Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

The Applicability of Interpersonal Relationship Dimensions to an Organizational Context: Toward a Theory of Relational Loyalty a Qualitative Approach

Academic journal article Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict

The Applicability of Interpersonal Relationship Dimensions to an Organizational Context: Toward a Theory of Relational Loyalty a Qualitative Approach

Article excerpt

PUBLIC RELATIONS AS RELATIONSHIP MANAGEMENT

Nowhere should one expect to find relationships more central to the scholarship and practice of a field than in public relations. The term "public relations" itself suggests a focus on "relationships" with "publics," a concentration on the ways in which organizations and their publics "relate" to one another and the end states that result. More than a decade ago, Ferguson urged that the matter of relationships between an organization and its significant publics "should be the central unit of study of the public relations researcher" (in Grunig, 1993, p. 3). In exploring that line of scholarship, Grunig has advanced the notion of public relations as a two-way process of continual and reciprocal exchange (Grunig, 1993). Broom and Dozier have suggested a co-orientation approach to the conduct of relationship audits in seeking to better understand the nature of those relationships and how organizations and their publics might be brought closer around mutual goals (Broom and Dozier, 1990, 9.82).

Moreover, the emergence of the notion that public relations should focus on mutually-beneficial relationships has been accompanied in recent years by an increasing emphasis on practicing public relations as a management function, meaning it should be conducted within the four-step management process of (1) analysis, (2) planning, (3) implementation, and, (4) evaluation (Kotler, 1993, pp. 643-645).

It is not surprising, then, that the authors of a leading public relations text define public relations as "the management function that identifies, establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends" (Cutlip, Center & Broom, 1985, P. 6). However, it is somewhat surprising to find that the literature of public relations does not reveal more in terms of a definition of the matter of relationships, nor the dimensions that comprise relationships. Indeed, with few notable exceptions, that literature contains little for those seeking to explore the study and practice of public relations from the relationship perspective.

THE LACK OF RELATIONSHIP MEASURES

The absence of a focus on relationships is reflected in Broom and Dozier's concern with the difficulty many practitioners have in evaluating program results in terms of the relationship management perspective. As they note: "Conceptually, public relations programs affect the relationships between organizations and their publics, but rarely is program impact on the relationships themselves measured" (Broom and Dozier, p. 82). They report that, to the contrary, traditional "relationship audits" tend to focus on knowledge, predispositions and behavior. Through such audits, researchers seek to identify what publics know about an organization, how those publics feel about the organization, and what these publics do with regard to the organization.

In this way, public relations practitioners seek to identify "gaps" between the position desired by the organization and those held by the publics (Broom and Dozier, p. 36). However, as Broom and Dozier suggest, the results of such audits are essentially one way in nature and serve as the basis for programs designed primarily to move publics closer to the position of the organization. That traditional approach does not contribute to nor reinforce the notion of reciprocal, mutually-beneficial relationships.

In place of the traditional one-way relationship audit, Broom and Dozier have applied Broom's original co-orientation approach (Broom, 1977, pp. 110-119) to develop an audit that is two-way in nature and supports the development of mutually-beneficial relationships. Their approach provides a way to not only identify the issue position of publics, but those of the organization as well. Co-orientation also provides a means for determining levels of agreement between the organization and its publics, as well as the accuracy with which organizations and publics can predict each other's positions (Broom and Dozier, p. …

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