1.1 Background to the Study
The increase in competition among organizations with similar product and service and the free market environment prompted the need for public relation activities to engage members of the public who could be prospective customers or exiting customers in a mutual relationship devoid of cheat and undue advantage. According to Grunig (1984), Public relations (PR) is the practice of deliberately managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization (such as a business, government agency, or a nonprofit organization) and the public.
Public relations may include an organization or individual gaining exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment (Seitel, 2007). This differentiates it from advertising as a form of marketing communications. Public relations is the idea of creating coverage for clients for free, rather than marketing or advertising. But now, advertising is also a part of greater PR Activities (Singh, 2017). An example of good public relations would be generating an article featuring a client, rather than paying for the client to be advertised next to the article. The aim of public relations is to inform the public, prospective customers, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders and ultimately persuade them to maintain a positive or favorable view about the organization, its leadership, products, or political decisions. Public relations professionals typically work for PR and marketing firms, businesses and companies, government, and public officials as PIOs and nongovernmental organizations, and nonprofit organizations. Jobs central to public relations include account coordinator, account executive, account supervisor, and media relations manager.
Public relations specialists establish and maintain relationships with an organization’s target audience, the media, relevant trade media, and other opinion leaders. Common responsibilities include designing communications campaigns, writing news releases and other content for news, working with the press, arranging interviews for company spokespeople, writing speeches for company leaders, acting as an organisation’s spokesperson, preparing clients for press conferences, media interviews and speeches, writing website and social media content, managing company reputation (crisis management), managing internal communications, and marketing activities like brand awareness and event management (Rubel, 2007) Success in the field of public relations requires a deep understanding of the interests and concerns of each of the company’s many stakeholders. The public relations professional must know how to effectively address those concerns using the most powerful tool of the public relations trade, which is publicity (Roos, 2008).
The standpoint from this definitions that public relation is a predetermine strategies to establish, maintain and continues understanding between two parties depending on each other for survival.
The practice of public relations which is on image projection uses effective channels of communication to engage the publics in a cordial relations officer having huge task to maintain good image of the organization ensures that since there are several media outlets, transforming clearly, with increased advancement in technology, he is left with task of maintaining credibility and mutual relationship with the appropriate media so as to reach their public not just effectively but also positively. This is the aspect of media relations. Media relations is a persistent interaction with media communication in order to maintain exchange of news worthy confidences and sustained public information
Baran (2004) observes that media relation requires that the public relations professional maintains good relationship with professional on the media by simply responding to media request for information or spokesperson.
New media is relatively new in the society and most new in the practice of public relation. New media are new technological innovations that have revolutionary influence on the pattern of communication between organization and its publics. Social media have emerged as a critical avenue for public relations practice. Social media has become a common activity in the world today which has broken the barriers of distance that has hampered communication. According to Samuel (2014:40) “The invention of the internet brought a new dimension to the media landscape, marked the beginning of technological transformational and socialization with a higher desire for information about everything. This slowly essentially is information about people”.
The place of social media in communication cannot be overemphasized due to the fact that communication brings people together and foster peaceful co-existence. As such, social interaction has been as old as man. However, the medium of engaging this social interaction is the phenomenon that Simoen et al stated.
According to Simeon et al (2011) Emile Durkheim, a French sociology known by many as the father of sociology; and Ferdinand Tonnies a German sociologist, are considered pioneers of social networks during the late 1800s. The bedrock of media is the socialization. For man to relate they must be a Channel or media. That medium must enhance understanding of cues from parties involved in communication.
Social media have changed the pattern of corporate communications, affecting the ways public relations campaigns are formulated, disseminated and measured. The power over the message is no longer the exclusive preserve of an organisation; the various publics also enjoy equal power to initiate dialogue. Prior to the digital explosion and the popularization of the social media, audience engagement was based on print and electronic media.
The focus of a PR publicity campaign was all about securing decent coverage in television, radio and dailies. With over 75% internet surfers using social media, (Kaplan and Haenlein 2010), the social media have provided public relations practitioners a unique opportunity to collect information, monitor public opinion on issues, and engage in direct dialogue with their publics about a variety of issues. (McAllister & Taylor, 2007) Eyrich, Padman & Sweetser, (2008) observed that public relations practitioners are shifting to social media as the lines between online and offline promotion becomes blurry.
However, the level of compliance of PR managers to the social media varies. While many public relations practitioners value the social media, a few of them actually maximise the advantage it offer to their profession. (Gordon, 2010). It appears that a good number of public relations practitioners are yet to understand how social media can help improve their professional practices. Some of them simply use social media as another tool of personal communication while others do not even use them at all.
In the higher institutions system, there is high level of compliance to the social media by staff and students. Many of them depend on the social media for information on activities within and outside the university. They use the social media to share their thoughts, make inquires, and react to posts shared by other members of the university community. With their Smartphone and laptops, they monitor events in the higher institutions through the social media. The development has placed a burden on public relations practitioners in the universities. It is the burden of meeting the information needs of members of their internal and external publics using their favourite channels.
Social media has become an important platform in various aspects of our lives. Nowadays, it encompasses social networking, entertainment, marketing as well as newsfeed updates (Warner-Soderholm et al., 2018). Social media allows to use audio-video platforms, such as videos and photos that have a greater effect on users than a simple textual content (Aparicio-Martinez, 2017). It is thus no surprise that social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram represent one of the most common forms of socio-cultural interactions in particular for young people. The youth uses these networks to maintain contact not only with friends and family but also with organizations and brands. Age is an important factor determining differences in the use of the internet. Among younger users aged 16 to 24 years in the EU popular online activities entail participating in social networks (90 % in 2017), watching videos from commercial or sharing services such as YouTube and listening to music (Eurostat, 2018). In 2017, the share of internet users who were active on social network was 65 % in all EU member states with 72 % in Slovakia and 57 % in the Czech Republic (percentage of people aged 16-74 who had used the internet during the last 3 months, 2017).
A growing number of companies establish and maintain their interactive online presence via social networking sites. Companies consistently seek to engage with potential and current customers. Social media has been identified as an important vehicle in fostering social connections that maintain and expand existing relationship between organization and customers. Usage of social media by organizations especially is changing public relations as important part of promotional mix (Tajudeen, Jaafar, Ainin, 2018). When page visitors observe relevant posts and responses from an organization in a timely fashion, they register the organization’s ability to communicate well with them.
Several e-commerce studies found that quick and relevant communication increases perceptions of interactivity and consumer trust (Alalwan, 2017).
Social media facilitates communication among higher education institutions and their students, staff and graduates and other public (page visitors and followers). At the same time, the increasingly competitive character of the higher education market has led to more profound use of marketing oriented activities, branding and brand management (Rutter, Roper & Lettice, 2016, Voss & Kumar, 2013). Most universities are aware of the need for communication with applicants and current students through social networks. Therefore, understanding the characteristics that influence the interactivity and relationship between an organization and its page visitors and influencers is essential for the organization’s ability to respond to public on social networking sites in a desired manner.
This research develops the existing higher education branding literature by considering the use and impact of social media within the university sector. Specificaly, the study examines the use of Facebook by education faculties in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and the impact of that social media communication with public on student engagement.
With the popularity of university ranking system, public relations practitioners cannot afford to be apathetic to the use of social media in their job. The stake has gone beyond using the social media to promote internal and external communications. It also involves positioning the university as socially relevant in the global comity of universities. Contemporary public relations practice in the university requires that the public relations practitioner should use the social media to complement research efforts of his faculties in order to improve the global rankings of his institution. One of the indicators for global ranking of universities is their web presence. The social media platforms are employed by the public relations departments of highly ranked universities to generate backlinks to their institution’s websites which constitute fifty per cent of the scores by Webometric, one of the biggest university ranking agencies. Although no additional form of communication skill is required from PR managers in this direction, what is paramount is the traffic attracted to universities website through their social media platforms. This is a challenge which many PR managers of Nigerian universities seem yet to embrace.
This study therefore examines the extent to which the social media have influenced the practices of public relations practitioners in higher institutions in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Social media have provided multiple channels for public relations practitioners to engage their publics directly without relying on the traditional media. The public relations practitioners have opportunities to share real time updates on activities of their organisations and receive immediate feedback from their publics.
Some of the practitioners have taken advantage of the opportunities offered by the social media to improve their professional practices and build global reputation for their organisations. On the other hand, there are some public relations practitioners who seem not to consider social media as serious channels that can be employed for the advancement of public relations programmes. At best, they use social media for their personal interactions, leaving their organisations’ publics at the mercy of rumour mongers in the social space.
This study therefore intends to find out which group do public relations practitioners in higher institutions belong? Are they part of the practitioners whose practices have been influenced by the social media? This is against the backdrop that universities have high number of internal publics (youths) who use the social media, and that the social media can be used to generate backlinks considered in the global ranking of higher institutions by the Webometric.
In an increasingly rising economic environment and its abundant competition, with cost rising against profit, many organizations face the challenge of projecting an acceptable image to the public. Ikpe and Olise (2010) aver that organization need to adopt some measures to ensure that reputation of their organizations product and service are enhanced, at the same time established and sustain mutual relationship with their public. Among the measures is the new technological innovation; the social media. The dynamic nature of social media has influenced public relations activities of higher institution, thereby assisting public relations officers to work effectively in covering a good sum of its publics who are the students, parents, government and host community.
However, the inherent issues of the social media has affected the practice of public relations, such as that propaganda, distrust information, impersonation and cybercrime have often been mistaken for public relations practice. This has cause unimaginable loss of integrity and public confidence. Due to the lack of regulations, information from public relations officers of higher institutions in social media are regarded as distrust.
This study seeks to examine the place of social media in public relations practice in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objectives of this study are:
1. To examine the contribution of social media to the practice of public relation in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele
2. To determine the frequency of usage of social media by public relation officers in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele.
3. To ascertain the challenges of social media in public relations practices of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele.
4. To determine the prospect of social media in the practice of public relations.
5. To determine if public relations practitioners in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele use social media in their practices.
6. To identify the aspect of public relations practice in the higher institution that have been affected by the social media.
7. To determine how the uses of social media have affected the personal lifestyle of the PR practitioners
8. To ascertain if public relations practitioners in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele consciously use social media platforms to improve the global ranking of their universities.
1.4 Research Questions
1. What are the contributions of social media to the practice of Public Relations in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele?
2. What is the frequency of usage of social media by public relations officers in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele?
3. What are the challenges of social media in public relations practice of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele?
4. What are the prospects of social media in the practice of public relations in the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele?
5. Do public relations practitioners in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele use social media in their professional practices?
6. What aspect of public relations practices in the higher institutions have the social media affected most?
7. To what extent have the uses of social media affected the personal lifestyles of public relations practitioners in higher institutions?
8. To what extent do public relations practitioners in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele use social media
1.6 Research Hypotheses
The research hypotheses for this work area stated below:
Ho: There is no significant relationship between contribution of social media and practice of public relation in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele.
Hi: There is significant relationship between contribution of social media and practice of public relation in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele.
Ho: There is no frequency of usage of social media by public relation officers in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele.
H2: There is frequency of usage of social media by public relation officers in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele.
1.7 Significance of the Study
The study on the place of social media on the practice of public relations in Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele is expected to contribute to knowledge on subject matter. The study provides researched support on the contributions of social media to public relations practice. It also determines the frequency of usage of social media by university authority and ascertain the possible challenges and way to alleviate it. This study will help PR practitioners in
higher institutions understand how to use the social media to create good rapport between the university administration and staff and students. Interactive channels like the social media, if well utilised, will help douse students’ restiveness and reduce the problem of trade union agitations in higher institutions.
The study will also help public relations practitioners in Nigerian higher institutions know how their counterparts in other highly ranked universities are using the social media to improve the global image of their institutions. It is expected that the study will propel the practitioners to strive towards building an enviable global image for their institutions.
It will also serve as eye opener to higher institutions administrators on the need to train and retrain their public relations staff on the uses of social media as well as provide them with relevant tools for on-line access.
This study will equally serve as a platform for further enquiries in related subject matters and as a resource material for researchers who intend to carry out studies in this and other related areas.
1.8 Scope of the Study
This study covered only public relations practitioners in higher institutions located in South-west region of Nigeria a study of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic Abeokuta and Federal College of Education Osiele. The study was concerned with only those officially designated as public relations officers or directors of communication in their respective higher institutions. It did not include registry or administrative staffs who are performing the functions of a public relations officer.
1.9 Definition of Terms
Public Relations: The art and science of establishing, maintaining relationship between two or more parties through a well-defined communication.
Social Media: Social networking sites use by people to established relationship and communication.
Practices: The art of engaging in a particular thing for a defined purpose.
Higher Institution: School of higher learning for students properly university, polytechnic and college of education.
Application: is the usage of computer software designed to assist the users to perform specific task related to records keeping and retrieval.
Electronic Learning: (E-learning) is an electronic delivery and administration of learning opportunities and support via computer network and web-based technology.
Electronic Procurement: is a collective term for a range of different technologic that can be used to annotate the internal and external process associated with the saucing and ordering process of goods and service.
Information and Communication Technology: This is refers to those technologies that determine the efficiency and effectiveness with which we communicate and the devices that allow us handle information.
Polytechnic: This is an instruction concerned with the provision of technical knowledge and vocational sculls necessary for the world of word to increase opportunity for productive worth and sustainable livelihood.
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