Public relations Relationship Identity in research: Enlightenment or illusion Academic Article uri icon


  • 2014 Elsevier Inc. Public relations identity in research sets parameters that can limit or illuminate the field. In this paper we consider how public relations have been developing a relationship identity in research. General public relations research, as opposed to sub-disciplines such as crisis communication, is dominated by a relationships approach. The focus on relationship was designed to enlighten public relations research and even improve the practice. But has the emphasis on relationships and focus on the organizationpublic relationship (OPR) as an outcome really enlightened public relations research? This paper explores four concerns about the application: (1) problems associated with applying a concept from interpersonal communication to public relations, (2) how identities affect the formation of close relationships, (3) the value of close relationships for publics, and (4) the parasocial nature of organizationpublic relationships. While of some heuristic value, the relationship focus should not be embraced uncritically. Public relations researchers should be cautious about concentrating on close relationships between organizations and publics and seek appropriate re-formulations and alternatives that more accurately depict organizationpublic connections. We should consider the value of weak relationships and parasocial relationships if we are to maximize the value of a relationship approach to public relations.

published proceedings

  • Public Relations Review

altmetric score

  • 1.85

author list (cited authors)

  • Coombs, W. T., & Holladay, S. J.

citation count

  • 66

complete list of authors

  • Coombs, W Timothy||Holladay, Sherry J

publication date

  • January 2015