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The Challenges Faced by Saudi Arabian Airlines Public Relations Brought on by Digital Marketing

In order to develop strategies to overcome challenges, organizations frequently turn to current literature for insight and advice. Researchers examine areas of business to identify challenges and problems, then use that research to form a basis of recommendations to address the challenges and problems. However, if there is an area of business in which research is lacking, rganizations may struggle to develop solutions since they have no insight into how the problem should or can be handled. Developing research projects addresses this problem by bridging the caps in scholarship for these areas.
This can be illustrated through the challenges faced by Saudi Arabian airlines navigating public relations in the Digital Age. Though a great deal of literature can be found examining the use of online methods for public relations and marketing, very little can be found to guide Saudi Arabian airlines in their efforts to keep up with technology and innovations in order to remain relevant and competitive. The purpose of this paper is to propose a research project addressing the gap in literature related to challenges faced by the public relations and marketing efforts of multinational Saudi Arabian airlines in the Digital Age.
Background Significance of the Study
As the digital world becomes increasingly integrated with the global business world, organizations all over the world have been forced to adapt in order to remain successful in their industries (Wright & Hinson, 2012; Lloyd & Toogood, 2015). This can be seen most prominently through the marketing efforts of organizations that utilize digital media in their marketing strategies (Bhargava, 2010). One of the significant changes that has occurred as the result of the Internet is the dramatic increase in the globalization of companies and businesses. With the Internet, organizations are less frequently local, and citizenship takes on a different meaning (Bennett, 2008). Therefore, public relations strategies must not only appeal to consumers who are from the company’s nation of origin, but must also appeal to multinational audiences.
Though a great deal of literature exists explaining the impact of the Digital Age on marketing and public relations, as well as the impact of the Digital Age on cultural challenges in public relations, literature dealing with this area of study on Saudi Arabian organizations is virtually nonexistent, and even more rare for Saudi Arabian airlines. Instead, Saudi Arabian airlines seeking knowledge about the impact of the Digital Age on public relations and marketing must appropriate knowledge from other Saudi Arabian industries or from airlines in other nations. As a result, the literature is insufficient for Saudi Arabian airlines to use to develop public relations and marketing strategies. There is a clear gap in knowledge in this area.
Statement of the Problem
Despite this gap in literature, the impact of the Digital Age on public relations is evident (Toth, 2007). Organizations must adapt to the changes in public relations brought about by the Internet in order to remain relevant and competitive, and adapt to the changing behaviors of consumers, such as shopping online, in order to maintain a positive brand identity (Ernst & Young, 2011). Saudi Arabian airlines must navigate both challenges brought on by digital marketing and public relations as well as cultural challenges.
Not only do these organizations face pressures from the Digital Age, but in order to adapt to an increasing global market, they must also rise to meet the challenges brought on by cross-cultural public relations and marketing. However, in order to develop effective strategies to address these challenges, Saudi Arabian airlines must seek knowledge from research into this area. Since this area of research currently does not exist, Saudi Arabian airlines may struggle to adequately adapt to the Digital Age.
The proposed research study is significant for this area of research because it is an area in which research is in high need. This study would begin to provide information for Saudi Arabian airlines to use in order to build a strong and effective public relations presence in the Digital Age. While the case study may not be sufficient on which to build practice and protocols, it will provide valuable insight into this area of public relations in order to begin addressing a serious gap in research.
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Public Relations Challenges Due to the Digital Age
A great deal of research deals with the challenges of public relations and marketing in the digital age. The use of the Internet in today’s society has dramatically changed marketing and public relations (Gandy, 2013). Not only do organizations need an online presence in order to compete, but social media has provided the opportunity for immediate interaction between organizations and consumers (Elliott, 2011). In addition, in order to stand out from the competition, organizations must have a clear, specific strategy for digital marketing built on their organizational goals and overall business strategies (Satell, 2013). As a result, organizations must develop public relations strategies that stand up to immediate feedback, foster communication, and establish a specific brand identity that consumers can identify and relate to (Edelman, 2010).
Cultural Public Relations Challenges for Saudi Arabian Airlines

Current literature dealing with cultural challenges faced by public relations in Saudi Arabian organizations does not focus on airlines. While there are some industries addressed in the literature, the majority focuses on general information rather than specific industries. Therefore, there is a significant gap in the literature when examining cultural considerations for Saudi Arabian airlines’ public relations representatives. Instead, researchers must examine the literature related to general cultural challenges.
When organizations market to consumers from other cultures, considerations must be made to accommodate their cultural interests, biases, and perspectives (James, 2007; Craig & Douglas, 2011; Guang & Trotter, 2012). One of the biggest challenges faced by organizations is that the majority of business in Saudi Arabia is tailored to Islamic religious observances (Li, 2012; Abdul Cader, 2015). Another consideration is the different economy that has arisen out of the Saudi Arabian culture (Stratfor, 2011; Fitch, 2015), as well as its domestic and foreign policies (Marar, 2004; Al Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, 2013). As a result, Saudi Arabia’s business and industry operations are different from Western nations (Rouziès & Segalla, 2012), such as the emphasis on industry (Saudi Industrial Development Fund, 2015).
Purpose of the Study

A specific research question helps focus and direct research efforts in a project as it relates to the problem identified. In addressing the problem of both digital marketing and cultural considerations for Saudi Arabian airlines’ public relations efforts, the primary research question developed for this research project is
R1. What are the challenges of digital marketing on Saudi Arabian airlines’ public relations efforts, including cultural considerations for marketing and public relations?
This question not only addresses the issue of digital marketing as a force that influences public relations, but that digital marketing must be navigated in the context of cultural considerations, as well. To that end, the following sub-questions have been developed.
S1. What are the challenges of social media on Saudi Arabian airlines’ public relations efforts?
S2. What are the challenges of digital marketing on cultural considerations in Saudi Arabian airlines’ public relations efforts?
These sub-questions address the impact of a specific aspect of digital marketing—social media—on public relations for Saudi Arabian airlines as well as how digital marketing has impacted how these organizations deal with cultural considerations in marketing and public relations.
Aim of the Study

The primary aim of this study is to provide much-needed insight into the challenges of the Digital Age on public relations in a general sense as well as the challenges faced in the Digital Age in terms of cross-cultural public relations strategy. It is hoped that this case study will provide an initial foundation of research in this area upon with future research can build, thereby creating literature that can inform Saudi Arabian airlines’ strategies for public relations in the Digital Age.
Objective of the Study

The primary objective of this study is to identify specific challenges faced by Saudi Arabian airlines in navigating public relations in the Digital Age, including challenges faced when communicating with a multinational audience. These specific challenges can then provide a foundation of knowledge upon which organizations can develop strategies to overcome them, and will provide a foundation of information for future research (Meranus, n.d.; Reddi, 2014).

Research Methodology
Study Design
The proposed study is a qualitative case study. Since so little literature is available in this area, a qualitative design would be most effective, examining the area of research from an exploratory perspective (Ritchie, Lewis, McNaughton Nicholls, & Ormston, 2013). In addition, since so little research exists in this area, a case study would be the most effective method of qualitative research (Yin, 2014). A case study will examine the challenges of the Digital Age on public relations for an individual Saudi Arabian airline, which will form a basis of information for additional research.
Study Population and Sampling

As a case study, this research project will select one Saudi Arabian airline from which to collect data. In order to be eligible, the airline must be based out of Saudi Arabia, serving primarily Saudi Arabian clientele, with a multinational presence. The organization must also have an online presence, maintained through a marketing and/or public relations representative or department.

Data Collection

As a case study, the data will be collected through interviews conducted face-to-face with public relations representatives. The interview questions will be a combination of yes-no, rated, and open-ended questions in order to discover the challenges faced by the airline in the Digital Age, including cross-cultural communication challenges. The face-to-face interview will provide the opportunity for the researcher to ask follow-up questions not listed in the interview in order to gain further insight or clarification from the participant. The open-ended questions will also provide the opportunity for the interviewee to explain his or her responses.
In addition to the face-to-face interview, the researcher will examine the organization’s online presence to determine how the airline uses the Internet in its public relations efforts, and whether or not those efforts are effective. The effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the organization’s online presence in public relations can help identify specific challenges faced by the organization in communicating to a multinational audience.

After the first round of data collection, which will be used to identify challenges faced by the Saudi Arabian airline, a second interview will be conducted in order to determine how, if at all, the organization has addressed the specific challenges it faces in order to remain competitive and successful in the Middle Eastern airline industry. Like the first interview, the second interview will be conducted face-to-face and include a variety of types of questions in order to provide a comprehensive picture of how the airline has dealt with the challenges it faces in the Digital Age.
Data Analysis

Once the data has been collected through the interview and examination of the company’s online presence, the researcher will analyze the data collected to identify specific challenges faced by the airline. After the identification of the challenges, the data collected from the organization’s online presence will provide a context for these challenges, including how the challenges directly impact the organization’s public relations efforts and, ultimately, relationships with customers and potential customers.

After the second interview has been conducted, the second set of data will be analyzed in the context of addressing specific challenges faced by the Saudi Arabian airline. Specifically, the strategies employed by the organization will be correlated to the specific challenges in order to provide a case study that not only presents a problem, but examines methods for solving the problem successfully. The report written about this area of research will focus on identifying the challenges and how the Saudi Arabian airline attempted to overcome the challenges, and whether or not their efforts were successful.
Study Quality Controls
In order to ensure the quality of this case study, all data will be collected, stored, and analyzed by the researcher. The researcher will obtain the necessary consent from the Saudi Arabian airline as well as from the individual employee who will be participating in the interviews. Since the online presence data will be collected through the Internet and will be public knowledge, no consent will be needed to gather this information. To ensure the accuracy of the data collected and analyzed, the researcher will also confirm the data and analysis with the organization prior to finalizing the case study report.
Study Period
Since the case study will be examining a single organization, the period for the study will be approximately eight weeks. This will provide sufficient time to obtain consent, gather and analyze the two sets of data through interviews, and write the case study to disseminate the findings from the case study. Since the researcher will only be interviewing one employee at the organization, scheduling conflicts are likely to be minimal.
In order for Saudi Arabian airlines to effectively navigate public relations and marketing in the Digital Age, research is needed to identify the challenges faced by these organizations and make recommendations in order to overcome them. The proposed research project, which is a qualitative case study, will examine these challenges in order to guide airlines in the development and implementation of strategies for effective multinational public relations in the Digital Age.
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