Relationship management theory has its foundations in Ferguson’s (1984) call for a focus on organization-public relationships (OPR) in the field of public relations, moving away from its traditional emphasis on communication output.
From the standpoint of relationship management, managing OPR helps organizations balance their interests with those of their key publics, leading to mutual benefits. This paradigm describes public relations as “the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends.
The basic assumption of relationship management theory is that over time, the effective management of organizational relationships with publics that share its interests and goals leads to mutual understanding and benefits (Ledingham, 2003). Relationships between an organization and its stakeholders begin when the outcomes of organizational decision-making affect publics, or when stakeholder actions affect organizations (Hon & Grunig, 1999), and long-term OPR is 43 built on the concept of mutuality (Ledingham & Bruning, 2000).
OPR involves the exchange of needs, expectations, and fulfillment, and the state of a relationship between an organization and its key publics is an indicator of whether or not these needs and expectations have been fulfilled.
Common interests and shared goals are also important to the quality of OPR. The development of relationship management theory has resulted from contributions by OPR scholars in a number of areas, including OPR definitions, dimensions and types of OPR, strategies and maintenance of OPR, as well as developmental and process models of OPR
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