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Iris Cumberbatch, Ph.D. is a 2019 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Cumberbatch at her Dissertation Defense.

L-R: Dr. Carol Baron, Committee Member, Dr. Mitch Kusy, Committee Chair, Dr. Mark Porter (on screen), Committee Member.

Dissertation Committee

  • Mitchell Kusy, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Carol Baron, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Mike Porter, Ed.D., Committee Member

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2019

Abstract

More than a decade after the emergence of social and digital media, professional communicators increasingly use these channels to interact with a wide array of stakeholders. Simultaneously, public relations (PR) and communications leaders seek to understand whether their efforts to communicate and engage with stakeholders through these channels are effective in establishing and building relationships, as well as to measure “effectiveness” in the new technology-driven communications landscape. With this study, I addressed a gap in the academic research with regard to understanding the effectiveness of social and digital media as a communications tool by assessing employees’ perceptions of their organization with respect to five communication concepts, both in general and based specifically on the company’s social media communications. I assessed the relationship between the employee stakeholder and the organization from two viewpoints: first, from the viewpoint of the employees with whom the organization is communicating, and second, from the viewpoint of the communications professionals who post social and digital media messages on behalf of the organization. The results showed that an intervention to educate employees about the organization’s social and digital media communications did not result in employees’ increased positive perceptions of the organization as a whole or of the organization’s sites with regard to each of the five communications concepts. The increase in employees’ positive perceptions of the organization’s social and digital media sites, which reflected the communication concept “promoting communal relationships,” was significant at p < .10; also, increases for three individual statements that were part of the communications concepts were sufficient for statistical significance. The intervention did result in statistically significant increases in employee use of social and digital media to engage with the organization and in usage of specifically LinkedIn to engage with the organization. The communicators who are responsible for the organization’s social and digital media communications generally held the same perceptions as other employees with regard to how the organization in general and its social media sites specifically fostered the five communication concepts. This dissertation is available in open access at Antioch University Repository and Archive, http://aura.antioch.edu/ and OhioLINK ETD Center, https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Iris Cumberbatch, Ph.D.

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0003-3772-6756

Iris Cumberbatch has spent her career in financial services communications, marketing, and stakeholder relations. Her work centers on building bridges between organizations and the people who care about them and are affected by them. Iris believes that there are two sides to every relationship, and that includes relationships between organizations and their stakeholders.

Iris’s work with social and digital media began more than a decade ago when she first started using online channels to communicate personally as well as on behalf of her organization. She quickly recognized that social and digital media would transform the way stakeholders and organizations interact, and forever change the way we communicate. Iris also realized that these new channels would change how we measure the effectiveness of our communications, both personally and organizationally. This desire to better understand the effectiveness of social and digital media communications from both sides of the relationship, including the organization’s perspective as well as the stakeholders’ views, led Iris to her dissertation topic. Her hope is that this research will help communications professionals more effectively engage with their stakeholders, thereby building stronger relationships between organizations and the public.

Iris currently serves as senior vice president and head of Corporate Affairs at ECMC Group. She has held this position since 2016, leading a team of communications professionals responsible for media and public relations; external communications; executive communications; government affairs; community relations; internal communications; Web services; graphic design; and social and digital media. Prior to joining ECMC Group, Iris was vice president and head of Public Affairs at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Previously, Iris was senior vice president of corporate communications for Wells Fargo and vice president of corporate communications for Wachovia Bank prior to the Wells Fargo/Wachovia merger. Before joining Wachovia, she led communications and marketing for numerous banking, investment, and online businesses at a variety of financial institutions including Bank of America; Citibank; National Securities Clearing Corporation; Shearson Lehman Hutton/American Express; E.F. Hutton; and Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. Iris began her career as a journalist with NBC News in New York and the BBC World Service in London.

Iris earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism/communications from Pennsylvania State University and her MBA from Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina. She also received an advanced certificate in mass communications from the University of Manchester in Manchester, UK, and holds a PhD in leadership and change from Antioch University in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

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