Critical Examination of Using Relationship Metaphor to Guide PR Research
Public Relations’“Relationship Identity” inResearch: Enlightenment orIllusionW.Timothy Coombs, Ph.D.Sherry J. Holladay, Ph.D.University of Central Florida, U.S.A.2 July 2013
An Identity for PR Research• “Relationship Identity” for general public relationsresearch• Does it enlighten the field?
Concerns1. Translation from interpersonal communication research2. Reality of multiple & shifting identities3. Assumption of close relationships with stakeholders4. Organization-stakeholder relationships as parasocialrelationships
The “Relationship Identity”of PR Research• Relationship management theory• OPR, OPRA, & MBR: dominant outcome variable• PR’s value: the ability to cultivate & maintain closerelationships
1.Translation from InterpersonalCommunication Research• Closer to impersonal than interpersonal relationships• More instrumental than consumatory; contrasts withinterpersonal relationships• Lack of attention to shared meaning (co-construction)
2. Multiple Identities• Close relationships built on shared identity withorganization• Identities are fragmented, multiple, & fluid for mostpeople• Close relationships with organizations are the exceptionrather than the rule
3. Close Relationship Emphasis• Strong relationships are tied to other desired outcomesfor organizations• Rewards for stakeholders are unclear• Strong relational commitment may harm stakeholdersA strong organization-public relationshipmay preclude people from recognizing theproblems in the relationship and mayprevent them from seeking other, morebeneficial, relationships.
4. Parasocial Interactions• Mass Com: viewers develop friendships & a sense ofintimacy with personalities/characters they see regularlyon television• Perception of interaction & a relationship• Reality is very one-sided• Can be facilitated through pseudo-interactions
Parasocial Relationships• Social media primarily provide pseudo-interactions• Stakeholders post comments• Question-response• False notion that people “become part of theconversation”
Illusion over Enlightenment• Distorted metaphor; monetizing relationships is trueemphasis• Neglect to understand weak ties—how the majority ofstakeholders relate to organizations• Hyped interactive nature of social media fuels parasocialinteraction (one-sided relationships)
Conclusion• Claiming stakeholder-organization relationships are similar tointerpersonal relationships is problematic• Describing relationships as parasocial interactions is generallymore accurate & potentially informative• True nature of relationships• Honest recognition of one-sided nature• Potential insights from this view of relationship