Title page for ETD etd-11252008-100328

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Coetzee, Elsie Margaretha
URN etd-11252008-100328
Document Title Strategic communication in alliances : perceptions of alliances partners on relationship outcomes
Degree MCom
Department Marketing and Communication Management
Advisor Name Title
Dr D L R van der Waldt Supervisor
  • relationship outcomes
  • strategic communication
  • relationship management
  • goal attainment
  • South Africa
  • alliances
Date 2008-09-04
Availability unrestricted

Organisations experience increased social, political and economic pressure that is evident in the increased pressure that stakeholders place on organisations. Organisations increasingly realise that stakeholders’ values and objectives need to be incorporated into organisational strategy as well as the day-to-day management of the organisation. Organisational success and survival consequently depends on the organisation’s network of relationships, which provide the organisation with otherwise inaccessible resources and a competitive advantage.

Organisational relationships offer the best solution towards illustrating the value of public relations and communication in the organisation. These relationships enable the organisation to attain its long- and short-term goals. Communication is a key influencer of the success of these relationships and communication managers are consequently better adept to manage these relationships. The relationship perspective of communication posits that public relations and communication managers should act in a boundary spanning role by balancing the interests of companies and stakeholders through effective relationship management. A shift has consequently occurred from purely communication management towards building mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and its key stakeholders.

There has also been an increased recognition of the need for strategically managed communication programs that can effectively contribute to organisational success. Strategic communication assists an organisation to adapt to its stakeholder environment by feeding into the organisation’s strategy formulation process intelligence with regards to strategic stakeholders, which, in turn, assists in building mutually beneficial relationships with these stakeholders.

Communication managers’ efforts towards the effective management of organisational relationships has been hampered by the lack of current literature on organisational relationships, a lack of knowledge regarding the factors that influence these relationships, as well as the lack of a reliable and quantifiable definition of organisational relationships. Knowledge on these key areas could enable communication managers to manage these relationships effectively through strategic communication that is characterised by open and two-way communication.

This study aimed to determine the connection between organisational relationships and organisational success by investigating the relationship between organisational alliances (as a specific form of organisational relationship) and goal attainment. The three-stage model of organisational relationships proposed by Grunig and Huang (2000:34) was applied to organisational alliances in order to determine this relationship, as well as to determine the influence of key constructs like type of industry, type of alliance, duration of the alliance and the size of the organisation. The reliability of using this framework, specifically the relationship outcomes proposed by the three-stage model, was investigated.

The relationship outcomes (trust, commitment, relational satisfaction and control mutuality) were positively related to perceptions of goal attainment. This implies that if trust, commitment, relational satisfaction and control mutuality increases in an organisational alliance, the perceptions of goal attainment also increase within that organisational relationship. These findings suggest that effective communication contributes to perceptions of goal attainment within organisational relationships. It offers public relations and communication practitioners a means to demonstrate the contribution of this function to organisational success.

High correlations between the relationship outcomes reflected current findings on these outcomes and a factor analysis indicated that only one factor was being measured – the organisational relationship itself. The study proposed an improved measurement instrument for reliably measuring organisational relationships (Cronbach Alpha = 0.93). The type of industry, type of alliance, duration of the alliance as well as the size of the organisation did not have a significant influence on the relationship outcomes or the proposed measure of organisational relationships. This implies that the current proposed measurement instrument can be applied to numerous contexts.

A general linear model was applied to goal attainment (as the dependent variable) and the relationship outcomes (as the independent variables) in order to determine the specific contribution of each relationship outcome on perceptions of goal attainment. The regression analysis indicated that control mutuality was the greatest influencer of perceptions of goal attainment within alliances. A noticeably low influence of trust was also measured.

These findings were obtained through the use of an e-mail survey that obtained cross-sectional data, where 154 alliances were observed (n=154). The study contributed to present literature on organisational relationships by using Grunig and Huang’s (2000:43) three-stage model to explain the relationship between perceptions of goal attainment and the relationship outcomes in alliances within the South African context.

Strategic communication management provides a solution to a key organisational issue – the organisation’s interdependence with the stakeholders in its environment and how these stakeholders can better be managed in order to more effectively contribute towards organisational success. Communication managers can demonstrate their value by effectively managing key organisational relationships like alliances by integrating these relationships into organisational strategy. These successful organisational relationships also contribute towards organisational sustainability by enabling the organisation to attain its long- and short-term goals.

©University of Pretoria 2008

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