This qualitative research study comprised of six case studies explores museums’ practical usage of social media as an organization public relations tool. Analyzing six different museums using both surveys and interviews, this research provides a strategic, theory-based framework for any organization to utilize social media effectively by increasing public trust and engagement. Understanding the role that social media plays within organizational public relations is crucial for both for-profit and non-profit organizations. Because nonprofit organizations are often operating under time, personnel, and financial constraints, the accessibility and zero-cost of social media are hugely advantageous tools for non-profits organizations. However, without a strategy, their efforts to build meaningful relationships with their publics using these tools is futile. Museums are an under-studied but important field under this non-profit umbrella. The general ineffectiveness of museum usage of social media also target a key problem with social media usage by museums—the focus is on marketing, rather than on public relations, which leaves the communications from these institutions feeling robotic, inauthentic, and difficult with which to engage. Using Hon and Grunig’s (1999) four elements of OPR (Organizational Public Relations)—satisfaction, trust, control mutuality, and commitment—and the coorientaton model, this study provides insights into how museums and their patrons perceive the museum’s attempts at building OPR through social media. Findings indicate that while most museums and their patrons are in alignment of their perceptions of the museums’ efforts, many museums are ranking low on all four elements of OPR. In order for any organization to fully utilize social media, it must be used not simply as an arm of marketing or sales, but as an indispensable tool of building satisfaction, trust, control mutuality, and commitment, which in turn, lead to higher levels of engagement and future behavior intentions.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





social media, OPR, public relations, organizational public relations, museums



Included in

Fine Arts Commons