As you might know already I organized a series of interviews with internal communicators in 2014. The overall aim was to gather data from semi-structured interviews in order to gain a better understanding of how these professionals make sense of their work. I consider this research to be valuable because at this point we know relatively little about how PR practitioners reflect on their own work (L'Etang, 2006, p. 27). My impression, that I still need to prove with empirical results, is that internal communicators have a strong feeling that practices in their field of expertise are changing.
Although most of my PhD work revolves around qualitative methods I have also included some quantitative data. This is because I am convinced that different techniques inherited from both methodological traditions can enrich the research by allowing the scholar to approach a problem from different perspectives. During my series of interviews I asked my respondents to answer a limited number of questions from a structured interview. Since it was my first survey and given my focus on the ensuing semi-open interview I was not able to get much useful data from the quantitative questions. I will briefly mention pitfalls that I stepped into and of which I hope that future research will take note.
This being said, a question that did generate interesting answers was a question designed to measure the impression communication professionals have of the degree to which different hierarchical groups within the organization value internal communication. I asked my respondents to give a score ranging from 0 to 100 to higher management, line management and employees as an indication of how important these groups consider internal communication to be.
I analyzed the scores with the statistical software package SPSS. With the help of this program I compared the mean scores of the three groups using a repeated measures ANOVA. The descriptive statistics show that line management receives a decidedly lower score than higher management and shop-floor employees. This seems to resonate with my impression I got during the interviews, being that internal communicators are not over-enthusiastic about the (internal) communication skills of line managers.
In the next table I find that the multivariate tests all indicate a significant difference in the mean scores of the different groups. However, we must be careful with interpreting these results. I have found several statistics websites with warnings about the power of multivariate tests in case of a repeated measures ANOVA. On the website of Originlab for example the authors write: "In most cases, multivariate tests are not as powerful as repeated measures ANOVA, so we should use repeated measures ANOVA. However, under certain circumstances, for example large sample size and a serious violation of sphericity assumption, the multivariate tests would be a better choice. " Since I do not have a large sample size (we will get back to sphericity in a moment) it seems that I will need to look more closely at the Tests of Within-Subjects Effects.
It is important, when using a repeated measures ANOVA, to test the assumption of sphericity. To quote from Laerd Statistics: "Sphericity is the condition where the variances of differences between all combinations of related groups (levels) are equal. It therefore shows much resemblance to the homogeneity of variances assumption in a between-subjects ANOVA." To test the assumption of sphericity we used Mauchly's test of sphericity. The test, in our case, indicated that the assumption of sphericity has not been violated ( X^2 (2) = 4,172, p = .124). We can therefore assume sphericity.
Based on the Tests of Within-Subjects Effects I was not able to confirm the multivariate tests. In this table can be seen that, when assuming sphericity, the scores are not statistically different (F (2, 106) = 2,394 , p = .096). However, given that the p-value is not all that far removed from the critical value of .05 I believe that I might have found something here. With a more homogeneous sample (in this sample were included people who do not identify with the communication profession since their company decided not to hire a dedicated PR professional) and more data points (i.e. more completed surveys) I am overtly convinced my results would turn out to be significant on all tests.
Because I don't want to keep you waiting for another blogpost I can already share that the qualitative interviews revealed an important reason why I formulated the hypothesis that internal communicators have the impression that line management cares less about internal communication than members of higher management or shop-floor employees. Line management is believed to be a group of which the members are very concerned about their (operational) targets, leaving less room for "corporate affairs". They additionally act as important information gatekeepers who, according to one respondent, "like to receive information but are hesitant in passing on information". However, many communicators added that there is considerable variation in the group of line managers as regards their communication skills.
Blogging away about my PhD. My goal is to keep you up to date about the progress made in my research. Stay tuned for more news and feel free to interact and comment.