Testing the Impact of Message Interactivity on Relationship Management and Organizational Reputation

Lee, Hyunmin, & Park, Hyojung (2013). Testing the impact of message interactivity on relationship management and organizational reputation. Journal of Public Relations Research, 24, 188-206.

Summary
This study investigated whether message interactivity of organizational websites and blog sites influence perceptions of relationship management and reputation. Contingent message interactivity posits that the transmission and reception of messages is crucial, with an emphasis that subsequent messages should be dependent on previous messages and interactions need to respond to one another. This study found that regardless of familiarity of the company, people evaluated organizations that responded back to their comments as more trustworthy and committed, and as having better control of mutuality and communal relationships, and higher satisfaction, compared to organizations that did not respond back. Additionally, high contingent message interactivity projected higher organizational reputation compared to low contingent message interactivity, regardless of familiarity. 

Method
This study used a 2 (interactivity: high vs. low) × 2 (type of corporation: business-to-business vs. business-to-consumer) × 2 (channel: corporate Web site vs. corporate blog) mixed experimental design based on 166 undergraduate students.

Key findings
1) When organizations engaged in a dialog through contingent message interactivity, participants reported more favorable relationship outcomes with a company on all but exchange relationship.
2) The positive influence of contingent message interactivity on relationship management outcomes was present, with familiarity as a control variable.
3) Regardless of the level of interactivity, business-to-business companies received more positive relationship management outcomes compared to business-to-consumer companies, specifically on commitment, trust, and satisfaction.
4) The more actively the company responds to viewers’ comments, the more likely people were to perceive it as having a good reputation.
5) When organizations engaged in message interactivity, participants perceived official websites to be more trustworthy than blog sites. 

Implications for Practice
The results of this study support the model of the organization–public relationship proposed by Hon and J. E. Grunig in that open two-way communication facilitated through contingent message interactivity can nurture organizational–public relational outcomes and reputation. Another important finding is that the level of familiarity did not influence relationship outcomes. This suggests that organizations that are relatively unknown to the general public can still build positive relationships and reputation with its publics, if they take the time and attention to actively respond to the comments, or any type of communication attempt directed to them. In addition, regardless of the level of interactivity, participants appeared to have higher levels of trust, commitment, and satisfaction with the business-to-business companies than with the business-to-consumer companies. As for business-to-customer where conversation and engagement is expected, practicing open two-way communication through message interactivity to manage and maintain relationships. Public relations practices in this media landscape where publics are empowered to share and generate content, contingent message interactivity can also be viewed as a proactive issues management, through understanding the needs, desires, and complains of the public.

Article Location
The full article is available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1062726X.2013.739103#.UnrT3pR35B8

 

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