Navarro, Cristina, Moreno, Angeles, & Al-Sumait, Fahed (2017). Social media expectations between public relations professionals and their stakeholders: Results of the ComGap study in Spain. Public Relations Review, 43(4), 700-708.

Despite the massive incorporation of social media into communication strategies, there is still much that we do not know about the type of content that stakeholders expect to receive and what conversations they wish to have with organizations. This article compares the perspectives of public relations professionals against those of the general public in Spain with respect to the content that organizations should offer and what activities they should carry out in the context of social media. Our results show a gap in the perceptions and expectations of these two groups in both Spain and across Europe in order to open a discussion about whether communication professionals are effectively managing the tools at hand to create bonds and foster engagement with stakeholders.

This empirical research combines data from the European Communication Monitor (ECM) with the results of a representative online survey based on an extended and recoded subsample of the Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor (KLCM). This empirical research combines a representative survey among 4,054 members of the general population in 10 European countries with a survey of 1,346 communication professionals in the same markets. The ECM—against which the Spanish sample is contrasted—included two questions in their research related to the behavior of organizations in the context of social media. These questions were also included in the Internet user survey, allowing us to compare the communicators’ perceptions against the real expectations of citizens.

Key Findings

  • European and Spanish stakeholders are more interested in product related news and information than in other company news on the social web.
  • Communication professionals overrate the general public’s expectations, especially in the case of information relating to Corporate Social Responsibility and crises that affect customers.
  • Information on product safety and origin is much more valued by the general public than by professionals.
  • Women and older individuals are more demanding with respect to the behavior and content expected of organizations on social media.
  • Interacting with customers and other stakeholders is the behavior most valued, both by professionals and the general public in Spain and Europe.

Implications for Practice
This research reveals errors in the systematized listening of organizations. The dearth of knowledge about stakeholder expectations negatively affects the engagement process, and as a result, the reputation, legitimization, satisfaction with, and trust in organizations on the part of the general public. The idea that public relations professionals tend to overestimate their own social media skills has been demonstrated once again, with the finding that the perceptions of those responsible for communication in organizations are out of tune with stakeholder expectations. In an environment of simultaneous fragmented audiences and a proliferation of channels and transmitters, listening, measuring and research are indispensable for effective dialogue. The lack of these factors is particularly paradoxical in the context of social media, where organizations and their communication departments face an overload of information that was unimaginable not so long ago.

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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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