Date: 15 September 2017

Subject: Explicating Relationship Management as a General Theory of Public Relations

MLA Citation: Ledingham, John A. “Explicating Relationship Management as a General Theory of Public Relations.” Journal of Public Relations Research, vol. 15, no. 2, 2003, pp. 181–198., doi:10.1207/s1532754xjprr1502_4.


Research Assessment #3

The overarching theme of this article, I found, was connections back to my previous research assessments, which is both reassuring and clarifying for me as a researcher. These connections reassured me that the research I am doing is on track and accurate, and that the claims I am finding are backed up by a wide variety of professionals in the field.

One of these connections includes the importance of management skills as a public relations professional in a senior or management position. Both this article and the one featured in my second research assessment discussed the fact that training in business management and the associated managerial functions (including analysis, planning, implementation, and evaluation) gives an undeniable advantage to the trainee. My understanding is that the trainee is better able to relate to the business executives they are working to serve, and thus can better work to achieve the ultimate goal of pleasing both the organization and its public.

A new piece of knowledge that I was able to extract from this article was about a public relations and communications model called the relationship management perspective (or relational perspective). This perspective defines public relations as a management function that balances organization-public relationships, with relationships as the basis and desired outcome of public relations practice. Through this lens, the management aspect of public relations is emphasized, as is the central role of relationships and the maintenance of them. A question that arose in my mind when reading this; how is the formation and maintenance of relationships studied if relationships differ so widely from group to group and individual to individual? How do organization-public relationships differ from traditional one-on-one relationships; are they any less or more complex? The article answers this question in part, defining organization–public relationships as “the state which exists between an organization and its key publics, in which the actions of either can impact the economic, social, cultural or political wellbeing of the other.” This definition, after further analysis, suggests a high level of dependency of each group on the other, and it may prove beneficial to me to keep this definition in the back of my mind throughout my research.

The process of studying these relationships is then further elaborated on, showing me that there are actual statistic-based indicators of the state of an organization-public relationship—an idea that was previously unclear to me. These indicators include levels of agreement between organizations and publics on key issues and the degree to which one can accurately predict the other’s position. How is this research done, and what kind of “key issues” are the subject of discussion (current events and politics, or issues related to the organization’s function)? I also learned key traits of a healthy organization-public relationship; trust, openness, involvement, investment, and commitment. As I move forward into my mentorship and exposure to the public relations world, I hope to give more focused attention to what each of these traits looks like and how public relations specialists can tell whether or not they are at work in a particular relationship.

This article allowed me to achieve some of my goals from my previous research assessment, including learning about communication models that guide the practice of PR. However, it also sparked new areas of interest for me, including analysis of specific organization-public relationships and how professionals go about assessing what needs work and how to fix it.

Annotated Article: