Founded on digital technology, new media forms empower users to easily broadcast or narrowcast at low cost and without intermediary gatekeepers. Arguably, such empowerment may be frowned at by banks' information managers as their industry seem particularly vulnerable in the face of imprudent public dissemination of internal information. For example, negative information that goes viral on social media has the potential to cause grave damage to a bank's reputation and could even lead to a run on the bank.
Despite the aforementioned new media empowerment and risk dilemma, the academic literature is surprisingly silent about the challenges facing sensitive industries like banks in the control of information in the new media age. We therefore carried out a study among information managers in selected commercial banks in Nigeria to find out their attitude towards the empowerment and risk dilemma posed by new media and how the latter affects their work as organization's information controllers or gatekeepers.
Out of the 22 commercial banks that operate in Nigeria, 13 commercial banks were selected using lottery method. Survey and in-depth interviews were carried out among the banks' information managers. In addition, survey questionnaires were distributed among three other subgroups of stakeholders – bank customers, bank employees and journalists.
Twelve of the thirteen information managers studied indicated that they use social media to disseminate organizational information. However, all agree that social media is the media form that poses the greatest challenge in terms of controlling the dissemination of information about their organization. Furthermore, in comparison to customers and employees, journalists were perceived by the information managers as the stakeholders that most undermine the ethics of communication. This position seems corroborated by the finding that majority (76%) of the journalists surveyed affirmed that they've used their news platform or social media to complain about the banks and 37% say that they've done so frequently. However, contrary to the perception by the information managers, the journalists (82%) claim that they do so ethically. This disparity suggests the need to harmonize ethical standards between journalists and the banks' information managers.
Even though only 36% of customers say that they have used social media to criticize their banks, 23% say that they never put ethics into consideration. This lack of ethical consideration in itself could pose risk for information managers, suggesting the need to educate or sensitize the customers.
Results suggest that employees are the least problematic compared to journalists and customers. This may not be unconnected with the proactive measures put in place as indicated by the information managers. These include affirmation of the code of ethics, information scanning/authorization, staff awareness and sensitization, stakeholder engagement, prevention of negative flow of information and speculation, shielding of sensitive information, management approval before publication of any organizational information, procedure/policy framework in place for employee communication. All the information managers were also of the opinion that appropriate sanctions should be in place for defaulting employees.
We consider this study as having opened a furrow in research about organizational information gatekeeping in the new media era. In recognition of the empowerment of all stakeholders in the new media space, we suggest that information managers ought to recognize other stakeholders as co-gatekeepers. We recommend that the co-gatekeeper paradigm be further explored as an approach to influencing stakeholders for effective communication and reputational risk mitigation in the new media space.
Onobhayedo, Pius A. and Kasie-Nwachukwu, Ogechi
"New Media and Challenges of Information Control: A Study among Commercial Banks' Information Managers in Nigeria,"
Global Advances in Business and Communications Conference & Journal:
1, Article 5.
Available at: http://commons.emich.edu/gabc/vol4/iss1/5