The Key to Relationships: Control Mutuality

August 14, 2019   |    Like this? Share it.

By: Sacha Kiesman

Effective public relations entails creating and managing relationships with the audiences on which an organization relies. There’s a host of ways to conduct these relationships but what tactics are the most effective?  Researchers have found that there are four important dimensions of relationships between an organization and its publics: trust, satisfaction, commitment, and power balance. Naturally, these dimensions all effect and build upon each other. Understanding how these dimensions interact can guide you in pursuing tactics that most effectively create strong and long-lasting relationships with your organization’s publics.  

Samsup Jo of Sookmyung Women’s University studied how these relational dimensions affect each other. Jo found power balance or “control mutuality” to be the most important dimension of an organization’s relationship with its publics. Control mutuality is the balance of decision-making power. For example, a beverage producer surveying its vendors to decide which new flavor to produce raises control mutuality. The beverage producer is granting its public, the vendors, decision-making power.  

Jo found three important ways that trust, satisfaction, commitment, and power balance interact: When publics are appropriately empowered, levels of trust and satisfaction rise. 

  1. When publics are appropriately empowered, levels of trust and satisfaction rise. 
  2. The more satisfaction a public has with an organization, the more trust they have for that organization.   
  3. The more trust an audience has, the more likely they are to commit.  

Say your organization is looking for a town in which to build its new headquarters. Instead of making the decision internally, your organization holds town halls in every prospective town to involve future customers, employees, and neighbors. These publics will be more satisfied when the headquarters end up in a struggling small town that needs the business rather than a wealthy area cautious of obstructions to their natural landscape. Stakeholders will trust your organization more because they were consulted about a decision that impacts them. After you build your headquarters you not only continue to involve locals but also produce great products that satisfy your customers. Satisfaction is at an all-time high and following Jo’s findings, so is trust. This trust is converting customers into repeat customers. With relationship management and a focus on control mutuality, your organization thrives in its new location.  

In her study, Jo emphasizes public relations as a management function. You shouldn’t just work with the power relations your organization already has with its publics but encourage your organization to involve them in its decision-making. This will create the most strategic relationships possible between your organization and the publics that give it life.  

Jo, S. (2018). In search of a casual model of the organization-public relationship in public relations. 

 Social Behavior and Personality, 46(11). Retrieved from