In the last post, I suggested that most relationship marketing strategies are hollow at the core, and are really a pretty label for direct marketing tactics. Which is fine, but don't call it a relationship. This post looks at a different approach based on research in the public relations sector.
In my research work, I often find myself seeking a stronger framework to support my approach and recommendations to clients. [If you want to be a great consultant, not just a good one, you need to make clear and focused recommendations. Yup, it's scary stuff.]
I came across a wonderful paper recently by Dr. Linda Childers Hon at U of Florida and Dr. James E. Grunig at U. of Maryland: Guidelines for Measuring Relationships in Public Relations. [Download the PDF] Sounds pedestrian, but isn't.
Outputs is the immediate result of a PR effort -- such as getting newspaper coverage. Outcomes is the longer term measure of whether the activity and outputs are making any impact on perceptions of the target audience.
Six Dimensions of Relationships
Hon and Grunig make a case for six dimensions of relationships that can be measured, which they define as follows:
The degree to which parties agree on who has the rightful power to influence one another. Although some imbalance is natural, stable relationships require that organizations and publics each have some control over the other.
One party’s level of confidence in and willingness to open oneself to the other party. There are three dimensions to trust: integrity: the belief that an organization is fair and just … dependability: the belief that an organization will do what it says it will do … and, competence: the belief that an organization has the ability to do what it says it will do.
The extent to which each party feels favorably toward the other because positive expectations about the relationship are reinforced. A satisfying relationship is one in which the benefits outweigh the costs.
The extent to which each party believes and feels that the relationship is worth spending energy to maintain and promote. Two dimensions of commitment are continuance commitment, which refers to
a certain line of action, and affective commitment, which is an emotional orientation.
In an exchange relationship, one party gives benefits to the other only because the other has provided benefits in the past or is expected to do so in the future.
In a communal relationship, both parties provide benefits to the other because they are concerned for the welfare of the other -- even when they get nothing in return. For most public relations activities, developing communal relationships with key constituencies is much more important to achieve than would be developing exchange relationships.
The paper provides questions that can be used to measure on a Likert Scale, such as "This organization treats people like me fairly and justly".
Are you seeking Communal when you are actually offering Exchange?
I found these definitions, and the questions proposed, quite thought-provoking. I believe one of the significant disconnects people experience in their relationships with large enterprises have to do with the expectation of a Communal Relationship when the other party is operating on an Exchange Relationship model.
For example, some providers of research platforms seek loyalty from people like me. But my loyalty is almost completely related to performance and pricing -- in the absence of those elements, I would move to other providers, despite having good interpersonal relationships.
The lack of control is an important issue in some business categories: financial services (especially lending), telecommunications (those cell phone contracts!) and health care come immediately to mind.
Better as a thought-starter than a measurement framework?
Not everyone agrees that this form of measurement is the pinnacle for public relations practitioners. See the article by Kim Harrison below. This is a very valid point -- I am working on a project right now where the client wants to generate new ideas for PR events that will result in actual new customers for the retail stores. That's a very crunchy measurement.
However, I am jazzed about this model as a thought-starter. Perhaps a touch-stone. And maybe even useful for thinking about things like brand advertising efforts.
What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any experience with this model?
More on Likert Scales http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/scallik.php
Kim Harrison, Cutting Ede PR Blog. The Myth of Relationship Building as the Key Measure of PR http://www.cuttingedgepr.com/articles/relationship-building-pr-measure.asp