Free «Virtual Public Relations of Dubai Municipality versus Sharjah Municipality» Essay Paper
Table of Contents
Online domain has become a vital part of public relations (PR) worldwide. Whereas such managerial paradigm is linked to spreading the information between an organization or an individual and the public, technology is a crucial domain to consider for PR purposes. Drawing upon the findings of such academic researchers as Ye and Ki (2013), 98% of PR managers agree that the Internet heavily impacts their working performance, while 86% indicate that such influence is positive (p. 409). Hence, the organizations operating in the United Arab Emirates have not become an exception of the rule. On the contrary, the staff members tend to adapt to use of the advanced technologies and attempt to do it in an efficient manner. Current paper is devoted to the analysis of the official websites of Dubai versus Sharjah Municipality in order to clarify how effectively such tool has been used by the organizations in the field of PR. First, an overview of media relations with respect to the two sites is provided. Second, the ways in which the online platforms of the municipalities maintain virtual consumer relations are regarded. Third, the attention is paid to community relations through the prism of the websites’ content. Finally, the paper offers a summarizing evaluation of the effectiveness of Internet-centered PR presence of Dubai versus Sharjah Municipality.
The websites of both organizations are well-designed, though each of them has specific distinct features, which distinguish the municipalities’ online PR presence from one another. First and foremost, the two agencies under consideration use an inbound media relations approach in order to establish connections with media and further specific target populations. Such method implies pull-based marketing as its ground when the audiences interested in the organizations are attracted by means of marketing messages embedded in useful information, which the target population wants to read (Porter, 2013). Indeed, the PR professionals of the sites have created a number of rubrics that are eloquent and relevant for the consumers of a particular region. Anyway, such sections are not limited to “Services,” “Municipality Business” and “My City” for the government in Dubai (see Appendix A) and “Sharjah Healthy City,” “Announcements” and “Pest Control Companies” (see Appendix C), to list but a few. Moreover, the sections have their subsections what makes the search more detailed and easier. Additionally, it is to be noted that the websites are succinct and use informational tools on their own. Moreover, they contain multifaceted content describing the specificities of their organizations performance. Additionally, there is a “Media Center” section on each website, but only Dubai officials give thorough information there, while the web page of Sharjah Municipality is blank.
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What is more, the sources provide relevant opportunities for following the news in the context of their organizational operations and a possibility of dialogue between the agency and its clients. For instance, Dubai Municipality has focused its activities on the most popular social networking sites in the UAE, such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram, making their PR campaign focused and integrated. Such PR strategy can be justified from the point of view of the recent research in the area. In particular, Erickson (2013) has clarified that at least seventy eight percent of Emirati consumers aged sixteen through sixty four prefer Facebook as compared to other social networking sites. A similar tactic is used by Sharjah Municipality that provides users with connectedness to a larger scope of social networks. Apart from Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest are also favored by the UAE internet users, though none of the websites allows an opportunity to use them.
Nevertheless, the interface of Sharjah Municipality’s website looks, to some extent, artificial and humanless, whereas it depicts buildings only. As a result, there is a need to emphasize that during current research, the website’s content was updated. At present, the interface includes animated videos that change one another and inform about relevant updates in the municipality’s service portfolio, encouraging the user to find out other news from the organization. On the contrary, it is difficult to clarify whether or not Dubai officials communicate with their consumers via social networks given the website itself. Of course, supporting such trend at an appropriate level requires engagement of many staff members to interact with consumers online and the site has to be “continuously updated with new content to attract return visitors” (Heath, 2013, p. 625). Sharjah Municipality illustrates its web page with the recent Tweets, which evidences that the agency arranges dialogues with its clients that is a good way for friendly relationships with target audience through “two-way or dialogic communication” (Heath, 2013, p. 622).
Real-time media marketing is another good online-centered strategy that is applied by both agencies, but the extent of such approach varies per each of them. To illustrate, while Sharjah and Dubai Municipality both offer hotline service, the latter expands a range of opportunities in such respect providing chat support as well (see Appendix A), which allows the immediate connectedness for the users. Moreover, the government of Dubai enables the consumers with a possibility to evaluate the service and overall online experience at hand through a green smile window in the left bottom corner of the interface (see Appendices A and B).
Following the rationale by Kent (2013), “people spend more time with technology and access to information than ever before” (p. 338). Therefore, the available technologies can be used as valuable PR instruments if applied in a proper manner by professionals. In particular, it is to be done because “for democratic participation and oversight to occur, a populace needs to be informed about public issues, not simply one’s individual public area of interest” (Kent, 2013, p. 338). Such two factors are explicitly combined within the context of the two websites. For example, although the rubrics of the pages provide overviews of the local government policies, they precisely underline their significance for every individual, whereas they concern specific parts of their live. Such tendency is especially evident in the updated Sharjah portal, since it emphasizes distinct categories of services targeting particular consumer groups by means of changing animated activities at the top of the page (see Appendices C and D). Such services include explanations of how renewal of tenancy contract, trade license fines or vehicle violation payments can be performed online, to name a few. It follows that the website is “designed to reach and focus and affect specific target stakeholders” (Heath 2013, p. 622). Thus, such framework is two-fold because the governmental organization communicates the options available to categorized groups of the residents and demonstrates them in an appropriate manner.
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Apart from that, the theorists in the field assure that there is a specific typology of public, such as different types of consumers, producers and enablers (Smith, 2013, p. 64). Such trend is implicitly traceable in both websites in accordance with a wide range of rubrics discussing the community life in a variety of aspects. For instance, “My City” section in the Dubai’s web page provides ample information for the general public concerning leisure activities available in the region, which is classified per six more subtitles. In contrast, “Parks and Gardens” on the website of Sharjah Municipality are more brief in this respect as the section details the issue from the aforementioned perspective only. In this regard, one can link the online PR messages to outcome objectives pursued by the agencies, including knowledge, attitude and behavior (Heath, 2013). Moreover, knowledge objective comprises of exposure, comprehension and retention that allows more concise and planned targeting of consumers. To be more precise, both websites reveal the region-based information they find relevant and visualized and interactive means enable consumers to comprehend it and be retained with the data they need to know. As a result, a specific attitude about the work of the organization at large or a certain sphere specifically can be developed. Given the above illustration in terms of leisure activities, it is justified to assume that the users’ attitude to Dubai Municipality may be more positive due to the rubricated and more detailed content. Finally, it is likely that Dubai residents or visitors have more options to choose from due to well-organized PR step.
Moreover, Smith (2013) has underlined that intercession public or individuals who already have attention and respect from the ultimate public can be reached by such means, as well. In this regard, a two-step flow of communication theory may be applied suggesting that initially a message developed for a broad public reaches its opinion leaders. Moreover, as soon as they weight the significance and value of such information it further spreads to the less active groups of population (Smith, 2013, pp. 65-66). Such factor can be correlated with division of the services offered by municipalities for individual and business ones, which is evident on both websites. At the same time, Dubai agency shows its connectedness with other partners and engagement in numerous projects (see Appendix E). Such feature illustrates a certain degree of higher online-focused authoritativeness of the latter in contrast to Sharjah Municipality. Moreover, such characteristic implies that people working for the programs, leaders in particular, are likely to convey the message communicated by Dubai officials for their co-workers, expanding the scope of their available PR to less active masses.
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The scholars emphasize that community relations, as part of general PR, comprise a significant part of the organizational promotional strategy and its understanding and recognition by the public at large (Smith, 2013; Heath, 2013). Specifically, such constituent of traditional PR is capable to assess the level of public attitudes, as well as identify the organizational mission in action alongside with meeting the public interests in order to ensure understanding and acceptance of the public. Again, the degree of following the aspect of online PR presence varies between the organizational websites. On the one hand, it is relevant to underline that both websites clearly respond to the demands and needs of the localities they are supposed to serve. Such circumstance is embodied in articulation of the content that is critical for sustained and well-balanced functioning of the regions. As it was discussed previously, the rubrics presented on the sites demonstrate opportunities and regulations for a variety of fields within Dubai and Sharjah legislates. The areas include healthcare, business and leisure among others. However, Dubai’s website presents dated information in terms of its activities in the community domain. For instance, the “Latest News” section has news that dates back to November 2014, which is too old information to be called news.
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On the other hand, Sharjah Municipality presents up-to-date news and community-centered interventions that eloquently show its organizational mission in action. For example, one of the latest news is dated May 6, 2015 and it describes that “Sharjah Municipality Organizes Intensified Campaigns to Remove Eyesores, Clean Directional Signs” (Sharjah Municipality Official Website, 2015). One more news is of the end of March 2015 and communicates that the city officials care of the community appearance based on the fact that the appropriate service providers planted two million flowers across the city (Sharjah Municipality Official Website, 2015). It follows that Sharjah governmental agency implements such element of online PR in a more concise and organized way as compared to Dubai Municipality.
Compare-Contrast Analysis of the Two Companies’ Online PR Presence and Activities
Summarizing the above discussion, it is relevant to underline that online PR presence of both organizations under analysis cannot be regarded in a one-sided manner. On the contrary, both websites have their advantages and disadvantages that can be considered as either wining or failing for any of them when compared. Regarding it, several dimensions can be outlined that clearly distinguish the virtual PR approaches of the compared agencies from each other.
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First of all, regardless of that Dubai’s online platform is linked to four main social networks only, the site itself is appealing and explicitly calling to interactions and interactivity as a whole. To be more precise, the top of the interface has changing images with a man performing different manipulations with technologies. Such approach is evidently enticing for the users in terms of interaction. In addition, the content of the site is carefully rubricated and small pictograms near the headings of the listed subsections of Dubai Municipality’s activities and services make the design more self-explanatory. There is a similar trend in the opposite web portal. Nonetheless, it is to be underlined that Dubai’s approach to real-time interactivity through additional services, such as chat support and an immediate like/dislike evaluation option, is an additional advantage for the Internet resource. Such circumstance stresses the instant character of the dialogue communication provided by Dubai’s officials, which is especially topical within online-dimension PR at present.
From initial observations over the Sharjah website, it was clear that it looked humanless, as it was noted earlier, due to over-concentration on places rather than people and presenting the information in a less interactive manner. However, the fact that its content was updated and its interface renewed evidences an innovative framework supported by the managers making the municipality’s online presence more appealing for a variety of consumers. In this respect, there is also a need to emphasize the presence of rather obsolete information ranked as news on the Dubai’s website. Such factor is inappropriate for instant nature of online-focused PR strategy and can be regarded as a serious drawback in the virtual PR strategy. The issue is especially acute in terms of highlighting daily activities concerning the community enhancement performed by the officials. On the contrary, Sharjah agency shows relevant and current events with direct involvement of the organization and its partners in the “News” section.
Nevertheless, the information presented on both websites is directly linked to consumer needs and requirements of both regions, which is a positive feature of their online PR. At the same time, the content is reflected in English and Arabic language as intertwined, to a certain extent, which is a valuable incentive for English-speaking users. Such aspect is extremely important to consider, since the UAE is the country of expatriates constituting approximately eighty percent of its residents. Indeed, drawing upon Heath (2013), “a message must be written in a fashion and in a language the target can understand” (p. 622). The fashion is generally chosen as appropriate, since the developers of the websites used the most popular Internet platforms and technological means for contemporary technologized consumers. Similarly, it would have been more justified to create the content that would be available on a few more languages because English and Arabic are not the only commonly used languages in the UAE. For instance, other Asian languages that are also widely spoken by foreigners residing in the region include Persian, Urdu and Bengali among others.
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To conclude, it is necessary to admit that there can be neither winner nor loser in the quest for supremacy in online PR presence between the two analyzed agencies. Undoubtedly, both agencies have well-designed Internet platforms that are useful and use up-to-date tools for reaching their consumers and creation of an advanced technological bridge between the government and general public. However, there is still a number of disadvantages in different areas that were not taken into account by the managers and require more careful consideration in order to enhance their online performance. Apart from the above-indicated issues, it would be appropriate for both agencies to refer to the experience of one another in a given field. It has to be done in order to update their websites in a more accurate manner and create more complete virtual PR strategy. In particular, Sharjah Municipality could have expanded the scope of its real-time Moreover, both websites failed to take into account several more social networks that are popular among the Emiratis, such as LinkedIn and Pinterest. Hence, such issue has to be reconsidered. Finally, the “Latest News” section has been a rather disappointing disadvantage from the standpoint of Dubai Municipality that revealed its real-time presence based on the aforementioned services. Therefore, PR managers have to pay substantial attention to a given factor, as well.