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Article
Publication date: 17 September 2019

Kerstin Thummes and Jens Seiffert-Brockmann

The purpose of this paper is to present research on motivated bias and self-deception in ethical decision-making in public relations. Self-deception might explain how…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present research on motivated bias and self-deception in ethical decision-making in public relations. Self-deception might explain how professionals evade mental stress in conflicting situations and manage to be persuasive even when they have to act contrary to their own morals or to public interests. Since self-deception impedes moral reasoning, the research purpose is to gain insights on its origins so that effective counter-measures can be developed.

Design/methodology/approach

First, the state of research on moral dilemmas in public relations and on self-deception in psychology is outlined. Second, four professionals are interviewed to explore typical conflicts of interest and to develop a realistic scenario that gives rise to a moral dilemma. Third, a small sample of professionals (n=9) is confronted with the developed scenario in a qualitative online questionnaire to analyze their reasoning.

Findings

Results indicate that self-deception in response to moral dilemmas exists in public relations practice. Typical conflicts of interest, boundary conditions for motivated bias and counter-measures are identified. Experienced professionals in leading positions seem to have the confidence to reject mandates they perceive as immoral. Counter-measures against self-deception should therefore address young professionals and practitioners with low advisory influence.

Originality/value

While public relations research mostly presumes professionals as rational actors, this study sheds light on irrational practices. In contrast to common practice of expert interviews, an indirect and implicit methodological approach is applied to capture unconscious processes of motivated reasoning.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 23 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

Open Access
Article
Publication date: 25 November 2019

Jens Seiffert-Brockmann, Christopher Ruppel and Sabine Einwiller

The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of critical, journalistic documentaries on viewers. More precisely, it investigates the effects of responsibility…

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1283

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the impact of critical, journalistic documentaries on viewers. More precisely, it investigates the effects of responsibility attribution and surprise on stakeholder attitude, trust and identification.

Design/methodology/approach

In a quasi-experimental pre-post setting, 127 participants viewed a documentary about Austrian beverage and marketing company Red Bull. The film inquired into the deaths of six extreme athletes sponsored by the company. As a critical, investigative piece, the documentary was designed to give viewers the impression that Red Bull was, at least partially, responsible for the athletes’ deaths.

Findings

Results show that responsibility attribution, the feeling of being surprised and being in a state of negative affect, had a significant impact on viewers’ attitude and trust toward, and identification with Red Bull.

Originality/value

The study adds insights on surprise as a factor in viewers’ assessment of responsibility. The study is original in terms of methodology by using real-time rating to ascertain which sequences trigger changes in responsibility attribution among viewers. Furthermore, implications of the study’s findings with regard to inoculation theory are discussed.

Details

Corporate Communications: An International Journal, vol. 25 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1356-3289

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 5 February 2018

Jens Seiffert-Brockmann, Wolfgang Weitzl and Magdalena Henriks

The purpose of this paper is to research the role of stakeholder motivation in the context of gamification. The authors suggest, that a player’s motivation, is a key…

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1539

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to research the role of stakeholder motivation in the context of gamification. The authors suggest, that a player’s motivation, is a key determinant of psychological engagement and subsequently, behavioral engagement. To examine stakeholder engagement through gamification, the authors propose a research model that links gamer types, i.e. a gamer’s motivation, with engagement and potential effects beyond the gamified content.

Design/methodology/approach

Online survey with 90 active users of a gamified application, followed by a multiple regression analysis.

Findings

The findings of the study suggest that a gamer’s typology, i.e. her underlying motivation, positively influences psychological stakeholder engagement toward gamified content and indirectly behavioral stakeholder engagement toward the communication instrument (i.e. the app) itself. The findings suggest that particularly gamified content that targets a person’s need toward achievement is a key driver of behavioral engagement toward an application. Thus, gamer types seem to be a good predictor for engagement on the part of stakeholders.

Research limitations/implications

This research provides first empirical evidence about the effectiveness of gamification of mobile service apps and the critical role of stakeholder engagement. However, several limitations have to be noted: first, the study was conducted with only a single mobile app which targets only a specific audience and which only conveys specific types of gamified content. Second, given the small sample size and sampling approach the findings should be interpreted with care in respect to its reliability, validity and robustness. Third, as only a fraction of the variance of behavioral engagement was explained by the research, future studies should investigate additional variables that drive app usage (e.g. perceived informational value).

Practical implications

When talking about the role of dialogue in the process of establishing good and lasting relations between an organization and its stakeholders, the non-rational (e.g. emotions) forces of engagement are often disregarded. The human drive to play can be a powerful door opener in that process. The paper suggests that engaging in stakeholder relations through gamification might be as effective as the standard way of dialogue and two-way-symmetrical communication. Especially potential stakeholders who lack the interest and motivation for information seeking, can be attracted to the organization in such a manner.

Social implications

Many studies that focus on engagement in the digital realm look to Twitter, Facebook, etc. in order to study company-stakeholder relationships. Thereby, the importance of many other digital media, especially games, is neglected. However, within gamified apps, small social networks form, which are driven by other forces (such as play), than in the aforementioned.

Originality/value

The present study contributes to research in the area of stakeholder engagement in the following way: even though engagement is widely believed to play a vital role in the process of building stakeholder relationships, research in the field of PR focuses mainly on the behavioral aspect of engagement. The results suggest to pay more attention to psychological antecedents in order to understand what drives engagement.

Details

Journal of Communication Management, vol. 22 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-254X

Keywords

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