Political Communication   Strategic Communication  

Examining Social Partnership Communication During a Global Health Crisis

In response to the extensive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, collaborative efforts from multi-sector organizations emerged to help communities cope during these challenging times.

These social partnerships attempted to provide relief efforts through combining government or corporate resources and non-government organization’s issue expertise. For example, a corporation working with a local food bank to purchase supplies and ship to hospitals and other epicenters of the COVID-19 outbreak is an example of a such a social partnership.

University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Assistant Professor Jieun Shin and colleagues wanted to better understand how organizations from both the public and private sectors communicated these social partnerships on social media.

The researchers wanted to know what themes and patterns emerged from the COVID-19 related social partnership networks. They wondered if the type of government or level of economic development, associated economic challenges (such as unemployment), and average educational level of its citizens affected how likely social networks were to be successful in supporting COVID-19 relief response efforts.

The research showed that a nation’s government does impact social partnership communication, as organizations from countries currently under a populist government regime were significantly less likely to engage in communicating social partnerships on social media. Conversely, a country’s level of economic challenge, reflected in unemployment rate and economic equality, may positively influence organizations’ engagement in COVID-19-related social partnership communication.

Results also suggested that organizations from countries with higher levels of education were significantly more likely to engage in COVID-19 social partnership communication than those with lower education levels. And countries with high levels of uncertainty avoidance were much less likely to engage in COVID-19 partnership communication than others.

The analysis overall suggests that the communication about critical public health measures demonstrates a strong emphasis on symbolic alliances and community building. Social media-related communication provides unique opportunities for unity and bonding in times of social distancing and sheltering at home.

Because the study focused on social media, countries that ban social media were excluded, limiting results. The nonprofits included in this study may disproportionately represent U.S.-based large nonprofits, and leaves out small U.S. nonprofits that may be equally involved in the pandemic. It should also be noted that COVID-19 is far from the only common issue that countries around the world face. Future studies would benefit from focusing on other common issues, such as climate change and structural inequality.

The original article,“One Earth, One Humanity Versus the Virus: Examining the Global COVID-19 Social Partnership Communication Networks on Social Media,” appeared in the International Journal of Business Communication published online on July 27, 2022.

 Authors: Wenlin Liu, University of Houston; Aimei Yang, University of Southern California; Jieun Shin, University of Florida; Yiqi Li, Syracuse University; Jingyi Sun, Stevens Institute of Technology; Yan Qu, University of Minnesota; Lichen Zhen, University of Southern California; Hye Min Kim, University of Massachusetts Boston; Chuqing Dong, Michigan State University

This summary was written by Marie Morganelli, Ph.D.

Posted: September 2, 2022
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