cultures and strategies for participative modes of social media communication.
This dearth of knowledge about how PR professionals use social media affects the engagement process, and as a result, the reputation, legitimization, satisfaction with and trust in organizations. Without listening carefully to stakeholder needs, satisfying these needs and establishing a real conversation, organizations will not be able to attain the sought-after engagement that leads to a stable and lasting relation with the public.
Although numerous articles on the situation of public relations in different Latin American countries have been published, this research is first attempt to investigate the use of social media channels in the subcontinent through opinions of a representative sample of professionals.
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