Embracing Social Media: The Change and Disruption to Public Relations Practices in Malaysia

Zeti Azreen Ahmad


This research is not intended to examine on the advantages of using social media at work but to explore the constraint and challenges imposed by social media to PR practitioners at work. The study argues that beside positive effects, social media could also bring great challenge to PR practices that are often taken for granted.  At present, there is a dearth of research conducted to examine the usage of social media among PR practitioners in developing nations, the challenges and possible disruptions they imposed on PR practices. In view of this gap, this study aims to address the following objectives: (i) to examine the social media usage among PR practitioners at work; (ii) to identify PR practitioners’ perception on the effectiveness of social media as a tool to engage with stakeholders and (iii) to explore plausible risks imposed by social media on PR roles and practices. This study was part of PR profile research project conducted in 2018. More than 300 PR practitioners working in various organizations in Malaysia took part in the survey. The findings among others affirmed that despite a moderate use of social media, PR practitioners continue to perceive social media as effective tools to engage with stakeholders. Ironically, social media were also seen as imposing threats to organizations’ reputation. This study is significant as it contributes to existing literature on the implications of social media use in PR roles and practice in Malaysia.


Keywords: Social media, technology, PR in Malaysia, PR practice, PR roles.

Full Text:



Ahmad, Z. (2016). Communicating CSR in The Digital Age: An Exploratory Study of A CSR Award Winning Company in Malaysia. Journal of Education and Social Sciences, 4(June), 1-6.

Alzahrin Alias. (2018, March 19). Malaysia's Internet Penetration Is Now 85.7 Per Cent. Retrieved at https://www.nst.com.my/business/2018/03/346978/malaysias-internet-penetration-now-857-cent

Bach, S., & Kim, S. (2012). Online Consumer Complaint Behaviors: The Dynamics of Service Failures, Consumers' Word of Mouth, and Organization-Consumer Relationships. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 6(1), 59-76.

Baer, J. (2017, April 6). 4 Reasons to Answer Every Complaint on Social Media Opinion: Whatever The Reason, Your Silence Speaks Volumes. Adweek. Retrieved from https://www.adweek.com/digital/jay-baer-guest-post-4-reasons-to-answer-every-complaint-on-social-media/

Baruah, T. D. (2012, May 5). Effectiveness of Social Media as a Tool of Communicationa Its Potential for Technology Enabled Connections: A Micro-Level Study. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, 2(5), 1-10.

Bernama. (2018, December 18). Linkedin to Set Up Office in Malaysia. Retrieved from http://www.bernama.com/en/news.php?id=1676697

Chinnasamy, S. (28 February 2018). A Facebook Election Year?. Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/columnists/2018/02/339743/facebook-election-year

Coombs, W., & Holladay, J. (2012) The Paracrisis: The Challenges Created by Publicly Managing Crisis Prevention. Public Relations Review, 38(3), 408-415.

Comscore Inc. (2017, July 4). Comscore Announces Expanded Multi-Platform and Mobile Measurement in Malaysia with Introduction of Mobile Consumer Panel Data. Retrieved from https://www.comscore.com/Insights/Press-Releases/2017/7/comScore-Announces-Expanded-Multi-Platform-and-Mobile-Measurement-in-Malaysia?cs_edgescape_cc=MY

Diga, M., & Kelleher, T. (2009). Social Media Use, Perceptions of Decision-Making Power, and Public Relations Roles. Public Relations Review, 35(4), 440-442. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2009.07.003

DiStaso, W., & McCorkindale, T. (2012). Social Media: Uses and Opportunities in Public Relations. Global Media Journal, 5(2), 75-82. Retrieved from https://www.research gate.net/publication/259563914_Social_media_Uses_and_opportunities_in_public_ relations

DiStaso, W., Mccorkindale, T., & Wright, K. (2011). How Public Relations Executives Perceive and Measure The Impact of Social Media in Their Organizations. Public Relations Review, 37(3), 325-328. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2011.06.005

Einwiller, S., & Steilen, S (2015). Handling Complaints on Social Network Sites – An Analysis of Complaints and Complaint Responses on Facebook and Twitter Pages of Large US Companies. Public Relations Review, 41(2), 195-204.

Eyrich, N., Padman, M. L., & Sweetser, K. D. (2008). PR Practitioners’ Use of Social Media Tools and Communication Technology. Public Relations Review, 34(4), 412-414. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2008.09.010

Farzana Parveen, Noor Ismawati Jaafar, & Ainin Sulaiman. (February 2015). Social Media Usage and Organizational Performance: Reflections of Malaysian Social Media Managers. Telematics and Informatics, 32(1), 67-78. doi: 10.1016/j.tele.2014.03.001

Fitch, K. (2009). The New Frontier: Singaporean and Malaysian Public Relations Practitioners' Perceptions of New Media. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 10, 17-33.

Gabriel, S. P., & Koh, C. (2016). Social Media Use by Public Relations Practitioners in Malaysia: An Exploratory Study. Journal of Developing Areas, 50(5), 469-477.

Garding, S., & Bruns, A. Complaint Management and Channel Choice: An Analysis of Customer Perceptions. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-18179-0_2

Grunig, J. (2001). Two-Way Symmetrical Public Relations: Past, Present, and Future. In Heath, R. (Ed.), Handbook of Public Relations (pp. 11-62). California, Sage Publication.

Grunig, J., & Grunig, L. (1992) Models of Public Relations and Communication. In J. Grunig & D. M. Dozier (Eds), Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management (pp. 285-321). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Grunig, J., & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing Public Relations. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Hadina Habil. (2010). Functions and Strategies of Email Communication at The Workplace. In R. Taiwo (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Discourse Behavior and Digital Communication: Language Structures and Social Interaction. doi: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch030

James, M. B. (2007). A Review of The Impact of New Media on Public Relations: Challenges For Terrain, Practice And Education. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 8(1), 137-148.

Ji, Y. G., Li, C., North, M., & Liu, J. (2017). Staking Reputation on Stakeholders: How Does Stakeholders’ Facebook Engagement Help or Ruin A Company’s Reputation?. Public Relations Review, 43(1), 201-210. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev. 2016.12.004

Kaplan, A., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of The World, Unite! The Challenges and Opportunities of Social Media. Business Horizons, 53, 59-68.

Kaur, K. (2015). Social Media Creating Digital Environmental Publics: Case of Lynas Malaysia. Public Relations Review, 41(2), 311-314. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.12.005

Kent, M., & Taylor, M. (1998). Building Dialogic Relationships Through The World Wide Web. Public Relations Review, 24(3), 321-334. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/ S0363-8111(99)80143-X

Kent, M., & Taylor, M. (2014). Social Media in Public Relations: Reflections on Extending and Narrowing Relationships. Conference: 7th International Forum on Public Relations and Advertising, At Bangkok Thailand, Volume: Conference Proceedings. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/287982413_Social_Media_in_Public_Relations_Reflections_on_Extending_and_Narrowing_Relationships

MacNamara, J. (2010). Public Relations and The Social: How Practitioners Are Using, or Abusing, Social Media. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 11(1), 21-38.

McLennan, A., & Howell, G. (2011). Social Networks and The Challenge for Public Relations. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal. Retrieved from http://www.deakin.edu.au/arts-ed/apprj/articles/11-mclennan-howell.pdf

Moreno, A., Navarro, C., Tench, R., & Zerfass, A. (2015). Does Social Media Usage Matter? An Analysis of Online Practices and Digital Media Perceptions of Communication Practitioners in Europe. Public Relations Review, 41(2), 242-253. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.12.006

Mukhtar El-Kasim, & Syed Arabi Idid. (2017). PR Practitioners’ Use of Social Media: Validation of an Online Relationship. Jurnal Komunikasi: Malaysian Journal of Communication, 33(1), 212-228.

News Straits Times. (2017, September 12). Malaysians Are World's Largest WhatsApp Users. Retrieved from https://www.nst.com.my/lifestyle/bots/2017/09/278936/malaysians-are-worlds-largest-whatsapp-users

Robson, P., & James, M. (2013). Not Everyone’s Aboard The Online Public Relations Train: The Use (and Non-Use) of Social Media by Public Relations Practitioners. Prism, 9(1), 1-18. Retrieved from https://www.prismjournal.org/homepage.html

Shahizan Hassan, Norshuhada Shiratuddin, & Sobihantun Nur Ab Salam. (2015). Social Media as Persuasive Technology for Business in Malaysia. International Journal of E-Business Research, 11(2), 18-39.

Statcounter Global Stats. (2018, November). Retrieved from http://gs.statcounter.com/social-media-stats/all/Malaysia

Stříteský, V., & Stránská, A. (2015) Complaining Behaviour in Social Media. Social Technologies, 5(1), 22-31.

Tench, R., & Jones, B (2015). Social Media: The Wild West of CSR Communications. Social Responsibility Journal, 11(2). doi: 10.1108/SRJ-12-2012-0157.

Valentini, C. (2015). Is Using Social Media “Good” For The Public Relations Profession? A Critical Reflection. Public Relations Review, 41(2), 170-177. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2014.11.009

Wright, D. K., & Hinson, M. D. (2008). How Blogs and Social Media Are Changing Public Relations and The Way It Is Practiced. Public Relations Journal, 2(2), 1-21.

Wright, D. K., & Hinson, M. D. (2009). An Updated Look at The Impact of Social Media on Public Relations Practice. Public Relations Journal, 3(2), 1-26.

Wright, D. K., & Hinson, M. D. (2015). Examining Social and Emerging Media Use in Public Relations Practice: A Ten-Year Longitudinal Analysis. Public Relations Journal, 9(2), 1-26.

Wright, D. K., & Hinson, M. D. (2009). An Analysis of The Increasing Impact of Social and Other New Media on Public Relations Practice. Paper presented at 12th Annual International Public Relations Research Conference (pp. 1-21). Florida, Miami: Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved from https://instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/Wright _Hinson_PR_Miami.pdf

Zheng, B., Liu, H., & Davison, R. M. (2018). Exploring The Relationship Between Corporate Reputation and The Public’s Crisis Communication on Social Media. Public Relations Review, 44(1), 56-64. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2017.12.006


  • There are currently no refbacks.

e-ISSN: 2289-1528