You are here

The Role of Public Relations in Social Capital

Journal Name:

Publication Year:

Abstract (2. Language): 
Public relations research has traditionally focused on how public relations efforts make organizations more effective. Recently, scholars have argued for the broader role of public relations in society. That is, how can public relations be used to improve society rather than simply making organizations more effective? Existing studies have emphasized the relationship between internal public relations and organizational social capital. Lack of scholarly attention has been paid to how public relations efforts affect citizens’ social capital in general. To fill the gap in this area, this study examines how different types of public relations efforts contribute to citizens’ social capital. Specifically, this study uses data from the 2010 Pew Internet and American Life Project ‘Social Side of the Internet’ survey to examine the influence of public relations efforts by various organizations in individuals’ social capital. Overall, the analyses suggest that organizations’ face-to-face meetings with their members enhance interpersonal trust and civic engagement, and that organizations’ strategic use of social media boosts civic engagement, whereas strategic communication via email, blogs, and websites decreases civic engagement. This study provides empirical evidence and practical implications for the important role of strategic social media use and interpersonal communication in enhancing social capital.



Aiken, M., Vanjani, M., Ray, B., & Martin, J. (2003). College student Internet use. Campus-
Wide Information Systems, 20, 182-185.
Barber, B. (1983). The logic and limits of trust. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University
Beaudoin, C. E., Thorson, E., & Hong, T. (2006). Promoting youth health by social
empowerment: A media campaign targeting social capital. Health Communication,
19(2), 175-182.
Bennett, W. (2003). Communicating global activism. Information, Communication &
Society, 6(2),143-168.
Best, S., & Krueger, B. (2006). Online interactions and social capital distinguishing between
new and existing ties. Social Science Computer Review, 24(4), 395-410.
Bode, L. (2012). Facebooking it to the polls: A study in online social networking and political
behavior. Journal of Information, Technology & Politics, 9, 352-369.
Bourdieu, P. (2001). The forms of capital. In M. Granovetter&R. Swedberg (Eds.), The
sociology of economic life(pp. 96‐111). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
Boyd, d. & Ellison, N. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship.
Journal of Computer-mediated Communication 13, 210–230.
Burke, M., Marlow, C., and Lento, T. (2010). Social network activity and social
well‐being.ACM CHI 2010: Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems,
Delli Carpini, M. (2004). Mediating democratic engagement: The impact of communications
on citizens’ involvement in political and civic life. In L.L. Kaid (Ed.), Handbook of
communication research (pp. 395-434). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Drew, D., & Weaver, D. (2006). Voter learning in the 2004 presidential election: Did the
media matter? Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 83, 25–42.
Ehrlich, T. (2000). Civic responsibility and higher education. Westport, CT: Oryx Press.
Ellison, N., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends”: Social
capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-
Mediated Communication, 12(4),1143-1168. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00367.x.
Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies
Volume: 6 – Issue: 3 July - 2016
© Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies 228
Ellison, N., Steinfield, C. and Lampe, C. (2010, May). Connection strategies: Relationship
information and maintenance on social network sites. Paper presented at the annual
meeting of the International Communication Association, Chicago, IL.
Grunig, J. E., & Huang, Y. H. (2000). From organizational effectiveness to relationship
indicators: Antecedents of relationships, public relations strategies and relational
outcomes. In J. A. Ledingham, & S. D. Bruning (Eds.), Public relations as
relationship management: A relational approach to the study and practice of public
relations (pp. 23–53). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Hallahan, K. (2001). Strategic media planning: Toward an integrated public relations media
model. In R.L. Heath (Ed.), Handbook of public relations (pp. 461-470). Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage.
Hallahan, K. (2004). “Community” as a foundation for public relations theory and practice.
Communication Yearbook, 28(1), 233-279.
Hampton, K., & Wellman, B. (2002). The not so global village of Netville. In B. Wellman, &
C. Haythornthwaite (Eds), The Internet in everyday life (pp. 345-371). Oxford:
Hazleton, V., & Kennan, W. (2000). Social capital: Reconceptualizing the bottom
line. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 5(2), 81-87.
Huang, Y. H. (1997). Public relations strategies, relational outcomes, and conflict
management. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Maryland,College
Park, MD.
Jin, B. (2010). Roles of public relations and social capital for communal relationship
building: Enhancing collaborative values and outcomes. In Paperpresented at the
International Communication Association Conference, Singapore.
Jin, B., & Lee, S. (2013). Enhancing community capacity: Roles of perceived bonding and
bridging social capital and public relations in community building. Public Relations
Review, 39(4), 290-292. doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2013.08.009.
Kennan, W., & Hazelton, V. (2006). Internal public relations, social capital, and the role of
effective organizational communication. In C. H. Botan & V. Hazelton (Eds.), Public
relations theory II (pp. 311-338). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Kennan, W., Hazleton, V., Janoske, M., & Short, M. (2008). The influence of new
communication technologies on undergraduate preferences for social capital
formation, maintenance, and expenditure. Public Relations Journal, 2(2), 1-21.
Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies
Volume: 6 – Issue: 3 July - 2016
© Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies 229
Kent. M. (2013). Using social media dialogically: Public relations role in reviving
democracy. Public Relations Review, 39(4), 337-345.
Kent, M. & Taylor, M. (2002). Toward a dialogic theory of public relations. Public Relations
Review, 28, 21-37.
Kramer, R. M. (1999). Trust and distrust in organizations: Emerging perspectives, enduring
questions. Annual Review of Psychology, 50, 569-598.
Kruckeberg, D., & Starck, K. (1988). Public relations and community: A reconstructed
theory. New York: Praeger.
Leanna, C. R., & Van Buren III. H. J. (1999). Organizational social capital and employment
practices. Academy of Management Review, 24(3), 538-555.
Leeper, K. (1986). Public relations: Ethics and communitarianism. Public Relations Review,
22, 163-179.
Leeper, R. (2000). In search of a meta theory of public relations: An argument for
communitarianism. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Handbook of public relations (pp. 93-104).
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Lin, N. (2001). Building a network theory of social capital. In N. Lin, K. Cook, &R. Burt
(Eds.), Social capital theory and research (pp. 3‐30). New Brunswick, NJ:
Transaction Publishers.
Luoma-aho, V. (2005). Faith-holders as social capital of Finnish public organizations.
Jyvaskyla, Finland: University of Jyvaskyla Press.
Luoma-aho, V. (2006). Intangibles of public organizations: Trust and reputation. In V.
Luoma-aho & S. Peltola (Eds.), public organizations in the communication society
(pp. 11-58). Jyvaskyla, Finland: University of Jyvaskyla Press.
Luoma-aho, V. (2009). On Putnam: Bowling together-applying Putnam’s theories of
community and social capital to public relations. In O. Ihlen, M. van Ruler, & M.
Fredriksson (Eds.), Public relations and social theory: Key figures and concepts (pp.
231-251). New York: Routledge.
McLeod, J. M., Scheufele, D. A., & Moy, P. (1999). Community, communication and
participation: The role of mass media and interpersonal discussion in local political
participation. Political Communication, 16, 315-336.
Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies
Volume: 6 – Issue: 3 July - 2016
© Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies 230
McLeod, J. M., Scheufele, D. A., Moy, P., Horowitz, E. M., Holbert, R. L., Zhang, W.,
Zubric, S., & Zubric, J. (1999). Understanding deliberation: The effects of discussion
networks on participation in a public forum. Communication Research, 26, 743-774.
Nie, N. (2001). Sociability, interpersonal relations, and the internet reconciling conflicting
findings. American Behavioral Scientist, 45(3), 420-435.
Nielsen, R. (2011). Mundane Internet tools, mobilizing practices, and the coproduction of
citizenship in political campaigns. New Media & Society, 13(5), 755-771.
Obar, J., Zube, P., & Lampe, C. (2012). Advocacy 2.0: An analysis of how advocacy groups
in the United States perceived and use social media as tools for facilitating civil
engagement and collection action. Journal of Information Policy, 2. 1-25.
Orbell, J. & Dawes, R. M. (1991). A “cognitive miser” theory of cooperators’ advance.
American Political Science Review, 85, 515-528.
Park, N., Kee, K., & Valenzuela, S. (2009). Being immersed in social networking
environment: Facebook groups, uses and gratifications, and social outcomes.
CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(6).729-733.
Pasek, J., More, E., & Romer, D. (2008). Realizing the social internet? Online social
networking meets offline social capital. Journal of Information Technology &
Politics, 6(3-4). 197-215.
Patrick, J. (1998). Building communities from the inside out: A path toward finding and
mobilizing a community’s assets. Chicago: ACTA Publications.
Paxton, P. (1999). Is social capital declining in the United States? A multiple indicator
assessment. American Journal of Sociology, 105(1), 88-127.
Putnam, R. (1995a). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. Journal of
Democracy, 6, 65–78.
Putnam R. (1995b) Tuning in, tuning out: The strange disappearance of social capital in
America. PS: Political Science & Politics, 28(4), 664-683.
Putnam, R. (2000a). Social capital: Measurement and consequences. Canadian Journal of
Policy Research, 2(1), 41-51.
Putnam, R. (2000b). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New
York: Simon & Schuster.
Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies
Volume: 6 – Issue: 3 July - 2016
© Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies 231
Rainie, L., Purcell, K. & Smith, A. (2011). The social site of the Internet. Pew Internet &
American Life Project.
Shah, D., Cho, J., Eveland, W., & Kwak, N. (2005). Information and expression in a digital
age modeling Internet effects on civic participation. Communication Research, 32(5),
531-565. doi:10.1177/0093650205279209.
Sommerfeldt, E. (2012). Networks of social capital: Extending a public relations model of
civil society in Peru. Public Relations Review, 39. 1-12.
Sommerfeldt, E. (2013). The civility of social capital: Public relations in the public sphere,
civil society, and democracy. Public Relations Review, 39 (4), 280-289.
Sommerfeldt, E. J., & Taylor, M. (2011). A social capital approach to improving public
relations’ efficacy: Diagnosing internal constraints on external communication. Public
Relations Review, 37(3), 197-206.
Stamm, K. R., Emig, A.G., & Hesse, M.B. (1997). The contribution of local media to
community involvement. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 74, 97-
Steinfield, C., Ellison, N. & Lampe, C. (2008). Social capital, self-esteem, and use of online
social network sites: a longitudinal analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental
Psychology, 29, 434-445.
Steinfield, C., Ellison, N., Lampe, C. & Vitak, J. (2012). Online social network sites and the
concept of social capital. In F. Lee, L. Leung, J. Qui, & S. Chu (Eds.),Frontiers in
new media research(pp.115-131). New York: Routledge.
Taylor, M. (2009). Civil society as a rhetorical public relations process. In R. Heath, E.L.
Toth, & D. Waymer (Eds.), Rhetorical and critical approaches to public relations II
(pp. 76-91). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Taylor, M. (2010). Public relations in the enactment of civil society. In R. Heath (Ed.), The
Sage handbook of public relations (pp. 5-15). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Taylor, M. (2011). Building social capital through rhetoric and public relations. Management
Communication Quarterly, 25, 436–454. doi:10.1177/0893318911410286.
Taylor, M., & Doerfel, M. (2003). Building interorganizational relationships that build
nations. Human Communication Research, 29(2), 153–181.
Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies
Volume: 6 – Issue: 3 July - 2016
© Online Journal of Communication and Media Technologies 232
Taylor, M., & Kent, M. (2000). Media transitions in Bosnia: From propagandist past to
uncertain future. Gazette, 62, 355–378.
Wellman, B., Hasse, A., Witte, J., & Hampton, K. (2001). Does the Internet increase,
decrease, or supplement social capital? Social networks, participation, and community
commitment. The American Behavioral Scientist, 45(3),436-459.
Willis, P. (2012). Engaging communities: Ostrom's economic commons, social capital and
public relations. Public Relations Review, 38(1), 116-122.
Wimmer, R.D., & Dominick, J. R. (2006). Mass media research: An introduction. Belmont,
CA: Thomson Learning.
Valenzuela, S., Park, N., Kee, K. (2008, April) Lessons from Facebook: The effect of social
network sites on college students’ social capital. Paper presented at the 9th
International Symposium on Online Journalism, Austin, TX.
Valenzuela, S., Park, N., & Kee, K. (2009). Is there social capital in a social network site?:
Facebook use and college students’ life satisfaction, trust, and participation. Journal
of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14, 875-901. doi :10.1111/j.1083-
Vitak, J., Zube, P, Smock, A., Carr., Ellison, N., & Lampe, C. (2011). It’s complicated:
Facebook users’ political participation in the 2008 election. Cyberpsychology,
Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(3). 107-114.
Zhang, W., & Seltzer, T. (2010). Another piece of the puzzle: Advancing social capital theory
by examining the effect of political party relationship quality on political and civic
participation. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 4(3), 155-170.
Zuniga, H., Nakwon, J., & Valenzuela S. (2011). Social media use for news and individuals’
social capital, civic engagement and political participation. Journal of Computer-
Mediated Communication, 17(3).319-336. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2012.01574.x.

Thank you for copying data from