The Effects of Organization-Public Relationships on Organizational Reputation From the Perspective of Publics

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In recent years, organizations have demanded evidence that public relations is effective. Consequently, professionals and scholars alike have looked for the key concepts to establish the value of public relations. The terms "relationships" and "reputation" have emerged as the focal concepts in explaining the purpose and value of public relations. The concepts of organization-public relationships and organizational reputation can be integrated within a theoretical framework of public relations effectiveness. When those concepts are integrated in a model, the role of public relations can be captured more clearly than when there is a separate focus on each of the concepts.

Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the link between organization-public relationships and organizational reputation. In particular, the dissertation examined how organization-public relationships affect organizational reputations in a causal model. Survey research was used to collect data, and structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to empirically test the causal effects of organization-public relationships on organizational reputation for four South Korean-based organizations. In the causal model, organization-public relationship outcomes and types of relationships (communal and exchange relationships) predicted organizational reputation, taking into account the exogenous influences of communication behaviors of publics, experience, and familiarity with the organizations studied.

The hypothesized structural equation model had tenable data-model fits for all organizations studied, supporting the hypotheses proposed in the study. More specifically, the research produced the following important results. First, this study found a significant positive effect of organization-public relationship outcomes on organizational reputation for all organizations studied. Secondly, this study found significant effects of types of organization-public relationships on organization-public relationship outcomes and organizational reputation. Third, it showed the relevance of key antecedents of organization-public relationship outcomes and organizational reputation. Fourth, the study found a stronger effect of communication behaviors on the quality of relationship outcomes than the effect of familiarity. Finally, it found a different distribution of cognitive representations for profit and nonprofit organizations.

The final causal models for all organizations studied showed three distinct routes to organizational reputation, based on significant causal relationships in the models: a communication-based route, a communitarian route, and a familiarity-based route. An unexpected result was a differential effect of types of organization-public relationships on organizational reputation for profit and nonprofit organizations: Exchange relationships had more of a negative effect for nonprofit than for profit organizations. Finally, the results for one of the organizations showed that familiarity can have a negative effect on organization-public relationship outcomes.

Overall, the results of this study show that public relations has value to an organization and to society in general when it cultivates quality relationships with publics and that favorable reputation can be obtained through the development of quality organization-public relationships.