Have you ever wondered how organizational media orientation may affect external communication strategies? How organizations choose in which way to interact with the mass media? And to what extent relations between media orientations and external communication may differ among public, for-profit organisations and NPOs? Keep reading to find out answers to these questions.
In their recent publication “Mass media orientation and external communication strategies: Exploring organisational differences” Anke Wonneberger and Sandra Jacobs (2016) shed more light on how different forms of media orientation are related to preferences for specific communication strategies.
About the research
The authors conducted an online survey among Dutch communication professionals in private firms, public organisations, and NPOs. 71 companies from the top of a list of the 500 largest companies in the Netherlands, 120 Dutch public organizations and 80 of the best known Dutch NPOs were approached. A total of 150 communication professionals successfully participated in the survey.
Mediatization and external communication strategies
The notion that media shape and frame the processes of different social institutions has been a focal point in communication research, but the mediatization of corporate communication has not yet received sufficient attention. This study looks at a specific form of mediatization, which is mass media orientation: the attitude of communication professionals towards mass media. Mass media orientation has three sub-dimensions: attention seeking, strategic impact, and media hostility. The key question is whether mass media orientation is related to two main communication strategies – bridging and buffering. Bridging refers to the organisations willingness to adapt to changing external conditions or expectations. On the other side, buffering strategy indicates that the communication professionals aim at shielding the organisation from external effects and try to actively influence the organisational environment. Specific attention is paid to differences between corporations, NPOs and public sector organisations.
What are the findings?
The study shows that organisations generally use a mix of communication strategies; consisting of bridging as well as buffering strategies. A prevalence of buffering, specifically one-way symmetric communication, indicates that Dutch communication professionals focus on getting messages across as opposed to listening and adapting to their environment. The mix of communication strategies is partly affected by attitudes towards the media on the part of the communication professional.
When achieving media attention is an organisational target, there are more instances of buffering (one-way and symmetric communication). A strategic orientation towards media coverage, in contrast, can lead to both, bridging and buffering strategies. A mix of communication strategies seems to offer more flexibility in strategically adapting to a specific situation.
While attention seeking and strategic impact were the most common forms of media orientation across organisations, perceived media hostility was the least relevant one. While positive attitudes towards media coverage prevail in organisations, a more negative attitude towards the media also obstructs an organisation from bridging activities.
Overall, few differences between the three types of organisations regarding communication strategies and media orientations were found. This indicates a high level of homogeneity within the communication profession.
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For more information check out the article in International Journal of Strategic Communication and get acquainted with the details of the research. For further information you may contact the corresponding author at firstname.lastname@example.org (S. Jacobs).