The Impact of Different Social Media Message Strategies in Government Public Relations

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The Impact of Different Social Media Message Strategies in Government Public Relations
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Cho, Eunju
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Master's ( M.A.M.C.)
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Mass Communication, Journalism and Communications
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Lee, Moon
Committee Members:
Kelly, Kathleen S
Ferguson, Mary Ann

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Journalism and Communications -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
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Abstract:
This study investigates how different message strategies influence publics’perceptions of government organizations’ transparency, credibility, andwillingness of civic participation by government organizations as well as theirown willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas. Based on Grunigand Hunt’s (1984) four models of public relations and Hazelton’s (1993) sevenpublic relations strategies, there social message strategies were proposed a) AuthoritativeSpokesperson, b) Initiative Participatory, and c) Information Dissemination. Anexperiment was conducted to test the relationship between these three differentsocial media message strategies and publics’ perceptions toward governmentorganizations using social media. First, the results of this study provideevidence that the Initiative Participatory message strategy increasedindividuals’ perceptions of civic participation by government organizations aswell as their own willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas.Second, the Information Dissemination message strategy is highly associatedwith perceived transparency in government organizations. Third, resultsindicate that the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy increasespublics’ perceived credibility of government organizations. This study providesa fundamental understanding of uses of social media in government publicrelations. Furthermore, this study can help build positive relationshipsbetween government organizations and creating favorable images from publics.Theoretical as well as practical implications are discussed.
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In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
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Includes vita.
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by Eunju Cho.
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Thesis (M.A.M.C.)--University of Florida, 2012.
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Adviser: Lee, Moon.
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1 THE IMPACT OF DIFFERENT SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGE STRATEGIES IN GOVERNMENT PUBLIC RELATIONS By EUNJU CHO A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2012

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2 2012 Eunju Cho

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3 This work is dedicated to my parents, Eun and Hyungyong

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4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS In writing my thesis, I have incurred much debt. I would like to thank Dr. Lee for encouraging me to think about the topic and offering continuous assistance during of this thesis. She has been everything that one could want in an advisor. I am deeply indebted to my committee members Dr. K. Kelly and Dr. M. A. Ferguson for their time and effort in reviewing this work.

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5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS .................................................................................................. 4LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................ 7LIST OF FIGURES .......................................................................................................... 8 ABSTRACT ............. ........................................................................................... ............. 9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................... 112 LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................................... 15Emerging Social Media ........................................................................................... 15Government Public Relations ................................................................................. 17Social Media Messages from a Government P ublic Relations Perspective ............ 26Hypotheses ............................................................................................................. 293 METHOD ................................................................................................................. 3 0Design of Study ...................................................................................................... 31Stimulus Development ............................................................................................ 32Pretest .................................................................................................................... 33Procedure ............................................................................................................... 35Willingness of Civic Participation by Government Organizations ..................... 35Willingness of Civic Participation in Governmental Agendas ............................ 35Governmental Transparency ............................................................................ 36Governmental Credibility .................................................................................. 37Reliability Check ............................................................................................... 374 RESULTS ................................................................................................................ 3 9Profiles of Participants ............................................................................................ 39Manipulation Check ................................................................................................ 40Findings .................................................................................................................. 415 DISCUSSION .......................................................................................................... 486 CONCLUSION ........................................................................................................ 52 APPENDIX A NATIONAL ENERGY MANAGEMENT ADMINISTRATION FACEBOOK INFO ..... 57

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6 B NATIONAL ENERGY MANAGEMENT ADMINISTRATION FACEBOOK WALL .... 58C BASIC INFORMATION ........................................................................................... 59D ENERGY EFFICIENCY MESSAGES .................................................................... 60E PRETEST RESULTS .............................................................................................. 63F THE ACTUAL QUESTIONNAIRE ........................................................................... 65LIST OF REFERENCES ............................................................................................... 75BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ............................................................................................ 82

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7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2-1 Social media message strategies ....................................................................... 234-1 Independent t-test for perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations between the Initiative Participatory and the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategies ................................................ 424-2 Independent t-test for perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations between the Initiative Participatory and the Information Dissemination message strategies .................................................. 424-3 Independent t-test for perceived willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas between the Initiative Participatory and the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategies ................................................ 434-4 Independent t-test for perceived willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas between the Initiative Participatory and the Information Dissemination message strategies .................................................. 444-5 Independent t-test for governmental transparency between the Information Dissemination and the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategies ........... 444-6 Independent t-test for governmental transparency between the Information Dissemination and the Initiative Participatory message strategies ..................... 454-7 Independent t-test for governmental credibility between the Authoritative Spokesperson and the Information Dissemination message strategies ............. 464-8 Independent t-test for governmental credibility between the Authoritative Spokesperson and the Initiative Participatory message strategies ..................... 46A-1 Basic information ............................................................................................... 59B-1 Energy efficiency messages .............................................................................. 60C-1 Pretest results .................................................................................................... 63

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8 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page A-1 National energy management administration Facebook info.. ........................... 57B-1 National energy management administration Facebook wall. ............................ 58

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9 Abstract Of Thesis Presented To The Graduate School Of The University Of Florida In Partial Fulfillment Of The Requirements For The Degree Of Master Of Arts In Mass Communication THE IMPACT OF DIFFERENT SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGE STRATEGIES IN GOVERNMENT PUBLIC RELATIONS By Eunju Cho August 2012 Chair: Moon J. Lee Major: Mass Communication This study investigates how different message strategies influence publics perceptions of government organizations transparency, credibility, and willingness of civic participation by government organizations as well as their own willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas. Bas ed on Grunig and Hunts (1984) four models of public relations and Hazeltons (1993) seven public relations strategies, there social message strategies were proposed a) Aut horitative Spokesperson, b) Initiative Participatory, and c) Information Dissemination. An experiment was conducted to test the relationship between these three different social media message strategies and publics perceptions toward government organizations using social media. First, the results of this study provide evidence that the Initiative Participatory message strategy increased individuals perceptions of civic participation by government organizations as well as their own willingness of civic parti cipation in governmental agendas. Second, the Information Dissemination message strategy is highly associated with perceived transparency in government organizations. Third, results indicate that the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy increases publ ics perceived credibility of government

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10 organizations. This study provides a fundamental understanding of uses of social media in government public relations. Furthermo re, this study can help build positive relationships between government organizati ons and creating favorable images from publics. Theoretical as well as prac tical implications are discussed.

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11 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Emerging social media appear in current society in the form of highly developed technology. When Facebook (2011) launched in 2004, there were only 1 million active users. By 2011, that number had dramatically increased to more than 800 million active users, each with an average of 130 friends, who can connect with more than 900 million objects, including pages, groups, and events. Twitter (2011), another popular form of social media, announced that it had reached 10 0 million active users as of September 2011. Using social media is the third most popular online activity in the United States (Madden & Zickuhr, 2011). Government organizations frequently use social media to interact with publics (Wigand, 2010). The U. S. government has created different ways of using social media at the federal level and has even proposed new regulations to control the social media activities of government public relations practitioners (Mergel, 2010). There has also been substantial growth in the use of social media at the local and community levels of government in the United States (Human Capital Institute & Saba, 2010). The most important reason for the government’s use of social media is as a tool for public relations. In recent years, numerous studies have at tempted to identify and explore the role of social media in public relations (Eyric h, Padman, & Sweetser, 2008; Wright & Hinson, 2008b). However, social media utilization in government public relations generally has received little attention from scholars (Landsbergen, 2010). While relatively little research has been conducted, government organizations use social media to distribute information and to communicate with the citizens (Wigand, 2010). This study is intended

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12 to begin to fill this research gap by analyzing public relations activities (i.e., message strategies), as well as describing of government public relations use of social media at various agencies. This study explores how different message strategies influence publics’ perceptions of government organizations’ transparency, credibility, and willingness of civic participation by government organizations as well as their own willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas. The three different strategies are based on Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) four public relations models and Hazleton’s (1993) seven public relations strategies. Grunig and Hunt (1984) identified four public relations models: press agentry, public information, two-way asymmetrical model and two-way symmetrical model. Hazleton (1993) proposed seven public relations strategies that an organization uses to communicate with publics: informative, facilit ative, persuasive, promise and reward, threat and punishment, bargaining, and cooperative problem solving. This study utilized two different th eories, because these theories can explain the relationship with internet communication and interactive communication. In detail, Fawkes and Gregory (2001) pointed out that Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) four public relations models have a conceptual relationship with Internet communication. Werder (2005) argued that Hazleton’s (1993) seven public relations strategies described open and interactive communication between organizations and publics. Using these two theories, three different message strategies are proposed. To identify social media message strategies, a content analysis was conducted in the context of government public relations There were two theoretical backgrounds: Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) four models of public relations and Hazleton’s (1984) seven

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13 public relations strategies. Five different gove rnment organizations’ uses of social media in South Korea and the United States during September 2011 were investigated. This study found that the majority of government organizations in both countries was the public information models (South Korea: 54%; United States: 64%), followed by the twoway asymmetrical model (South Korea: 16%; United States: 25%) in government public relations. The third most commonly used social media in South Korea was press agentry (15%) and the remaining model commonly used in social media was the twoway symmetrical model (14%) in South Korea. In the United States, the third most commonly used social media was the two-way symmetrical model (10%) and the remaining commonly used in social media was the press agentry model (0.6%). This study also found that the most prevalent public relations strategy is the informative strategy (South Korea: 56.6%; United States: 52%), followed by the persuasive strategy (South Korea: 14.7%; United States: 22.6%). Furthermore, the government organizations also use the bargaining strategy (South Korea: 8.7%; United States: 8.7%) as well as cooperative problem-solving strategy (South Korea: 9.3%; United States: 7.3%) in order to enhance governmental credibility and transparency. From this perspective, this study proposed social media message strategies according to their characteristics. The first strategy found was the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy. The assumption of this message strategy is that the content of government public relations messages emphasizes the spokesperson’s authority to describe governmental activities.

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14 The second strategy was the Initiative Participatory message strategy. The assumption of this message strategy is that the goal of public relations is to persuade publics to actively participate in government. The third public relations message strategy defined was the Information Dissemination message strategy. This message strategy assumes that the goal of public relations is for governmental organizati ons to disclose specific policy information to publics, so that they can be more aware of government organizations’ intentions. This study posits that governmental activities communicated through social media, have an effect on publics’ perception of government. Ultimately, this study examined how different social media message strategies are used in government public relations. Moreover, this study investigated the relationship between different social media message strategies and publics’ perception of governmental transparency, credibility, and willingness of civic participation by government organizations, as well as their own willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas.

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15 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Emerging Social Media Even before the emergence of social media, mainstream media influenced publics and when the mainstream media focused on a specific issue, publics normally paid attention to that issue (McCombs & Bell, 1996). While the mainstream media still has the power to make an issue “hot,” social media are also able to provide information and to enhance social issues (Sayre, Bode, Shah, Wilcox, & Shah, 2010). In this same vein, social media can be distinguished from traditional media by human networks of social media, which connect individuals (Mabry, 2010). From this perspective, social media create an online network, which allows social media to be tailored to a specific audience (Mabry, 2010). At the outset, it is imperative to define social media. Kaplan and Haenlein (2010) defined social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundation of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of User Generated Contents” (p. 61). In this sense, social media are a part of Web 2.0. After Web 2.0 was first presented at the O’Reilly Media Conference in 2004, many people began using the term Web 2.0 (Solis & Breakenridge, 2009). Solis and Breakenridge (2009) explained that Web 2.0 opened a new means of communication that allows users to collaborate, share, and gather information online. Further, the authors pointed out that Web 2.0 refers to social networking sites, which allow for communication with publics in a clearer manner. The authors concluded that social media are very important due to their representation of democratic news and information.

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16 Java, Song, Finin, and Tseng (2007) explored the microblogging phenomena, including Twitter. The authors mentioned that the contents of tweets are classified as daily chatter, conversations, sharing information, and reporting news. The authors concluded that Twitter users want to talk about daily life, distribute information, and locate beneficial information. Further, Stelzner (2009) argued that Twitter is the most common social media in the public relations, advertising, and marketing fields. In this sense, social media are a useful platform in order to disseminate information and to share people’s opinions. As the number of social media users has dr amatically increased, the importance of social media has grown. In fact, 43% of online users now utilize social media daily (Madden & Zickuhr). Social media are especially popular with women and young adults. The authors investigated the merits of using social media and concluded that over 50% of social media users describe having a positive perspective towards social media experiences. The increase in social media users has led to its being used in various practical ways, such as sharing scientific knowledge, utilizing it for education, and certain targeted advertising campaigns (Kim, 2008). As noted earlier, the term social media is one of the most popular terms in current society and it is used to describe a process of interactive communication. Wright and Hinson (2008a) examined the impact of social media in public relations and demonstrated that social media are likely to cause powerful changes in many fields. The authors also suggested that social media are very effective internal and external communication methods.

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17 Government Public Relations Government in the U.S. expends a great deal of effort communicating with publics on the federal, local, and community levels (Hawes, 2010). In doing this, government public relations deals with two different fiel ds: public administration and communication (Glenny, 2008). In detail, Skok (1995) stated that “public administration is seen primarily as the carrying-out of policies established by the political (or policy making) elements of the government” (p. 327). Miller (1966) addressed that "communication has as its central interest those behavioral situations in which a source transmits a message to receivers with conscious intent to affect the latter's behaviors"(p. 89). Many public relations scholars (Wilcox & Cameron, 2006; Cutlip, Center & Broom, 2006; Lattimore, Baskin, Heiman, Toth & Van Leuven, 2004) have discussed how the government conducts public relations. Other scholars hav e referred to government public relations as government communication, public information, public administrative communication, and public communication (Glenny, 2008). Although government public relations goes by diverse names, its objectives are similar to those of public administration. Lee (2007) suggested that government public relations has a number of different purposes: 1) media relations, 2) public reporting, 3) being responsive to publics, 4) increasing th e utilization of services and products, 5) public education such as public service campaigns, 6) seeking voluntary public compliance with laws and regulations, 7) using publics as an agency’s eyes and ears, and 8) increasing publics support. On the ot her hand, Lee (2009) proposed that from a practical public relations perspective, government public relations is pragmatic and democratic, stating, “The first one---pragmatic ---enlists the practical uses of external communications to help accomplish the substantive mission of a governmental agency”

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18 (p. 519). Moreover, governmental public relations practitioners use the second category---democratic---to help foster democracy. Liu and Horsley (2007) believe that government professional development differs from that of the private sector. According to the authors, government public relations has a unique environmental system that includes merits and demerits: politics, public good, legal constraints, media scrutiny, devaluation of communication, poor public perception, lagging professional development, and federalism. The authors pointed out that politics play an important role in the public sector, and government agencies should demonstrate dedication to the people. However, government agencies try to control the information that they provide to the media. To demonstrate this dedication, the authors cautioned that government agencies should c ontinuously observe the media and stress that government public relations practitioners should examine news releases to monitor the arguments of publics. In addition, the authors pointed out that another result of imposing restrictions is the devaluation of communication from a public administration perspective which may cause publics to have a low perception of the government’s public relations. In a similar manner, Backett (2000) suggested some differences between private corporations and government organizations The author explained that the private sector primarily focuses on increasing company revenues. In contrast, governmental organizations try to promote the welfare of citizens and emphasize more suitable growth. In addition, governmental organizations should be role models for private corporations. For this reason, Garnett (1992) argued, governmental organizations have more regulations than private companies. Furt hermore, Viteritti (1997) believed that

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19 communication between governmental organizations and publics should include an individual moral obligation to each other. As noted, government public relations is different from the public relations of private corporations. On the other hand, the principles of government public relations resemble corporate public relations. At this point, this study deals with the four public relations models identified by Grunig and Hunt (1984) and Hazleton’s (1993) seven public relations strategies. From a management perspective, Grunig and Hunt (1984) defined public relations as the “management of communication between an organization and its public” (p. 6) and Hongcharu (2010) added that this definition fits a variety of communication environments that exist among the general p ublic and organizations. The relationship between an organization and publics is clear, and Grunig and Hunt (1984) identified four public relations models: press agentry, public information, two-way asymmetrical model and two-way symmetrical model. In the press agentry model, public relations practitioners hope to develop a positive reputation with their audiences using mass media. In the public information model, public relations practitioners focus on providing information to publics and choose a specific topic address in a pre ss release (Grunig, 2007). Heise (1985) contended that government public relations pr actitioners generally use this model at the local level. Using two-way asymmetrical model public relations pr actitioners use social media to investigate publics’ taste in order to develop content (Grunig, 2007). This model appears to be good for communicating to publics, but it only emphasizes an organization’s arguments. However, the two-way symmetrical model is also based on

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20 research of publics, and this model makes an effort to negotiate and deal with publics, which leads to mutual understanding between public relations pr actitioners and publics (Grunig, 2007). Fleisher and Blair (1999) found that these four public relations models affect how public affairs professionals perform their work. In addition, Botan and Taylor (2004) argued that the field of public relations theory, including the four public relations models, is applicable in a variety of ways, including health, risk management, and political communication. Furthermore, Phillips (2009) found that many public relations practitioners utilize digital media as an asymmetrical tool, arguing that a well-designed blog creates a readable article that can enhance attractive points. In a similar manner, Glenny (2008) stated that government agencies favor oneway communication, and governmental organizations prefer to write minimal comments on the Internet. Grunig (2001) theoretically showed that to form a bond between an organization and publics, the two-way symmetrical model is more useful than the twoway asymmetrical model. Hawes (2010) also believed that it is possible for governmental organizations to obtain benefits from symmetrical communication. Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) public relati ons models have influenced every aspect of public administration. Adding to this, Ha zleton (1993) established public relations strategies to demonstrate the communication perspective in public relations. Hazleton (2006) emphasized that public relations stra tegies are different from other public relations theories. In detail, the author ar gued, “First, the theory considers the potential for a variety of outcomes from public relations activities. Second, the theory recognizes

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21 publics as active participants in the public relations process. And finally, the theory recognizes context as a central feature of public relations” (p. 199). Hazleton (1993) classified seven different public relations strategies: informative, facilitative, persuasive, promise and reward, threat and punishment, bargaining, and cooperative problem-solving strategies. Empirical studies indicate that these seven public relations strategies reflect the behavior of organizations (Page & Hazleton, 1999; Page 2000a, 2000b). Werder (2006) conducted an experiment on the impact of public relations strategies on problem recognition, constraint recognition, level of involvement, and goal compatibility. The author believed that organizations should know how to communicate with publics because communication plays such an important role in terms of accomplishing the purposes of or ganizations that are highly related to involvement in public activities. Hazelton (1993) insisted that organizations’ public relations activities are associated with communication strategies that fulfill the organization’s goals. First, the informative strategy has a goal of conveying a variety of information to publics. The author exemplified the foundation of the informative strategy as reasonable public and neutral events. The author suggested that the informative strategy is useful to increase problem identification. Second, the author explai ned that the facilitative strategy helps to make participating in governmental events by using resources, usually tangible materials such as money and tools. The author demonstrated that the facilitative strategy is effective when publics lack the res ources to accomplish specific tasks. Third, the author expressed that the foundation of the persuasive strategy is emotion. One characteristic of this strategy is the use of biased words to convey the significance of

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22 the problem. In addition, the author pointed out that the persuasive strategy leads to action in real-world situations. Fourth, the promise and reward strategy aims to obtain publics’ full compliance. The author insisted that this strategy is very useful because the messages intend to control outcomes through compensation. Fifth, the threat and punishment strategy takes the opposite approach. The author claimed that these messages intend to control outcomes through penalties. Sixth, Werder (2006) argued that the bargaining strategy is similar to Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) two-way asymmetrical model. The main purpose of this model is to persuade publics after considering its feedback. Seventh and lastly, Hazleton (1993) described the cooperative problem-solving strategy as indicating a will ingness to handle difficult issues. Werder (2006) showed that the cooperative problem-solving strategy is similar to Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) two-way symmetrical model. Even though Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) four public relations models and Hazleton’s (1993) seven public relations strategies attempt to explain a variety of public relations situations, governmental organizations need to establish new message strategies in order to explain public rela tions messages in social media. Changes in society and the environment have provoked the emergence of new public relations message strategies, and these message strategies help to foster and maintain positive attitudes towards governmental organizations. Therefore, this study introduces message strategies that depend on the use of social media in government public relations. Based on previous literature, this study proposes three different public relations message strategies that use features from both Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) four public relations models and Hazleton’s (1993) seven publ ic relations strategies in Table 2-1.

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23 The classification includes public relations me ssage strategies that this study calls: 1) the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, 2) the Initiative Participatory message strategy, and 3) the Information Dissemination message strategy. Table 2-1. Social media message strategies Category Four public relations models Seven public relations strategies Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy Press agentry model Persuasive strategy Threat and punishment strategy Initiative Participatory message strategy Two-way asymmetrical model Two-way symmetrical model Facilitative strategy Promise and reward strategy Bargaining strategy Cooperative problemsolving strategy Information Dissemination message strategy Public information model Informative strategy The Authoritative Spokesperson message st rategy depends on the presentation of information through the words of a prestigious top government official. The Authoritative Spokesperson Message strategy present s a distributed message utilizing the spokesperson’s personal background, including his or her social status. The spokesperson might allow message written message in social media to be seen by publics as an official message. This message strategy heavily relies on the spokesperson’s social prestige or status and reflects the spokesperson’s impression of power or importance. Publics will assume that the spokesperson has a great deal of knowledge and a high reputation regarding government policy. In this message strategy, publics are likely to listen to the spokesperson’s words carefully. This message strategy is highly effective when government organizations give clear directions and state the purpose that these involve publics. In this case, the top government official has an

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24 obvious vision that is easily described to publics. In addition, the top government official should explain how the policy is going to be accomplished. The content of this message strategy appears through the top government official’s personality and high social status. In addition, this message strategy provides an exact guideline of how publics will follow the top government official’s advice. When publics read this message strategy, they are more likely to believe the top government official’s comments. In other words, the top government official uses personal prestige or status to influence publics’ perception towards government through social media. Given the above, the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy consists of the persuasive strategy, the threat and punishment strategy, and the press agentry model. The Initiative Participatory message strategy states that when distributing a message, government organizations should use a tailored message in order to increase civic engagement or civic participation. This message strategy has the goal that publics should attempt to perform an action requested by the governmental organization, such as assenting to governmental activities, enhancing vote behavior, or accepting publics’ suggestions. In other words, the goal of this message strategy is to build strong partnerships with publics and use this commitment to communicate governmental activities. At this point, the Initiative Partic ipatory message strategy is incorporates the facilitative strategy, the promise and reward strategy, the bargaining strategy, the cooperative problem-solving strategy, the two-way asymmetrical model, and the twoway symmetrical model. These models and strategies are closely related to interactive communication, which facilitates acting. This message strategy purports that when public relations practitioners use this message strategy, they are willing to converse with

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25 publics. Furthermore, a reward might exist in this message strategy. However, the key factor of this message strategy is ensuring t hat publics feel free to participate in these events or campaigns. Ultimately, public relati ons practitioners can present government activities that lead to building a trusting relationship between the governmental organizations and publics. The Information Dissemination Message strategy presents a distributed message targeting publics that announces an official position statement. In this message strategy, public relations practitioners should keep a neutral position. This message strategy must look at reality objectively. This message strategy aims to increase problem recognition. This message strategy indicates that an objective perspective regarding governmental activities can help one separate t he unrealistic from the realistic. In this light, the Information Dissemination message strategy is composed of the informative strategy and the public information models. This message strategy should not be based on the public relations practiti oners’ own perspectives or preconceived ideas, but rather on objective facts. This message strategy should include truth and accuracy in message contents. When government public relations practitioners use this message strategy, they primarily focus on telling the story in a timely manner, and the tone of this message strategy usually omits words which easily provoke an emotional reaction. The content of this message strategy does not appeal to the government public relations practitioners' personality. When government public relati ons practitioners utilize this message strategy, they should maintain objective distance and present all sides of the argument in a fair and equitable manner. Therefore, publics will be able to recognize the current situation.

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26 Social Media Messages from a Governm ent Public Relations Perspective The UK government highlights social media that contain low barriers to access, low cost resour ces, and interactive co mmunication channels (Williams, 2009). Williams (2009) created a Twitter strategy for the UK government’s departments, and provided multiple objectives: 1) to reach the audi ence easily, 2) to enhance civic engagement, 3) to distribute leadership and credibility, 4) to demonstrate government policy, 5) to interact with publics, 6) to provide updated information, 7) to observe public reaction, and 8) to produce lively event reports. Civic participation is influenced by the internet. Shah, Kwak, and Holbert (2001) found that Internet users are more likely to get involved in their communities. The government of the United Kingdom expects that social media will reinforce and encourage civic participation (Williams, 2009) Edelman (2011) found that as the significance of social media has increased, many more people required participatory communication between governmental organizations and the public. Social media strengthen citizen participation. This aspect of social media makes it an invaluable asset in government public relations. Many government agencies in the UK as well as the United States have utilized social media. For example, the Human Capital Institute and Saba (2010) examined the American public sector’s perception of social media. As noted, 65% of government agency respondents reported that they use social media and the most common function of social media is to communicate with publics (Human Capital Institute & Saba, 2010). The authors argued that strengthening cooperation and disseminating information are the most applied features of social media. Public relations practitioners in government organizations also generally perceive that social media are the most efficient tool for

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27 conveying information and conducting internal communication (Human Capital Institute & Saba, 2010). The authors insisted, “Public communications and recruiting functions are in the mid-range of effectiveness, while the use of social networking tools for managing work trails behind” (p. 7). Furthermore, the authors discussed the differentiation of federal agencies, state government agencies, and country/m unicipal agencies in using social networking tools. The authors observed that while state government agencies were behind using social media, the federal government actively utilizes social media for internal communication. In addition, the authors found that country/municipal government agencies conduct public service using social media. From the general perspective of the U.S. government, Godwin (2011) argued that government organizations used social media to achieve a high quality of services and to keep accurate information. The author stated that social media are necessary to hire employees, disclose various events, and connect internal employees. Therefore, government agencies use social media to obtain a high quality of public service, as well as for better administration. In order to make a better government organization, Fairbanks, Plowman, and Rawlins (2007) proposed a model for transparency in government communication. The authors revealed that this model has a th ree-dimensional triangle that is based on organizational support, communication practices, and provision of resources. The authors emphasized that communicating creates a more transparent and open information sharing. In addition, they stressed that transparency plays a huge role in government communication process.

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28 In the same vein, Piotrowski and Borry (2009) believed that a government organization needs to be open to be successful. The authors argued that transparency supports the understanding of government activities. Furthermore, Grigorescu (2003) claimed that transparent governmental organiz ations help to reinforce responsibility and democracy in publics. As noted earlier, the U.S. government gives knowledge of its government policy that is both broad and deep (Godwin, 2011). Ultimately, highly developed technology helps to promote tran sparency in governmental organizations (Pulidindi, 2010). Landsbergen (2010) assumed that social media could support the credibility of a governmental organization. Social media are a powerful tool in building organizations’ credibility (Rise Interactive, 2011). In a similar context, Rawlins (2008) asserted that when the government provides information that is more detailed and is willing to receive skeptical argument, publics seem to believe that participating government organizations have more credibility. Clearly, this study needs to understand the characteristics of social media from a governmental perspective. Social media strongly support government activities that develop better communication with publics. Empirical research is needed to decide which public relations message strategies are appropriate for diverse situations and implementations.

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29 Hypotheses Hypothesis #1a: Individuals will show a higher level of perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations when they are exposed to the Initiative Participatory message strategy rather than the Authoritative Spokesperson or Information Dissemination message strategies. Hypothesis #1b: Individuals will show a higher level of perceived willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas when they are exposed to the Initiative Participatory message strategy rather than the Authoritative Spokesperson or Information Dissemination message strategies. Hypothesis #2: Individuals will present a higher level of public perception about governmental transparency when they are ex posed to the Information Dissemination message strategy than the Authoritative Spokesperson or Initiative Participatory message strategies. Hypothesis #3: Individuals will reveal a higher level of public perception about governmental credibility when they are ex posed to the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy rather than the Information Dissemination or Initiative Participatory message strategies.

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30 CHAPTER 3 METHOD A post-test only group design with three conditions experiment was employed three conditions (Authoritative Spokesper son message strategy, the Initiative Participatory message strategy, and the Information Dissemination message strategy), three topics (LED Campaign, ENERGY ECO, and Bus tour) and nine messages (see appendix D). In order to examine the impact of different message strategies, this study utilized three different message strategies : the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, the Initiative Participatory message strategy, and the Information Dissemination message strategy. Participants were classified into three different groups, and the respondents saw only one of the diff erent conditions. T he conditions were presented in the form of a Facebook page. To achieve the goals of this study, an online experiment was posted on Qualtrics software, an online survey tool. Research participants were recruited at the University of Florida. An online experiment was conducted with 252 participants, whose ages ranged from 18 to 22 years of age. Respondents took part in this experiment voluntarily and were compensated with extra credit. At the beginning of the experiment, participants read the consent form that included the explanation of the experiment and instructions. After reading the consent form, the participants were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions and started answering the questions. The participants ra ted their perception of governmental transparency, governmental credibility, perce ived willingness of civic participation by government organizations and willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas.

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31 Design of Study Three different conditions of mess ages based on three different message strategies were manipulated. One utiliz ed the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, which included the spokesperson’s name, statement, and a direct quotation from his or her speech. The second utilized the Initiative Participatory message strategy, which involved encouraging actual performance, like attending an event of a government organization. The third used the Information Dissemination message strategy, which embraced the use of unbiased words. The simulation involved a fictitious government organization, and the experimental context of the organization was manipulated. The reason for choosing a fictitious governmental organization was to reduce the impact of existing prejudices towards governmental organizations and to reduce confusion with current governmental organizations. The message topic variable was chosen through several pilot tests. Three criteria were used to select a topic. The first criterion is that publics must consider a topic to be timely. The second criterion is that publics must consider the participant’s age, and the third criterion is that publics should think that a topic is relevant to them. According to Petersen, Shunturov, Janda, Platt, and Weinberger (2005), college students pay much attention to environmental problems, especially energy efficiency. Therefore, the topic of energy efficiency was chosen for this study. To create a fictional governmental organization, the name of the governmental organization was based on the characteristics of phrases, such as “energy efficiency.” Several potential names such as the National Energy Management Administration, the Multifunctional Administration, the Department of Public Service, the Department of Public Environment, and the Department of Social Service were examined. In order to

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32 test the effectiveness of the governmental organization, the names and three different messages were evaluated by a pretest. Stimulus Development Three conditions were created. Three different message strategies were identified in the literature and the message topics were related to governmental activities in the United States. Each message had an identical layout and font. The three conditions were derived from the different message strategies: Authoritative Spokesperson, Initiative Participatory, and Information Dissemination. All of the proposed messages were shown in the format of a Facebook that would typically be found in a notification produced by social media experts employed by governmental organizations. This study’s message provided common background information about energy efficiency. The relevant information regarding the topic was extracted from the Department of Energy website (http://www.eere.energy.gov/) and the Department of Energy’s official’s Fac ebook pages (http://www.f acebook.com/stevenchu ?sk=wall). Each message had a common theme (i.e., energy efficiency LED campaign, ENERGY ECO program, and energy efficiency bus tour). Stimulus 1: Stimulus 1 was based on the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy through the Facebook wall. This study suggested different topic messages regarding energy efficiency. Stimulus 2: Stimulus 2 was associated with the Initiative Participatory message strategy through the Facebook wall. This study suggested different topic messages regarding energy efficiency.

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33 Stimulus 3: Stimulus 3 was based on the Information Dissemination message strategy through the Facebook wall. This study suggested different topic messages regarding energy efficiency. In addressing the impact of different message strategies, this experiment created a fake Facebook account (see Appendix A&B, http://www.facebook.com/pages/ National-Energy-Management-Administrat ion /287328794637178). This Facebook account described itself as a governmental organization and attempted to follow the same standards as other governmental organi zations. These standards can be found at www.howto.gov. The fictitious governmental organization provided basic information regarding itself (see Appendix C) and posted five relevant photos. Among these photos, the researcher owns the copyright to thr ee of the images. The remaining two photos came from the White House’s Facebook pages and the official website from the Department of Energy. Lastly, this study created nine different messages with three topics which were based on the different message strategies (see Appendix D). Pretest In order to select the government’s name and the top government official’s name, the first pretest was conducted with 19 college students. All the respondents were female, and their ages ranged from 18 to 22. The topic of energy efficiency was chosen for this study because this topic was timely and interest to college students. The National Energy Management Administration was chosen as the fictitious organization’s name by 74% of the respondents (n = 14). In addition, Ryan Kennedy was chosen as the top government official’s name by 36% of the respondents (n = 7). The second pretest was conducted with 3 conditions and 12 items. The total number of respondents was 25 (female: 88% n = 22; male: 12%, n = 3). The second

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34 pretest had three different conditions: 1) Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, 2) Initiative Participatory message strategy, and 3) Information Dissemination message strategy. These three different social media message conditions had each at least three items: 1) authoritative: authoritative, comma nding, enforcing, forceful, 2) participatory: asking for participation, encouraging to take a part, participatory, promoting, endorsing, and 3) informative: informative, instructive, impartial. The average score of three conditions was below 4.0: 1) authoritative: M = 2.61, SD = .36, 2) participatory: M = 3.45, SD = .74, and 3) informative: M = 3.20, SD = .68, indicating these items are not useful for this study. Therefore, the third pretest was conducted in order to find appropriate message conditions. A third pretest was conducted with a total of 57 students, who were divided into three different groups of 19 students each. The respondents consisted of 90% female students (n = 51) and 10% male students (n = 6). The participants of the third pretest randomly received one of the message sets and then were asked to indicate their response regarding how strongly they feel about each strategy based on the nine items. The third pretest results were successful. In other words, an evaluation of the mean scores indicated significant results as follows: 1) authoritative: M = 3.89, SD = .08, 2) participatory: M = 4.07, SD = .15, and 3) in formative; M = 3.98, SD = .16 (see Appendix E). After three pretests, this study identif ied nine different messages as, based on three different public relations message strategies and nine items, to measure all three conditions (authoritative, commanding, forcef ul, asking for participation, encouraging to take a part, participatory, informative, neutral, and impartial).

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35 Procedure Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions. After exposure to one of the message conditions, participants were asked to fill out a questionnaire online. The questionnaire consisted of four categorie s, which measured participants’ perception of governmental transparency, credibility, perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations and willingness of civic participation in governmental agebda (see Appendix F). On a Likert-type scale ranging from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), participants were asked to indicate their perception of governmental organizations. The whole experiment took approximately 10 minutes. Willingness of Civic Participation by Government Organizations These items adapted the participatory citizen portion from Flanagan, Syvertsen, and Stout’s (2007) civic measurement models. A higher score refers to the higher perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations. The question concerning participatory citizens were, “I would like to more know about the National Energy Management Administration,” “I would like to pass information about the National Energy Management Administration to my friends,” “I would like to click like this on the National Energy Management Administration Facebook page,” “I would like to donate my time and money to the National Energy Management Administration,” and “I would like to contact the National Energy Ma nagement Administration in order to submit my suggestions.” Perceiv ed willingness of civic participation by government organizations indicated that Cronbach’s alpha was .911 and the number of items was 5. Willingness of Civic Participation in Governmental Agendas Willingness of civic participation in government agendas was adopted from the California Civic Index (Kahne, Middaugh, & Schutjer-Mance, 2005). This study modified

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36 this measurement for this experiment. Ratings on the following six items were used to measure willingness of civic participation in government events: “I would like to participate in energy efficiency events in order to protect the environment,” “I would like to volunteer in energy efficiency events,” “I believe that being actively involved in energy efficiency events is my responsibility,” “I believe that being concerned about energy efficiency is an important responsibility of everybody,” “I believe that participating in energy efficiency events can make a difference in my country,” and “I believe that getting involved in energy efficiency events affects my country.” Willingness to engage in civic participation revealed that Cronbach’s alpha was .936. Governmental Transparency Governmental transparency used the Rawlins (2006) transparency measuring items. The items were revised for this experiment. These items were as follows: “The National Energy Management Administration (NEMA) wants to understand how energy efficiency events affect publics,” “NEMA provides information that is useful to publics in recognizing energy efficiency,” and “NEMA wants to be accountable to publics for its actions regarding energy efficiency events.” Further, governmental transparency also utilized the Rawlins (2009) transparency measurement. This measurement was highly related to examine governmental organizations’ transparency efforts. The it ems are the following: "NEMA provides information that is relevant to publics,” "NEMA provides information that is easy for publics to understand,” “NEMA provides accurate information about energy efficiency to publics,” “NEMA takes the time with publics to understand who they are and what they want,” “NEMA involves publics to help them identify the information they need,” “NEMA freely admits when it has made mistakes about energy efficiency,” “NEMA provides

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37 information when people ask for it,” “NEMA is open to criticism by publics,” and “NEMA is transparent to publics.” Governmental transparency presented that Cronbach’s alpha was .941 and the number of items was 12. Governmental Credibility Governmental credibility used the Rawl ins (2006) trust measurement. Adapting this measurement, this study applied revised trust items and modified other trust components. This scale was also rated on a 5 point scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree). Governmental credibility was measured by the four different categories which include overall trust, competence of governmental organization, integrity of governmental organization and goodwill of governmental organization. The trust statements were as follows: “I think that it is important to watch NEMA closely so that it does not take advantage of publics,” “I'm willi ng to let NEMA make decisions for publics,” “I trust NEMA to take care of publics,” and “I think that NEMA is credible.” Competence of governmental organization was expressed as: “I feel very confident about the skills of NEMA,” and “I think that NEMA has the ability to accomplish what it says it will do.” Integrity of government was presented as follows: “I think that NEMA treats publics fairly and justly,” “I think that NEMA can be relied on to keep its promises,” and “I think that NEMA does not mislead publics.” Governmental credibility disclosed that Cronbach’s alpha was .927 and the number of items was 9. Reliability Check This study analyzed the reliability of scales used to measure the variables, such as civic participation, transparency and credibility, through the use of Cronbach’s alpha. The results for reliability were successful as intended. Berman (2002) argued that a

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38 Cronbach’s alpha between .80 and 1.00 presents a hi gh level of reliability. In this study, all variables indicate a Cronbach’s alpha above .90, indicating that these variables are quite useful for this experiment.

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39 CHAPTER 4 RESULTS Profiles of Participants All respondents used for analysis in this experiment were college students enrolled in the University of Florida. Although 259 participated, only 252 individuals completed the survey. Of the total 252 respondents, 32% of respondents (n = 82) were exposed to Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy 33% of respondents (n = 85) were given Initiative Participatory message strategy, and 33% of respondents (n = 85) were provided with Informative Dissemination message strategy. Of the total 252 respondents, 36% (n = 90), were male students and 64% (n = 160), were female students. Considering ethnicity, of those who responded to the questions, 67% (n=168), were Caucasian or White, 14% (n = 36), were Hispanic or Latino, 8.7% (n = 22), were Asian or Asian American, 6.7% (n = 17), were Black or African American, one person was identified as American Indian or Alaska Native, and 8 individuals, 3.2%, reported “Other.” The respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to 33. However, around 94% of the respondents were in the 18–22 age group, as originally expected. This study examined the participants’ political party affiliation and political views. Of the 252 respondents, 43% (n = 107), were Democrats, 31% (n = 78), were Republicans, 21% (n = 54), were independent, and 5% (n = 13), reported other such as “no party affiliation.” This study also investigated general opinions about energy efficiency. These questions were bi-polar qu estions on a 1 – 5 scale with answers such as “unconcerned or concer ned”, “worthless or valuable”, and “uninteresting or interesting.” Most respondents believed that energy efficiency issues are concerning, M

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40 = 3.98, SD = .98, valuable, M = 4.20, SD = .83, and interesting, M = 3.76, SD = .92. In addition, this study asked how participants co nsider energy efficiency issues. Of the total 252 respondents, 47% (n = 119), felt e nergy efficiency was an economical issue, while 20% (n = 51), saw it as a technical issue, 20% (n = 49), believed it was a political issue, and 13% (n = 33), indicated “Other.” Manipulation Check A manipulation check was conducted to confirm that different message strategies had intended characteristics that were base d on definitions of the message strategies. The manipulation check utilized one-way ANOVA and factor analysis to examine the three message strategies and three messages of each of these strategies. Nine items related to the different message strategies that were factor-analyzed using a principal axis analysis with Varima x rotation. The first factor was labeled the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy and was characterized by the following items: authoritative, commanding, and forceful. The first factor explained 32.91% of the variance. The second factor derived the Initiative Participatory message strategy which has three items as follows: informative, neutral, and impartial. The variance explained by this factor was 25.21%. The third factor was the Information Dissemination message strategy with features asking for participation, encouraging to take a part, and participatory. The third factor constituted 15.64% of the variance. Data from one-way ANOVA revealed that experimental messages had intended features across three conditions, F (2,249) = 40.81, p < .05. Respondents who were exposed to Authoritative Spokesperson message strategies felt these messages were authoritative, forceful, and commanding. In the same vein, an evaluation of mean

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41 scores revealed that when people saw Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy they considered it authoritative, M = 3.58, SD = .93, rather than participatory, M = 2.66, SD = .76, and informative, M = 2.50, SD = .77. For Initiative Participatory message strategy, there was a statistically significant difference among groups as determined by oneway ANOVA, F (2,249) = 21.05, p < .05. When comparing mean scores, respondents who were exposed to the Initiative Participatory message strategy believed it was participatory, M = 4.09, SD = .69, rather than authoritative, M = 3.34, SD = 1.10, and informative, M = 3.20, SD = 1.04. One-way ANOVA revealed that the Informative Dissemination message strategy had significant differences, F (2,249) = 38.30, p < .05. Respondents assigned to the Informative Dissemination message strategy felt the message was more informative, M = 3.59, SD = .79, rather than authoritative, M = 2.68, SD = .68, and participatory, M = 2.83, SD = .67. Therefore, the manipulation check was successful. Factor analysis revealed that there were three distinct factor loadi ngs, and one-way ANOVA indicated there were significant differences among the three diff erent message strategies and nine items. Findings H1a stated that individuals will show a higher level of perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations when they are exposed to the Initiative Participatory message strategy rather than the Authoritative Spokesperson or Information Dissemination message strategies.

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42 Table 4-1. Independent t-test for perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations between the Initiative Participatory and the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategies Conditions N Mean SD t df Sig. Participatory 85 2.92 1.01 -2.28 165 0.02 Authoritative 82 2.59 0.88 To test this hypothesis, an independent-sam ples t-test was conducted to compare different social media message strategies in the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy and the Initiative Participatory message strategy. There was a significant difference in scores for the Initiative Participatory message strategy, M = 2.92, SD = 1.01, and the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, M = 2.59, SD = .88, conditions; t(-2.28) = 165, p < .05. Table 4-2. Independent t-test for perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations between the Initiative Participatory and the Information Dissemination message strategies Conditions N Mean SD t df Sig. Participatory 85 2.92 1.01 1.74 168 0.08 Information 85 2.67 0.84 The independent samples t-test showed that there was not a significant difference between the Initiative Participatory message strategy, M = 2.92, SD = 1.01, and the Information Dissemination message strategy, M = 2.67, SD = .84, conditions, t(1.74) = 168, p = .084. So, H1a is supported.

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43 H1b stated that individuals will show a higher level of public perception of willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas when they are exposed to the Initiative Participatory message strategy rather than the Authoritative Spokesperson or Information Dissemination message strategies. Table 4-3. Independent t-test for perceived willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas between the Initiative Participatory and the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategies Conditions N Mean SD t df Sig. Participatory 85 3.49 0.94 -2.42 165 0.02 Authoritative 82 3.13 0.96 An independent samples t-test was conducted to examine whether there was a significant difference between the Initiative Participatory message strategy and the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy in relation to public perception of willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas. The test revealed a statistically significant difference between the Initiative Participatory message strategy and the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, t(-2.42) = 165, p < .05. The Initiative Participatory message strategy, M = 3.49, SD = .94, reported significantly higher levels of willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas than did the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, M = 3.13, SD = .96.

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44 Table 4-4. Independent t-test for perceived willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas between the Initiative Participatory and the Information Dissemination message strategies Conditions N Mean SD t df Sig. Participatory 85 3.49 0.94 1.64 168 0.10 Information 85 3.24 0.96 An independent t-test was used to compare the Initiative Participatory message strategy and the Information Dissemination message strategy on perceived willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas. There was a not significant difference in the scores for the Initiative Participatory message strategy, M = 3.49, SD = .94, and the Information Dissemination message strategy, M = 3.24, SD = .96, conditions, t(1.64) = 168, p = .10. Therefore, H1b is supported. Hypothesis 2 suggested that individuals will present a higher level of public perception about governmental transparency w hen they are exposed to the Information Dissemination message strategy rather than t he Authoritative Spokesperson or Initiative Participatory message strategies. Table 4-5. Independent t-test for governme ntal transparency between the Information Dissemination and the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategies Conditions N Mean SD t df Sig. Information 85 3.68 0.60 -4.96 165 0.000 Authoritative 82 3.17 0.73

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45 A t-test showed that there was a significant difference between the Information Dissemination message strategy and the Aut horitative Spokesperson Message strategy, t(-4.96) = 165, p < .05. The results i ndicated that the Information Dissemination message strategy, M = 3.68, SD = .60, produced higher agreement than the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, M = 3.17, SD = .73. Table 4-6. Independent t-test for governme ntal transparency between the Information Dissemination and the Initiative Participatory message strategies Conditions N Mean SD t df Sig. Information 85 3.68 0.60 -4.25 157.74 0.00 Participatory 85 3.22 0.78 An independent samples t-test was used to compare the Information Dissemination message strategy and the Initiative Participatory message strategy scores of governmental transparency. The t-test revealed a statistically significant difference, t(-4.25) = 157.74, p < .05. Follow-up comparisons revealed that the Information Dissemination message strategy, M = 3.68, SD = .60, had a higher level of perceived governmental transparency by publics than the Initiative Participatory message strategy, M=3.22, SD=.78. Ultimately, this study found that the Information Dissemination message strategy, M = 3.68, SD = .60, produced higher agreement about publics’ perception of governmental transparency than the Authoritative message strategy, M = 3.17, SD = .73, and Participatory message strategy, M = 3.22, SD = .78. Therefore, H2 was supported.

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46 Hypothesis 3 assumed that individuals will reveal a higher level of public perception about governmental credibility when they are exposed to the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy rather than t he Information Dissemination or Initiative Participatory message strategies. This study compared the effect of the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy and the Information Dissemination message strategy on publics’ perception of governmental credibility. Table 4-7. Independent t-test for governmental credibility between the Authoritative Spokesperson and the Information Dissemination message strategies Conditions N Mean SD t df Sig. Authoritative 82 3.38 0.74 3.34 165 0.00 Information 85 3.00 0.70 The independent sample t-test revealed that there was a significant difference for the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, M = 3.38, SD =. 74, and the Informative Dissemination message strategy, M = 3.00, SD = .70, conditions, t(3.34) = 165, p < .05. Table 4-8. Independent t-test for governmental credibility between the Authoritative Spokesperson and the Initiative Participatory message strategies Conditions N Mean SD t df Sig. Authoritative 82 3.38 0.74 4.03 165 0.00 Participatory 85 2.93 0.69

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47 An additional independent t-test was carried out between the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy and Initiative Participatory message strategy on publics’ perception of governmental credibility. The test revealed that there was a statistically significant difference, t(4.03) = 165, p < .05. The mean preference rating for the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, M = 3.38, SD = .74, was higher than the mean preference rating on the Initiative Participatory message strategy, M = 2.93, SD = .69. An evaluation of mean scores indicated that the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, M = 3.38, SD =. 74. was more effective than the Initiative Participatory message strategy, M = 2.93, SD = .69, and the Information Dissemination message strategy, M = 3.00, SD = .70. This study found that respondents who read the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy indicated a higher level of governmental transparency than respondents who read the Initiative Participatory message strategy or the Information Dissemination message strategy. Therefore, H3 was also supported.

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48 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION This study tested the effects of different message strategies used in social media for government public relations. The main purpose was to explore the relationship between different message strategies, (i.e., a) Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy, b) Initiative Participatory message strategy, and c) Information Dissemination message strategy) and individuals’ perceived transparency, credibility, perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations and willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas. As expected, social media message st rategies had a significant impact on participants’ perception toward government organizations. First, this study indicated that there is strong evidence that the Initiative Participatory message strategy is positively related to perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations as well as willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas. It also found that the Informative Dissemination message strategy was highly associated with perceived transparency of government organizations, while the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy was significant in publics’ perceived credibility of government organizations. Some scholars and institutions have argued that social media have become a catalyst in civic engagement (Edelman, 2011; Fodil & York, 2010), and civic engagement for government activities (Halpern & Lee, 2011). In addition, social media contribute to make more active citizens who are more likely to invest in this form of civic participation (Smith, Scholzman, Verba, & Brady, 2009). Golbeck, Grimes, and Rogers (2010) advocated that social media increas e transparency, stating that “transparency

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49 can include activities such as allowing a meeting to be open to publics or maintaining and providing open access to government doc uments” (p. 15). Social media strongly influence public perception of government organizations (Bertot, Jaeger, Muson, & Glaisyer, 2010) such as increasing credibility of government organizations (Rise Interactive, 2011). The results of this study support the idea that social media activities can assist government public relations, while promoting interactivity between government organizations and publics. Baker (1995) identified the basic goals and function of government public relations into four categories as follows: (1) political communication (i.e., to influence civic participation for government organizations or government policy); (2) information services (i.e., to disclose public information); (3) developing and protecting positive institutional images (i.e., to create affirm ative government organizations’ view); and (4) generating public feedback (i.e., to provide a reality check). Three different message strategies hel p to achieve these government public relations goals and functions. Results of this study revealed that the Initiative Participatory message strategy influences publics’ perception of the area of civic engagement. In other words, the Initiative Participatory message strategy provides an opportunity to increase civic participation wh ich can be achieved by improving political communication. From this perspective, the Initiative Participatory message strategy can foster democratic conversation with publics in order to obtain publics’ feedback. Information service is at the root of government public relations. The results of this study showed a high correlation between the Information Dissemination message strategy and publics’ perceptions of government organization transparency. This may

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50 be attributed to reinforced information service. The Information Dissemination message strategy can contribute to developing high-quality information services from government organizations to fulfill the goals and functioning of government public relations. The Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy is helpful for developing and protecting positive institutional images. A high degree of correlation existed between the Authoritative Spokesperson message st rategy and perceived credibility. The Authoritative Spokesperson message strate gy heavily counts on the top government official’s words, which reflect the spok esperson’s authority. When the spokesperson provides different ideas than the conventional wisdom held by publics, publics tend to believe the spokesperson’s words (Foss & Griffin, 1995). A high level of credibility for government organizations may have implications for developing positive institutional images. Thus, the findings her e support a way to accomplish the basic goals and function of government public relations. T he three different message strategies should be combined effectively to achieve the goals and function of government public relations. As noted earlier, the emerging social media create the need for an additional message strategy that can describe rapidl y changing public relations environments. Based on Grunig and Hunt’s (1984) public relations models, three different message strategies were introduced and tested in this study. This study also adopted Hazleton’s (1993) seven public relations strategies, which reflect public relations functions, such as informative, facilitative, persuasive, promise and rewards, threat and punishment, bargaining, and cooperative problem solving. These public relations strategies were categorized into these message strategies in terms of public relations functions.

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51 This study explained the current usage of social media in the United States government. These days, publics prefer to find relevant government information and public service through the Internet (Smith, 2010). Jaeger and Bertot (2010) indicated that the Obama administration has mainly focused on new social media, addressing that "the technological changes that can be us ed to promote transparency seem to be outpacing not only the ability of many members of publics to interact with government information through technology, but also the awareness of and commitment to transparency in some government agencies" (p. 375). The emergence of social media contri butes to changes in government public relations, but not the fundamental nature of public relations. While the range of government public relations changed, this st udy investigated the relationship between three different social media message strategies and publics’ perceptions of transparency, credibility, perceived willingness of civic participation by government organizations and willingness of civic partici pation in governmental agendas. In this sense, this study found that the basic role of government public relations remains the same. This study also found that the utilization of three different message strategies substantially affects the goals and function of government public relations. Ultimately, this study proposes the empirical testing of different message strategies that can be applied to government public relations in both practical and academic ways.

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52 CHAPTER 6 CONCLUSION The aims of government public relations are to encourage democracy and to promote the missions of government organizations (Lee, 2009). In order to accomplish these goals, government organizations have been studying the potential of social media. This study proposes three different message strategies based on two public relations theories in order to provide a new perspective for government public relations, particularly in a social media setting. Government organizations should serve citizens and in order to generate strong relationships with publics, government organizations should focus on communication. Vitertti (1997) argued that “meaningful communication between government and the people is not merely a managerial practicality. It is a political, albeit moral, obligation originates from the basic covenant that exists between the government and the people” (p. 82). Government organizations can communicate more effectively with publics through social media. A key point of this study suggests differ ent message strategies within a practical framework that consists of three dimens ions: a) Authoritativ e Spokesperson message strategy, b) Initiative Participatory message strategy, and c) Informative Dissemination message strategy. The findings in this study provide specific guidelines regarding the ways in which different message strategies are linked to certain relational outcomes. Therefore, this study makes a number of recommendations for how government public relations practitioners can utilize the thr ee message strategies. First, if government public relations practitioners want to enhanc e credibility of government organizations, they should utilize the Authoritative Spokesperson message strategy. Second, a

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53 government public relations practitioner needs to remember that using the Initiative Participatory message strategy seems to encourage civic participation by government organizations and to promote willingness of civic participation in governmental agendas. Third, government public relations practitioners consider the Informative Dissemination message strategy for transparency of government organizations. These recommendations can be applied to all levels of government organizations, including federal, state, and community. There are several limitations that need to be explored. First, this study adopts a fictitious government organization; subsequent studies should test different social media strategies using real government organizati ons. Such tests would provide holistic and realistic implications of gov ernment public relations. This study also utilized Facebook pages manipulated as the National Energy Management Administration, which diminished the experiment’s ability to mimic r eality. Future research should be directed at using social media through realistic online activities. Furthermore, a full understanding of government public relations practitioners’ public relations practices is missing in terms of conducting actual social media activities because this study only deals with one mess age strategy. In other words, government public relations practitioners have the option of using multiple strategies that could elicit different responses from publics. Thus further research needs to be conducted regarding the use of mixed message strategies in government public relations. This study did not consider publics’ actual participation in government organizations itself. Essentially, this study focuses on civic participation by government organizations and willingness of civic parti cipation in governmental agendas; however,

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54 this study did not investigate attitude towards government itself. Yet, it is highly important that publics’ attitude toward government organizations be studied. Clearly, more research is needed to explain publics’ general perception in practice. This study tried to predict the short-term effects of the different message strategies. Certainly, the present paper is limited in scope, and further studies on long-term effects are necessary. Longitudinal studies provide for stronger inferences. Government organizations will need considerable time to adapt these findings to their current strategies. In short, a comprehensive study on communication strategies would require more than what can reasonably be included in this paper. A further point that requires emphasis is the concept of the level of government organizations. This study mainly focuses on government organizations at the federal level. The Human Capital Institute and Saba (2010) found that the use of social media is different depending on the level of the government organization. For example, federal organizations usually emphasize social media for internal communication (The Human Capital Institute & Saba, 2010). Future studies should examine the level of government organizations, which might have different outcomes from the results of this study. The population in this study is comprised of college students. Random sampling was not employed to recruit people of all ages. Further, the respondents were all students in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. There is no guarantee that these students are representative of United States citizens in general. Despite these limitations, this study contributes to the understanding of different message strategies for social media that relate to publics’ perception of civic

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55 participation, transparency, and government or ganizations’ credibility. In addition, the results of this research can be applied to other social media, such as Twitter and YouTube, which have interactive and dialogic features. Twitter is a real-time information site (Twitter, 2011). This study utilized Fa cebook as an experimental communication tool; therefore, testing Twitter might produce similar outcomes. Clearly, this interpretation is speculative, and considerably more research needs to be done on social media in government public relations. Government organizations are likely to find various message strategies crucial for interactivity, as they can use these strategies to predict outcomes of public relations activities. This study presents social medi a message strategies which can help to build a strong relationship between publics and gove rnment organizations. These strategies have practical implications for how governm ent public relations practitioners utilize social media as an effective communicati on tool. Nowadays, many scholars and public relations practitioners primarily focus on social media which helps to encourage civic participation, and to promote government tr ansparency and governmental credibility. In the same way, this study provides a fundamental understanding of features in social media and government public relations. To improve success, government public relations practitioners can adopt these strate gies in their real field. This study anticipates that these strategies will help to accomplish the true purpose of government public relations. From the public administration perspective, these strategies help to gather publics’ opinions which, in the long run, create government policy. From a communication perspective, these strategies provide more of an open communication tool compared with options offered by traditional media.

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56 Ultimately, it is to be hoped that this study serves as a platform for subsequent studies of greater depth and specificity. The different message strategies are posited to play an even greater role in government public relations because these message strategies rely on dialogue with and feedback from the general public. The message strategies are meant to foster positive awareness and create a favorable image of organizations as well as civic engagement from publics. They could serve as the foundation for an even broader framework that may contribute to building long-term relationships with publics to promote civic society. The outcomes herein are expected to be a step toward a richer and more inclusive understanding of the reality of social media in government public relations.

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N A Figure A TIONAL A-1. Nati o ENERGY o nal energ y A MANAGE M y manage m 57 A PPENDI X M ENT AD M m ent admi n X A M INISTRA T n istration F T ION FAC F acebook i n EBOOK I N n fo N FO

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N A Figure A TIONAL E B-1. Nati o E NERGY M o nal energ y A M ANAGE M y manage m 58 A PPENDI X M ENT AD M m ent admi n X B M INISTRA T n istration F T ION FAC E F acebook w E BOOK W w all W ALL

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59 APPENDIX C BASIC INFORMATION Table A-1. Basic information Classification Contents About This is the National Energy Management Administration Facebook page. We welcome your comments. We'll send you the information as requested. In addition, please remember that Facebook comments can be saved. Description The National Energy Management Administration would have been a startling departure from solving energy and environment problems. National Energy Management Administration is responsible for research and development, strategy, investments and product development processes in the energy sciences. Mission To provide energy and environment information.

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60 APPENDIX D ENERGY EFFICIENCY MESSAGES Table B-1. Energy efficiency messages Classification Topic Contents Authoritative LED Cam paign Today, Secretary Ryan Kennedy is traveling to Gainesville to hold a town hall event about the energyefficient LED light campaign in the Gainesville City Hall, conference room 2003, at 2:30 p.m. EST. Kennedy noted, "The purpose of this campaign is to save energy and money. I strongly anticipate that the greatest savings will come from the installation of LED lights. If no action is taken to promote the energy-efficient LED light campaign, the threat of energy depletion will become a reality within 20 years. You should install LEDs in your home to save energy. ENE RGY ECO This official message comes from Secretary Ryan Kennedy. Kennedy commented, The National Energy Management Administration just launched the ENERGY ECO program. I strongly believe that not using the ENERGY ECO program will create serious problems in our societys energy supply. Without ENERGY ECO products, greenhouse gas emissions will increase. When you buy electronic devices, you must consider the ENERGY ECO program to save money and protect the environment. Bus Tour The National Energy Management Administration will begin an energy-efficient bus tour. Secretary Ryan Kennedy noted, Im going to participate in the bus tour. The purpose of this tour is to provide information about the importance of continued investments in clean energy and energy storage. Im going to attend a meeting to be held at the Gainesville City Hall, room 3017, at 1:30 p.m. EST tomorrow. The energy-efficient bus tour is one more step toward a competitive, clean-energy economy vital to winning the future. If you don't take action to improve energy efficiency, the exhaustion of natural resources is only a matter of time. You should be more conscious of saving energy in order to decrease harmful pollution. Participatory LED Cam paign Want to save money and reduce your energy usage? Today, Secretary Ryan Kennedy is traveling to Gainesville to hold a town hall event about the energyefficient LED light campaign in the Gainesville City Hall, conference room 2003, at 2:30 p.m. EST. We believe that using energy-efficient LED light bulbs is an important way Americans can save money and energy.

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61 Table B-1. Continued Classification Topic Contents Participatory LED Cam paign Were inviting our Facebook users to sign up for their chance to attend todays event to learn more about the energy-efficient LED campaign. Please sign up now on the Facebook page to attend the meeting. Feel free to share this information with your friends to encourage more people to get involved in this event. ENE RGY ECO Now, we are inviting you to take part in the ENERGY ECO program. The National Energy Management Administration anticipates that the ENERGY ECO program will help to save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices. ENERGY ECO identifies and promotes efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you are looking for new eco-friendly products, look for ones that have earned the ENERGY ECO. Please follow the ENERGY ECO program on Facebook to obtain detailed information and to share your thoughts and experiences about energy-effic ient products to promote the ENERGY ECO program. Bus Tour Have questions about the energy-efficient bus tour? In the first energy-efficient bus tour from the National Energy Management Administration, Secretary Ryan Kennedy will answer questions submitted by people across the country through Facebook comments. He will also discuss the importance of continued investments in clean energy and energy storage in a meeting to be held at the Gainesville City Hall, room 3017, at 1:30 p.m. EST tomorrow. Youre invited to attend the energy-efficient bus tour to discuss how you can save money and join your neighbors in reducing your energy usage. Please sign up through our Facebook page. Informative LED Cam paign Today, Secretary Ryan Kennedy from the National Energy Management Administration is traveling to Gainesville to hold a town hall event about the energyefficient LED light campaign in the Gainesville City Hall, conference room 2003; at 2:30 p.m. EST. Kennedy will talk about the importance of energy-efficient LED lighting. The LED light campaign is very important to protect the environment. Using energy-efficient LED light bulbs is an important way Americans can save money and energy. As a part of this campaign, the National Energy Management Administration is converting 58,000 yellow and green traffic signal lights to LEDs, which will save the city approximately $1 million in electricity costs each year.

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62 Table B-1. Continued Classification Topic Contents ENE RGY ECO The National Energy Management Administration just launched the ENERGY ECO program, which helps to save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices. ENERGY ECO identifies and promotes efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The ENERGY ECO program will be a trusted source for voluntary standards and unbiased information to help consumers and organizations across the country adopt energy-efficient products and practices as cost-effective strategies for reducing GHGs. Bus Tour The National Energy Management Administration will begin the energy-efficient bus tour. The first event will be tomorrow at Gainesville City Hall, room 3017, at 1:30 p.m. EST. Secretary Ryan Kennedy will emphasize that efficiency upgrades are helping American businesses save money and compete in todays economy. He will discuss the importance of continued investments in clean energy and energy storage. Furthermore, he will explain how to use efficient and renewable energy technologies, gain financial incentives, and access information to save energy and money at home.

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63 APPENDIX E PRETEST RESULTS Table C-1. Pretest results Categories Message strategy Topic Treatments Mean Set A Authoritative LED Campaign Authoritative 4.00 Commanding 3.95 Forceful 3.95 Participatory ENERGY ECO Asking for participation 4.21 Encouraging to take a part 4.26 Participatory 4.05 Informative Bus Tour Informative 4.26 Neutral 3.95 Impartial 3.89 Set B Authoritative ENERGY ECO Authoritative 4.11 Commanding 3.89 Forceful 3.84 Participatory Bus Tour Asking for participation 3.79 Encouraging to take a part 4.05 Participatory 4.16 Informative LED Campaign Informative 4.16

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64 Table C-1. Continued Categories Message strategy Topic Treatments Mean Set B Informative LED Campaign Neutral 4.00 Impartial 4.05 Set C Authoritative Bus Tour Authoritative 4.11 Commanding 4.00 Forceful 4.00 Participatory LED Campaign Asking for participation 4.16 Encouraging to take a part 4.11 Participatory 3.89 Informative ENERGY ECO Informative 4.05 Neutral 3.79 Impartial 3.74

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65 APPENDIX F THE ACTUAL QUESTIONNAIRE Informed Consent Protocol Title : Your Opinions About a Govern ment Organization's Facebook Page. Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study. Purpose of the research study: This study will gather your opinions about a government organization's Facebook page. Specifically, the purpose of this study is to investigate the relationship between communication messages and the government organization's Facebook page. What you will be asked to do in the study: You will be asked to share your opinions about a government organization's Facebook page. After reading the consent form, you will proceed to reading one of the communication messages. You will then complete a questionnaire at your own pace. Time required: The required reading and questionnaire will take about 10 minutes to complete. Risks and benefits: There are no potential risks. This research anticipates that you will benefit from extra credit points and critical scientific thinking about this topic. Compensation: Extra credit will not exceed 2 % of y our final grade. Even if you choose not to participate in this study, an alternative assignment will be available for you to earn the extra credit. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent possible by law. Your information will be assigned a code number The list connecting your name to this number will be kept in a locked file in my faculty supervisor's office. When the study is completed and the data have been analyzed, the list will be destroyed. Your name will not be used in any report. Voluntary participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at any time without any penalty. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Eunju Cho, Graduate Student, College of Journalism and Communications, Weimer Hall, 352-392-0466

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66 Whom to contact about your rights as a research participant in the study: IRB02 Office, Box 112250, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-2250; phone 392-0433. Agreement: I have read the study described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this consent form. Do you agree to participate in this study voluntarily? Yes Q1. The following is a set of questions regarding energy efficiency issues in general. What is your general opinion about energy efficiency? 1 2 3 4 5 Unconcerned Concerned Worthless Valuable Uninteresting Interesting Q2. What kind of issue do you think energy efficiency is? Political issue Economical issue Technological issue Other

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This F a efficie n please Read t h some q a cebook p a n cy. I am i n pay close h e messa g q uestions. a ge contai n n terested i n attention t o g es careful n s several n your rea c o the mes s ly. After y o 67 pictures a n c tion to the s ages that o u finish re a n d inform a Faceboo k appear on a ding the m a tion regar d k message s the Face b m essages, d ing energ y s Therefo r b ook page. I will ask y y r e, y ou

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This F a efficie n please Read t h some q a cebook p a n cy. I am i n pay close h e messa g q uestions. a ge contai n n terested i n attention t o g es careful n s several n your rea c o the mes s ly. After y o 68 pictures a n c tion to the s ages that o u finish re a n d inform a Faceboo k appear on a ding the m a tion regar d k message s the Face b m essages, d ing energ y s Therefo r b ook page. I will ask y y r e, y ou

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This F a efficie n please Read t h some q a cebook p a n cy. I am i n pay close h e messa g q uestions. a ge contai n n terested i n attention t o g es careful n s several n your rea c o the mes s ly. After y o 69 pictures a n c tion to the s ages that o u finish re a n d inform a Faceboo k appear on a ding the m a tion regar d k message s the Face b m essages, d ing energ y s Therefo r b ook page. I will ask y y r e, y ou

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70 Q3. The Facebook messages I just read are... Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree or Disagree Agree Strongly Agree Asking for participation Authoritative Informative Commanding Encouraging to take a part Neutral Forceful Participatory Impartial Objective Q4. After reading the Facebook messages, please indicate how much you agree or disagree with each statement. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree I would like to more know about the National Energy Management Administration. I would like to pass information about the National Energy Management Administration to my friends. I would like to click "like this" on the National Energy Management Administration Facebook page. I would like to donate my time and money to the National Energy Management Administration.

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71 Q5. The next set of questions asks about your thoughts toward regarding the National Energy Management Administration about which you have just read the message. Please rank the following statements from your personal perspective. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree I would like to participate in energy efficiency events in order to protect the environment. I would like to volunteer in energy efficiency events. I believe that being actively involved in energy efficiency events is my responsibility. I believe that being concerned about energy efficiency is an important responsibility of everybody. I believe that participating in energy efficiency events can make a difference in my country. I believe that getting involved in energy efficiency events affects my country. Q6. After you read the messages, please indicate your beliefs about these items using the 1 to 5 scale. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree The National Energy Management Administration (NEMA) wants to understand how energy I would like to contact the National Energy Management Administration in order to submit my suggestions.

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72 efficiency events affect publics. NEMA provides information that is useful to publics in recognizing energy efficiency. NEMA wants to be accountable to publics for its actions regarding energy efficiency events. Q7. The next set of statements asks for your reaction toward the governmental organization about which you have just read. If you strongly agree with a statement please choose strongly agree. If your reactions are neutral or ambivalent, you might choose neither agree nor disagree, while if you strongly disagree, choose strongly disagree. Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree NEMA provides information that is relevant to publics. NEMA provides information that is easy for publics to understand. NEMA provides accurate information about energy efficiency to publics. NEMA takes the time with publics to understand who they are and what they want. NEMA involves publics to help them identify the information they need. NEMA freely admits when it has made mistakes about energy efficiency. NEMA provides information when people ask for it. NEMA is open to criticism by publics.

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73 NEMA is transparent to publics. Q8. The next set of statements asks for how your feeling toward the governmental organization about which you have just read the messages. Please select a number that comes is closest to how you feel. Q9. What is your political party affiliation? Democrats Republicans Independent Other ____________________ Strongly Disagree Disagree Neither Agree nor Disagree Agree Strongly Agree I think that it is important to watch NEMA closely so that it does not take advantage of publics. I'm willing to let NEMA make decisions for publics. I trust NEMA to take care of publics. I think that NEMA is credible. I feel very confident about the skills of NEMA. I think that NEMA has the ability to accomplish what it says it will do. I think that NEMA treats publics fairly and justly. I think that NEMA can be relied on to keep its promises. I think that NEMA does not mislead publics.

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74 Q10. How would you describe your political sympathies? Conservative Centrist Liberal Other ____________________ Q11. What is your gender? Male Female Q12. What is your age? ____________________ Q13. What is your race / ethnicity? Black / African American Caucasian / White Hispanic / Latino American Indian / Alaska Native Asian / Asian American Other ____________________ Q14 Year of study at UF Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior Other ____________________

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82 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Her major is Mass Communication and she received her degree in Master of Arts and Mass Communication from the University of Florida in the summer of 2012.