Hether, Heather Jane (2014). Dialogic communication in the health care context: A case study of Kaiser Permanente’s social media practices. Public Relations Review, 40(5), 856-858. DOI: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.07.007


This case study examines how one of the largest not-for-profit health care organizations in the US, Kaiser Permanente (KP), uses social media to communicate with its stakeholders. Through content analysis and interviews, this study identifies the communication models reflected in a sample of social media posts and it examines the organization’s approach to using social media.  The study finds evidence of both one-way and two-way communication models, as well as principles of dialogic communication. The implications of these findings are discussed.


This study uses both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. Four in-depth interviews were conducted with KP staff members who were actively engaged in managing and posting to the organization’s social media platforms. In addition, a content analysis examined all posts originating from and directed to KP over a four-week period on both Twitter and Facebook. The analytic sample consisted of 97 organizational posts and 172 public posts directed to KP across both platforms.

Key Findings

  • The majority of social media posts from this health care organization reflected a public information model of public relations
  • Dialogic principles were evident in the organization’s social media posts
  • Facebook supported more community participation than Twitter
  • Staff members expressed an interest in using social media for both one-way and two-way communication

Implications for Practice

This case study found key publics are interested in engaging with a health care organization on social media; therefore, it is suggested that organizations continue to invest their resources in developing effective social media strategies. Moreover, organizations should develop strategies that more frequently invoke a two-way symmetrical model of communication, as well as dialogic communication. While these models may entail a certain loss of control over messaging, they also enable organizations to effectively engage with their key publics. Facebook continues to be an important part of an organization’s social media strategy; therefore, organizations are encouraged to use this platform to support a vibrant stakeholder community.

Article Location

The full article is available for purchase at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811114001246

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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