Media Law: the Principle of Open Justice

The principle of open justice has lost its force and has become mere rhetoric.

Open justice is said to be one of the fundamental attributes of a fair trail in the Australian system of justice. The long-standing principle underpins public access to the courts and the rationale is that the justice system benefits when transparency, publicity and scrutiny is given to court proceedings. However, this principle is not absolute and a number of limitations have been developed through the common law and statutes. Therefore, to an extent, I believe the principle of open justice has lost its force and has become mere rhetoric.

Firstly, through the development of common law in Australia, judges continue to restrict the principle of open justice. The main limitations recognized include where it is ‘necessary to secure the proper administration of justice’ or where otherwise it is in the public interest (Australian Law Reform Commission, 2015). Judges have been able to apply these broad limitations at their discretion, which has narrowed the principle of open justice. Furthermore, in other cases, judges have expounded exceptions to the principle, such as in Idoport’s case Justice Einstein stated six specific exceptions to the principle (Pearson & Polden, 2015).

Furthermore, there are over 370 pieces of legislation that have been specifically created or include limitations to open justice (Pearson & Polden, 2015). Specific Commonwealth statutes provide power to the courts, through a range of laws, to make suppression orders which concern or are based on general powers of the courts, national security and witness protection. Also, in more general areas of law such as family law, migration law and administration law, the Commonwealth has included restrictive sections into each area’s respective legislation to restrict the principles of open justice.

I believe that too many limitations have developed through the common law, specific legislation and statutory exceptions that have eroded the principle of open justice.



Australian Law Reform Commission (2015). Traditional Rights and Freedoms – Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws (ALRC Interim Report 127). Retrieved January 25, 2016 from

Pearson, M. & Polden, M. (2015). The Journalist’s Guide to Media Law. Fifth Edition. Allen and Unwin, Sydney.

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Disruptive Innovations

Over the past few weeks, I have been exploring the Disruptive Innovations theory. To present my findings I’ve created a 5 minute podcast and to help you follow along with the podcast, here is the transcript.

Hi there! Welcome to Deliberation on DMS Radio, I’m Ellen Kaldis. Today, we’re going to go be exploring disruptive innovations, a theory coined by Harvard Professor, Clayton Christensen.

Scott Anthony, author of The Innovators Guide to Growth explains:

“Disruptive innovation is a particular type of innovation that occurs when an innovator brings to a market an innovation that is simple, that is convenient, accessible, affordable, changing the game,” (Harvard Business Review, 2008).


Initially, a disruptive innovation will underperform a primary function of an existing product appreciated by mainstream consumers (Flew, 2014). However, the innovation performs better in some alternate characteristic and unexpectedly opens up a new niche market of different consumers. Other factors influencing the adoption of the innovation include ease of use or availability at lower cost (Flew, 2014). Over time, the disruptive innovation improves on performing the primary function to the extent that it eventually appeals to the mainstream consumers who initially shunned it and thus displaces earlier technologies and established competitors (Schmidt & Druel, 2008).

The Tablet

One of the most successful disruptive innovations has been the tablet, a highly portable, touch screen device (Cortimiglia, Frank & Seben, 2013). The first versions of tablets offered lower performance in areas that were important to mainstream consumers, including limited storage space, slow processing abilities and no keyboards (Frost, 2014). The characteristics of a tablet are radically different from products that existed before its invention. Tablets have also disrupted other technologies and markets as they are replacing books, newspapers and magazines (Frost, 2014). Apple’s iPad is driving the niche tablet industry and has been described as “arguably the most disruptive tech force out there”, (Collins, Rabby & Brown, 2013, p. 62). IPads are considerably cheaper than traditional Apple products such as laptops or desktop PC’s and with each update, are becoming more capable of being a substitute for these technologies (Mojonnier, 2012). Christensen (2013) states that there is so much more to using the iPad than price, functionality and convenience. It facilitates consumption of the Internet and provides a completely new, engaging and compelling way of interacting with media and information (Christensen, 2013)


Skype is another disruptive innovation that has rapidly changed the telecommunications landscape (Rao, Angelov & Nov, 2006). The technology allows customers to call and message on the same interface, more conveniently and for a fraction of the price of traditional communication services. Skype is the fusion of two unique disruptive innovations, Voice of Internet Protocol (VoIP) and peer-to-peer (P2P) computing. Skype has a range of functionalities and features including instant messaging, file sharing, simple user-interface and a global and decentralized user directory (Rao, Angelov & Nov, 2006). It is a faster and more convenient method of accessing files and content over the Internet. The quality of Skype is not inferior in performance to existing services, contrary to Christensen’s theory. However, it is offered at a lower cost. Skype has been downloaded over 2 billion times and continues to grow, reaching a wider and critical mass of consumers.


The third disruptive innovation is wearables. Wearables are computerized products that offer smartphone and Bluetooth functions and collect information about a person and their body (Sung-won, 2013). These devices include the Fitbit band to track steps taken and calories burned, the June Bracelet from Netamo to monitor sunlight exposure and Google glasses (Nunes & Downes, 2014). However, wearables have struggled to move from a niche application to a mainstream product for a number of reasons. First, the technology sphere does not understand how to design these products in a fashionable way. Second, consumers are experiencing short battery life and charging issues with wearables. Third, the usefulness is also disappearing as wearing a gadget is being undermined by sensors embedded invisibly in other existing products (McCullagh, 2014).

To end today’s session; Scott Anthony summarizes disruptive innovation.

“We think about a very particular type of innovation, one that creates an entirely new market or transforms an existing one by playing the innovation game, differently,” (Anthony, 2008).

For more information, check out Thanks for joining me on Deliberation on DMS Radio; I’ll catch you next time.


Anthony, S. (July 14, 2008). What Is Disruptive Innovation? [Video File]. Retrieved from

Cortimiglia, M. N., Frank, A. G., & Seben, L. (2013). Tablets: The Next Disruptive Computing Technology? IT Professional, 15(3), 18-25. doi:10.1109/MITP.2012.117

Collins, S., Rabby, M., & Brown, T. (2013). Few students willing to pay for tablet news content. Newspaper Research Journal, 34(1), 62-73. Retrieved from

Christensen, C. M. (2013). Disruptive Innovation. In Soegaard, M. & Dam, R. F. (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction (2nd ed). Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation.

(Retrieved from

Flew, T. (2014). New Media: An Introduction (4th Ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Frost, R. (2014). What characteristics make the iPad a disruptive technology? Retrieved from

Harvard Business Review. (October 20, 2008). How To Spot Disruptive Innovation Opportunities [Video file]. Retrieved from

MCcullagh, K. (2014). Why wearable devices will never be as disruptive as smartphones. Retreived from

Mojonnier, T. (2012). Apple’s New iPad: A Disruptive Innovation. Retrieved from

Moore, D. & Hebeler, J. (2002). Peer-to-Peer: Building Secure, Scalable and Manageable Networks. Osborne: McGraw-Hill.

Nunes, P. & Downes, L. (2014). The Five Most Disriptive Innovations at CES 2014. Retrieved from

Rao, B., Angelov, B., & Nov, O. (2006). Fusion of disruptive technologies. European Management Journal, 24(2), 174-188. doi:10.1016/j.emj.2006.03.007

Schmidt, G. M. & Druehl, C. T. (2008). When Is a Disruptive Innovation Disruptive? Journal of Product Innovation Management, 25(4), 347–369. Doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5885.2008.00306.x

Sung-Won, J. (2013). Seven disruptive innovations for future industries. SERI Quarterly, 6(3), 94-98,10. Retrieved from

It’s Time To Take Games Seriously


As a Communications student, majoring in Marketing and Public Relations (PR), this weeks “gamification” topic hugely impacts the career I hope to pursue in PR. Recently, digital media technologies and the games industry have changed the way the communications industry operates. In this blog, I will explore the recent growth of the games industry and explain the influence of “gamification” in relation to PR. I will also provide examples of innovative PR campaigns that have used gamification to the client’s benefit.

The games industry is currently the fastest growing component of the media sector worldwide (Flew, 2014). Mahdar (2013) predicts that by 2016, over $2 billion will be spent on gaming applications. The industry is producing significant innovations that incorporate gaming and new media technologies. O’Neill (2013) explains the games industry has transformed into a mature, relevant industry that’s highly accessible and positively perceived by businesses.

Gamification is defined as the “use of game machines and game design techniques in non-gaming contexts,” (Flew, 2014).

The Communications Industry

Although the communication fields of Marketing and PR appear similar, marketers and PR practitioners have very unique responsibilities. Marketing is designed to promote and sell products or services. PR, on the other hand, is about building mutual understanding between an organization and its publics; it’s about helping the organization tell its stories (Holtz, 2012).

Gamification has been incredibly popular in the marketing industry as businesses are discovering that gamification can be applied to help solve their marketing problems. It has been established that “over 70% of the Forbes Global 200 say they plan to use gamification for marketing purposes by the end of 2014,” (Olenski, 2014).

Gamification has not been embraced to the same extent by the PR industry; however it has started to creep into PR as a new communication channel (PR News, 2013). The PR industry is investing more in the gaming industry and gaming technologies, showing the growing acceptance for this new form of media. Mahdar (2013) explains this is because gamification generates media impressions, both on social media and earned media platforms. Gamification is also a great promotional angle as it reinforces the brand’s reputation and amplifies consumer’s engagement with the brand (PR News, 2013)

In PR, gamification also helps to introduce the idea of “play” to key stakeholders, consumers and employees that will help companies achieve desirable results (Luminea, 2013). Instead of the audience being a passive group of consumers, gamification encourages these people to become gamers and actively participate. Gamification is more than simply running a contest; it engages and motivates the audience on a whole other level.

The YouTube video below provides insights on how PR can leverage game mechanics to create engaging interactions with consumer (Madhar, 2013).

Nike+ App

Nike created the app Nike+ to encourage users to engage with the brand by creating a variety of fitness challenges for users to enter. The gaming aspects involved a sense of accomplishment when new levels were reached or beating a previous record. The PR logic was connected to sharing these results and achievements across several social media platforms. O’Neill, (2013) states that Nike “used leadership boards and gamification to help solidify their community with their Nike+ application.”


McDonalds Monopoly

McDonalds Monopoly was originally a marketing and sales promotions campaign which involved circulating game pieces that offer both instant prizes and prices for accumulating property sets on a Monopoly board. In 2013, the campaign became more aligned with PR as McDonalds introduced social media as another element to their already addictive game. Participants were encouraged to follow @McDonalds on Twitter and use the hashtag #McDMonopoly in order to gain additional game incentives and engage with their customers (Dougherty, 2014).

McDonalds Monopoly

Starbucks App

Starbucks created “an industry-leading, ‘user-loved’ digital loyalty app” that enabled any customer to simply scan, pay for their coffee and earn rewards (Australian Mobile Awards, 2013). From a marketing perspective, the app was designed to offer perks and free drinks to entice customers to spend money with their cards, promoting frequent coffee consumption. The PR aspect involved new press releases upon each modification of the app, which earned traditional media placements and generated significant buzz on social media. Updates occurred regularly and the ‘digital tipping’ and ‘shake to pay’ options created the biggest hype in the media (Dougherty, 2014).


The Future of Gamification in the PR Industry

There is no denying that with the surge of portable technology including smartphones and tablets, more and more consumers are playing and loving video games in ways never previously anticipated (O’Neill, 2013). As a consequence, there are many future possibilities that could arise from combining gaming technologies with aspects of PR. Madhar (2013) suggests creating a game for opinion leaders to help write content more aligned to an organisations key messages. Developing on this with my own idea, why not create an interactive game for journalists where they are awarded different points for interacting with a PR’s client or brand? For example, attending a press conference could equal 1 point, running a story on social media denotes 2 points and running a story on traditional media could equate to 3 points.


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New Times Require New Thinking

Participatory Culture

Participatory Culture

A two way relationship exists between Public Relations (PR) and Journalism, whereby PRs need journalists to report their news while journalists require PRs to provide them with stories. Research has even suggested that the discourse of PR is growing in influence over the discourse of journalism to an extent that traditional journalists are relinquishing their agenda-setting function (Sissons, 2012). In this blog I will explore the effect of the emerging trend of participatory culture, the rise of pro-ams including citizen journalists and bloggers and the impact this has on the PR industry.

What is a Participatory Culture?

As Wikipedia is usually the perfect place to start researching, Wikipedia defines participatory culture as “a culture in which private persons (the public) do not act as consumers only, but also as contributors or producers (‘prosumers’). The term is most often applied to the production or creation of some type of published media”. Journalists and media organizations, through traditional mass media, are no longer the only providers of news, information and opinion.

Digital networks and new media technologies have dramatically influenced a shift in journalism from traditional media in a mass communication environment to contemporary journalism in a convergent social media environment (Flew, 2014). This new environment is founded on interactivity and a participatory culture.

Lasswell's Model of Communication

Lasswell’s Model of Traditional Mass Communication

This model indicates the production and distribution of a message is one way (Hongcharu & Eiamkanchanalai, 2009). It occurs on a large scale and usually from one or few ‘elite’ senders to many receivers, viewed as the ‘audience’. This relationship is asymmetrical and impersonal and the message is typically standardized content created with the broadest possible appeal (Flew, 2014).

The contemporary internet environment and convergent social media has influenced a re-balance or blurring between producers and consumers, experts and amateurs and writers and readers (Flew, 2014). Users are becoming empowered in a more personalised, two way media environment and are encouraged to “read and write” rather than “read only”.

Flew (2014) states that “people now expect to have a right to media participation.”

Who is a “Pro-Am”?

Amongst these people in society who believe they have a right to media participation are the “pro-ams”, the professional amateurs. Pro-ams are defined as “amateurs who work to professional standards as creating new, distributed organisational models that will be innovative, adaptive & low cost” (Flew, 2014). There has been a significant rise of pro-ams because of the balanced hierarchy of producers and consumers, opportunities for participation on new media and amplification of global network capabilities including faster access, lower costs and coordination of activities.

As Web 2.0 has made online self-publishing considerably easier, citizen journalists and bloggers are now emerging as pro-ams by providing the news in today’s new media society. Citizen journalism is “participatory” and “user-centered” and citizen journalists are the people formerly known as the audience employ the press tools they have in their possession to inform (Lewis, Kafhold & Lasorsa, 2009)

A fantastic example of the rise in citizen journalism is OhmyNews. OhmyNews is a South Korean online news website with the slogan, “every citizen is a reporter”. The site accepts, edits and publishes articles from its readers, typically free lance writers or ordinary citizens, in an open source style of news reporting (Hartley, 2011)

How does it affect the PR industry?

Richard Edelman, President and CEO of the world’s largest PR firm explains the following.

“In the past, ‘some people’ who have been called ‘journalists’ wrote stories to be placed in print or broadcast. Now, virtually anybody can write stories from anywhere on anything,” (Edelman, 2005).

PR is shifting away from pushing stories to traditional outlets and focusing more on disseminating news through social media. It is becoming less common for a company’s PR department or PR firm to write a press release and pitch it only to traditional journalists (Edelman, 2005). Therefore, instead of having media contacts in traditional, commercial media organisations, it is increasingly important to network with alternate media such as community bloggers and citizen journalists. Whilst completing my internship at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, I have learnt that not only does the marketing team target mainstream media sources such as magazines, they also develop key connections with relevant and influential online bloggers including Sarah Wilson and Zara D’Cotta.

Sarah Wilson's Blog - I Quit Sugar

Sarah Wilson’s Blog – I Quit Sugar

However, this also makes it harder for PR professionals to get their news out. With the rise of citizen journalists and bloggers producing endless amounts of content, the media industry has shifted from information scarcity to an abundance of information (Flew, 2014).

A Final Thought

One form of media does not displace another and blogging will not usurp the roles played by journalists or traditional mass media (Flew, 2014). Yes, new media posses a threat to traditional media, however the two also nicely complement each other as traditional media does have some advantages over new media. However, there is no doubt that Web 2.0 technologies and digital media continues to impact the PR industry and will significantly influence my future career as a PR practitioner.


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Convergence Culture and the Public Relations Industry


Henry Jenkins in his book Covergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide defines convergence as:

The flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who would go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they wanted. (Jenkins, 2006)

Jenkins explains that the term convergence describes technological, industrial, cultural and social changes (Jenkins, 2006). For the purposes of this blog I will be examining the impact of technological convergence and cultural convergence on the Public Relation (PR) industry.

Technological Convergence

The most basic way to describe technological convergence is as the digitalization of media content. It involves old media transforming into new media and the potential of all mediums transforming and moulding into one particular type of media. It explains the tendency for different technological systems to evolve towards performing similar tasks. As technologies evolve, new technologies are created that over take past forms of technology and perform the same task but in a more advanced manner (Jenkins, 2006).

Examples of technological convergence are the iPad and iPad applications which allow people to read books on their tablet device. Old media, the book, converges it into new or digital media technology, the tablet or applications, which allows the reader to view it online. The same activity of reading a book is performed, however the iPad and applications allow for it to be done in a modern way.

Old Skwl v New

This YouTube video also highlights many examples of technological convergence to have evolved over the years.

In the PR Industry, the iPhone (or smartphones) and iPad have completely changed the game. The iPhone technology in particular is capable of calling, messaging, audio and video recording, allows Internet and social media access and I could continue because the list is endless.


Therefore influencing the development of the online press release. Traditionally, press releases are written or recorded communications directed at members of the news media. They are used to announce useful information or newsworthy matters and must be in a prescribed format tailored to fit the publication (“Use media and press releases to get the word out about your practice”, 2014).

In the past, PR practitioners would distribute physical paper copies of press releases to the media and interested parties by mail or fax. However, technologies including email, social media and online databases specializing in distributing online media releases have since developed and are accessible on iPhones. Now, press releases are commonly emailed to relevant organisations or links are tweeted via Twitter and posted on Facebook linking the reader to the organisation’s web page which will feature the press release online. This converged technology is extremely efficient and effective and can all be done on the one device, the iPhone.

Cultural Convergence

 Whereas cultural convergence describes the behaviour among audience members when sharing information and the creativity that emerges as a result (Kincaid, 2002). There are many definitions of ‘culture’ and one way to define it is as follows:

Culture is the characteristics of a particular group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts (Zimmermann, 2012).

More broadly, cultural convergence describes an explosion of new forms of creativity across not only consumers, but also various media technologies and industries (Jenkins, 2006). In today’s society, the media culture allows people to be a part of the media that we experience and the interactivity between consumers is essential. Jenkins describes this as a participatory culture as consumers are empowered to edit, annotate and create content through a variety of technologies.

Due to the emergence of social media, social networking sites, wiki pages and blogs have completely changed the nature of the PR industry (Hazell, 2008). New forms of community are emerging in the online environment and the roots of physical geographically located communities are diminishing. These new online communities are defined through voluntary, temporary and tactical affiliations.

The effect this has had for PR practitioners means that journalists and the media are no longer the only sources and publishers of content.

Pretty much everyone now has the means to report what is going on in the world around them. Even the most basic phone has a camera, and it is simple to post images, video and text to social media sites at the click of a button. Consequently citizen journalists – ordinary people doing the job of reporters – are everywhere. (Measures, 2013)

The typical PR practioner no longer interacts solely with traditional journalists, as there is also a multitude of bloggers publishing their take and perception on the news.

Thus, it is obvious from the examples discussed and many more that both technological convergence and cultural convergence are occurring in society and are significantly impacting most industries, including the PR industry.


Hazell, A. (2008). Convergence, changing media and public relations. [Blog] Ant’s World: A South African blog about Politics, Media, Marketing and Web 2.0. Available at:

Jenkins, H. (2006). Welcome to Convergence Culture. [Blog] Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Available at:

Kincaid, L. (2002). Drama, Emotion and Cultural Convergence. Communication Theory, 12(2), 136-152

Measures, C. (2013). The Rise of Citizen Journalism. [Blog] Social Media Today. Available at:

Use media and press releases to get the word out about your practice. (2014). The Journal of Medical Practice Management : MPM, 29(5), 271. Retrieved from

Zimmermann, K.A. (2012) What is Culture? Definition of Culture. [Blog] Live Science. Available at

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Diffusion of Social Media Technology in the Public Relations Industry


In recent years the most notable innovation to significantly impact the Public Relations (PR) industry has been the development of Web 2.0 and social media. In this blog post I will explore the concept of social media as a technology, describe Everett Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation Model and use it to explain the impact social media has had on the PR industry.

Wukich & Steinberg (2013) define social media as a variety of Internet based applications and online platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook that enable people to communicate, share resources and information. As social media is a foundation of human communication and possess characteristics of participation, openness, conversation, community and connectedness it significantly affects the public relations industry (Veil, Buebner & Palenchar, 2011). Social media is a development of traditional media and the key differentiation is engagement and participation.

This YouTube video helps to clarify the characteristics of social media, how it benefits the PR industry and why the technology rapidly diffused within the industry.

Also, the podcast created by the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) reinforce the significant impact social media has had as an innovation in the industry:

The Diffusion of Innovations model describes a process or the spreading of a new idea from its place of invention or creation to its end users or those who adopt it as a last resort (Gazbar, 2013). Rogers outlines four main elements that influence the spread of a new idea, these include a new idea or the innovation itself, communication channels, time and a social system (Flew, 2014).

The process involves a series of steps a consumer passes through from initial knowledge of an innovation or awareness, to forming an attitude towards the innovation and reaching a decision to adopt the innovation or not (Mani & Dhingra, 2012). These 5 stages are outlined in more detail (Flew, 2014):

  • Knowledge: the individual is first exposed to an innovation, however there is limited information about the innovation and the individual is reluctant to adopt at this stage.
  • Persuasion: the individual discovers further information of the innovation and has developed an interest.
  • Decision: the individual analyses the concepts and compares the relative advantages and disadvantages of using the innovation. At this stage the individual will decide to adopt, reject or modify the innovation.
  • Implementation: the individual has determined that the innovation is useful through trial of the innovation.
  • Confirmation: the individual has finalised their decision to continue using the innovation.

In the PR industry, it is likely that majority of PR practitioners have individually experienced this five-stage decision making process and have confirmed social media as an innovation. It is now widely used in the industry and the PRIA described the innovation to have “reignited the PR profession” (Breakenridge, 2010)

In Roger’s theory, the rate of adoption is a key factor. This is defined as the relative speed at which participants adopt an innovation. Flew (2014) indicates diffusion manifests itself in different ways in various cultures and fields and is highly subject to the type of adopters and innovation-decision process. Five categories have been defined within a social class based on the degree of innovativeness and willingness to adopt the new idea or technology. At the most innovative side of the curve are the Innovators, followed by Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards.

Diffusion of Innovation the rise and spread of Google plus


In the early 2000’s when social media was first developed, the first PR practitioners who were willing to take risks and first use  the technology would be described as Innovators. Early Adopters would soon follow and individuals classified in the Early Majority describe the third category. As the transition into the Early Majority category occurred, it is likely that social media had taken off in the industry and reached what Roger’s described as ‘critical mass’. The term comes from physics, however in diffusion, it is used to explain the number of people who must adopt an innovation before it explodes into common use. After this stage and after some time since the conception of social media, individuals classified in the Late Majority who were waiting to see what happens then may adopt the innovation. Finally skeptics of the innovation are termed ‘Laggards’. This would include more traditional PR practitioners who were reluctant to use social media and did not see the benefits it provides as a technology.

Social media is a technology that has had a profound effect on so many industries. Jennifer Hellickson, a contributor to Business 2 Community perfectly summarizes the impact that the innovation of social media has had in Australia in her post:


  • Breakenridge, D. (2010). Social Media and Public Relations: 8 New Practices for the PR Professional. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.
  • Flew, T. (2014). New Media: An Introduction (4th. Ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press
  • Gazbar, Y. (2013). Models of Diffusion, Adoption, Innovation and Acceptance of a New Technology, and Social Communication. Interdisciplinary Journal of Contemporary Research in Business, 4(10), 810-821. Retrieved from
  • Mani, S. & Dhingra, T. (2012). Diffusion of innovation model of consumer behaviour – ideas to accelerate adoption of renewable energy sources by consumer communities in India. Renewable Energy 39(1), p. 162-165. DOI: 10.1016/j.renene.2011.07.03
  • Veil, S., Buehner, T. & Palenchar, M.J. (2011). A work in process literature review: incorporating social media in risk and crisis communication. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 19(2), 110-122,
  • Wukich, C. & Steinberg, A. (2013). Nonprofit and public sector participation in self-organizing information networks: Twitter hashtag and trending topic use during disasters. Risk, Hazards & Crisis in Public Policy, 4(2), 83-109.

Starbucks success story

The Starbucks Empire

The Starbucks Empire

A case study of a company that has developed effective social media policies

An introduction to Starbucks is unnecessary. The American coffee company has over 18,000 franchises across the globe in about 60 countries. Incredibly, for a company that’s success revolves around its product (coffee), its online presence is remarkably strong.

Starbucks operates on a number of online platforms. It has become one of the most popular brands on Facebook and its page has accumulated over 18 million likes.

In fact it was recently reported that nine out of 10 Facebook users are either a fan of Starbucks or knows someone who is.

Starbucks’ approach to social media is based on developing a relationship with the various platforms and their customers. Starbucks is renowned for many innovative online campaigns including ‘#TreatReceipt’ and ‘Tweet-a-coffee’.

However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Starbucks. A few hiccups have occurred along the way including an employee posting inappropriate images from the corporate account, a negatively received campaign, and poorly worded response to an Argentinian product sourcing issue.

Starbucks’ ability to overcome these crises and come out even stronger is based on the company’s policies which guide the company’s online behaviour.

Social media guidelines need to be simple and easy to understand.

Successful guideline policy’s give employees the opportunity to be themselves online but at the same time protects the brand. Starbucks policies mirror exactly this. The policies are simple, direct and highlight the standard and type of behaviour expected from Starbucks employees. To do this, they are drafted in a list of Do’s and Don’t’s.

Do’s include behaving honestly, with integrity and encourage safe online practices. Processes to handle complaints and concerns are recommended as well as the best people to contact if an employee feels they have made an error.


Don’ts relate to using social media in a malicious or threatening way, using other people’s information and being conscious about the use of private information. A general warning in regards to using the company’s corporate name is also given, which has allowed Starbucks to cover all grounds.

For a full list of the policies: Starbucks social media guidelines

Starbucks success is a fantastic real life example of how important it is for a company’s online behaviour to be guided by a set of policies. The company has clearly set appropriate guidelines which are followed by all levels of employees, from the person serving you behind the counter to the CEO. Well done Starbucks!


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