A quality analysis of relationships within the field of PR

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Thesis Corporate Excellence

This research builds on the premise that “appropriate measurement is fundamental for estimating the benefits” and investigates the hypothesis that it is necessary to measure public relations effectiveness in order to justify these activities.

Although the research and practice in the area of Public Relations have been in place since 1987, the accumulated academic and professional experience has not translated into techniques that could rationalize or improve the implementation of Public Relations activities. This lacuna is at the centre of the research conducted by Joan Cuenca, who based on already available models suggests his own hypothetical model of the global audience of Public Relations in order to measure the activity generated by Public Relations. The research attempts to come up with an answer to the following question: in what form is it possible to justify Public Relations activities?

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A quality analysis of relationships within the field of PR

  1. 1. ThesisStrategy DocumentsT03 / 2011Joan CuencaPublic AffairsA quality analysis ofrelationships within thefield of Public Relations Application of a comprehensive auditing model in Public Relations to the municipal company 22@ of Barcelona City Council In keeping with the adage “you can’t control what organisations and their audiences, or stakeholders, you can’t measure”, the hypothesis that informs this as an intangible resource. research is the need to measure the performance of Public Relations in order to justify their existence. Yet despite accepting the certainty of the fact intangibles are the repository of the differential Although it is true to say the field of Public Relations value23, between leading companies and their less has been studied and professionally pursued since developed counterparts – a recent study by the 1987, the accumulated corpus of academic and Spanish Foundation for Financial Studies, the professional experience has failed to show people Fundación de Estudios Financieros (FEF), reveals how to rationalise or improve their performance in that 65% of the companies listed in Spain’s Ibex-35 this matter. In response to this concern, the research index admit that intangible assets add value to their conducted by Joan Cuenca posits a hypothetical business -, only financial or accounting audits are model of comprehensive auditing in Public Relations regulated and highly standardised. based on an amalgamation of models already put forward for measuring the activity generated by This means that the discipline of Public Relations Public Relations. In short, the aim of the research is involves an intangible asset, namely, the system of to answer the following question: how can activities relationships. This cultivation of a resource that is in Public Relations be justified? scarcely visible and difficult to understand would explain why its measurement has been complex, or Relationships, an intangible resource even dismissed from the start. Within this context, By understanding the notion “relationship” to and based on the premise that you can only improve be this discipline’s essence and duty1, the model what you can measure, the key lies in discovering defines the relationships entered into between the hard facts for measuring any intangible asset4.Document prepared by Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership, citing the doctoral thesis “Analysis of the quality of relationships in the field of PublicRelations” by Joan Cuenca, Universitat Ramon Llull, Barcelona.1. The aim of Public Relations is to create, obtain, initiate, nurture, uphold, entertain, develop and improve relationships.2. Along these lines, Hiroyuki Itami (1991) singles out three reasons for the importance of intangible resources, which this author describes as invisible: “Invisible assets are the real source of competitive power and the key factor in corporate adaptability for three reasons: they are hard to accumulate, they are capable of simultaneous multiple uses and, they are both inputs and outputs of business activities”.3. The research results reported by Eccles (2007) explain that the main indicators of a company’s performance are not to be found solely in financial data. According to this author, quality, customer satisfaction, innovation, market share, and other parameters of this nature, often reflect a company’s condition and perspectives more accurately than its reported earnings do.4. Mintzberg (2008) contends that “believing that a company can be measured solely in figures is a mistake. Intangibles are hard to quantify, but they are often more important, carrying greater weight on the income statement”
  2. 2. A quality analysis Understanding audiences, saving time and money, purposes in favour of the organisation, whereas theof relationships taking the right decisions, avoiding errors, justifying aim in the two-way symmetrical model is to reinforcewithin the field of efforts and engaging with the environment are some the dialogue among the stakeholders variable, inPublic Relations of the explanations Xifra (2005) provides when pursuit of mutual understanding and advantage. expounding on why it is essential to investigate the system of relationships before drawing up a Public It was as of 2000 that the pursuit of Public Relations plan. Relations began to be seen as the executive function of “managing relationships”. The main The conclusions reached by this PhD thesis illustrate idea is that professionals in Public Relations have the extent to which the model can be a source that the brief to create and foster relationships with gives rise to the arguments validating activities in Public an organisation’s various stakeholders and the Relations, and the strategic information it provides duty to continue improving their measurement for perfecting the core of a Public Relations plan techniques in order to show senior management specifically, and a communications one in general. how their activities can play a vital role: the return on investment (ROI); the measurement of results Evolution of the Theory (the long-term effectiveness of a Public Relations programme) and the measurement of production of Public Relations (how the programme has been implemented and Throughout the history of this discipline, sundry how effective its techniques were). methods and different techniques have been proposed in order to learn how to measure Public Relations activities, and thereby gauge their What is to be measured? effectiveness; with these models being as follows: What needs to be measured accurately is the quality of the relationship this discipline galvanises between Models of Public Relations that explain how this an organisation and its stakeholders, as this can be discipline has been pursued at each moment: confirmed as the specific remit of Public Relations. The press agent/publicity model (1850-1900) The current debate being addressed by experts Dissemination of an organisation’s information in Public Relations has focused on the proposal using persuasive methods. of indicators that evaluate the quality of the relationship established between an organisation The public information model (1900-1920) and its stakeholders, as the product of its endeavours Dissemination of an organisation’s information in in Public Relations. an objective manner. The following are the three most widely The information in both models flows in a single studied indicators: 5 direction: from the organisation to the audience. Neither of them includes any analysis or monitoring • Measuring the degree of trust that co- of the activities themselves nor examines the exists. The term trust is referred to as outcomes of the role of Public Relations. the cornerstone of the behaviours with a decisive influence on interaction.6 The two-way asymmetrical model (1920-1960) Trust has been highlighted as the indicator that It uses the knowledge, methods and techniques enables organisations to exist. of social sciences, with the aim being to persuade stakeholders to favour the organisation. • The level of understanding between stakeholders. Reference is made to a mutual The two-way symmetrical model (1960-Present day) agreement as the consistency and degree of It seeks mutual understanding between an reciprocal conviction in any given discourse. organisation and its stakeholders, with research Mutual understanding has been the indicator playing a significant role. proposed for discovering the level of intelligibility existing between the parties in a relationship. The information in both models flows in both directions: from an organisation to its audiences • The mutual satisfaction established between and vice versa. The audience response in both cases the parties involved in a relationship. is carefully assessed, albeit in a different manner: Satisfaction is referred to as a feeling, the in the two-way asymmetrical model an analysis is result of an emotion that is based on the conducted to further fine-tune the communication fulfilment of pre-established expectations variable in the system of relationships for persuasive and requirements, which allow obtaining5. Joan Cuenca affirms that to his surprise he has been unable to locate sufficient published material to provide some overall model for the auditing of Public Relations or that delves further into the partial models proposed. It appears to be a gap in knowledge that needs to be filled though the production of literature specialising in Public Relations.6. Trust can be quantified according to the following equation: +Inf / -Inf = k. Where +Inf is the information we have, -Inf is the information we do not have, and the constant k is either the degree of trust or lack of trust. Thesis 2
  3. 3. A quality analysis an outcome that is to a certain extentof relationships valued as one of pleasure and enjoyment. Indicators Techniqueswithin the field ofPublic Relations • Focus • Structural interviews Auditing Public Relations • Intensity • In-depth interviews Auditing the system of Public Relations is an • Stability • Content analysis instrument of research that studies and assesses the • Degree of • Group discussions Knowledge • Measuring or variables involved in the system of relationships: • Social Support attitudinal scales the environment, communication, stakeholders and situations or problems. The analysis of the variables in the system of • Researching issues relationships has been the theoretical platform used Issues management7 is defined by the by scholars and professionals in Public Relations for communication and relationship strategies used developing the new measurement proposals. for impacting upon the life-cycle of a public matter. Its basic purpose is to investigate an It will be noted how these different analytical organisation’s environment and resolve possible scenarios always feature the inference related to the problems or issues as soon as their first signs are issue or problem to be addressed in the system of detected. Its pre-emptive nature points to the relationships, given that is the reason triggering the key role Public Relations play when rolling out a explorative activity. strategy of this kind. Although as yet unproven in any empirical study, it is considered that audits within the sphere of Public Indicators Techniques Relations are a valuable means for estimating the advantages and disadvantages that this discipline • Social trends • The Delphi has for an organisation. • conomic cycles E method • olitical agendas P • The cross- • ultural movements C impact matrix Audit models for diagnosing the environment • Technological development • he scenario T Environmental analysis systems are used to • tate of the environment S method observe trends in Public Opinion and shed light • ompetitors’ strategies C • ecurity S on those circumstances in the socio-political • Quality of relationships environment that may have a significant bearing • uality of the product Q on the organisation. or service The essence of environmental auditing, understood to be the research specific to the management of potential conflicts, can be Audit models for diagnosing perceptions summarised in two aspects: The dual purpose of this category of analysis is, on the one hand, to define audiences, and on the other, a) The early identification of potentially to determine the way in which these audiences conflictive issues that may have a future impact perceive and value an organisation. on an organisation. • Auditing Corporate Culture b) A strategic response designed to mitigate or exploit their potential ramifications. Indicators Methods • Researching Public Opinion • Values • Ethnographic The focus of opinion indicates the quality of • Symbolic actions method the type of pre-disposition. The purpose of this • Foundation • Organizational • Competence Development practice is to discover the opinion of internal • Symbols or external stakeholders on a given situation • Rites or issue that is being researched, highlighting • Myths and taboos • Security its significance in terms of the quality – not • Organisational history the quantity - of the audience surveyed, being • Signs defined accordingly as a qualitative survey.7. In view of its markedly pro-active stance, issues management is becoming the model of excellence in public relations. Thesis 3
  4. 4. A quality analysisof relationshipswithin the field ofPublic Relations Indicators Methods Indicators Methods • Corporate • Methods for analysing the • Understanding • Methods for analysing the study culture overall study of CI • Cohesion of a specific organisation: • HR policies - ernstein spiderweb method B • Sharing - Corporate image barometer • Internal - Lux’s Star method • Self-affirmation - AICA motivation model climate - an Rekom’s laddering V - CS technique (NSS) technique - Natural grouping model - Keller’s Mannheimer CI-test - Photo classification model • Methods for analysing the - SERVQUAL method individual items in the CI mix • Models that evaluate the image - CIPO organisational O of a group of organisations: climate studies - Impact lists - otterdam Organizational R - ermanent observatory of P Identification Test corporate image (OPIC) - Organisational climate studies - arometer on trust and B - Communication audits credibility (Trust Barometer) - Service audits - Graphic design audits • Auditing Internal Communication • Auditing Corporate Identity (CI) Indicators Methods Indicators Analysis techniques • Notoriedad • Methods for analysing the study • Management • Questionnaires and interviews • Contenido of a specific organisation: ratios • Diagnoses and analyses of de la imagen - Corporate image barometer • Consumption communication networks • Fuerza de - AICA motivation model of resources • Critical communication la imagen - CS technique (NSS) • Budgetary experiences - Natural grouping model deviations • Episodic Communication - Photo classification model • Errors, defects, Channels in Organizations - SERVQUAL method complaints (ECCO) analysis or message • Models that evaluate the image or delays transmission analysis of a group of organisations: • Efficiency • Focus groups - Impact lists • Level of quality • Direct observation - ermanent observatory of P • Analysis of communication corporate image (OPIC) products - arometer on trust and B credibility (Trust Barometer) • Auditing External Communication • Auditing Corporate Image Models for auditing social diagnosis Models for auditing communication diagnoses The concept of business today, beyond the This involves a diagnostic process whose purpose is maximisation of profits, involves a social agent to examine and improve each and every one of an for the promotion of its employees, customer organisation’s internal and external communication satisfaction and the consolidation of its social role systems and processes. It is designed to provide a within its operating community. snapshot of its needs in communication, its policies, practices and capabilities, and throw up data that This approach by an organisation implies a triple will enable senior management to take well-founded income statement: financial, environmental and and cost-saving decisions on the organisation’s social. Insofar as it is positive, it will indicate the future communication goals. extent to which a company is socially responsible. Thesis 4
  5. 5. A quality analysis • Auditing Corporate Social Responsibility context in which an organisation and itsof relationships stakeholders are immersed, and it is ofwithin the field of considerable use in the design of an audit.Public Relations Indicators Methods • Knowledge maps. Before planning an audit, • Economic • Social Accounting there is a need, on the one hand, for a map impact • Social Accountability SA8000 • Environmental • SGE 21 2008 of the organisation’s internal and external impact • Dow Jones Sustainability stakeholders, with a thorough analysis of • Social impact Indexes their different profiles; and on the other, a • Global Compact • Global Reporting detailed study and map of the communication Initiative (GRI) media and the messages co-existing and being disseminated at that moment. Hypothetical model for the comprehensive Project 22@Audit9 auditing of Public Relations8 An amalgamating process has enabled application The hypothetical model focuses firstly on delimiting to be made to the 22@Audit project of parts of and defining the problem, the situation or issue to certain audit models and methods studied. The be addressed, and the reason for commissioning overriding aim of this Public Relations audit has the audit. been to gain empirical knowledge on the quality of the relationships established between the municipal This is immediately followed by the gathering company 22@ in Barcelona and one of its key of information on the background providing the stakeholders, namely, the audience consisting of the context, which is directly linked to the relationship companies in the ICT cluster.10 to be studied: the environment, the stakeholders involved and communication. The model has been applied solely to a specific type of interacting players: the local authority, as the one Once these data have been collated, the process instigating the project, and a specific group of private continues with the design and subsequent companies, as the recipients or beneficiaries. In this application of fieldwork, in other words, the way, and according to Cuenca, the conclusions auditing of Public Relations. The aim here is reached by this research, while plausible for this to collect data on the quality indicators of the type of scenario, cannot in any way be considered relationship that allow appraising the performance universally applicable. of the relational activity. The conclusions on the degree of validity and Cuenca completes his model by highlighting consistency of the hypothetical model as recorded two requirements to be considered prior to the with this practical exercise are as follows: auditing process: 1. The audit model provides strategic information for • An analysis of the organisation’s perfecting the communication plan in general. environment. This is an exercise that precedes the auditing process given that 2. The observation of an interaction, the matter to it contributes to the understanding of the be addressed, has to be circumscribed with certain Commissioning / Design of Measuring Background briefing fieldwork indicators Environment / Circumstances Resources Trust Problem/ Map of audiences: Universe and sample Mutual understanding Situation /Issue internal and external Research techniques Satisfaction Map of internal and external communication8 Account should be taken of the reductionist exercise that this hypothetical model constitutes in view of the wide range of techniques involved in the praxis of Public Relations and the even greater number and types of audiences with which organisations enter into relationships.9 22@Audit is a project for auditing the marketing, communication and events plans of the municipal company 22@ in Barcelona.10 A further description of the application of this practical exercise can be found in Chapter 4 in the PhD thesis (2010) “El análisis de la calidad de las relaciones en el ámbito de las Relaciones Públicas” (An analysis of the quality of the relationships within the field of Public Relations). Thesis 5
  6. 6. A quality analysis intervals of pre-established and agreed coordinates c) Satisfaction is the final sentiment that feedsof relationships so that a discourse can be constructed. back directly off the preceding ones.within the field ofPublic Relations 3. The definition the model requires regarding 7. The model provides information on the the identity of the players involved (behaviour, adjustment or misalignment that prevails in the culture and corporate personality), of the interaction. Specific issues that draw the players environment surrounding them, and of the closer or drive them further part, benefits and communication established, definitively helps frustrations based on the roles and expectations to understand the type and level of relationship of each one of the parties. that exists and to reason the degree reached by the indicators applied for their evaluation. 8. Cuenca states that the model can be considered profitable and representative when groups are 4. The reputation index, and the image or analysed (normally the instigators are individual overall assessment that reciprocally prevails, players who wish to know the effectiveness has a bearing on the emergence, consolidation of their relational activities and the quality or modification of the relationship. Regardless of their relationships with a group of vital of its extent, reputation always determines importance to their stability), but it would be which party is more inclined to participate in necessary to experiment with another type of the relationship. players to reach new conclusions and find new correlations that allow attaining a degree of 5. Regardless of the degree of relationship universal acceptance. considered, even if the parties declare it does not exist, when both parties have a certain amount Next steps of information about each other this becomes 1. The author concludes his work by proposing its the basis for a unilateral assessment, informed extension to further research that seeks to link by the impressions, prejudices, pre-conceived the quality of the relationships with a company’s notions, experiences, convictions and attitudes volume and business results; in other words, to held of the other. The volume of information verify the hypothesis whereby maintaining good one has of the other is directly proportional to relations with stakeholders is directly related to the quality of the assessment made accordingly. business success. 6. The proposed indicators of the model for the 2. From a theoretical/practical perspective, Cuenca overall auditing of Public Relations (trust, points to the need to establish certain guidelines mutual understanding and satisfaction) are on how to perform audits on Public Relations completely independent. Rather than simplifying and their result on an organisation’s map of matters, this phenomenon complicates the audiences, accompanied by specific tools and application of the hypothetical model. The certain guiding examples. degree of one does not depend proportionally on another, nor have the same impact on a third. They are communicating vessels, but they are not harmonious, and this aspect impedes the combinational analysis of possibilities when the value of one of the variables is known – being satisfied with a relationship is independent of the trust held in the players and the latter is, in turn, independent of the mutual agreements reached, which means there is a need to proceed to the individual study of the outcome of the application of each one of the indicators and seek causal relationships. a) Trust depends on three main aspects: the characteristics defining each player, the personal knowledge among players, and the perception of evidences that directly or indirectly benefit the players. In turn, mistrust is based on a lack of knowledge, and on negative experiences. b) The indicator related to mutual agreement or understanding is the most diffuse and the one least understood by the players. It needs to be focalised prior to its application. Thesis 6
  7. 7. ©2011, Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation LeadershipBusiness foundation created by large companies to professionalize the management of intangible assets and contribute to the developmentof strong brands, with good reputation and able to compete in the global market. Its mission is to be the driver which leads and consolidatesthe professional management of reputation as a strategic resource that guides and creates value for companies throughout the world.Legal NoticeThis document is property of the Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership and has as its objective to share businessknowledge about Brand, Reputation, Communication and Public Affairs Management.This document is directed exclusively towards its addressee and contains confidential information, subject to professional secrecy, whosedisclosure, copy or non-authorized use is against the Law. If you receive this document by mistake, let us know immediately and erase itwithout keeping a copy.Corporate Excellence - Centre for Reputation Leadership is the owner of all the intellectual property rights of the images, texts, designsand any other content or elements of this product and has the necessary permission for its use, and therefore, its copy, distribution, publicrelease or transformation is prohibited, without express authorization from the owner.

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