To understand how social media are reshaping the public relations profession, it is vital to examine the perceptions of public relations leaders who are typically involved in decisions integrating social media into communication programs. This study explored how social media use has affected leadership behaviors of 43 public relations leaders in the United States. Four key dimensions emerged from interview results on how public relations leaders can strategically use social media to establish leadership roles: exhibiting expert power, gaining decision power by demonstrating tangible outcomes, displaying leadership vision in social media use, and establishing leadership among peers. This study made theoretical contributions to the area of public relations leadership by developing three mechanisms for public relations managers to build their leadership through developing leadership capabilities in strategic social media management, gaining expert power to exert upward influence, and paralleling relationship building with peer leaders from other organizational functions. Suggested future research directions included how public relations leaders’ engagement in social media management has affected the whole leadership structure within the organization and to what extent public relations leaders could influence the ethical use of social media or the issue of social media governance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science