The nature of organisations is that they survive by creating, sustaining and enhancing their value.
To do this they develop relationships, maintain relationships and add value to their relationships.
Value can come in many shapes as Charles Handy explains this week.
To create relationships, organisations present explicit ideas, products, services, issues and other tokens to gain attention in social networks through a range of communications channels. They then provide explicate the values they hold in a context that is applicable to the culture and in terms that are acceptable to the network. The symbols, words and presentation used have to be network sensitive and be empathetic to the perceptions of the members of the network.
In turn, the members of the network respond by paying attention and by identifying the common values, new values and dissonant values and respond in a range of responses from acceptance to rejection.
These responses, to paraphrase Gunig and Hunt, can be latent (not immediately recognising the significance), aware (recognising the significance) or active (responding to the significance). A well managed organisation will take a close interest (with continuous monitoring and evaluation) in these levels of response and the extent of acceptance or rejection. This will, or should, have an immediate impact on the behaviour of the organisation. It has to change to meet the type and level of response or loose out on the relationship opportunity that has been created.
In addition, the converse is true. People in networks also offer tokens and values for the astute organisation to respond to. The organisation can choose to ignore (latent response), note (aware response) or react (active response) to the signals emanating from the networks. This skill set is critical, if an organisation is to survive and flourish.
In sustaining relationships, organisations have to react. They have to continue in the exchange of tokens and values to embed the relationships values in the collective memories of network members. The context has to be made wider and affective in the many social frames inhabited by publics. The effective relationships offer a range of contexts in which the exchange of tokens and values can be made. This requires a range of tactics which are evident in the toolkit available in public relations practice to create a wide range of touchpoints to offer a opportunities for the exchange of values between publics and the organisation.
In getting to this point, an organisation is, at best using PR in its agentry mode. It is functioning in the buyer/seller model of marketing. The true value of public relations is when it is creating value. Here there is an ethical element (which I will deal with at another time) but the real contribution to be made by public relations is its capability to create new wealth. Here, the tokens in a relationship and the values of the parties to the relationship bring new concepts and new ideas and new realisations. It is when the organisation sees values espoused by publics that are not its own and creates a response to meet the needs of both parties. It is the time when publics identify values espoused by organisations and adopts them. As Chris Lawer explains, this thinking is at last reaching into areas like brand management thus, organisation may have the brand but the publics own the brand values. Brand values are in the head of the consumer not in the ownership of the brand. Understanding publics such as consumers helps the organisation empathise with the public's brand/social values, respond to it creatively and derive new mutual value.
New realisations may take a different turn. It may be the introduction of people and their ideas effected by PR. My example is the added value generated when a patent, offered to a Board of directors for exploitation.
These ideas go further than the intangible values of Verna Allee which are pictured here. There is a long way to go before organisations realise what thier true values are.