The use of technology in relationship management: a public relations perspective.
communication in management | relationship marketing | internet marketing | technological innovations
The statement that the stable and developed world known to us no longer exists seems to be particularly relevant to the way in which organisations conduct their business and reposition themselves in the communication age. Organisations, as the context within which public relations functions, are threatened by increased competition and changes in key elements of market relationships as a result of global information technology developments and the mobility of organisations and people. The emergence of new information technology has lead to fundamental shifts in the relationships between corporations, individuals and society. An historical overview of the developing stages of public relations in terms of the dominant business approach and dominant public relations approach points to a definite relation to and subsequent influence of changing business paradigms in the practice of public relations. How business perceives communication is believed to impact significantly on the public relations philosophy, the public relations model and the definition of public relations. The fact that public relations has been a part of organisational life which, in turn, forms part of a larger environmental system explains this interdependency/relationship between dominant business approaches and dominant public relations approaches. The emergence of a new model of business is typical of the changes in the business environment and the impact on the context of public relations. Although public relations has evolved from one-way imbalanced communication to two-way balanced communication and professional recognition, it is evident that the paradigm shift in the business environment demands yet another paradigm shift in public relations. Increased interactivity and the need for customised communication form the heart of this paradigm shift and a new approach to public relations, namely an integrated communication approach, has been proposed as a solution to these demands posed by the changing face of business. Such an integrated approach has as its main focus the integration of all the activities of the organisation. It is maintained that this trend towards integration calls for consistency of communication activities of the organisation and co-ordination of its communication strategies. It is evident that the technology already in use by marketing for relationship management can be applied successfully in public relations. New technology impacts firstly on the practice and profession of public relations at a strategic level in aspects such as disintermediation, democratisation of communication access, levelling of organisational structures and the need for customised communication (personalised communication), and secondly on the application opportunities at technical level. Although various business applications of available technologies are applied in various disciplines and at different levels in the organisation, the value for public relations lies in the application of these technologies for the facilitation of communication with key constituents. The ultimate objective is building and maintaining beneficial relationships, and support given to business processes. The organisation will, among other things, require the public relations practitioner to be aware of new communication media and technology and to use it. This points to a new role for public relations in terms of the adaptability of this profession to changes in the new media environment and shifts in economic, social and business paradigms and it is maintained that the future of public relations depends on the acceptance of this role. This study followed a qualitative approach. The first step was a detailed literature study resulting in a number of postulates which were tested by means of an empirical investigation. The focus of this study falls on the investigation into factors driving the new paradigm shift in business, as context within which public relations functions, and the subsequent impact on the practice of public relations. It has provided new insights into technology usage in South Africa and the changes technology has brought about in this profession.
Prof. Sonja Verwey