Digital PR & Media Relation: Report for Allianz Essay Example

REPORT FOR ALLIANZ 14

Digital PR & Media Relation: Report for Allianz

Table of Contents

3Introduction

3Overview of Media Platforms

4Engaging and Managing Online Communities

4Engaging online community

6Managing online communities

8Challenges for Allianz

9Comparing Allianz and Wallmart

11References

Introduction

Despite the fact that email customer response facility, chat-rooms, digital news release and corporate websites are perceived as standards aspects of public relations practice, Allianz is struggling with the effects of the new digital media, specifically, the use of social networking sites (James, 2008). However, this report shows that public relations practitioners at Allianz have managed to fully embrace the media, and are well-prepared to do so. This report explores Allianz as the organisation of focus, engaging and managing online communities as the theme and challenges for Allianz as the discussion. It further compares and contrasts alliance and Wallmart.

Overview of Media Platforms

With research evidences suggesting that public relations practitioners have acted fast to adapt the social media networks to engage with its customers, Allianz has adapted leading social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, weblogs and mobile apps (NST, 2014; Gnibus, 2013; Goliam, 2011). The key stakeholders targeted include customers, employees, insurance brokers, the public and investors. In Australia, this has provided an opportunity to reach targeted audiences. The sites are selected since they are the most popular in Australia (Cowling, 2013).

Basing on Australian Bureau of Statistics Population clock, as at 11 May 2014 (Canberra time), Australia’s resident population is projected to be 23,485,179 (ABS, 2014). Facebook has some 11,489,380, representing 49 percent of the country’s population. Others are Twitter, which has approximately 2.5 million users and LinkedIn, which as 2.9 million users (Table 1)

Digital PR & Media Relation: Report for Allianz

Table 1: Australia Social media statistics (Murton, 2014)

The terrain of PR practice has also shifted with these leading social networking sites, significantly increasing the potential to engage online community and sustain communication between and within stakeholder groups (Nielson, 2012). Information spills over from a multitude of digital sources as news presently arrive fast from a range of directions. The company has engaged in two-way communications with its key stakeholders. This has rationalised the need to engage and manage online communities.

Engaging and Managing Online Communities

Engaging online community

Among Allianz’s most active stakeholders that make up its online community are the customers. An online community, or a virtual community, acts as information system where members of certain social networking site can post their comments or comment on discussions (Wirtz et al. 2013). They are popular means of interaction between companies and their stakeholders, specifically customers. In the case of Allianz, the social media has heralded new ways of interacting with its insurance policy holders. The interactions are no longer strictly proximity-based or face-to-face (Flew, 2005). The company uses brand community to engage customers. The social networking sites give Allianz a unique opportunity to monitor public opinion on issues concerning its insurance products, as well was, engage them in public dialogues on issues of its global operations (Gnibus, 2013).

The company uses Online Brand Community (OBC) concept to engage and manage customers through dialogues. Hence, Allianz’s public relations strategies are based on Dialogic Theory, where the company recognises as a bearing or orientation in communication, instead of a specific technique of communication (Wirtz et al., 2013). Basing on the theory, the company uses dialogue with the public and its customers as means to achieving the desired goals of increase sales output and engaging the public to secure brand loyalty (Kent et al., 2008).

Accordingly, the company views its stakeholders (the customers and the public) as “equals” rather than as “objects”. Hence, as suggested by the Dialogic Theory, dialogue is treated by Allianz as a product instead of a process.” Hence, its public communication strategy is not symmetrical communication model, where the social media is used strictly to build relationship (Lin & Lee, 2006). Rather, it provides a way to listen and to respond to stakeholders as equals. Allianz’s social media strategy is consistent with the tenets for public relations theory of dialogue. These include mutuality, propinquity, empathy, risk and commitment (Kent& Taylor, 2002).

Online brand community (OBC) is a concept that was first introduced by Muniz and O’Guinn (2001 as cited by Wirtz et al. 2013). It refers to the non-geographical, specialised online community that is based on a social relationship among the customers or admirers of a brand.
The definition is based on sociological perspective and is anchored in the definition of a community to be a network of social relations, characterised by social bonds and mutuality (Wirtz et al., 2013).

The concept of brand community that Allianz used is drawn from the perspective that the social media can be engaged to market Allianz insurance products (Gnibus, 2013). The key reasons for these include the potential of social networking sites to cause high levels of customer-brand community, the proliferation of internet and the massive adoption of the social media and dominant role of the smartphones in promoting the use of social media, based on their popularity in Australia (Table 1). Such developments have triggered Allianz to embrace OBC. Indeed, Allianz was named among the top 100 global brands that have established online presence and customer engagement through OBC (Gnibus, 2013). Taking on Allianz’s perspective, the company has established an online brand community with its customers, who view its insurance products to add value to their lives.

Managing online communities

The company’s corporate communications structure, also known as the Allianz SE’s Group Communications, is framed into three units, namely external communication, internal communication and communications operations. Managing online communities is within the category of external communication, although it interrelates with the other units. Overall, the employees in the Group Communications are seasoned experts in the art of communication, with most of them involved in creating content for the professional social networking sites, such as LinkedIn. In general, Allianz’s global network of communicators is a solid team. The company has an established social media strategy, properties and processes aimed at customer engagement, through video, infographics, photos and blogging. Aside from Facebook and Twitter, specific sites for blogging include Allianz’s website called Open Knowledge.

At Allianz, the use of the internet social networking tools to build solid and strong link with the public and its customers — or its online community — is in practice. A major strength that can be denoted is that the company has well-designed public relations strategies, in addition to adequate financial resources to implement them. The strengths in the company’s strength are more evident to the way it has integrated a range of social networking sites to harness the power of the media (Allianz, 2013).

Analysis of the company’s website’s homepage shows a range of symmetrical 2-way communication, with much of the elements of communication being those that are either public information or press agency. Hence, this shows that the public relations practitioners at Allianz are using the internet to enhance interaction between the company and the public. This reflects the concepts of Dialogic Theory.

The social networking management team bases the content of the social networking sites on internal communications, from the departmental heads. These include from Allianz operating staff such as, Allianz Australia, Allianz Managed and Operational Services (AMOS) in Australia, Allianz Global Investors New York, Fireman’s Fund US, Allianz Zurich and Allianz Global Investors Hong Kong. Therefore, the global communicators communicate directly to the Alliance SE communication’s team through emails and phone calls, about what takes place at the headquarters and what information should be integrated into the social media.

Challenges for Allianz

Keeping with the dynamism of internet and mobile technology is a major challenge for Allianz. Since new mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are being update continually, it poses a great challenge for public relations professionals at Allianz, in respect to keeping abreast with what is available, as well as, what is scheduled for release. In which case, its large-scale public relations projects, including major global events, may have long lead times and plans the company made three to six months back from an event that may have to be revisited severally, in order to accommodate the trends in the usage of the new social networking site features by its key stakeholders, such as customers, journalists and the public (Stroh, 2005; (Miller et al., 2009).

The conventional public relations techniques are consistently undermined by the new digital media’s mobile nature, which requires the public relations professionals at Allianz to rethink how they should relate to its key stakeholders, such as journalists, customers, and the public. For instance, internet news services are reliant on news wire services. In addition, they tend to focus on other unreliable sources for raw material. This is great challenge to the public relations personnel to research more in order to verify information by the public, since budgets, reports and transcripts are consistently being placed on the company’s website and micriblogging sites, either by members of the organisation or the public seeking to hold the company to account (Stroh, 2005).

In addition, since customers expected instantaneous updates, the company’s public relations personnel are under pressure to produce fresh and immediate content across gender and cultures (Larissa et al., 2013). In addition, they are under pressure to generate fresh content for the company’s blogs and Facebook and Twitter account, with high level of accuracy and to have mobile devices at hand to consistently check, respond to stakeholder concerns and disseminate information. This specifically pressures the public relations personnel and the company’s executives and senior staff to form a strong relationship with information technology, despite the time of the day or geography.

The need to embrace new digital media and to accommodate its dynamism has meant that public relations officers at Allianz have to constantly undergo technical training in a range of areas, such as web publishing for the company’s weblogs, new social media platforms, search engine optimisation (SEO), internet security and operating web analytics. These have implied that the company’s public relations staff must integrate enhanced online information architecture skills, as well as, assimilate skills associated with managing an increased level of complex digital information (Mike, 2001).

Comparing Allianz and Wallmart

Allianz and Wallmart have two key responsibilities in managing their online community. First, they have to support their businesses by ensuring that prospective customers and customers understand their products. Hence, both companies sustain online brand community. Second, both companies have to defend, build and improve their reputations.

Both companies target different types of stakeholders. Allianz’s media relations initiatives and management are more flawless and seamless based on the divergent types of stakeholders both companies target. Wall-mart has to deliver tailored message to a more segmented audience, such as customers, suppliers, the public, investors, employees and a range of interest groups, such as environmentalists. On the other hand, Allianz’s target audience includes mainly customers, the public, stakeholders and employees. For instance, while Allianz has only three Twitter handles (@AllianzLife, #AllianzBirdies and @AllianzLifeNews) for consumer engagement and PR and media relations, Wallmart has seven, namely, @WalmartAction, @WalmartNewsroom, @WalmartGiving, @WalmartGreen, @WalmartHealthy, @WalmartVeterans (Allianz 2014).

Both companies focus on ensuring better content marketing strategy, better story-telling by including more interactive and conversations tools. Both companies use weblogs and social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. They also use paid media, including sponsored content feature available at Twitter and Facebook, to reach targeted audience (Hanson, 2014).

Both companies use the social media to enhance dialogues with their respective stakeholders, based on Dialogic Theory. They treat their stakeholders as “equals’ rather than as “objects”. Hence, this is since the social media enables a two-way communication where both companies engage their customers in conversations, as well as, respond to their concerns.

However, what make’s Alliance media relations management more superior is that, unlike Wallmart, its executive management and senior management directly use the company’s PR social media accounts and therefore has been able to respond authoritative to public concerns. On the other hand, Wallmart has faced a challenge in responding to public concerns about low wages and allegations of hidden cost (Aarons-Mele, 2013).

Conclusion

Allianz has adapted leading social media platforms to establish an online brand community with its customers, who view its insurance products to add value to their lives. The company has engaged in two-way communications with its key stakeholder based on Dialogic Theory. A key challenge it faces include keeping with the dynamism of internet and mobile technology. To engage fully with the customers, Allianz should design virtual experiences that arouse feelings. The company also needs to determine whether blogs should be part of campaigns.

References

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