Social networks, power, and public relations: Tertius Iungens as a cocreational approach to studying relationship networks

Michael L. Kent, Erich J. Sommerfeldt, Adam J. Saffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations

Abstract

One of the most important roles for public relations professionals is building relationships. The fundamental assumption behind the normative relationship-building role of public relations is that relationships among organizations and publics are mutually beneficial. However, some network theories (e.g., structural holes theory) prescribe that maintaining many organizational relationships is inefficient, instead suggesting that organizations should occupy a powerful network position by separating and controlling the flow of information between others. Under such theories, power comes in the form of tertius gaudens (the third who benefits at the expense of others). In this article we argue that such an approach to power in public relations is manipulative and unethical, and offer an alternative approach via the concept of tertius iungens (the third who joins others), which endorses connecting organizations and emphasizes the collective good.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-100
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Relations Review
Volume42
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.

Copyright:
Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Brokerage
  • Ethics
  • Power
  • Public relations
  • Social network analysis
  • Structural hole theory
  • Tertius gaudens
  • Tertius iungens

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