I want to describe a public relations model to show how value is created through relationship management.
One can use many of the models applied to public relations practice. I shall use Gregory postulate which shows how the practice of all public relations (among the many domains of PR practice) have in common a process. The fundamentals are Strategy, Resources and Control which, as Gregory (2004) i points out, include activities that that are not, in themselves, unique but are always used to a greater or lesser extent in combination to form an area of management practice that is unique for public relations to be successful. Optimum application of this model, Gregory postulates, offers higher incidence of successful outcomes.
Let us suppose a researcher in a company has developed a product, applied for and has been granted a patent (it is a material token). To this point the patent is a liability but it has latent potential (a fact which Thomas Stewart seems to have missed in his book 'Intellectual Capital' – 1997 - Doubleday New York). It is the outcome of investment and time resources (material tokens) available from within the organisation.
The researcher now needs to enhance the value of this material attribute in the interests of the organisation (the nexus of relationships). Working with a public relations manager the Gregory process is applied. This implies that a strategy will be developed based on research of the environment such as structure of the company, its corporate objectives, its customer facing drivers, views, the market, real and latent tokens in the public sphere etc. and a view of the publics that will influence the next step in exploiting the patent's latent potential. There will be objectives set for the message and its audiences, and implementation tactics. The public relations process will also examine resources such as time constraints, funds and available public relations skills. Finally there will be control through knowledge (information, status reports, evaluation, experience and training). Judgement will be applied alongside budgeting skills and scheduling of the programme. The application of this process may well define the public relations objective to one of 'gaining Board acceptance, support and budget to develop a working prototype in this budget cycle'. One will note that this is a public relations, not business objective.
In fact what will be happening is that the material tokens of public relations management (yes, these skills are also material tokens) will be applied to getting the patent accepted by the organisation for the next step towards production and marketing. This is an internal activity using the public relations process to lever value from the patent. The successful outcome changes the value of the patent. It becomes an opportunity for the organisation to gain a return on its investment.
In summary, it becomes clear that to create new wealth there has to be a process of building effective and affective relationships. This has little to do with current 'management think' where the typical approach is to 'invest' money. It has everything to do with creating the environment in which assets gain value and shows that it is only through relationship management that new wealth can be created.
To carry the analogy forward, the next stages, each using the public relations process, the patent's value will be changed right through from Board endorsement to proceed, to production of the product to its successful introduction to the market.
The nature of public relations in this process is to enhance value using and applying material assets through relationships to meet the organisation's objectives. Without the use and application of public relations process, the patent will remain a liability. No one will have heard about it or its latent value. There will have been no actors involved in its production and marketing.
As for a patent so too for all other tangible and intangible assets owned by the organisation.Such assets include brands, reputation and so forth. Indeed, it is only through the application of the public relations process that value can be derived from tangible assets. Without the application of relationship management even the factory door cannot be opened.
The relationship Value Model might also help the Athena Alliance blogger Ken Jarboe He says:
Lesson one: intangibles like brand are only as good as the tangible product behind them (and I say they are only as good as the relationships that lever their value).
Lesson two: control of the production process is an important intangible (and I say that without relationships there is no control)
Lesson three: tangible products (and the production processes behind them) will always remain an important part of the Intangible Economy. Product, brand, design, technology - all are an integral mix (and I say that product, brand, design and technology are only as important when held together and developed through relationships).
Lacking the concept of relationship value, Colin Mc Cullough stumbles over the issues of Knowledge management but has realised that Knowledge Management (which we all agree is pretty important to all organisation) is inextricably linked to the sharing of knowledge between individuals and to the collaborative processes involved. The factors and environments which enhance this all relate to the human factor in the KM process. This offers some hope but 'Human Factors', which he offers up is along way from understanding relationship management.
I hope I have shown how relationship management can be applied and a range of areas where its application can be brought to bear on many of the, currently intractable, problems of modern management.
i Gregory, A. (2004) Scope and structure of public relations: a technology driven view Public Relations Review Vol 30 Issue 3 (245-254)
Picture from the Caitlyn Howell Innovative Lives Smithsonian lecture