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Category Archives: Communication Within Businesses

Being Human at Work

As social media has become integrated into all aspects of society today, businesses who have truly embraced social media for all it is worth have become known as social businesses. A business becomes a social business when it successfully integrates social media into all aspects of their organization as a business tool like any other business tool. A social business uses social media programs to allow employees to communicate internally with one another in a way that does not limit and silo interactions the way traditional e-mail and other forms of communication have. A social business also uses social media tools to engage in a dialogue with their customers online in efforts to humanize the brand and serve customers’ needs. As a social business, the organization must recognize the value in embracing expanded networks of people that social media programs give us access to. These networks should be considered a valuable tool that can be used to create new value in current business ventures and new business opportunities. In order to do this, the business must focus on the people that are core to the organization and embrace the cultures of the people they are interacting with both internally and externally.

The benefits of successfully melding social media into the toolbox of an organization start internally and percolate to the outside.  It has been said that “an organization cannot have effective external conversations with the social customer unless they can have effective internal conversations with each other first” (“What’s Your Social Business Plan?” Edelman, 2011). By using social media as a platform on which to encourage open internal conversation, many benefits are realized. Among these benefits is the ability to allow emotional discussion to happen within the organization.

Within organizational communication studies, the role of emotion in the workplace has emerged as an interesting area of study. As Miller (2002) points out, employees are often asked to portray a specific emotion while working because management perceives that particular emotion as the appropriate one. However, research has suggested that by suppressing true emotions to express artificial emotions, negative consequences are often inevitable, including stress, burnout, and an estrangement from self (Miller, 2002; Wharton, 1999). Oftentimes, this is realized in the face of a tragedy, like the fatal Texas AMU bonfire collapse studied by Katharine Miller.

Miller (2002) explains that, following the accident, the employees and students of the university struggled to balance their professionalism in their role and the true emotions they harbored. She attributed this difficulty to a lack of socialization in dealing with emotions, especially those that are unexpected, at work. Some professors sought to conceal the emotions and continue with business as usual while others chose to abandon the previous class agenda for one that allowed for emotions to be shared.

Research would suggest that the latter of these two approaches is the healthier one for an organization. Miller (2002) suggests that “emotion is critical for forging a sense of community in the workplace” (p. 560). However, the typical structure of organizations often does not lend itself to a free expression of emotion. Through becoming a social business, however, an organization can become more prepared to allow emotions to be shared in the workplace, resulting in greater employee satisfaction, organizational identification, and an upholding of the ideology of the organization.

As a part of a social business, employees are socialized into an open communication system with co-workers, both at equal and unequal positions of the organizational chart. By encouraging employees to communicate and share ideas and giving them the means by which to do so, the employees become familiar with one another. As ideas are shared and opinions expressed, the workplace becomes less of a stranger to emotion. Furthermore, as situations emerge that draw out emotions that deviate from the norm, employees are comfortable sharing their emotions surrounding these situations as well. Social businesses give employees the freedom to communicate with less partitioned sectors of the organization, possibly giving the employees an ability to find others dealing with similar emotional struggles to identify with. They also give employees the necessary tools to express emotion in forms of media that go beyond words, possibly expressing the feelings better or giving the employees more confidence to share. Finally, by engaging routinely in continuous dialogue with colleagues, employees may come to identify more closely with the organization. Therefore, when a situation arises, the emotional reactions may fall on a smaller spectrum, making them easier to adjust to as an organization.

Humans are still humans while at work. That fact will never change, despite often attempts to leave one’s life at the door. Therefore, we must come to appreciate the value employees can bring to an organization as the emotional creatures that we are. Through becoming a social business, an organization can take the first step in encouraging emotion within the workplace through open dialogue. The benefits of this open dialogue are innumerable.

REFERENCES:

Brito, M. (July 1, 2011). What’s Your Social Business Plan? Edelman Digital. Retrieved from http://www.edelmandigital.com/2011/07/01/whats-your-social-business-plan/.

Miller, K. (2002). The experience of emotion in the workplace: Professing in the midst of tragedy. Management Communication Quarterly, 15, 571-600.

Wharton, A. S. (1999). The psychosocial consequences of emotional labor. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 27, 346-373.

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Social Media Offline?

As social media gains popularity and becomes a necessary place for businesses to be, the duties associated with making that happen are often falling into the laps of the local public relations professionals. As this is happening, a divide is emerging between those who have successfully practiced traditional public relations for many years and those who are drooling over the opportunity to turn a company into a social business. Here are some ways that this divide can be bridged and we can have the best of both worlds (and who doesn’t want that?):

1) Recognize the strengths of each: Traditional public relations has worked for many years and is grounded in strong and highly researched principles. PR professionals are familiar with the best way to communicate a specific message to a specific audience. And they still have some unique ideas to make a splash. Digital strategists, on the other hand, are pros when it comes to reaching a large audience, the specific uses for each medium, and how to engage the public in conversations with your brand. Once these are recognized, it becomes clear that integrated marketing and communication is the way to go.

2) Realize that the game hasn’t completely changed: Yes, social media has created a wave. It has given organizations many more tools to promote their company and the unique ability to communicate with large percentages of their audiences. However, that doesn’t mean we must reinvent the wheel. How to communicate with a large audience has been researched for years (mass communication studies), how people interact with media has also been studied (media studies), as have public relations. This research still applies and a social media presence can only be enhanced by understanding these. It is like starting a step or two up from all the rest!

3) Not everyone is online: 

…and even if they are, they may not be where you are. But that doesn’t mean those people need to miss out on interacting with your company. When considering a social media strategy, consider how that same personality and interaction can continue beyond the computer screen. Can the interactions taking place become a compelling magazine story? Can the images you collected via Instagram be part of your new commercial? Be creative!

There are many reasons social media and public relations should continue hand in hand. Can you think of other ways to integrate the two?