Wednesday, August 10, 2005

PR practice and The Relationship Value Model

The Relationship Value Model is beginning to attract some interest by enquiring minds.

A couple of comments have been made by Frazer Likely, (left) one of those people who has considerable understanding of public relations in its widest sense. His comments were interesting and showed that I have not made the concept of the Relationship Value Model clear in respect to its relevance to one-to-one communication.

One-to-One Relationships

This area of relationship building is very significant.

Personal relationships are in a sense a 'social group'. Social groups can be just two people. Such relationships have specific material tokens (tokens, signs and symbols are explained very well by semioticians) that are unique to these two actors. The classic example is a marriage. The actors in a marriage have material tokens that are special and unique to the partners.

One then finds that such close knit 'social groups' extend into other groups such as family, local community and so forth.

In management terms, one-to-one relationships can only be created and sustained when there are those special material tokens between the actors. A false friend is one who does not hold material tokens dear and special.

In the empirical research, this multiple inter-linked process became quite clear. One of the interesting patterns of groups is seen in politics where politicians have many tokens that are material and form a social group one might call 'politicians'. One finds that there are, among these people, members of social groups one might call 'political parties'. In this grouping, their material tokens (tokens held by actors with common values within a network) are common to the principles of the political party. In such groups one can find additional groups that lean towards factions, policies, constituencies and so forth. Such groupings become quite clear using latent semantic analysis of media coverage for each of the political actors.

Stakeholder and interest groups

A further point raised examines the Model in relations to stakeholders and interest groups, particularly the Freeman view of stakeholders . My view is that the Stakeholder movement is based on an incomplete theoretical construct. Stakeholders, who have a 'stake' in an organisation are a groups of people who hold material tokens in common and among which are material tokens associated with the organisation. The extent of such token convergence will often determine whether an interest group (such as an NGO or pressure group) has the status of the Freemanish 'stakeholder'. My current position on stakeholders
suggests that the boundaries given to stakeholder groups is far too rigid and cannot support the mixture of interests of social groups who have an interest or 'stake' in an organisation.

A 'shareholder' (a type of actor), for example, will hold different material tokens to a 'shareholder-employee' (another form of actor). In turn, a 'shareholder-employee-local community member' will have three sets of material tokens and is not to be confused with the other types of share-owning actors.

Of Reputation building

Earlier this year I did some work on what people in the PR business call their work.

It describes how there are 'domains' of public relations practice all of which aim to change relationships between organisations and their publics.

To my mind each, in its way, is a vital element in the process of creating networks that secure the values of the organisation such that it may prosper.

The networks, often with many channels for communication, are not hierarchical nor semantic but tend to be interlinked.

One very important domains of practice is the area of reputation management and Alan Kelly who has a very interesting approach to competitive reputation advantage prompted me to note some aspects of this practice against the Relationship Value Model.

We are aware that multi-touch communication is much more effective than sheer noise (a description for much advertising) in order that the simple physiological/psychological process of getting the synaptic modifications and the message remembered.

This is why PR tends to be much more effective than advertising. At its best PR is multi network and multi channel.

In a competitive environment, the need is for reputation to be constructed in a wider society and not just in in the minds of the client or its narrow value chain. If the latter, then a competitor message/brand will have the opportunity to be more effective if it uses a broader multi-touch approach.

(see: Freeman, R. E. (1984). Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Boston. Pitman Books)

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