Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Situational Theory and the Relationships Values schools of thought

Bruno Amaral has responded to Professor James E Grunig's critical review of Philip and my book Online Public Relations. His treaties entitled Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalisation provoked an extensive response from Philip Young as well. Once again, Professor Grunig has responded. It is a wonderful response.

I have responded on Bruno's blog and this is by way of a slightly extended cross post of my approach.

I guess it is appropriate to disclose the earlier work which I posted to this website some years ago. This provides a much wider view of the relationships model for public relations and was the basis for the paper 'Towards Relationship Management' (also published in JCM) which is the published manifestation of some years of thought.

The present interest in the Relationship Value model is interesting and I am grateful to Bruno, Philip and to Professor Grunig for pursuing the differences between the Situational Theory and the Relationships Values schools of thought.

We seek to identify the situation of organisations in the natural discourse of its constituency and how such discourse affects and changes the organisation'. If we can do this, it is possible to observe, from one perspective, the nature and drivers of relationships. It goes without saying that I explicated that relationships are a core value for organisations some years ago. In addition, with effective tools and grounded as well as comprehensive procedures, we will be able to present to the public relations industry the Relationship Values hypothesis. It is developments in these techniques that has drawn me to a methodology to provide a proof.

What I found interesting when Girish Lakshminarayana presented his latest Latent Semantic Analysis tools was the extent to which one can identify, develop and explore a huge corpus in a very short space of time.

This capability provides excellent opportunities to explore the hypothesis in considerable depth and, with Bruno this year we moved towards a proof of concept for the methodology.

Bruno showed at Bled last July how useful semantic analysis is for this kind of work in his proof of concept paper.

This has led to a form client content analysis research which I aim to develop in answer to Professor Gunig's paper Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalisation and which has a number of steps:

  • Identify the semantic concepts in the client website
  • Identify the semantic concepts of the web pages of third parties who link into the client web sites (I call this the client sphere of influence).
  • Identify the the semantic concepts or the web sites of third parties who link into the client web sites
  • Explore all web pages indexed by search engines for the last year that mention the client and extract the semantic concepts.
  • Explore all web sites where pages have been indexed by search engines for the last year that mention the client and extract the semantic concepts.
This process can be done in time series which allows one to see concepts emerging, gaining in significance morphing and even declining. A simple example (and useful conceptual model and helpful to test the methodology) of the outcome can be seen using the Klea Global Labs Reputation Wall.

In my paper Towards Relationship Management, I expressed a view that relationships are formed through shared understanding of values. In the next part of developing the Relationship Values theory I propose that the semantic concepts extracted by the software can be viewed as discursive expressions of the actor’s values and we can follow them as they emerge, are adopted by internet users, and gather to them a wider group of online actors.

What we are able to see from this form of analysis is an agnostic, semantic, content analysis of the corporate view of the client by the client (evident in its web site). In addition we have the emerging and changing view of the client sphere of influence and can view this in the context of the wider interests of these external (sphere of influence) actors.

Adding the wider, search, sphere creates a view of the wider context in which the client is of interest.
This is an astonishing amount of data.
The results so far have been most interesting.
I am not, at this stage, sure as to whether the Relationship Values proposition will identify the extent to which values based relationships are also issues. This research process is much more granular and is based on two assumptions.

The first is that semantic concepts are the same as relationship values and that the internet is sufficiently pervasive to be representative of other forms of human discourse.

No doubt that in due course, and to answer Professor Grunig's concern, it will be important to find out the extent to which values and ideologies relate to problems and expectations and the extent to which in analysis of semantics in discourse the Situational Theory of Publics emerges as one of the drivers in the formation of an affective nexus of relationships. The extent to which the nexus of relationships based on values are publics will then be evident.

This is very exciting for the PR industry. If we can find out how relationships are formed and change we can seek ways in which organisations can, more effectively, create and manage the very foundations of their wealth.