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An analysis of consumer generated media's application in multicultural public relations practice.


Due to the process of globalization and internationalization, the practices of public relations have become more and more internationalized. International public relations is defined as "the planned and organized effort of a company, institution, or government to establish mutually beneficial relations with the publics of other nations" (Wilcox, Ault & Agee, 1989, p.395). Newsom, Turk and Kruckeberg (2000) explain that "The globalization of news media, the unification of the world's economy and the emergence of multinational companies have helped expand this area of public relations. International PR is not limited to businesses, however, because many nonprofit organizations and associations are international in scope" (p.15). Therefore, understanding public relations practices in the global context is very important for both scholars and practitioners (Wu & Baah-Boakye, 2007). Furthermore, FitzGerald and Spagnolia (1999) note that globalization will create a need for more multilingual practitioners and a greater sensitivity to cultural differences.

According to Wakefield (2001), a "paradigm shift" of public relations is needed to reflect its emerging globalization, and the new paradigm ought to account for a more comprehensive approach that creates thinking and acting at both the local and global levels of the organization.

Global public relations practitioners need to adjust to see, listen, and speak to international publics (Taylor, 2001), and societal culture might be one of the most difficult challenges. Sriramesh and White (1992) suggested that international public relations would have to reflect the cultural and societal norms of the host nation, because these norms have created unique public relations situations in every society.

Apparently, the basic element of internationalization of public relations is Multinational Corporation (MNC). A multinational corporation can sometimes be called a transnational corporation, international corporation or multinational enterprise. But this study needs to expand this notion to Multicultural Organization (MCO), in order to include more kinds of organizations other than corporation or enterprise, and at the same time, any domestic organizations with multicultural publics.

This notion gets influence from Lee's (2005) view that any domestic organization also cannot be free from global influence because globalization is shaping the environment to which organizations should adapt. According to Lee (2005), "Global publics" are groups of individuals or organizations whose primary interests and concerns are pursuing the world as a whole beyond their own national and cultural boundaries, and may or may not be related to specific global issues or situations at a point of time"(p.15).

More important, this study needs to note the difference between international/global public relations and multicultural public relations. Miller (1991) has reminded us that "few nations today are not multiethnic" (p.3). International/global public relations scholars distinguish their field according to "international dimension", but to cultural scholars, the most important dimension is cultural (Zaharna, 1998). In the same way, this study focuses more on cultural dimension, instead of national.

Moreover, there is an apparent link between culture, communication and identity, just as implied in the title of Communication and Identity Across Cultures (Tanno & Gonzalez, 1998). Typically in the pessimistic view, globalization has been associated with the destruction of cultural identities (Tomlinson, 2003), which in a way gives prominence to the importance to think much of multicultural publics' cultural expectations in multicultural public relations practices. In other words, multicultural public relations practitioners should be more sensitive to cultural diversity.

After arguing that the connection between multiculturalism and public relations has largely been unilateral, Ravenna (2005) admits that it seems as though multicultural public relations practice is changing from a unilateral communication practice intended to communicate effectively, to multicultural audiences, to a more global and comprehensive one. Furthermore, it appears that it can also bridge the gap between cross-cultural differences and improve communications, perhaps creating multicultural public relations practitioners who may be operating without frontiers.

In a word, this study prefers Multicultural Public Relations (MPR) to cross cultural/ intercultural public relations.

According to Banks (2000, pp. 92-97), the dominant reason public relations professionals use new technologies is to reach new audiences, and for the "comfort level" of their audiences. Here, the "new technologies" include e-mail, chat groups, organizations' Web sites and other Internet media. These "new technologies" can more conveniently reach specific audiences, such as less mobile or rural populations, than traditional media do, and they can provide new opportunities for two-way interaction. It is needed to know that these "new technologies" are not so "new" as Consumer Generated Media (CGM) in the way of the publics' participation and interactivity.

Kent and Taylor (1998) offer a way to open up communication between organizations and their publics, called a "dialogic loop". According to them, a "dialogic loop" is a mechanism on a Web site where the public can interrogate organizations and provide information, and for organizations to do the same for publics; but, according to Banks (2000, pp. 97-99), the problem of cultural styles of communication is unaddressed for the "loop".

This study tries to make clear the validity and effectiveness of consumer generated media's application in multicultural public relations practice. Literature reviews and case studies will be used as the main research methods to demonstrate the consumer generated media's role for multicultural organizations to manage so-called "mutually beneficial" relationships with multicultural publics. It is needed to review the literature on multicultural publics, organizational-public relationship management, cultural dimensions of public relations and consumer generated media in order to find the role of consumer generated media in the multicultural public relations practice, that is, to show the specific attributes of multicultural public relations communication with multicultural publics and CGM's suitability. Of course, a case study will show the application situation in a way. Most important, the entire review aims at multicultural public relations practice.

Cultural Dimension of Public Relations Practice

Cultural difference is a key variable affecting public relations practices (Rhee, 2002; Sriramesh & White, 1992; Vasquez & Taylor, 1999). Gudykunst (1991, 1993), for example, argues that effectiveness in intercultural communication is defined by the degree to which interactants are able to avoid misunderstanding. Thus, multicultural public relations practice demands that practitioners understand the very real cultural differences that challenge their goal of reaching target publics (Jiang, 2002).

Pinsdorf (1991a, 1991b) examined six fatal disasters, from which he finally offered a two-fold proposition: disasters dramatically illustrate the cultural variants out of which airlines operate and crisis communication must reflect these varying cultural values to be effective and to sustain a positive reputation (Pinsdorf, 1991b, p. 37). Most important, the aftermath of most crises reveals different cultural reactions from victims, survivors, company executives and countries as a whole (Pinsdorf, 1991b).

Wu, Taylor and Chen (2001) also suggested that cultural values do affect public relations practice in Taiwan.

International public relations researchers have been eager to explain the cultural aspects of public relations practices, particularly Grunig's four models. For example, Vasquez & Taylor (1999) observed American public relations practices using the Hofstede's cultural typology and Grunig's public relations models. They found a strong relationship between power distance and one-way models, as well as collectivism and femininity with two-way models. Haruta and Hallahan (2003) find significant differences in crisis communications between Japan and the United States as well as using Hofstede's five dimensions of culture.

Meanwhile, the importance of cultural dimension is demonstrated in the effectiveness assessment. According to Banks (2000, pp. 37-39), effectiveness in multicultural public relations should be assessed by eight factors, at least among them is to affirm participants' cultural identities.

It is worth stressing that cultural diversity has a significant impact on the practice of public relations (Wakefield, 1996). It is necessary for public relations professionals to become a multicultural communicator to cater to such circumstances (Sriramesh, 2003). Thus, it is hypothesized that in the globalization era, becoming a multicultural communicator can add value to public relations' role (Abdullah, 2007).

At times, cultural diversity is perceived as a difference, meaning that people identify themselves with one group and perceive other cultures as deviance from the norm. But Banks (2000) argues that we should understand diversity as variance, because by seeing other cultures as variance of the norm, you would become more open for fundamental modifications to your own culture. Diversity is not only a barrier to overcome but can also serve as inspiration for change. Therefore, Abdullah (2007) discloses that in the global picture, where public relations is practiced by various ethnic groups, cultural sensitivity is central to good PR practice. Cultural diversity should not be seen as a barrier to business performance but should be recognized as an opportunity for organizations to develop better relationships with their stakeholders. By mastering the knowledge of cultural diversity, a new window of expertise opens for PR practitioners. Thus, PR practitioners act as cultural exporters and should be able to adapt their work to different structures of environments. {which would definitely add value to the expertise of PR practitioners.}*REMOVE*

Thus, understanding cultural sensitivity, including language, religious rituals, taboos and suchlike, may reduce conflict and enhance organizational performance (LaBahn & Harich 1997).

Multicultural Publics

This study prefers the notion of publics to stakeholders, and multicultural publics to multicultural stakeholders.

According to Rawlins (2006), the terms stakeholder and public shouldn't be used interchangeably. Stakeholders are usually identified in business literature according to their relationships to organizations. Publics are often identified according to their relationship to messages in public relations and other mass media literature. In the view of Grunig (1992), organizations choose stakeholders by their marketing strategies, recruiting, and investment plans, but publics arise on their own and choose an organization for attention.

In terms of international public relations, Banks (2000, pp.6-9) divides publics into domestic and foreign according to the differences in their population dynamics, public relations objectives, and relevant cultural factors. Thus, apparently, multicultural public relations practitioners need to communicate with multicultural publics, both domestically and internationally.

Moreover, according to situational theory of publics, publics arise when individuals face a similar problem, recognize the problem, and organize to resolve the problem (Grunig, 1983). Publics revolve around issues (Moghan & Sriramesh, 2005). The situational theory consists of three independent variables (problem recognition, constraint recognition and level of involvement) and two dependent variables (information seeking and information processing) (Grunig, 1997).

Grunig and Hunt (1984) identified four types of publics, including latent, aware, active and nonpublic. Latent publics are groups of people that face a similar problem but fail to detect the problem, while aware publics face and recognize the problem. Those who face, recognize, and attempt to resolve the problem constitute active publics; and those who do not face the problem in question are termed as nonpublic.

Grunig (1997) differentiated between the communication behavior of active and passive publics. Latent publics are most likely to process information and are least likely to become activists. On the other hand, an active publics' cognition, attitude and behavior are formed as a result of the accumulation of information that they seek from various sources. Active publics are also more likely to engage in communication behavior that will raise the awareness level of latent and aware publics with the hope to motivate at least some to become activists.

Another concept in point is "global publics" (Lee, 2005), which includes dual dimensions: mass perspective and situational perspective. By the mass perspective on publics, global publics are groups who share similar values, norms and consciousness. The level of recognition and involvement on specific issues or situations increase, they could become active publics. By the situational perspective, global publics are active publics (Grunig & Repper, 1992; Grunig, 1997).

In a word, multicultural publics in this study largely consist of multicultural active publics.

Multicultural Publics Relationship Management

It has got much agreement that the purpose of public relations is to build positive, mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and publics (Botan, 1992; Broom, Casey & Ritchey, 1997; Grunig & Huang, 2000; Heath, 2000; Kent & Taylor, 1998; Ledingham, 2003; Ledingham & Bruning, 1998).

On one hand, an organization-public relationship (OPR) is defined as the state which exists between an organization and its key publics, in which the actions of either can impact the economic, social, cultural or political well being of the other (Ledingham & Bruning, 1998; Broom, Casey & Ritchey, 1997, 2000). On the other hand, OPR is also known as a process (Grunig & Huang, 2000).

Relationship management theory changes the focus of public relations from an output-based activity to a management function that uses communication strategically to meet the organization's objectives (Ledingham & Bruning, 1998). It also shifts public relations practice from manipulating public opinion through communication messages to a combination of symbolic communication messages and organization behaviors to initiate, nurture, and maintain mutually beneficial organization-public relationships (Ledingham & Bruning, 2000).

The major premise of relationship management theory holds that public relations can balance the interests of organizations and publics through the management of OPR (Ledingham, 2003). More straightforward, from the relationship management perspective, many scholars emphasize the mutually beneficial attributes of public relations. For example, Holtz (1999) contends that effective public relations effort should aim at achieving a win-win result for both the organization and the public with which it is communicating.

Grunig and Hon (1999) develop two main typologies for the organization-public relationship, which impact the nature and outcomes of the relationship. These two types are exchange and communal. The exchange relationship is one where "one party gives benefits to the other only because the other has provided benefits in the past or is expected to do so in the future" (Grunig & Hon, 1999, p. 20). Within this framework, parties expect to receive comparable or equal benefits in the exchange (Hung, 2001). The communal relationship is one where "both parties provide benefits to the other because they are concerned for the welfare of the other-even when they get nothing in return" (Grunig & Hon, 1999, p. 21). In this relationship, parties do not expect to receive anything in return (Hung, 2001). Communal relationships generally results in more positive relationship outcomes, because exchange relationships never develop the same level of trust or any of the other three relationship indicators (control mutuality, commitment, satisfaction ) that accompany communal relationship. While exchange relationship may be necessary at times, the communal relationship is viewed as ideal for organization-public relationships.

Dialogic theory can also help explain this attribute of relationship between organization and publics. Grunig(2001) offers dialogue as a way to view ethical public relations. Dialogic theory suggests that for organizations to create effective organization-public communication channels, they must be willing to interact with publics in an honest and ethical way.

The researchers of an excellent public relations study explain the value of public relations by suggesting that an organization must build long-term, positive relationships with strategic publics (Grunig, Grunig & Ehling, 1992). Two of the ten characteristics of excellent public relations are two-way symmetric and ethical public relations (Grunig, 1992). This is also frequently discussed in literature on public relations models.

Public Relations Models

Mainly, for this study, there are six models of public relations practice. These six models provide a theoretical framework to explain the public relations practices in many cultures.

Grunig and Hunt (1984) divided public relations practices into four models. The models include press agentry/publicity model, public information model, two-way asymmetrical model and two-way symmetrical model, which represent two two-dimensional combinations, i.e. one-way versus two-way and asymmetrical versus symmetrical. Grunig and Hunt (1984) used two variables to identify the four models: direction and purpose. On the one hand, "direction" indicates the extent to which the model is one-way or two-way. One-way communication disseminates information while two-way communication exchanges information. On the other hand, "purpose" characterizes whether the model is asymmetrical or symmetrical. Asymmetrical communication is unbalanced, leaving the organization the way it is and trying to change only the public. Symmetrical communication, however, is balanced, adjusting the relationship between the organization and public.

To a great extent, the two-way symmetric model is considered ideal, ethical, effective, and thus excellent in practice. Anyway, excellence public relations study decries one-way public relations while reverencing two-way symmetric communication (Grunig, 1989; Grunig & Grunig, 1992; Grunig & Hunt, 1984). There are two reasons.

Compared to other models, the first reason is that the two-way symmetrical model makes organizations more effective. From the directional perspective, two-way symmetrical public relations allows for the free exchange of information. From the purposive perspective, symmetrical communication seeks moving equilibrium through cooperation and mutual adjustment. The second reason is that the two-way symmetrical model makes organizational public relations more ethical. This model implies that everyone involved is equal and that everything can be solved through dialogue, discussion and negotiation. By empowering publics to collaborate on organizational goals through feedback, the organization-public relationship is strengthened.

Therefore, the four models were refined in terms of two continua: craft public relations and professional public relations (Grunig & Grunig, 1992). The craft continuum captures one-way communication models, with press agentry/publicity model at one end and the public information model at the other end. The professional continuum includes two-way models with an asymmetrical model at one end and a symmetrical model at the other. In a way, such analysis has produced much paradoxical tension (Rawlins & Stoker, 2007).

Thus, some researchers have challenged the models conceptually and methodologically, especially the two-way symmetrical model (Leichty & Springston, 1993; Nessmann, 1995; Van der Meiden, 1993). For example, they indicate that the symmetrical model is normative and only provides a utopia for public relations communication. In fact, Grunig (2001) also acknowledges that the two-way symmetrical model by itself might be inadequate for the contemporary public relations practitioner.

Therefore, two other models arise as variations or components of the original four models, i.e. personal influence and cultural interpreter model.

The personal influence model, coined by Sriramesh (1992), sometimes is known as a correction of the four models' rooting in Western culture. In this model, public relations practices aim at establishing personal relationships between key individuals of the corporation and key individuals in media, government, politics, etc. (Grunig, Grunig, Sriramesh, Huang & Lyra, 1995). According to Sriramesh (1992), in many nations in the developing world, organizations tend to ignore the attitudes of mass publics and instead focus specifically on the attitudes of some journalists and government officials. Thus, the personal influence is a "pervasive public relations technique" (Sriramesh, 1996, p.186).

At the same time, the personal influence model shows the cultural dimension in public relations practices. For example, the hierarchically structured Chinese culture contributes to personal influence public relations. Through interviewing with Chinese female public relations practitioners, Culbertson and Chen (1996) found that the achievement of many professional, personal, and social goals rests on a concept of gao guanxi, which means "establishing connections, creating obligations and favors among interactants, and enjoying privileges through relationships"(p.280). Taylor and Kent (1999) found that "multiple publics may be an important part of public relations communication in the developed world, but in the developing world, specific publics such as journalists and government officials may actually be more important publics" (p.134).

According to Grunig, Grunig, Sriramesh, Huang and Lyra (1995), the cultural interpreter model "seems to exist in organizations that do business in another country, where it needs someone who understands the language, culture, customs, and political system of the host country" (p. 182). This model would be found in an organization that uses local professionals to add cultural sensitivity to their communication efforts. In this model the organization assigns public relations practitioners as consultants and interpreters. This model is suitable for an organization that conducts business in another country as well as in local multicultural organizations (Grunig et al., 1995).

According to Grunig et al. (1995), the cultural interpreter model is only a component of other models, and the ways cultural interpreting may be used to reach the goals of both the two-way asymmetrical and symmetrical models. Two-way asymmetrical model may employ cultural interpreting to learn what is acceptable to the publics and then design the organization's message to appeal to these expectations. In the symmetrical model, cultural interpreting as a component can be used to facilitate the understanding between the organization and its diverse publics.

By examining public relations functions in a privately-owned Indonesian mining company, Yudarwati (2008) comes to conclusion that because of the multicultural environment, management predominantly uses the cultural interpreter model of public relations. In this model the company assigns field officers with an understanding of the cultural differences to approach and communicate with its members.

Though it seems that the cultural interpreter model is most needed for multicultural organizations to manage successful relationships with multicultural publics, the model is far less than perfect. According to this model, multicultural organizations have to assign someone who understands some local culture. It needs to be overcome in order to be practiced more efficiently.

Moreover, it is not right to look down on two-way symmetric model's value. For multicultural public relations, one potential advantage of two-way symmetric public relations is that it can empower publics (Lane, 2007). Two-way symmetrical model allows the practitioner to serve as the mediator between the organization and its publics, and has the ostensible purpose to foster mutual understanding. In this model, public relations practitioners conduct research for the mutual benefit of organizations and publics (Karadjov, Kim & Karavasilev, 1999).

Consumer Generated Media

New media has brought some opportunities for media users and producers to participate in the process of the creation of public content. One result of the changes is consumer generated media.

CGM was featured in Time magazine's "2006 Person of the Year", in which the person of the year was "You", with the passage "Yes, you. You control the Information Age. Welcome to your world," meaning all of the people who contribute to user generated media such as YouTube and Wikipedia. Lev Grossman from Time Magazine claims that Consumer Generated Media is a tool which brings together the small contributions of millions of people (Grossman, 2006).

Consumer Generated Media (CGM) includes new media technologies such as blogs, podcasting, newsgroups, chat rooms and anything else that an organization's publics want to say about the organization on the Internet (Cleary, 2008; Paine & Lark, 2005).

At times, several notions are used interchangeably, including Consumer Generated Media(CGM), Consumer Generated Content(CGC), User Generated Media(UGM), User Generated Content(UGC) and Social Media. Another notion in point is User-Generated Online Video (UGOV), referring to TV footage that was originally created by a member of the public and then uploaded to the Internet (Milliken, Gibson, O'Donnell & Singer, 2008).

Consumer Generated Media is used as an umbrella concept in this study with other notions' use somewhere when the notion is most suitable to the situation. Among these notions, some stands more on the side of medium dimension and others on the content dimension.

Schweiger and Quiring (2006) suggest that CGM is not a new idea. For example, letters to editors in all press media is seen as the most common examples of CGM within traditional media. When the editorial staff decides to integrate these letters into their editions, these letters become public, thus are changed to UGC. But not all of these user activities receive the same handling from professional media producers. Some messages are ignored, some lead to changes in the media supply, some are shortened or otherwise modified, while others are published unchanged.

Schweiger and Quiring (2006) primarily see CGM as a result of interactivity, implying the importance of interactivity to CGM, and vice versa, even though they list two basic differences between interactivity and CGM at the same time. Therefore, the concept of "interactivity" seems to offer a sound theoretical basis for the investigation of CGM.

Most authors agree that interactive media are responsive to user-inputs (see, e.g., Rogers, 1986; Durlak, 1987; Heeter, 1989; Ha & James, 1998). In this study, multicultural communication interactivity's important role just represents multicultural publics' role. Interactive communication processes are typically characterized by two-way-communication (McMillan, 2002; Pavlik, 1998) and an increased influence on behalf of the user (Bejian-Avery, Calder & Iacobucci, 1998; Williams, Rice & Rogers 1988). Although the creation of CGM does not necessarily take place in a perfect two-way-communication setting, the system at least communicates the inputs of a user by publishing them. Moreover, users have a growing influence on the appearance of media products when they are allowed to make their own contributions.

Cleary (2008) stresses that CGM challenges traditional roles of journalists, editors, publishers, and broadcasters. Moreover, with content interactivity, CGM allows the audience to become a more active participant in the journalism process.

Milliken, Gibson, O'Donnell and Singer (2008) show the CGM's impact by describing YouTube as an online aggregate user-generated video site. YouTube has grown steadily since its launch in February 2005. By the end of 2006, user statistics for YouTube indicated that it was receiving more than 100 million views per day. These researchers came to the conclusion that video portals such as YouTube offer the opportunity for communication between video-posters and viewers through textual and video responses, as well as video rating systems.

Moreover, theory about citizen journalism could successfully show CGM's important role in multicultural public relations communication process. Citizen journalism is also known as "participatory journalism"/"open source journalism" or "grassroots journalism", (Gillmor, 2004; Schweiger & Quiring, 2005) which also implies the importance of publics participation in public relations practice.

Discussion of Application of CGM in Multicultural Public Relations

To emphasize once again, this study shows multicultural publics as active consumers or users in the communication process of CGM.

From discussions above, this study provides two ways to apply CGM in multicultural public relations practices, i.e. to offer a CGM channel to create a platform of meaning sharing, or to carry out some kind of CGM monitoring. To a certain extent, the first way is more effective and efficient, but the second way should be used to include related CGC in other spaces.

To communicate with multicultural publics, organizations should offer platforms for multicultural publics to bring out their perceptions, opinions and suchlike. Schweiger and Quiring (2006) analyze the goals of CGM providers to motivate users to input their own content and then integrate it into the public content.

There are four different goals. Firstly, CGM is low-cost content and thus can help to fill sites with content quite economically. Second, CGM delivers added value to active and passive users. The third is that presenting some kind of democratic platform for public debates can improve the image of a media product.

The fourth goal for collecting and publishing the users' feedback might be the attempt to learn about their audience's needs, preferences and expectations. The reason to publish the content might be the providers' hope that a vital debate among users could stimulate a higher quantity and quality of statements and criticisms. Apparently, the fourth goal accords much better with this study.

Moreover, active users' motive in CGM is one important factor to multicultural public relations practitioners. Once again, Schweiger and Quiring (2006) show us that a good way to systematize active users' motives by considering their addressee of communication, totally including three kinds. The first addressee is the public. Accordingly, the motive may be to diffuse information, including ideas, creativity, opinions, critiques, etc. to the public in order to produce any kind of impact in society, the policy system, etc. The second addressee is other users, with motive to initiate or maintain social contact. The third addressee may be the provider, that is, a person sends a message to the provider of a web site or to the editor of a certain article. In this study, active users' addressee includes the multicultural organizations (provider) and other publics.

As for the multicultural public relations performance, another factor that should be considered is the type of content input. Again, according to Schweiger and Quiring (2006), the first type of content is selected from a predefined array of options where users can choose one or more specific alternative(s), and the second type is free input. Of course, organizations need free input to better understand multicultural publics. CGM, with its open and decentralized protocols, stimulates free speech (Van Dijk, 2004: 157). By this format, according to Schweiger and Quiring (2006), users can enter free text, upload pictures, movies, animations or other files and can add links to external web sites and so on. This is the reason why the free input can serve all kinds of user motives: users can present themselves or their ideas to the public, to other users or to the provider, and they can seek for social contact and start interpersonal debates etc. Free content input is undoubtedly more attractive to users who want to express themselves and who are strongly involved in an issue.

Of course, it is not right to say that traditional media has lost its domain. It is true, however, to say that more and more frequently, according to inter-media agenda setting (Lim, 2004; Vliegenthart & Stefaan, 2008) and suchlike theories, compared to the past, CGM is capable to set other media's agenda, which more importantly, includes traditional mass media. For example, Metzgar's(2007) finding suggests that blogs are more closely correlated with television news than with newspapers.

Wright and Hinson's (2008) three-year-long international survey of public relations practitioners shows that new medias are dramatically changing public relations. Results indicate that blogs and social media have enhanced what happens in public relations and that social media and traditional mainstream media complement each other. The study also finds that the emergence of blogs and social media have changed the way their organizations communicate, especially with external audiences. The study concludes that blogs and social media have made communication more instantaneous by encouraging organizations to respond more quickly to criticism.

A successful example of the application of CGM appeared in the "Dell Hell" affair in 2006(Market Sentinel, 2007). The notion "Dell Hell" came from the problems Dell computer owners experienced with the company's formerly flawless customer service by the summer of 2005. At the time, Jeff Jarvis, one of Dell's customers, went to war with Dell by using his blog BuzzMachine ( as a weapon. This effectively brought the power of blogs to international attention for almost the first time. Dell had to launch its blog ( on July 11, 2006 to respond actively. Most importantly, the blog appeared in several languages, including English, Chinese, Japanese, Spain, Norwegian, and so on.

The easy avenue for dialogue offered by the blog allowed Dell to address the issue directly. The blog took much traffic from the telephone helpline Dell established and saved substantial customer support costs. In February 2007 Dell went further and launched IdeaStorm ( and StudioDell ( shared/corp/media/en/studio_dell?c=us&l=en&s=corp). IdeaStorm allows Dell users to feedback valuable insights about the company and its products as well as vote for those they find most relevant. StudioDell is a place where Dell users could share videos about Dell-related topics. Its welcome passage is as follows: StudioDell is designed to help you get the most from your Dell experience. Through videos and podcasts, we'll share Dell's expertise on emerging technologies and use interactive tools to communicate directly with you.

Market Sentinel's (2007) analysis compared the sentiment of online commentary before and after Dell's commercial slump and their new online customer initiatives. Market Sentinel (2007) came to the conclusion that Dell was reaching out into the world of blogs and user-generated media. Perhaps the most potent and valuable business lesson Dell has absorbed from its experiences lies in the way the company has taken to its business methods the idea of dialogue with its consumers.

On the other hand, not much strategy is needed to carry out CGM monitoring. Practitioners need to track and measure CGM content, by the standard such as outtake, output(activity), outcome etc. (Paine, Delahaye & Lark, 2005) , in forms like Blog Value Equivalency, CGM Reach Metrics, Online Reputation Index etc. (Paine, 2007)

In conclusion, with participative and interactive communication in CGM, multicultural organizations and active publics can communicate directly, freely and adequately, without any restrictions that sometimes come directly from cultural factors. Meanwhile, possible restrictions from the process of assigning cultural interpreter/mediator (e.g. local professionals) may be resolved in some way. Therefore, it gives a valuable and effective chance for multicultural organizations to maintain positive, two-symmetrical and mutually beneficial relationships with multicultural publics.

Through the discussion above, it is apparent there are still "late majority", even "laggards" in terms of diffusion of innovations (Rogers, 2003). However, these are inactive publics in a way. CGM's role will prevail when communicating with them because of the lack of participation. The communication with them needs to be effectively analyzed in the future, especially in the perspective of multicultural communication.


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Bingqi Feng & Han Li

Communication University of China, Beijing

Correspondence to: Bingqi Feng & Han Li

College of Advertising

Communication University of China

No. 1 Dingfuzhuang East Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China, 100024

Email: (Feng)

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