Research on Relationship Management

In 2010, Sophia Demetriades released a white paper that helps people understand, solve and decide upon common issues in the sphere of business to business marketing, business to customer marketing, internal stakeholder relations and interpersonal relationship building. The paper is based on interviews with more than 300 entrepreneurs, SMB owners, employees, interns and students and surveys of her mentees and clients over the last 7 years.

More recently, Demetriades (2012) has published several articles and papers on how these issues interact across three fields and which she believes will merge over the coming 5. With the backdrop of this research, she predicts a future landscape where entrepreneurship, human resources and public relations together shape a new trend for education of the individuals of the 21st century. Please note that she has chosen to define public relations also on scandinavian terms. Thus, the definitions must be understood in context prior to embarking upon her interpretations, which came to life during a study of small business communications.

Demetriades believe that current HR practitioners will move away from their recruitment offices and become coaches and mentors – and thus replace, or at the very least reduce, the presence of the university in our current society. After all, due to technology and the internet, western societies have  greater access to knowledge and may not need the university on the same level as previously. We may see that the university will return to its origin where small groups or student teacher relationships become the norm. Imagine the early days of Plato and Aristotle, walking through the university hall in Athens, depicting the true meaning of university, designed for advanced learning for people as part of ‘the whole’, or ‘the society’.

The 4 merging and emerging fields shaping our work landscape:

  1. Public Relations
  2. Human Resources
  3. Education
  4. Entrepreneurship

1. Public Relation’s New Definition: Relationship Management

The recent changes in the landscape of relationship management has been suggested as a result of three over arching factors (Demetriades 2010). The factor include; the last decades evolvement of Human Resource Management (HRM), the last 50 years development of the Public Relations (PR) field (including socialist interpretation of PR), and the increased global increase in entrepreneurial ventures. Together with the development and availability of technology and the internet, these three fields are affected by and affect public education. Using communications and management theories to interlink the three fields, we can look towards a future trend shaping the education landscape. More specifically, examining how management and communications theory introduces relationship theory as they become the practical solution to our existence.

It is argued that relationship theory is a reflection of modern developments in causal theory, away from Newtonian efficient causation to formal causation in the theories of subatomic physics (Rychlak 2012). Without yet delving into psychology and behavior theory, it certainly is necessary to mention here that this is where we are going forward. Relationship theory is fundamental in both the study of HR and PR, and with a closer look at entrepreneurship and small business management, we will  examine how entrepreneurs create, manage and leverage their relationships to succeed.

Small Business Management author Justin Longnecker (2010) believes there are few differences between personal and professional relationships. As small businesses rarely if ever have specialised functions or staff to manage communication with key stakeholders, and the ways in which they communicate with their key stakeholders, building and maintaining relationships with their key stakeholders is essential for the survival and success of small businesses and is a field deserving of close study. Similarly, recent developments in the education industry including coaching and mentoring practices, examine the ways in which people communicate with one another, building and maintaining relationships essential to their own survival and success.

Definitions

Public Relations in Scandinavia and Germany is often interpreted more so as a function related to what we n Australia call welfare. Rather than the American method of defining public relations as communication from a corporation to the ‘public’, the scandinavian and German interpretation highlights how the prefer to communicate with each other (businesses and people alike) as equal members of the public. In the American definition of public relations we often see public discussion as and disagreements around whether or not it is appropriate to define ‘public’ as people of the public who are defined as a set group to be communicated towards in a persuasive manner. This is a discussion of ethics that can often go over the head of  people with little or no knowledge of the field, however people of the public should as citizens at the very least be given the opportunity to define their own existence in a society.

When we define public relations in the sphere of welfare, the term attracts a more affable connotation. Public Relations then take on a meaning where this type of communication is seen as an initiative to improve human relations in a society as a whole, or the society as a whole. In this new sphere, we can now allow ourselves to move towards interpersonal communication which is where we can draw a link to the field of human resources. Prior to delving into a definition of the human resources field, we attempt a more thorough definition of communication and public relations.

You could say that communication is the vital link that joins organisations with its stakeholders, organisations with organisations and people with people. In organisation to stakeholder relations, scholars have provided us with valid evidence that managed strategic communication, or public relations (PR), has led to organisational effectiveness, which has been seen as organisational success (Dozier 2002, p. xi). Effective PR does not indicate the social implications of organisational success, but rather how organisations “do” public relations, or communicate with their stakeholders (L’Etang & Pieczka 1996). Thus, how people “do” PR affect both internal and external stakeholder relationships. According to Sriramesh and Vercic (2007), “communication is in essence the sharing of meaning and the creation of understanding that can only be established by solid stakeholder relationships” (Coetzee 2008, pp. 385-396). Consequently, meaning and understanding become reliant upon such relationships, both personally and professionally.

The literature available to define communication is extensive, including more than 750 definition (Bryant & Miron 2004, Dance & Larson 1976). It is important however to indicate the way the term communication is used here, as the term does not refer to “information transmission”, but rather it is used in a two-way interactive process in the context of the “sharing and negotiating of meaning” and understanding, in the establishment of relationships (Littlejohn & Foss 2009, p. 618). A useful example to circumscribe communication theory is Lasswell’s maxim, “who says what to whom in what channel with what effect” (Lasswell 1948 ). From a Constructionist view, communication is “an ongoing process that symbolically forms and re-forms our personal identities”, and thus would have an effect on our relationships (Craig & Muller 2007, p. 125). Communication has been increasingly studied since WWII and throughout 20th century, and is seen as a means of survival (Littlejohn & Foss 2008). Thus, communication is as vital for the survival of an organisation as it is for a person.

Communication with key “stakeholders” is recognised as an important ingredient of business and organisational success (Deetz 1995; Freeman 2010; Spicer 2007, pp. 27-41). This is reflected in the worldwide growth and increasing sophistication of public relations as a professional practice, along with its related and synonymous practices such as corporate communication, corporate relations, external and internal relations, and public affairs. Today, public relations and its specialty sub-fields is estimated to be an $8 billion a year industry globally (Wilcox & Cameron 2009, p. 3), growing at 10 per cent per annum (Sorrell 2008) and employing between 2.3 and 4.5 million communication practitioners, according to various studies (Falconi 2006; Wilcox & Cameron 2009, p. 3). In Australia, an estimated 14,600 public relations practitioners were employed in corporate, government and non-profit organisations in 2010, according to the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA 2010)

Key stakeholders with which businesses need to establish and maintain good relationships include customers, shareholders, distribution channel partners such as retailers, local communities, employees, industry associations and, in some cases, regulatory bodies and consumer and environmental groups. While there is disagreement among stakeholder theorists about the meaning of “stakeholder”, it has played a crucial role since it emerged over the last 15 years and came into wide-scale usage “to describe those groups who can affect, or who are affected by, the activities of the firm (Freeman 2002, p. 19). Today, most academics consider the term “stakeholders” and “publics” relatively interchangeable. The definition of the term “publics” was introduced to public relations through situational theory of publics in reference to situations where people and organisations are likely to communicate and why (Grunig & Hunt 1984). Contemporary PR theory focuses on stakeholder communication and stakeholder relationships, however Demetriades (2012) see the filed of public relations merge with the field of human resources and move towards a new field of education. A field much more sophisticated and  personalised than previously defined.

In large businesses, public relations and its specialty sub-disciplines such as employee relations, trade relations, community relations, government relations, and industry relations, together with customer relations that are often identified as a separate specialist function as part of marketing communication, are recognised as key components of management responsibility and operations. The role of public relations and the range of public communication activities that it conducts on behalf of businesses and organisations have been extensively studied (Broom & Cutlip 2009; Cain 2009; Cancel, Mitrook & Cameron 1999; Coetzee 2008; Cutlip, Center & Broom 2006; Dejan Vercˇicˇ 2001; Dozier 2002; Dozier 1995; Grunig, Grunig & Toth 2007; Grunig 1992b; Hutton 1999; Johnston & Zawawi 2009; Kent & Taylor 2002; Murphy 1989; Pearson 1989; Ruler, Ver*ci*c & Ver*ci*c 2008; Ruler & Ver*ci*c 2004; Sriramesh & Ver*ci*c 2008; Taylor Spring 2000).

2. Human Resources Management relates to Staff who are Stakeholders

(Coaching and Mentoring)

In the same way business has been affected by our increasing focus on ethical resource management and care for human productivity, our personal efficiency is also influenced by certain business practices. Although women have had a considerable influence on these changes, gender alone can not be attributed this drastic development.

We have over the last 50 years see the workplace landscape change from the industrial age towards the knowledge worker age. Its so easy to look back and say ‘why did we think of that earlier’, but the truth is we didn’t know ‘back then’. This is testament to the development of the knowledge worker.

One of the greatest positives of the knowledge worker age is the increased power that can be restored in under privileged and minority groups such as women, youth, lower socio economic groups, smaller countries and . The downside still remains the global divide of the resources that make the knowledge worker age possible; internet, technology, national and international law etc.

TBC….

A focus on staff well being to increase productivity as well as

Public Relations changing business and personal relationships

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