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1 DISTINGUISHING REAL FROM FAKE : DEVE L OPING AND TESTING A THEORETICAL MODEL AND MEASUREMENT SCALE FOR PERCEIVED ORGANIZATIONAL AUTHENTICITY By RAJUL JAIN A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF F LORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2012
2 2012 Rajul Jain
3 To the love of my life, my h usband, Udayan
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I want to recognize some of the people withou t whose help and support I would not have made it through this journey First, I offer my sincerest gratitude to my adviser and doctoral committee chair Dr. Juan Carlos Molleda, who has supported me throughout my doctoral program as a mentor and friend. I attribute the level of my doctoral degree to his encouragement patience, and effort s Without his dedication and care, this dissertation would not have been completed or written. One simply could not wish for a better adviser Together with Dr. Molleda, I want to thank my committee members, Dr. Mary Ann T. Ferguson, Dr. Virginia Maurer, and Dr. Spiro Kiousis, for their guidance and valuable feedback on my dissertation. They taught me a great deal while making significant contributions to this study and he lped me develop as a researcher and teacher. I also want to thank Dr. Debbie M. Treise for helping me in a time of need by serving on my final doctoral defense and also for her support during my graduate program I would like to express my gratitude to Jo dy Hedge, Kimberly Holloway, and Sarah Lee for their unconditional love and support during my time here. They always answered all my questions with a big smile and warm heart. I also want to thank them for the innumerous hugs they gave me when I was stress ed and needed them direly. I am extremely grateful to my family for their unfaltering support. A very special thank you goes to my in laws Rajiv Kumar, Jaishri Rastogi, and Priyam Rastogi for their encouragement and inspiration. I cannot imagine finishing my doctoral studies without their trust and confidence in me. I want to thank my mother in law, Jaishri Rastogi, who was a pillar of strength to me and understood the value of education. Likewise, thank
5 you to my father, Dr. Kamal Kumar Jain, who inspires me with his simplicity and dedic ation and is a role model to me. Of all the people who helped me achieve this goal and get so far, nothing compares to the love and sacrifices that my husband, Udayan Kumar made to ensure that I stayed focused and determine d. He stood by me during my ups and downs and frequent mood fluctuation s He cheered during my achievements and provided a strong shoulder during my disappointments. He miraculously resolved all my problems with his intellect. I am extremely fortunate to h ave such a loving and super smart life companion. A doctoral program is fraught with stress and anxiety, but one get s through it with the help of her friends. I was blessed with some of the most amazing friends I found at UF. I want to thank Maria De Moya for being my best friend co author, and guiding force. She kept me motivated by sharing her experience s and advice, and held her confidence in me. I also want to thank her for all the de stressing trips to the movies, Starbucks, and the mall. Thank you to Joy Rodgers, who made my stay at UF so mu ch easier and happier. I was lucky to have her as a friend and colleague. She listened to my constant complaining with patience and supported me through this process. I want to thank Mo on Hee Cho for taking this jo urney with me that involved qualifying exams, finding a job, and writing the dissertation I looked up to her for inspiration and motivation. Thank you to my friend and co author, Larry Winner for answering my questions regarding statistical analyses semes ter after semester and withstanding my over ambitious research projects. I would also like to thank Juliana Fernandes and Ji Young Kim for being such wonderful friends and sharing my concerns.
6 I want to acknowledge the contribution of my crazy group of Ind ian friends in Gainesville because of whom I did not miss my family and homeland as much. Thank you, Ravneet, Davinder, Nayan, Deepa, Amit, Anniruddha, Atishay, Akhilesh, Riya, Vimal, Pranit, Udita, Pawan, Moutusi, Deepthy and Athira for keeping me amused and entertained. A special thank you goes to Prabha Alias and Appa for being my family here and taking care of me like their daughter. Finally, I would like to extend my sincere st thanks to Xcaret and its marketing and public relations practitioners who t ook the time to talk to me about their work and made this study possible Thank you Iliana Rodrguez, David Eduardo Iturbe Vargas, and Sergio A. Esquinca Avendao for supporting this study giving access to the park for data collection and observation, and their patience and understanding throughout this research And l ast but not the least, I want to thank god for keeping the faith and hopes alive in me and giving me the courage to keep going.
7 T ABLE OF CONTENTS page AC KNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 10 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 12 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 13 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 15 Authenticity: An Emerging Construct in Public Relations ................................ ........ 19 Public Relations Research Agenda for Authenticity ................................ ................ 21 Authenticity: Defining the Multidimensional Construct ................................ ............ 23 Theoretical Framework for Perceived Organizational Authenticity .......................... 26 Methods Employed ................................ ................................ ................................ 28 Organization of the Dissertation ................................ ................................ .............. 31 2 LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ................................ .......................... 33 Multidisciplinary Conceptualization of Authenticity ................................ .................. 34 Historic Origins: The Authentic Self ................................ ................................ ........ 38 Authenticity: Historical Development in Communication Disciplines ....................... 42 Contem porary Conceptualizations in Strategic Communication Studies ................ 44 Public Relations Research Agenda for Authenticity ................................ ................ 51 Authenticit y in Travel and Tourism ................................ ................................ .......... 54 About Xcaret ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 59 Theoretical Framework for Perceived Organizational Authenticity .......................... 61 Organizational Identity ................................ ................................ ...................... 65 Organizational Reputation ................................ ................................ ................ 68 Relational Outcomes of Per ceived Organizational Authenticity ........................ 72 Research Questions and Hypotheses ................................ ................................ ..... 75 3 METHODS ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 77 Focus Groups ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 80 In depth Interviews ................................ ................................ ................................ 81 Face to face Intercept Surveys ................................ ................................ ............... 82 Populations and Samples ................................ ................................ ....................... 83 Focus Group and In depth Interviews with Marketing and Public Relations Practitioners ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 83 In depth Interviews with International Visitors ................................ .................. 84
8 Face to face Intercept Survey with Visitors ................................ ...................... 85 Construct ion of the Instruments ................................ ................................ .............. 85 Instrument for Focus Group and In depth Interviews with Marketing and Public Relations Practitioners ................................ ................................ ........ 85 Instrument for In depth Interviews with International Visitors ........................... 86 Instrument for Face to face Intercept Survey with Visitors ............................... 87 Pretest of Survey Instrument ................................ ................................ .................. 92 Data Gathering Protocols ................................ ................................ ........................ 93 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 94 Trustworthiness of Qualitative Data ................................ ................................ ........ 97 4 FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 98 Qualitative Findings ................................ ................................ ................................ 98 Focus Group and In depth Interviews with Marketing and Public Relations Practitioners ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 98 History and heritage of Xcaret ................................ ................................ .... 99 ................................ ................................ ...... 99 Communication practitioners as storytellers ................................ ............. 101 ................................ ................................ ........ 102 Communication practitioners as ambassadors of Xcaret ......................... 103 ................................ ................................ ......... 104 Integrating public relations with core business ................................ ......... 105 Personal involvement and identification ................................ ................... 105 ................................ ................................ ......... 106 Interviews with International Visitors ................................ .............................. 107 Xcaret: An authentic representation of Mexico ................................ ......... 107 Authentic cultural experience not a travel motive ................................ ..... 108 ................................ ...................... 109 Perceptions about Mexico ................................ ................................ ........ 111 More satisfaction, less commitment ................................ ......................... 111 ................................ ................................ ......... 111 Quantitative Findings ................................ ................................ ............................ 112 Face to Face Intercept Survey with Visitors ................................ ................... 112 Sample description ................................ ................................ .................. 1 12 Dimensions of perceived organizational authenticity ............................... 114 Dimensions of relational outcomes ................................ .......................... 117 Identity and reputation ................................ ................................ ............. 118 Perceived organizational authenticity, identity, and reputation ................. 119 Perceived organizational authenticity and relational outcomes ................ 121 Relationship between identity, reputation, perceived authenticity, and relational outcomes ................................ ................................ ............... 124 ........... 126 Perceived organizational authenticity and visit characteristics ................. 129 Perceived organizational authenticity and sources of information ............ 130 Internal Consistency of Scales ................................ ................................ ....... 131
9 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ...... 132 Key Research Findings ................................ ................................ ......................... 133 Qualitative Findings ................................ ................................ ........................ 133 Focus group and in depth interviews with marketing and public relations practitioners ................................ ................................ .......................... 133 Interviews with international visitors ................................ ......................... 137 Quantitative Findings ................................ ................................ ...................... 140 Implications for Public Relations Theory ................................ ............................... 148 Implications for International Public Relations Theory and Research ................... 150 Implications for Public Relations Practice ................................ ............................. 151 Be st Practices in Constructing and Communicating Organizational Authenticity .. 152 Limitations of the Study ................................ ................................ ......................... 154 Avenues for Future R esearch ................................ ................................ ............... 156 APPENDIX A FOCUS GROUP INFORMED CONSENT FORM ................................ ................. 159 B INTERVIEW INFORMED CONSENT FORM ................................ ........................ 160 C SURVEY INFORMED CONSENT FORM ................................ ............................. 161 D FOCUS GROUP INSTRUMENT ................................ ................................ ........... 162 E INTERVIEW INSTRUMENT ................................ ................................ ................. 163 F SURVEY INSTRUMENT ................................ ................................ ....................... 164 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 166 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETC H ................................ ................................ .......................... 180
10 LIST OF TABLES Table page 2 1 Genres of perceived authenticity ................................ ................................ ........ 59 2 2 Conceptu alization of constructs in the Perceived Organizational Authenticity (POA) model ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 75 3 1 Agenda for focus group and in depth interviews with marketing and public relations practitioners ................................ ................................ ......................... 86 3 2 Agenda for interviews with international visitors ................................ ................. 87 3 3 Survey instrument (Part I) ................................ ................................ ................... 89 3 4 Survey instrument (Part II) ................................ ................................ .................. 90 3 5 Survey instrument (Part III) ................................ ................................ ................. 90 3 6 Survey instrument (Part IV) ................................ ................................ ................ 91 3 7 Survey instrument (Part V) ................................ ................................ ................. 92 3 8 Revised survey instrument (Part IV) ................................ ................................ ... 93 4 1 Profile of survey participants ................................ ................................ ............ 113 4 2 Dimensions of perceived organizational authenticity: Factor loadings, eigenvalues, and percentages of variance explained using Principa l Axis Factor analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ 116 4 3 Dimensions of relational outcomes: Factor loadings, eigenvalues, and percentages of variance explained using Principal Axis Factor analysis .......... 117 4 4 Means and standard deviation of items on identity and reputation scales ........ 119 4 5 Correlation between identity, reputation, and perceived organ izational authenticity and its dimensions ................................ ................................ ......... 119 4 6 Correlation between relational outcomes and perceived organizational authenticity ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 121 4 7 Multiple regression analysis associating relational outcomes dimensions to perceived authenticity dimensions and its individual items ............................... 123 4 8 Maximum Likelihood Estimates of struct ural paths for model with relational outcomes ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 125
11 4 9 Maximum Likelihood Estimates of structural paths for model with trust, satisfaction, and commitment ................................ ................................ ........... 126 4 10 authenticity items ................................ ................................ .............................. 128 4 11 Means of responses from participants who had visited Xcaret before and ................................ ................................ .............................. 130 4 12 Scale reliability ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 131 5 1 Summary of qualitative findings ................................ ................................ ........ 133 5 2 Summary of quantitative findings ................................ ................................ ...... 141
12 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1 The Perceived Organizational Authentici ty (POA) model ................................ ... 65 3 1 Methods used in the study ................................ ................................ .................. 79 3 2 Path model identifying linkages between identity, reputation, perceived o rganizational authenticity, and relational outcomes ................................ .......... 96 4 1 The path analysis showing associations between identity, reputation, perceived organizational authenticity, and relational outcomes ........................ 125 4 2 The path analysis showing associations between identity, reputation, perceived organizational authenticity, and dimensions of relational outcomes 126
13 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy DISTINGUISHING REAL FROM FAKE : DEVELOPING AND TESTING A THEORETICAL MO DEL AND MEASUREMENT SCALE FOR PERCEIVED ORGANIZATIONAL AUTHENTICITY By Rajul Jain August 2012 Chair: Juan Carlos Molleda Major: Mass Communications This study further conceptualized and operationally defined the construct of perceived organizational aut henticity and its dimensions by developing and testing a theoretical framework that identifies its causal linkages with organizational identity, reputation, and relational outcomes. In addition, the study developed and empirically examined an improved meas urement scale for perceived organizational authenticity that is more parsimonious and has higher internal consistency than the index that Molleda and Jain (2011) proposed and tested. Using a triangulation of qualitative an d quantitative research methods, seven research questions and 11 hypotheses were investigated regarding the relationship between perceived organizational authenticity, identity, reputation, and relational outcomes. Focus group and in depth interviews were conducted with 11 marketing and p ublic relations practitioners of Xcaret (esh caret), a cultural and eco archeological theme park in Riviera Maya, Mexico, to understand their roles and responsibilities in the construction, execution, and promotion of identity, authenticity, and reputation of the park and its main special events Face to face intercept survey with 545 visitors and
14 interviews with 16 international visitors of Xcaret were analyzed to understand the dimensions of perceived organizational authenticity and test the proposed theo retical model and measurement scale. Variations in perceived authenticity in relation to demographics, visit specific characteristics, and the type of sources that visitors used to obtain information about Xcaret were also examined. T heoretical and practic al implications, limitations, and avenues for future research are discussed
15 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION This is a challenging time for organizations. Every day more, they are faced with increased scrutiny from government, consumers and other key publics. In these times, organizations struggle to find a way to communicate their value and trustworthiness to these publics (Debreceny, 2010 ; Elvin, 2011 ). Reflecting upon these struggles and challenges, Richard Edelman President and CEO of Edelman public relation s agency, argued that our world has transformed from complicated to complex, where interactions and patterns in communication change constantly bringing unexpected and unforeseen H e further explained that a co mplex world is fraught with skepticism and distrust where people believe nothing. In this age of complexity, authenticity is projected as a powerful con struct that has the potential to ( trust. Judging by the growing body of knowledge on t communicate their authenticity has the potential of gaining the organizations the trust they so desire (Debreceny, 2010; Henderson & Edwards, 2010; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011). Recently authenticity h as become an important construct for organizations across countries and industries. As a recent The New York Times article politicians, celebrities, Web gurus, college (Rosenbloom, 2011, 6). The construct has been loosely used to define places, persons, objects, and even feelings and experiences (Debreceny, 2010). In scholarly research, authenticity is often described as
16 2007; Henderson & Edwards, 2010; Molleda 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011; Watson, 2011). In relation to organizations, scholars have suggested that consistency in organizational claims, actions, and behavior fosters perceptions of authenticity (Edwards, 2010; Molleda 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain 2011; Watson, 2011). Along these lines, Molleda and Jain (2011) defined the construct as degree to which stakeholders believe that a n organization is acting in accordance to it s identity, values, The construct has also gained attention of politicians, practitioners and industry leaders. For instanc e, it was used over 11,000 times in just one month during the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign (Debreceny, 2010). Also, the Time magazine projected authenticity as one of the top 10 ideas that are changing the world (Sachs, 2008). Similarly, public relations professionals and industry leaders called authenticity one of th e top three issues facing the profession in 2009 2010, as a Public Relations Society of ed The recent interest in the construct could be attributed to the fast evolving and tr ansforming environment in which organizations today operate. The current economy is a from goods and services, to brands and people (Gilmore & Pine, 2007). In the global expe rience economy, attention has become the most valuable commodity where organizations and competing voices are vying to attract stakeholders by creating memorable, authentic experiences (Molleda & Jain, 2012). In their H arvard Business Review article, We lco me to the experience economy Pine and Gilmore (1998) argued that we are in an era where experiences are a key economic offering that organizations
17 are actively designing and promoting in an attempt to look authentic. An experience economy, explained Pine and Gilmore, is all about rendering authentic experiences. Public relations and strategic communication practitioners often strive to render such authentic experiences by developing opportunities for public and media to directly observe and evaluate an org anization and its offerings, communication claims and promises and values (e.g. familiarization tours for the news media, trade shows, special events, people centric corporate videos etc). The global experience economy coupled with the emergent media tech nology that has empowered multip le voices in the public sphere be t hose supporters or adversaries has led to public skepticism, and has eroded confidence in major institutions (Debreceny, 2010; Henderson & Edwards, 2010). In fact, the most recent findin gs of the Edelman Trust Barometer show ed that trust in the government, businesses, NGOs, and media has declined in the United States and several other financial crisis and corporate scandals, which have made stakeholders wary of org anizational claims and promises In these times with such far reaching changes in the social, political, economic, and even communication environment, stakeholders are looking to differentiat e between fake and real, contrived and genuine, phony and original, or in other words, inauthentic and authentic (Debreceny, 2010; Henderson & Edwards, 2010). As a Forbes business, companies and lead ers will have to show authenticity, fairness, transparency
18 This poses unique ch allenges for organizations attempti ng to render and communicate their authenticity Today, organizations can no longer control how they wish to be perceived solely by managing their message systems (Debreceny, 2010). An d to the extent that its actions and decisions have a global imp act on how stakeholders identify it. Organizations are constantly being challenged to engage with a broader range of empowered stakeholders who are more technologically sophisticated and skill ed (Debreceny, 2010). In such a demanding environment, public relations and strategic communication professionals have a key role to play in helping organizations to articulate their coherent identities an d, therefore, be perceived as real, trustworthy, cr edible, and honest or in sum authentic (Molleda, 2010a, 2010b). Emphasizing the potential of the construct, Cook (2007) stated that authenticit y is one of the top future constructs to better understand the issues facing communication professionals and t heir clients. Additionally, he emphasized the role that public relations practitioners can have in influencing perceptions of authenticity. While writing in The Strategist he argued: about authentic people. PR [and strategic communication] professionals are the companies and clients, and to tell those stories to the world in words that will truly be heard (p. 33) In sum, practitioners and scholars recommended that a uthenticity should become central to the field of public relations because we are increasingly being entrusted with the responsibility to discover, develop, and communicate the authenticity of the o rganizations that we represent by incorporating genuineness and truth at the core of meaning making process that we, as encoders and interpreters of meaning, actively
19 engage with. The significan ce of the construct is gradually being recognized in the field of public relations as described in the next section Authenticity: An Emerging Construct in Public Relations Discussions around the meanings and dimensions of authenticity are becoming prominent within both the academic (Edwards, 2010; Gilmore & Pine, 2007; Jain & De Moya 2011; Molleda & Roberts, 2008; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011; thenticity has peaked interest of public relations and strategic communication professionals as evident Authentic Enterprise report issued in 2007, the International Communication Association (ICA) conference panel held in Chicago in May 2009, and the special edition issued by the Journal of Communication Management in 2010 discussing authenticity as one of the most promising con structs in contemporary public relations. A number of public relations practitioners and scholar s have argued that authenticity contains the promise of a unifying construct that can bring value to the ; Molleda & 2009; Ragas & Roberts, 2009). Further, industry leaders explained that a uthenticity has the potential to demonstrate how public relations adds value to organiza tions by building trust and loyalty with key stakeholders (Edwards, 2010). As Aedhmar Hynes (2009) CEO of Text
20 and distinctiveness that can elevate a brand, bridgin g the trust gap in ways that ( 2 ). There is an increasingly important call for public relations and strategic communication practitioners to take a leading role in communicating organizational Authentic Enterprise (2007) report indicated the significance of the construct for senior executives and practitioners: The people a business needs to attract today as employees, clients or partners will not accept old fashioned, hierarchical cultures and proof of authenticity (p. 27, italics in original) However, what is an authentic idea, cause, product, or service, and how organizations can render authentic ity are questions th at the field of strategic communication and, specifically, public relations still needs to further address. While public relations scholars and practitioners believe that organizations need to invest in authenticity in order to be accepted and trusted by t heir key stakeholders (Debreceny, 2010; Edwards, 2010; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Watson, 2010), there have been only a few attempts to operationalize this multidimensional construct that could guide organizations in developing, communicating, and evaluating t heir authenticity (e.g. Molleda 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011). Emphasizing the need to conduct more research examining authenticity, Molleda (2010b) argued, a uthenticity should become central to the study and practice of public relations and commun ication management and their specialized functions because organizations are progressively being pressured by stakeholders demanding greater Further, Taylor and Kent (2002) explained to build community relations requires commitment to
21 conversations and relationships, genuineness and authenticity all strengths in ethical As these discussions demonstrate the construct has captured the attention of public relations and strategic communication scholars and practitioners, and is seen as a key factor in develop ing strong identities and subsequently, desired reputations (Molleda & Jain, 2011) Public Relations Research Agenda for Authenticity Authenticity cap tured the interest of communication scholars as early as 1990s when Hardt (1993) presented the evolution of discussions of authenticity from a critical theory perspective. Since then, the construct has continued to attract attention of scholars in various communication disciplines such as marketing, advertising, and most recently, public relations (Beverland, Lindgreen, & Vink, 2008; Camilleri, 2008; Fine, 2003; Gilmore & Pine, 2007; Jain & De Moya, 2011; McLeod, 1999; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011; Zickmund, 2007). However, the public relations research agenda for authenticity is only gradually developing. Realizing the potential and relevance of organizational authenticity, a few public relations scholars explor ed the multidimensional constr uct by examining how organizations make authenticity claims in their public relations programs. For instance Molleda and Roberts (2008) assessed the authenticity of a public relations campaign sponsored by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colo mbia that used Juan Valdez, a famous fictional coffee grower, as brand ambassador to enhance the campaign. Similarly, Ragas and Roberts (2009) found in their study of C hipotle Mexican
22 personality dimensions, is closely associated with perceived organizational authenticity. Additionally, Jain and De Moya (2011) studied how tourism promo ters for Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic make authenticity claims about their destinations by emphasiz ing their originality and natural ap peal through web communication. Additionally, Molleda and Jain (2011) examined the perceived authenticity of a s pecial event by developing and testing a measurement index for the construct. The scholars who examined and studied authenticity argue d that it is a valuable construct for public relations to demonstrate its unique contribution in enhancing organization pu blic trust, loyalty, and relationship s (Edwards, 2011; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011). Molleda and Jain (2011) explained that a uthenticity is a dynamic construct that evolv es with organization public communication and on going negotiation of meanings between the creator and consumer of org anizational claims and promises. Further, p ublic relations can foster this exchange of meanin gs by telling authentic stories, embedded in Y et, as these a uthors suggested, authenticity has not been explored to its true potential in public relations research and remains a relatively untapped area in need of further conceptualiz ation Molleda and Jain (2011) argued that there is a need for the further develop ment of appro aches to evaluate and empirically examine authenticity of organizations as evaluated by their myriad stakeholders. With the exception of the aforementioned research, the construct of authenticity lacks theory building studies and empirical sup port in the context of public relations. A limited theoretical understanding of what is meant by authenticity and how it can be measured is notable in contemporary public relations literature. T he combined interest
23 in the construct its increasing use in t he field and its lack of development and operationalization imply that more research should be conducted to contribute to the theoretical and empirical understanding of authenticity Therefore, this dissertation aims to build a more comprehensive and mult idisciplinary theoretical framework for authenticity as it applies to public relations and communication management, by drawing from the multidisciplinary review of the academic literature in psychology, organizational behavior, authentic leadership, manag ement, and communication. Such multidisciplinary theoretical perspective is essential because public relations has reached a stage in which complex constructs and issues facing organizations and societies are best addressed with knowledge produced by a var iety of disciplines interested in the same phenomenon. With this aim, the purpose of this dissertation is three fold: (1) t o further conceptualize and operationally define the construct of perceived o rganizational authenticity by developing its theoretical framework ; (2) t o de velop and test a theory based measurement scale for perceived o rganizational authenticity ; and (3) to identify relevant construct outcomes emerging from the perception of an authentic experience. According to Shoemaker, Tankard, and La sorsa (2004), theory building is an important exercise in accumulating knowledge in a discipline and it starts by articulating constructs and their measurement. Therefore, w hat follows next is a discussion of how authenticity has been defined in the past, and how it is operationally defined for the purpose of this study. Authenticity: Defining the Multidimensional Construct According to the Oxford English Dictionary, authentic refers to someone or ing in accordance with fact, or
24 therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief ; [h]aving claimed and verifiable origin or In scholarly literature, the earliest discussions about authenticity could be found in philosophy and social psychology, where i t was described using the proverb own self be true in relation to authentic individuals who are transparent to others about who they are in their actions, behavior, and thoughts (Harter, 2002). Reflecting on its philosophical foundations From a marketing and advertising perspective, Fine (2003) described authenticity i moral authority of the creator and simultaneously to the fact that the object was made by hand, not me consumer marketing perspective, Gilmore and Pine (2007) argued that authenticity is a experiential economy where goods and services have become commodities Using the five economic offerings (i. e. commodities, goods, services, experiences, and transformations) as reference, the authors explained that people tend to perceive as authentic that which exists in its natural form, is not artificial or synthetic; is original in design and not an imitati on or copy; is executed exceptionally and extraordinarily well; refers or draws from heritage or history; and inspires people to a higher goal.
25 Authenticity has also been extensively examined in organizational leadership literature. From a l eadership persp ective, Walumbwa Wang, Wang, Schaubroech, and Avolio (2010) explained that authenticity : represents the extent to which a leader is aware of and exhibits pattern of openness and clarity in his/her behavior toward others by sharing the information needed t o make decisions, accepting others' inputs, and disclosing his/her personal values, motives, and sentiments in a manner that enables followers to more accurately assess the competence and m orality of the leader's actions. (p. 901) From a public relations p erspective, Molleda and Jain (2011) described a multidimensional construct that is theoretically defined as an experience and perception that is co created by the organization and its stakeholders as an ongoing negotiation of meaning and u nderstanding In this sense, authenticity and behavior (Trilling, 1972) and hence could determine the quality of organization public relationships (Molleda, 20 10a, 2010b). Additionally, much like reputation, trust, and relationships, while it is challenging to measure organizational authenticity, it can be evaluated degree to which stakeholders believe that an organization is acting in accordance to it s Applying this ration ale, Molleda (2010a, 2010b) proposed a preliminary index of perceived authenticity could be evaluated. The purpose of the index is to measure the effectiveness of public relations efforts, techniques, and message system by evaluating the perceived authenticity of organizations, including its actions, operations, products, services, and corporate spokespeople in the mind of internal or external stakeholders. Recently, Molleda and Jain (2011) expanded the conceptualization of authenticity and
26 tested this index in their study involving the public relations efforts to promote a s[ecial even hosted by a private cultural an d eco archeological park in Riviera Maya, Mexico. The authors found that perceived authenticity is a multidimensional construct with two dimensions: overall experience with an organization, its products, servic es, and public relations claims; and active engagement of organizational publics with the organization and its offerings. Following these multidisciplinary conceptualizations and definitions of authenticity this study develop ed a theoretical framework for perceived orga nizationa l authenticity and used it to develop an operational definition of the construct grounded in the proposed theoretical conceptualization. Previous attempts at developing a measurement of authenticity by Molleda (2010b) and Molleda and Jain (2011) were used to guid e the development of a perceived organizational authenticity scale. The study then employed qualitative and qu antitative research methods to test the proposed perceived organizational authenticity (POA) model and measurement scale Theoretical Fram ework for Perceived Organizational Authenticity T he review of scholarly discussi ons about authenticity suggested that a theoretical framework of authenticity should place it in the broader context of organiza tional identity and reputation. Therefore, the p roposed perceived organizational authenticity (POA) model identifies the causal linkages between identity, reputation, perceived organizational authenticity, and relational outcomes. It is understood that an authentic organization is true to its values, mi ssion, purpose, and value proposition (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Ladkin & Taylor, 2010; M olleda, 2010a, 2010b; Walumbwa et al. 2010; Wong & Cummins, 2009). In other words, we know that authentic organizations must s it why it exists, what it stands for and
27 what diff erentiates it in a marketplace values, principles, beliefs, mission, purpose or value proposition In this sense, organizations have to be aware of their identity and reputation, should actively co mmunicate it to their myriad stakeholders, who then form a perception claims of authenticity. Authenticity is considered an integral part of or ganizational reputation (Fombrun & Van Riel, 2004) and is seen as firmly ingrained in an Scholars have suggested that an organization can por tray itself as authentic by being transparent, sharing periodic and accurate information with its publics, engaging them in a dialogue by soliciting their feedback, and disclosing its perso nal values, motives, and belief s in a manner that enable publics to more accurate ly assess its iden tity and integrity of its actions (Debreceny, 2010; Gilmore & Pine, 2007). Therefore, this study examine d perceived organizational authenticity within the framework of organizational identity and re putation. The study began the exploration of perceived organizational authenticity with an examination of organizational claims and efforts to form an identity and reputation communicated to the stakeholders via various channels. It then examine d how stakeholders evaluate d these c laims in conjunction with organizational identity and reputation to form opinions about organizational authenticity. Further, d iscussions about authenticity in academic and trade publications emphasize d that authentic organizations are perceived as trustwo rthy, credible legitima te and honest (Edwards, 2010; Molleda 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011;
28 Watson, 2011). In particular, Molleda (2010a, 2010b) argued that perceive authenticity could be a factor influencing the quality of org anization public relat ionships. Further, Molleda and Jain (2011) recommended that future studies should examine the impact of perceived authenticity on organization public relationship outcomes. Therefore, this study conceptualize d and examine d the causal linkage between percei ved organizational authenticity and relational outcomes. Grounded in the proposed perceive authenticity model (POA) this study operationally defined the construct as a function of the degree to which stakeholders perceive an organization, its offerings and communication claims to be consistent with its identity and reputation, which ultimately affects their trust, satisfaction, and commitment with the organization. Methods Employed This is a triangulation study that used qualitative and quantitative rese arch methods to examine the research questions and test proposed hypothes e s. Specifically, this study use d three research methods focus group, in depth interviews, and face to face in tercept survey to investigate it s research questions and hypotheses Scholars recommend ed that integrating qualitative and quantitative research approaches in social scientific inquiry draws from the respective strengths of both of these paradigms while minimizes their weaknesses in a single study (Creswell, 2009; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). Triangulation is a type of mixed methods approach that can be used to integrate qualitative and quantitative research approaches in various ways (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Triangulation de sign is a spec ial form of mixed methods research, where the researcher gathers both qualitative and quantitative data concurrently and
29 then compares the two databases to determine if there is convergence, difference, or some combination, also known as cross validation, or corroboration (Creswell, 2009; Greene, Caracelli, & Graham, 1989; Morgan, 1998). Morse (2003) explained that such comparison and combination of the results obtained from qualitative and quantitative means of inquiry provide a more comprehensive picture of the results than either study could provide alone. Further, the authors described that there are two ways in which triangulation can be achieved: sequential and simultaneous. In sequential triangulation, two separate projects are conducted in order whe re the results of the first inform the nature of the second project. On the other hand, simultaneous triangulation compares and contrasts the data obtained from two projects conducted at the same time. Grounded in a quantitative dominant approach, t his st udy applied simultaneous triangulation to compare, contrast, and corroborate the data obtained from quantitative surveys with that gathered using qualitative interviews, to further our understanding about perceived organizational authenticity and it dimens ions, its relationship with organizational identity and reputation, and its influence on organization public relational outcomes. Further, qualitative findings were used to explain the results of the quantitative survey, an application of triangulation app roach that scholars have recommended (Creswell, 2009; Greene, Caracelli, & Graham, 1989; Morgan, 1998). The data was collected at a cultural and eco archeological theme park, Xcaret, located in Riviera Maya, Mexico. ity is perceptions of authenticity after carefully evaluating the authenticity claims and offerings
30 made by the organization through its actions, operations, and public rel ations efforts, including special events and other opportunities for target publics to directly experience the organization and its offerings. Further, tourism at tractions and theme parks contain the landscaping, buildings, and attractions that are based on one or more specific or central themes; elements that are identified as components of authenticity i n academic literature (for e.g. Gilmore & Pine, 2007; MacCannell, 1973, 1976; Wang, 1999). In other words, these are places where the organization can c reate the context and opportunities for interaction and According to MacCannell (1973), the motivation behind tourism visits is a quest for authentic experiences; tourists visit pl aces that they believe have social, historical, and cultural importance. Authentic tourism experiences, as MacCannell (1973) explained, provide tourists with an opportunity to participate or at least witness the real life of the places visited. Along simil ar lines, Gilmore and Pine (2007) explained that theme parks and tourist destinations such as Disneyland are places where authentic experiences are created. Recently, Molleda and Jain (2011) developed and tested a proposed authenticity index in their study involving the public relations and strategic communication efforts of a private cultural and eco archeological park in the Mayan Riviera of Mexico. Therefore this study used Xcaret as the context for data collection to empirically examine the proposed p erceived organizational authenticity (POA) model and measurement scale. A focus group and in depth interviews we re conducted with marketing and public relatio ns practitioners to examine their involvement and
31 mot ivation with the construction, exe cu identity, authenticity, and reputation. Further, i n depth interviews and a face to face intercept survey with used to investigate their tourism experiences in the park, motivation of th eir visit, as well as their relationship with Xcaret. For the purpose of data analysis, a variety of statistical tests were employed To analyze the proposed perceived organizational authenticity (POA) model multiple linear regressions and path analysis with the maximum likelihood (ML) estimation method were used The internal consistenc y of the scale s was assessed using a Cronbach a lpha reliability test. T tests, ANOVA and correlations analysis we re also used towards exploring the research questions and the corresponding hypotheses regarding the variations in perceived organizational authenticity with demographics (i.e. age, gender, and country of origin), visit characteristics, and sources of information about Xcaret. Organization of the Dissertation Th is dissertation is organized into five chapters. The second chapter presents a multidisciplinary review of pertinent literature from various fields of study including mass and human communication, social psychol ogy, organizational leadership, business and management public relations and related strategic communication disciplines. This review incorporates the origins of authenticity as well as its historic and contemporary conceptualizations. In addition, the perceived organizational authenticity (POA) mo del and its elements are explained in this chapter, followed by the research questions and hypotheses that this study examined. The third chapter describes the methods used in this study while providing specific details regarding sampling, data collection instrument construction, and data analysis procedures that this study use d. The fourth chapter details the research findings of
32 focus group in depth interviews, and face to face intercept survey used for data collection in this study Finally, chapter f ive explains the key research findings and their theoretical interpretation, followed by the theoretical and practical implications of this study, its limitations, and avenue s for future research
33 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Much like reputation and tran sparency, authenticity is an important construct for the development of organizational identities and perceptions (Debreceny, 2010; Henderson & Edwards, 2010; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011). The Oxford English Dictionary defined authentic as to acceptance or belief, as being in accordance with fact, or as stating fact; reliable, The American Heritage Dictionary [c]onforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief; [h]aving claimed and verifiable origin or authorship; [n]ot According to Edwards (2010), authenticity is an im portant construct for organizations and notion of authenticity: of organization, of products, of services, and in relationships with Scholars suggested that authenti city is a multidimensional olleda, 2010a, 2010b; Walumbwa et al., 2010; Wong & Cummins, 2009); qualities that organizations need to embrace and communicate effectively. However, the term has been am biguously defined and applied in stra tegic communication disciplines including public relations, marketing, and advertising. Therefore, this stud y began its discussion about authenticity by first presenting its various conceptualizations in the e xisting literature from disciplines including mass and human communication, marketing and advertising, social psychology, philosophy,
34 organizational leader ship and management, and public relations It then traced its development in various fields of study and contemporary approaches used to examine the construct. Multidisciplinary Conceptualization of Authenticity This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man ( Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78 82 ). Hamlet is one of the underlying tenets of authenticity. The earliest discussions of the cons truct could be found in ph ilosophy and social psychology, where i t was described using the proverb own self be true in relation to authentic individuals who are transparent to others about who they are in their actions, behavior, and thoughts ( Harter, 2002). Reflecting on its philosophical treatises, authenticity has been u sed as the notion of correspondence and genesis. The perspective of an authentic individual can be extended to organizations, which by the virtue of transparent and honest communication with their stakeholders could be perceived as authentic. From a mass m edia perspective, to formal Analyzing stock photography as mass cultural production the author pointed out that using a generic formula, product uniformity, and the supremacy of commercial imperatives erode perceptions of authent icity in stock photography Applying to organizations
35 might suggest that people are skeptical of repetitive and shallow organizational promises that give way to inauthenticity and distrust. From a marketing and advertising perspective, Beverl and (2005) examined the authenticity of luxury wines and defined the construct (production, distribution and marketing) and rhetorical attributes to project sincerity through the avowal of commitments to traditions (inc luding production methods, product styling, firm values, and/or location), passion for craft and production excellence, and the public disavowal of the role of modern industrial attributes and commercial Along similar lines, Fine ( 2003) described authenticity as the authority of the creator and simultaneously to the fact that the object was made by Th ese definitions of authenticity again point out that people will not accept unsubstantiated corporate promises about being authentic unless they are granted legitimacy through actions and behavior. These arguments are further supported by Molleda (2010a), who argued that a uthenticity is built around the notion that communication plans, programs, or campaigns cannot achieve it unless the underlying object, person, or organization in its true essence represents an authentic being by manifesting its true ident ity in its actions, decisions, and philosophy of living up to its own and Examining the construct from a consumer marketing perspective, Gilmore and Pine (2007) argued that authenticity is a source of differentiation for or ganizations to experiential economy where goods and services have
36 become commodities Referring to the five economic offerings (i.e. commodities, goods, services, experiences and transformations ) the authors explained tha t people tend to perceive as authentic that which exists in its natural form, is not artificial or synthetic; is original in design and not an imitation or copy; is executed exceptionally and extraordinarily well; refers or draws from heritage or history; and inspires people to a higher goal. Authenticity has also been extensively examined in organizational leadership literature. From a leadership perspective, Walumbwa et al. (2010) explained that authenticity represents the extent to which a leader is awar e of and exhibits pattern of openness and clarity in his/her behavior toward others by sharing the information needed to make decisions, accepting others' inputs, and disclosing his/her personal values, motives, and sentiments in a manner that enables foll owers to more accurately assess the competence and mo rality of the leader's actions. (p. 901) Similarly, a business and economics scholar, Morgan (2009) explained that consistency in actions, motivations, and intentions foster perceptions of authenticity: We believe people are authentic when they are open with us in a sense that feels real. It has to do with transparency of motive and intention. We believe people are authentic when we know what makes them tick because r it out. And it has to do with consistency of action. We believe that people are authentic when they keep the same agenda for a substantial period of time. (p. 10) These perspectives about authentic leader s and individuals could be extended to the context of organizational authenticity. It can be argued that an organization can portray itself as authentic by sharing periodic and accurate information with its publics, engaging them in a dialogue by soliciting their feedback, and disclosing its personal valu es, motives, and beliefs in a manner that enable publics to more accurately assess
37 (2007), authentic communication entails expressing the true values and traditions of a n organization or brand with consumers or audiences they engage. From a public relations perspective, Molleda and Jain (2011) described as a multidimensional construct that is theoretically defined as an experience and perception that is c o created by the organization and its stakeholders as an ongoing negotiation of meaning and understanding In this sense, authenticity and behavior (Trilling, 1972) and hence could determine the quality of organization public relationships (Molleda, 2010a, 2010b). Additionally, much like reputation, trust, and relationships, while it is challenging to measure organizational authenticity, it can be evaluated by t degree to which stakeholders believe that an organization is acting in accordance to it Applying this ration ale, Molleda (2010a, 2010b) proposed a preliminary index of authenticity, which i perceived authenticity could be evaluated. The purpose of the index is to measure the effectiveness of public relations efforts, techniques, and message system by evaluating the perceived authen ticity of organizations, including its actions, operations, products, services, and corporate spokespeople in the mind of internal or external stakeholders. Recently, Molleda and Jain (2011) expanded the conceptualization of authenticity and tested this in dex in their study involving the public relations efforts of a private cultural and eco archeological park in the Mayan Riviera of Mexico. The authors found that overall experience with an organization, its products, services, and public relations
38 claims, and active engagement of organizational publics are two dimensions that describe this multidimensional construct. Further from a leadership perspective, Walumbwa et al. (2010) identified four egree is the leader aw are of his or her strengths, limitation, how others see him to her and how the leader impacts with others that provides them with an opportunity to be forthcoming with their ideas, does the leader solicit sufficient opinions and view points prior to making important dimensions could be used to further conceptualize authenticity and develop a better theoretical under standing of this construct in public relat ions and communication management context s Grounded in these multidisciplinary conceptualizations and definitions this study develop ed and test ed a theoretical model and measurement scale for perceived organizational authenticity To gain insights and f urther develop understanding of this multidimensional construct, the historic origins and evolution o f authenticity in philosophy, psychology, and strategic communication was examined, as discussed in the next section s Historic Origins: The Authentic Self Historically, authenticity has its roots in Greek philosophy where it was described Personal authenticity and authentic self behavior has ever since been a topic of inte rest
39 in psychology and social psychological literature that defined the construct of authenticity by considering its opposite, namely, lack of authenticity or false self behavior, deceit, secrecy, imposter tendencies, and deception (Harter, 2002). In this regards, words commonly used in texts in contrast to authenticity include d fabricating, withholding, concealing, distorting, artificial, hypocrite, fake, fraud, phony, manipulative, and dishonest (Erickson, 1995; Gilmore & Pine, 20 07; Harter, 2002; Trillin g, 1972 ). From a social psychological perspective, Harter (2002) explained that the doctrine elf be expressing oneself in ways consistent with inner thoughts and feelings. Both in the periods of modernism and post modernism marked by various scientific and techno logical advances, authenticity gained popularity among philosophers such as became paramou nt in this era as observed by Goffman (1959), who in his book, The presentation of self in everyday life described that societal forces pressurize individuals to pretend and manipulative motives compete with their desires to b e sincere and genuine. Furthe r, philosophers pointed out the needs of others that we are competent, likable, moral, or worthy of respect, motives designed not only to protect and promote the self but also to curry favor, obtain social currency or power,
40 From a humanistic psychological perspective, Carl Rogers (1959, 1963) and Maslow (1968, 1971) also wrote about the authentic self in terms of fully functioning persons who are fully aware of them selves in acting according to their true nature and are able to clearly and accurately see themselves irrespective of the social expectations. Similarly, Heidegger ( cited in Harter, 2002 ) in his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "questio authenticity is to separate one self from others by not surrendering to the influences and powers that manage everyday life. However, these beliefs about the authentic self isolated from social contexts were challenged in the post modern period. Post modern scholars and philosophers began to reflect on the possibility of different beh aviors across social contexts under demands for multiple relationships that redefined the self and its authenticity (Gergen, 1991). In th e increasingly complex society, there was a greater need to adapt to the d iverse roles that individuals ca me to play, and the variety of relationships that they forged as members of the society. However, it was believed that acting differently in different relational contexts d id not necessarily imply false self behavior or inauthentic ity (Harter, 2002). In fact, role theories supported the notion of behaving differently in different relationships and across social contexts as deemed appropriate to each rel ationship and context (Johnson & Boyd, 1995). Supporting this view of the authentic self in accordance to the social expectations, another popular description of authenticity was presented by Trilling (1972) in relation to sincerity. In his book Sinc erit y and A uthenticity
41 play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Trilling observed that there is sometimes a dichotomy between own st exists with another self which is less good in the public moral way but which, by very reason of its implied that sincerity is the across social contexts is aligned with the reality experienced by the self. In this manner, Trilling observed an interaction between own self and the best self, while sincerity being the moral crit (Avolio & Gardner, 2005, p. 320). These perspectives from psychology provide the intellectual he ritage for thinking about authenticity and are useful in developing our conceptual understanding of organizational authenticity. At its most basic level, organizations could be conceived as individuals with a social standing and relationships with various publics and stakeholders. Scholars have examined organizations using human traits and have found parallels between organizations and human personalities (e.g. Aaker, 1997; Freling & Forbes, 2005; Johar, Sengupta, & Aaker, 2005; Kim, Han, & Park 2001; Rama seshan & Tsao, 2007 ). Therefore by extension organizations that are true to their basic values, act in accordance to their mission and vision and are honest and transparent in their communication with publics about their motives and true character could be perceived as authentic (Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011).
42 This understanding of org anizations as social beings inspired communication scholars to explore authenticity and its various implications to communication disciplines, as the next se ction describes Authenticity: Historical Development in Communication Disciplines The construct of authenticity captured interest of communication scholars as early as 1990s when Hardt (1993) presented the evolution of discussions about authenticity from a critical theory perspective while focusing on the centrality of communication in ical foundations of Heidegger of em the house of Being provides the elements of discourse, which is the basis of human Hard t explained is shaped by the social, political and economic contexts that promote self alienation and conformity to superficial standards that confer status to and measure accomplishments of individuals. Critiquing the role of media, Hardt further argued t hat this self alienation is promoted by media that legitimizes outside influences, reproducing From a critical theory perspective, Hardt examined the problems that modernity imposes on authenticity and alienation and also presen ted the reactions of critical has moved through the period of post 1945 discovery of the potential of critical discourse within Western Marxism as a source of emanci pation for the individual and the rise of liberal democratic practices in Western Europe, accompanied by an
43 of scholars and pra ctitioners in various communication disciplines including study of films (Hart & Woldemariam, 2008; Pierson, 2003), journalistic authenticity of tabloids (Bromley, 2003), global media representation of ethnic identity (Molina, 2006), music genres (Herman & Sloop, 1998; McLeod, 1999; Peterson, 1997), political discourse (Liebes, 2001), reality television shows (Aslana & Pantti, 2006; Kraidy, 2009), rhetoric (Dickinson, 2002; Zickmund, 2007), self identity (Holt & Griffin, 2009), television broadcasting produ ctions (Montgomery, 2001; Piccirillo, 1986), and virtual reality (Jones, 1993). claims within hip hop, a form of African American cultural expression. McLeod studied the ra nge of meanings associated with authenticity discourse to understand how throughout the 1990s the hip hop culture attempted to protect itself against the threat of misrepresentation, transformation, and assimilation. The hip hop artists in this period mad e numerous authenticity claims using cultural symbolism and thereby, distinguishing the authentic from inauthentic cultural expression. From a communication studies perspective, he explained that authenticity claims of hip y of establishing in group/outgroup hop authenticity discourse into semantic dimensions, identity talk can be understood as structured, meaningful, and a way of comprehending central elements o f hip derived inductively from the data collected by the author from various sources including
44 interviews with the members of the hip hop community who were actively engaged in making authenticity claims. These dimensions were arranged into real versus fake claims of authenticity: 1. Social psychological dimension (staying true to yourself versus following mass trends); 2. Racial dimension (black versus white); 3. Political economic dimension (the underground versus commercial); 4. Gender sexual dimension (hard versus soft); 5. Social locational dimension (the street versus the suburbs); and 6. Cultural dimension (the ol d school versus the mainstream) (McLeod 1999, p. 139) Summarizing the six semantic dimensions, McLeod (1999) concluded dimensions are used to demonstrate how authenticity claims and their meaningful as they employed to maintain a authenticity is subjective and contextual, i.e., authenticity claims reflect the life dentity as perceived by its members and others. Contemporary Conceptualizations in Strategic Communication Studies Inspired by its roots in social psychology and communication studies, the construct of authenticity has also drawn attention from contempora ry scholars in various strategic communication disciplines including advertising, marketing, and public relations (Beverland, Lindgreen, & Vink, 2008; Camilleri, 2008a, 2008b; Fine, 2003; McLeod, 1999; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011; Zickmund, 2007).
45 Scholars have examined authenticity in a variety of strategic communication settings including authenticity of market offerings as perceived by consumers (Bruner, 1994; Grayson, 2002; Grayson & Martinec, 2004; Gustafsson, 2006), tourism experience s and destinations (Cohen, 1988; Hughes, 1995; MacCannell, 1973; Wang, 1999), materiality of rhetoric in a corporate case (Dickinson, 2002), CEO portraits (Guthey & Jackson, 2005), luxury wines (Beverland, 2005; Beverland & Luxton, 2005), subculture of con sumption (Leigh, Peters, & Shelton, 2006), paradox and genres (Gilmore & Pine, 2007), corporate social responsibility and sustainability (Camilleri, 2008a), local and global brand and nation building campaigns (Molleda & Roberts, 2008), and the food and be verage industry (Beverland, Lindgreen, & Vink, 2008). Of these studies, works of Grayson and his colleagues are useful in conceptualizing organizational authenticity because of their extensive examination of menological experiences can contribute inauthentic market offerings Grayson (2002) sug gested that authenticity is a subjective evaluation that can mean different things to different consumers in different contexts. owned by a famous person such as Shakespeare, iconicity reflects the perceptions that an object is an authentic reproduction or recreation whose physical manifestation resembles something indexically auth entic such as a pen owned by Sherlock Holmes.
46 examining the physical attributes (indexicality) and brand essence (iconicity) of market offerings (Grayson, 2002; Grayson & Shulm an, 2000; Grayson & Martinec, 2004). Scholars have identified cues that consumers use to form perception of both indexical and iconic authenticity as negotiated between the sources or creators of authenticity claims and their consumers. Grayson and Martin ec (2004) explained cues for communicating and perceiving authenticity are at the foundation of this dialogue between marketers and consumers over what is (or is not) authentic, and understanding and specifying these cues is an important step in the process of purpose of identifying the dimensions of authenticity by pinpointing the cues that publics use to evaluate the originality and genuineness of organizations, and thus their authenticity. While indexical authenticity suggests that organizational publics uses an (MacCannell, 1973), per ceptions of iconic authenticity are co ntextually determined and formed in relation to how publics expect organizations to act, behave, and commun icate (Bruner, 1994 ; Cohen, 1988 test of audienc es or consumers who in the end, through their personal judgment and life experiences, grant validity and acceptance to corporate promises and their responses Authenticity claims have also been examined in association with corporate brands et
47 al. 2006, p. 481). Using an ethnographic ap proach involving participant observation, textual and visual analysis, and formal and informal interviews and conversations, Leigh et al. (2006) are evaluated by how close it is to an idea standard and the brand heritage. In addition, a sense of brand community inspires feelings of authenticity among brand owners as they interact and experience a product or service. Examining authenticity of luxury goods, Beverland and colleagues foun d that marketers and strategic communication professionals use the construct in their efforts to build a powerful corporate identity (Beverland, 2005; Beverland et al. 2008; Beverland & Luxton, 2005). Beverland et al., (2008) explained that tradition, cul ture, and craft have been heavily used by marketers in their authenticity claims about luxury wines. Similarly, Beverland and Luxton (2005) indicated that various communication strategies involving cultural sources have been applied to authenticity identit y building in luxury wines. One such communication strategy often employed in authenticity claims is creating and telling a sincere story (Molleda, 2010a). Accordi ng to Beverland (2005), developing a sincere story requires a creative combination of indust rial and rhetorical attributes. Thus, sincerity is achieved through the public confirmation of hand crafted techniques; uniqueness; relationship to place; passion for production; and the simultaneous denunciation of commercial motives, rational production methods, and the use of strategic communication techniques. Putting sincerity at the core of authenticity, Beverland (2005) identified seven elements in which luxury wine firms promote their brand authenticity:
48 1. protecting status, where the core differenti ating factor of a luxury brand is their status based positioning, i.e., luxury brands represent the highest stage a brand can achieve in terms of value to retain their equity; 2. real commitment to quality, meaning that sincerity of story and luxury brand hi story are directly related to production quality; 3. historical quality and price performance, which implies that an essential element for protecting status is the ability to demonstrate actual enduring product quality and thereby, set price premiums; 4. using place as a referent, where sincerity of story is reflected by associating the brand to a particular place. In other words, authenticity is expressed in the commitment to terroir, originally a French term used in the wine, coffee, and tea industries to den ote the special characteristics that geography bestowed on them (terroir can be loosely translated as "a sense of place" which is embodied in certain qualities, and the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the manufacturing of the produ ct or good); 5. using traditional production methods, or the linking of the brand to traditional methods of production led the luxury brands to seek protection for the use of that name, and traditional expressions associated with the brands; 6. keeping stylist ic consistency, which is associated with remaining true to past styles while adapting to changing consumer tastes. Retaining stylistic elements illustrates the legend and timelessness of the brand and the intrinsic qualities established over time; and 7. usi ng history and culture as referents, which enhances brand sincerity by making associations with the past. This final element is another resource to ensure authenticity by drawing on historical associations and building links to cultural events. Authentic ity is communicated through heritage and links with past events, resulting in the continuance of myths regarding the production processes of certain style icons (p. 1013). Similarly, from a c onsumer perspective, Beverland et al. (2008) concluded that adver tising (or communication) reinforces images of authenticity that could take three forms: pure (literal) authenticity, approximate authenticity, and moral authenticity. The authors also recommend some cues that advertisers could use to enhance each of these forms of authenticity, for example pure (literal) authenticity can be developed using cues that ;
49 a f eeling that this brand will help achieve self authentication th r ough connecting with place and time ; consumer with a feeling that this brand will help achieve self authentication thr ough Scholars in strategic communication studies discuss ed brand authenticity as a multidimensional construct. Gilmore and Pine (2007) proposed five genres of authenticity corresponding to five economic offe rings: commodities (natural authenticity), goods (original authenticity), services (exceptional authenticity), experience s (referential authenticity), and transformations (influential authenticity). The authors define the five genres as: Natural authentici ty: People tend to perceive as authentic that which exists in its natural state in or of the earth, remaining untouched by human hands; not artificial or synthetic Original authenticity: People tend to perceive as authentic that which possesses originalit y in design, being the first of its kind, never before seen by human eyes; not a copy or imitation Exceptional authenticity: People tend to perceive as authentic that which is done exceptionally well, executed individually and extraordinarily by someone d emonstrating human care; not unfeelingly or disingenuously performed Referential authenticity: People tend to perceive as authentic that which refers to some other context, drawing inspiration from human history, and tapping into our shared memories and l ongings; not derivative or trivial Influential authenticity: People tend to perceive as authentic that which exerts influence on other entities, calling human beings to a higher goal and providing a foretaste of a better way; not inconsequential or withou t meaning (pp. 49 50, italics in original) The authors recommended that organizations should identify one or more of these genres of authenticity that best describe their offerings commodity, goods, services,
50 experiences, transformation and attempt to render these offerings in a way that their customers find authentic. Additionally, Gilmore and Pine (2007) recommended five axioms to c ommunication managers that they can refer to while mak ing authenticity claims : Axiom 1: If you are authentic, then you d authentic. authentic. (p. 90, italics in original) These axioms imply that organizations cannot claim to be authentic through marketing or any other means alone; organizatio ns must earn the privilege to be perceived authentic through the act of rendering. In other words, businesses can render authentic offerings and experiences to their stakeholders. Gilmore and Pine (2007) described this process as an authenticity paradox: ontologically fake that is, in its very being it is inauthentic and yet, output from that enterprise can be phenomenologically real that is, it is perceived as authentic by the al). This illustrates that perceptions of authenticity develop when stakeholders experience and evaluat e an organization, its offerings, and its authenticity claims. The authors suggested that authenticity is a one person experiences as completely authentic, another may view as completely inauthentic, and a third may be som ewhere 93).
51 As these studies suggest, authenticity is a n influential construct that has huge potential for public relati ons research and practice. Public relations is at the core of organizational communication and thereby can help organizations render authenticity by openly and honestly communicating about the organization, its values and mission, and generating opportunit ies for stakeholders to directly experience these values and offerings. Although few, p revious public relations scholars have examined how organizations make authenticity claims in their public re lations programs, as explained in the next section. Public Relations Research Agenda for Authenticity Public relations research on authenticity is progressively evolving. In 2008, Molleda and Roberts assessed the authenticity of a public relations campaign, sponsored by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia that used Juan Valdez, a famous fictional coffee grower, as brand ambassador to enhance the campaign. The aims of the campaign were to invigorate the identifi cation of coffee growers with their lands and the industry with a nation building communication effort with a global media relations plan. The authors used Gilmore and P authenticity to assess the perceived genuine nature of a key component of the public relations campaign, the Colombian coffee ambassador Juan Val dez. Molleda and Roberts summarized the forms in which the authenticity genres were found in t he case: [N]atural authenticity in the fact that coffee is a commodity that exists in a natural state, original authenticity as Colombia being the first country to stamp country of origin to a world commodity, and exceptional authenticity fee production is based on human care since the moment the beans are handpicked until they are delivered to the world market by an
52 authentic coffee grower functioning as spokesperson or international icon. The campaign of the new Juan Valdez also conveys referential authenticity, in which the background and experience of this idyllic coffee grower is a human story focused on shared memories and longings of the Colombian community of coffee growers and worldwide coffee consumers, and conveys influential aut henticity in that the campaign calls for the preservation of the natural environment expressed by the accord signed between the Federation and Rainforest Alliance. (p. 169; italics in original) Similarly, Ragas and Roberts (2009) examined how U.S. based fa st food restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill purposefully communicates its corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs to its publics and how its brand personality is perceived by its brand community. In this study, the authors argued that brand si ncerity, one of the multidisciplinary case study approach, including in depth interviews, a survey and text analysis, the authors concluded that brand sincerity and authe nticity is heightened by integrating purposeful and sustained CSR programs in corporate identity and reputation. Additionally, Jain and De Moya (2011) studied how tourism promoters for Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic make authenticity claims about th eir destinations and found that both countries try to emphasize their originality and natural appeal through authenticity claims in their web based communication with tourists and visitors Camilleri (2008a) also used a case study to explain the primary r ole of trust and trustworthiness of certain brands, the more important it is for brand s to be authentically transparent, aligning brand values with organisational values, and communicating that e company] must take to
53 demonstrate trustworthiness and willingness to engage in trust relationships with Most recently, Molleda and Jain (2011) analyzed the multiple dimensions of perceived authenti city o f a large scale special event sponsored by a cultural and eco archeological park in the Mayan Riviera of Mexico called Xcaret. Using triangulation research involving focus group with strategic communication professionals and institutional partners an d a face to face intercept survey with visitors the authors operationalized and tested an index of authenticity, which resulted in two factors: overall experience and active engagement. While the first factor ( overall experience ) described ences in the festival, the second factor (active engagement) measured the level of involvement of visitors with the mission and values of the festival. Molleda and Jain also examined the relationship between perceived authenticity and demographic variables age, gender, and national origin and found significant associations: female visitors evaluated active engagement dimension higher than male visitors; out of state visitors evaluated the overall authenticity of the festival higher than visitors from the st ate in which the park is located; and finally, older visitors evaluated active engagement factor higher than younger visitors. The authors concluded that perceived authenticity is an experiential construct developed via an ongoing negotiation of meanings b etween organization and its stakeholders. As these scholarly persp ectives and definitions suggest approaching authenticity as an experiential construct provides organizations and their public relations and strategic communication professionals an opportu nity to create instances where stakeholders can experience the organization and its offerings and evaluate their
54 authentici ty. This dissertation approached authenticity with this proposition and evaluate d it in the context of tourism and theme parks that p rovide such experiential opportunities to visitors who then form perceptions of an authentic tourism experience. Authenticity in Travel and Tourism The multidisciplinary review of academic literature suggested that authenticity is an experiential construc t that is subjective and contextual. Therefore, tourism promotion efforts provide an appropriate context for developing and evaluating the conceptual framework of authenticity Tourism attractions such as theme parks could be used as a platform to evaluate perceived authenticity because they contain the landscaping, buildings, attractions, and special events that are based on one or more specific or central ideas (Gilmore & Pine, 2007). These attractions provide an environment where the organization can cre ate the context and opportunities for interaction and experience 1986). Additionally, strategic communication professionals working for p romotion of tourism attractions and theme parks are often entrusted with telling stories about specific or central ideas of the parks to publics all around the world, and as Molleda (2010a, 2010b) highlighted, authenticity is an integral element of such storytelling. In a tourism setting, a uthenticity was first examined by MacCannell (1973, 1976). According to MacCannell (1973), the motivation behind tourism visits is a quest for authentic experiences; tourists visit places that they believe have social, historical, and cultural importance. Authentic tourism experiences, as MacCannell explained, provide tourists with an opportunity to participate or at least witness the real life of the places visited. However, tourists frequently use guided tours, which make such experiences somewhat superfi cial, s omething that MacCannell
55 Cohen (1988) further argued that such staged authenticity is a product of penetration, were pre sent in their real form. For instance, the local cultural and ethnic art, products, costumes, rituals, and food become touristic services or commodities that are produced or performed exclusively for tourists. As these cultural products lose meaning to loc al people, they become overly exaggerated and fake in an effort to attract to look authentic ( p. 372). However, Wang (1999) argued that such an object related method for examining authentic tourism experiences ignores the exis tential nature of authenticity. Wang (p. 359). In other words, authentic tourism experiences are defined by individuals subjectively or inter subjectively as the process of tourism unfolds. According to Wang through other forms of tourism such as experiencing nature, going to the beach, partaking on adventures, enjoying famil y time, and visiting friends and relatives, tourists seek their own version of authentic experiences, irrespective of whether the toured objects are authentic. Another evaluation of the construct in a tourism setting was conducted by Grayson and Martinec (2004) who identified six features of iconic and indexical authenticity after interview ing visitors at two tourism attractions (the Sherlock Holmes Museum and : Iconicity with fiction: Something that looks like a composit e picture, which was
56 Iconicity with old things: Something that looks like a composite picture, which was Iconicity with hi story: Something that looks like a composite picture, which was Actual indexicality with inhabitant: Something that is believed to have been spatio temporally linked with H olmes or Shakespeare; Hypothetical indexicality with inhabitant: Something that was regarded as if it had been spatio temporally linked with Holmes or Shakespeare; spatio te do and a feeling which is experienced l). The authors argued that in this form authenticity is performed, call ing it performative authenticity. Through performative authenticity, entities such as tourism organizations, media, government, and other similar organizations can authenticate sites, understanding and intimacy with the places and surroundings they visit. In other words, organizations can communicate and offer authentic tourism experiences to visitors. Investigating the authentic experiences offe red by historic theme parks, Moscardo and Pearce (1986) argued that theme parks are different from most other tourist settings and experiences in that their purpose is to go beyond tourist or leisure setting to expose visitors to the preserved or restored their study of two Australian historic theme parks, Moscardo and Pearce operationalized perceive d authenticity using historic accuracy of park elements including activities and demonstrations, buildings, employe es working in the park, and the overall setting. The study also examined visitor satisfaction with the park by asking participants whether
57 they will recommend the park to their friends and family. Overall visitor experience in the park was evaluated using enjoyment ratings for park features, such as craftspeople, activities and demonstrations, shops and refreshments areas, cottages and other architecture, overall setting, and park employees. Finally, the study found that the amount of time spent in the park and number of previous visits have a positive reflection on its perceived authenticity. The authors concluded that authenticity is an important aspect of historic theme park experience and is a motive for traveling to theme parks. Further, authenticity is a subjective evaluation of theme parks held by visitors and an important factor in overall satisfaction with tourism experience. Synthesizing the various definitions and dimensions of authenticity in strategic communication disciplines, Camilleri (2008a) identified nine genres of authenticity, including existential, exceptional, iconic, influential, natural, original, referential (or experiential), staged, and symbolic ( Table 2 1). Applying this ration ale, Molleda (2010a, 2010b) proposed a preliminary in dex of perceived authenticity, which includes a range of questions through which an measure the effectiveness of strategic communication efforts, techniques, and messa ge systems. This could be accomplished by evaluating the perceived authenticity of organizations, including its actions, operations, products, services, special events, and corporate spokespeople in the mind of internal or external publics. The index conta ins a series of questions regarding whether the (interactive, online, print, audiovisual) text, activity, or personal message conveys any of the following aspects about the sponsored organization:
58 imagery of or claims that evoke pleasure or fun that could be achieved by stakeholders, individually or collectively, when they encounter or are exposed to the corporate offering, promises, or experiences; access to the original idea or design, which represents an accurate representation of the original; organisat ional values, including beliefs, principles, or way of acting or operating; associations with nature of commodities or products, such as being non renewable or renewable natural resource; associations with originality in design of products, services, ideas or facilities; exceptional quality of corporate offerings, promises, and operations; heritage of the organisation and its leaders, as well as references to historical background of the organisation and its corporate offerings or promises; sustainability and corporate responsibility programs, decisions, or actions; calls to become part of an action that goes beyond profit making and corporate gains; and promises, or core ideas. ( Molleda, 2010b, pp. 232 233) Using a, 2010 b) and Moll perceived authenticity t his study further develop ed and empirically test ed a measurement scale for perceived organizational authenticity by examining it in the context of a cultural and eco archeological park, Xcaret located in Riviera Maya, Mexico As the review of academic research suggest ed authenticity is a construct that needs further investigation in public relations and strategic communication manage ment. Given the increasing importance and attention accorded to the construct, it is imperative to develop a theoretical framework and measurement to evaluate the perceived auth enticity of organizations and their activities as communicated throug h their ac tions, operations, and communication
59 Table 2 1. Genres of perceived authenticity Types of p erceived a uthenticity Existential 1999). According to Wang (1999), two dimensions exist: i ntra personal and inter personal authenticity. Intra personal identity (p. 365). Inter personal or social authenticity refers to the collective self rather than the individual self. Exceptional honestly (Gilmore and Pine, 2007) Iconic (Grayson and Shulman, 2000; Grayson and Martinec, 2004) Influential ntities and pushes people to achieve higher goals (Gilmore and Pine, 2007) Natural Pine, 2007) Original (Gilmore and Pine, 2007) Referential, experiential, or indexical (Gilmore and Pine, 2007; Grayson and Schulman, 2000; Grayson and Martinec, 2004) Staged originality; that is, it also includes some recreated components to evoke the origin al (Cohen, 1988; MacCannell, 1973) Symbolic (Culler, 1981) About Xcaret Located in Riviera Maya, Mexico, Xcaret (esh caret) is one of the four parks that make up on sustainable tourism, recreation, and social responsibility. The park is set up on a
60 198 acre set of facilities and natural attractions ( i.e., springs, sinkholes, an underground river, and native flora and fauna ) on the seashore 35 miles south of Cancun International Airport. Every year, more than one million people visit this privately owned park that opened in December 1990. Today, Xcaret employs about 1,550 direct and 6,200 in direct employees ( Experiencias Xcaret, n.d.). Xcaret is an eco archeological theme park and cultural richness and diversity. a natural park that treasures the best of the traditions and culture of Mexico, a paradise that combines the natural beauty and cultural wealt Experiencias Xcaret, n.d., n.p. ). The park is bu ilt o n the same area on which an archaeological site was originally purchased by a group of Mexican entrepreneurs to preserve the cultural history of the area and the remnants of the Mayan pyramids and buildings. The attractions in the park include Mayan ruins and sites, butterfly pavilion, coral reef aquarium, and an underground river. Xcaret also offers its visitors performances One of the highlights of the park is a da features over 300 artists on stage that take visitors to a vibrant journey through the history of Mexico and Mayan culture. The two hour show also demonstrates traditional hand made dresses, dances, and musical performances from the various states of Mexico including mariachi songs and pre Hispanic Mayan ball game. celebrated ritual of Mexico. Each year, o ne of the states
61 in Mexico hosts the event at Xcaret by bringing artists and craftsmen to display and deliver a range of performances and handicrafts to the visitors of the park. As this background explains, Xcaret provide d an appropriate context for this study to examine how visitors evaluate the authenticity of the park after directly experiencing it and its offerings during their visit. Based on the description of the context and the multidisciplinary literature review, this study developed a theoretical framework of perceived organizational authenticity as described in the next section. Theoretical Framework for Perceived Organizational Authenticity As the review of scholarly discussions about authenticity suggests, a theoretical framework of authenticit y should place it in the broader context of organiza tional identity and reputation. It is understood that an authentic organization is true to its values, mission, purpose, and value proposition and demonstrates consistency with these values in its actions decisions, and behavior (Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Ladkin & Taylor, 2010; M olleda, 2010a, 2010b; Walumbwa et al. 2010; Wong & Cummins, 2009). In of what defines it why i t exists, what it stands for and what differentiates it in a In this sense, organiz ations have to be aware of their identity and reputation, should actively co mmunicate it to their myriad stakeholders, who then form opinions about the organization and who it really is, ultimately evaluat ing its claims of authenticity. Thus, a uthenticity is considered an integral part of or ganizational reputation (Fombrun (Gilmore & Pine, 2007). Along these lines, Molleda (2010a) suggested:
62 organisations progressively build the ir corporate personalities by highlighting and putting certain authentic features out to the scrutiny of their stakeholders who, at the same time, make selective interpretations and w hat organisations do and say may result in a perceived reputation close to the carefully built corporate identity with the use of strategic public relations and communication management (p. 225). To illustrate this proposition, Gilmore and Pine (2007) expl ained that at any given time, an organization is in th e "h ere and n ow" space (p. 182), which represents a progression of organizational identity over time, beginning with its origin and heritage, and leading up to what it is today. At this point, organizat ions face an execution zone of future strategic possibilities that determine a future course of action, and thereby, dictate the possibilities of rendering organizational authenticity by acting in accordance o it has come to be known for. To help organizations render authenticity, Gilmore and Pine outlined eight principles to guide organizations in staking out viable, powerful, and compelling competitive positioning while remaining true to themselves: 1. Study y our heritage, meaning to remain true to their identity, organizations much study their heritage, and thereby define their possibilities by their unique origin, and subsequent history. 2. Ascertain your positioning, implying that understanding current operati ng environment, the circumstances surrounding an organization, provides an important context for devising a compelling strategic direction for an enterprise. 3. Locate your trajectory, or in other words determine the direction and speed at which organizations want to move forward in the future. At this point, organizations should remain cautious of not meandering in spaces that are not consistent with their history and current positioning. 4. Know your limits, meaning that organizations should limit future possi bilities to those that are definable, achievable, and valuable. 5. Zoom in your zone, that is identify the most defining characteristics and value offerings of an organization, and follow these into new possibilities of creating value, rather than re inventi ng these defining characteristics.
63 6. Scan the periphery, for potential competitors and their positioning. 7. Affix the future, by identifying the spectrum of future possibilities that reflect your particular approach to offerings, capabilities, and stakeholders and are an expression of your past and current positioning. 8. Execute well, by incorporating these seven principles in the behaviors and actions of the organization and its employees (p.189) As these principles suggest, perceived authenticity is an evalua tion of whether an identity. These principles are similar to those found in the authentic leadership literature, where self and weaknesses and the multifaceted nature of the self, which includes gaining insight et al., 2010, p. 95), is considere d an important dimension of an authentic leader. Further, these principles illustrate the significant role that public relations could perform in helping organizations render authenticity. Scholars have suggested that organizations can portray themselves a s authentic by being transparent, sharing periodic and accurate information with its publics, engaging them in a dialogue by soliciting their feedback, and disclosing its personal values, motives, and belie f s in a manner that enable publics to more accurat ely assess the identity and integrity of In fact from a leadership perspective, Walumbwa et al. (2010) explained that a
64 le importance of communication in forming perception s of authenticity. Therefore, this dissertation examine d perceived organizational authenticity within the framework of org anizational identity and reputation, as developed and communicated by an organization to its publics (Figu re 2 1). The dissertation began the exploration of perceived organizational authenticity with an examination of organizational claims and efforts to f orm an identity and reputation communicated to the stakeholders via various sources and information platforms It then examine d how stakeholders evaluate these claims in conjunction with organizational identity and reputation to form opinions about organiz ational authenticity and whether these perceptions influence their relationship with the organization Further, the study also examined the outcomes of perceived organizational authenticity in terms of its influence on organization public relationships. D iscussions about the construct in academic and trade publications emphasize d that authentic organizations are perceived as trustworthy, credible legitima te and honest (Edwards, 2010; Molleda 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011; Watson, 2011). In particula r, Molleda (2010a, 2010b) argued that perceive authenticity could be a factor influencing the quality of org anization public relationships. Further, Molleda and Jain (2011) recommended that future studies should examine the impact of perceived authenticity on organization public relationship outcomes. Therefore, this study conceptualized and examined the causal association between perceived organizational authenticity and relational outcomes (Figure 2 1)
65 Figure 2 1. The Perceived Organizational Authenti city (POA) model The next section describes t he elements of the model i.e. identity, reputation, and relational outcomes and their associations with each other. Organizational Identity Organizational identity is a complex phenomenon that has received sign ificant attention in business and communication literature, yet much like perceived authenticity, its nature remains debated. At its core, organizational identity deals with determining who the organization is. However, the answer to this question is not s imple, since organizations can have multiple identities (Pratt & Foreman, 2000), that could evolve or be affected by changes in external and internal operating environment (Brilliant & Young, 2004).
66 Albert and Whetten (1985) described organizational ident ity as those characteristics of an organization that members perceive as enduring, central, and unique about their organization. At the individual level, members may develop a schema of core attributes that uniquely identify an organization and are shared by its members (Dutton & Penner, 1993). This implies that organizational identity may vary depending upon the attributes that members might associate with an organization. While an organization might be known for its social responsibility efforts and commu nity engagement, another might be identified for its quality of products and services. However, irrespective of what attributes uniquely characterize an organization, organizational identity is a subset of the collective beliefs that constitute an organiza Dutton, D u kerich, & Harquil, 1994 ). Along similar lines, Balmer and Greyser (2006) proposed that organizational (p. 735). The authors further elaborated that organizational philosophy and ethos, its products and pricing, distribution and sourcing mechanisms, quality of its products and services, its competitive positioning, and personality as exuded by its culture and employees, are the key elements of organizational identity. Other scholars also suggested that organizational mission statements, strategy, values, and beliefs are the foundation of its identity (Sha, 2009; van Riel & Balmer, 1997). Examining the vario us perspectives approaching organizational identity, van Riel and Balmer (1997) characterized them into three main developments: organizational identity using graphic design, integrated communication, and last, a multidisciplinary
67 approach that draws from organizational behavior. Scholars have examined organizational identity from a graphic design perspective by analyzing visual elements such as symbols, logos, colors, and nomenclatures as manifestations of an cation policies (Olins, 1978). From an integrated communication perspective, scholars such as J. Grunig and L. Grunig (1992), Be rnstein (1986), and Schultz, Tennenbaum, and Lauterborn (1994) argued that organizational identity is an outcome of integrated c ommunication efforts on behalf of the organization with all its stakeholders. Finally, a multidisciplinary approach suggested that organizational identity is a set of unique characteristics that are rooted in the behavior of its members, i.e., its culture. Further, organizations can achieve a desirable identity by using communication and symbolism and through actual behavior. From a corporate perspective, Melewar and Jenkins (2002) identified four sub constructs of corporate identity: communication and vis ual identity, behavior, corporate culture, and market conditions. The authors further elaborated that communication and visual identity is an outcome of corporate communications, uncontrollable communication, architecture and location of the firm, and corp orate visual identity. Similarly, behavior represents corporate, management, and employee actions and behavior. Melewar and Jenkins described that corporate culture is manifested in the goals, philosophies, and principles of a firm, its nationality, histor y, and imagery. Finally, nature of industry and corporate or marketing strategies define market conditions of an organization, and are an integral part of its identity. In sum, scholars conceive organizational identity as a collectively held frame by its that is, it has a reality independent of
68 individual observers derstood as contested and negotiated through iterative interactions between managers and public relations and other strategic communication disciplines perform in the dev communication is essentially a process through which meaning is created, negotiated, Also, organizational identity often serves as an important reference point for (Dutton & Dukerich, 1991). For instance in their study, Dutton and Dukerich found that the more the members perceive an issue to be rel evant to organizational identity, the greater is the perceived legitimacy of the issue and the perception of the feasibility of resolving the issue. These scholarly discussions suggest that organizational identity is an important precedent to evaluate if a n organization is acting according to its true self, or in other words identity, and thereby could influence the opinions of stakeholders about organizational authenticity. Another closely related construct to identity, organizational reputation is an impo rtant precedent to perceiv ed organizational authenticity a s discussed next. Organizational Reputation Since most scholarly work has examined reputation in the conte xt of corporations (Balmer, 1995 ; Balmer & Greyser, 2006; Bromley, 200 1; Mahon, 2002 ), this dissertation used this perspective to operationalize organizational reputation. From a corporate
69 perception of how well organizational responses are meeting the demands and ex perceptions (Mahon, 2 002). Similarly, Bromley ( 2001) defined reputation as words, reputation is the way in which external stakeholders conceptualize and perceive an organization. Along these lines, Balmer and Greyser (2006) explained that organizational reputat organizationa and inform how an organization is perceived and what stakeholders expect from it. regarded as authentic (G ilmore & Pine, 2007; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011). Scholars argued that while organizational identity and reputation are related, they should be conceived as distinct construc ts (Balmer, 2001; Bromley, 2001; Fo mbrun 1996). According to Fom bru n (1996), identity is the foundation of reputation, and to while identity is intended and constructed by organizations, reputation is an outcome of
70 such efforts as perceiv ed by its various stakeholders Further, Bromley (200 1 ) proposed that while identity refers to the perceptions and mental associations about an organization held by its members, reputation is defined as the evaluations and perceptions of an organization held by others outside the organization. Similarly, Camilleri (2008b) conceptualized reputation as a function of organizational identity, in his examination of au thenticity claims of a wine manufacturing company. The author emphasized that organizational identity is how organizations present themselves, whereas organizational reputation is how stakeholders perceive an organization. Similar to other scholars, Camill eri identified organizational mission, visual presentation, and corporate culture as the pillars of organizational identity, which is a precedent to stakeholder expectations from an organization. The author also highlighted the role of communication in bui lding organizational reputation. Reputation has been extensively examined in the business literature where it has positioning (Weigelt & Camerer, 1988), salient characterist ics that stakeholders associate with a firm ( Fombrun & Shanley, 1990), the value that publics ascribe to an organization ( Fombrun 1996), media coverage and tone (Deephouse, 2000), and lity (Rao, 1994). Reputations are formed through direct interaction with an organization, as well as through the information that publics have of their actions (Gotsi & Wilson, 2001). This process emphasizes the importance of communication in forming corpo rate reputation, and the key role played by public relations. Additionally, these conceptualizations illustrate that much like identity, its reputation also serves as a
71 reference point for stakeholders to evaluate organizational authentic ity assertions against its actions and behaviors. While there are several measurements of organizational reputation in scholarly research (Fombrun & Shanley, 1990; Black, Carnes, & Richardson, 2000; Narka, 2000; Carroll, 2004), Reputation Quotient SM a pr oprietary service used by Harris Interactive is particularly useful for this study (Harris Interactive, 2009). The instrument is used to compile an annual ranking of the most visible companies in the United States and their reputation, as well as to offer its clients insights into their reputation branding goals and evaluation, this index has been validated through scholarly research as an accurate tions of organizations (Carroll & McCombs, 2003; Carroll, 2004; Kiousis, Popescu, & Mitrook, 2007). The Reputation Quotient SM evaluates corporate reputation based on 20 sub attributes items detailed, which compose six organizational dimensions: emotional appeal, products and services, social Responsibility, vision and leadership, workplace environment, and financial performance (Harris Interactive, 2007). These dimensions, or reputational attributes, are measured on a seven point scale, which provides the suggested nine reputation criteria, six of which are similar to the Reputation Quotient SM and three are unique: communicativeness (transparency), governance, and Integ rity (responsibility, reliability, credibility, trustworthiness). While these dimensions provide a comprehensive list of reputation attributes, Bromley (1993) and J. Grunig and Hung (2002) recommended that instead of asking
72 participants to forcibly answer the question items that are imposed by the researcher, an open study uses this operationalizat ion of organization reputation to evaluate how it influences and forms precedent to perceived organization identity. Finally, this dissertation examines potential relational outcome s of perceived authenticity, as identified in scholarly discussions and pre sented in the next section. Relational Outcomes of Perceived Organizational Authenticity Grounded in multidisciplinary literature, this study propose d that perceived organizational authenticity influences organization public relationships, considering the influences of organizational identity and reputation. public relations research and practice, the relational perspective has emerged as a major area for theory development in p ublic relations. Several scholars have written about organization public relationships and developed conceptualizations of this important construct (e.g., Bruning & Ledingham, 1999; J. Grunig, L. Grunig & Ehling, 1992; Hon & J. Grunig, 1999; Huang, 1997, 2 001; Jo, 2006; Kim, 2001; Ledingham & Bruning, 1998). Organization public relationships have also been examined in the international context (Huang, 2001; Jo, 2006). Further, scholars have identified several dimensions of organization public relationships and operationalized them into a scale to measure relational outcomes including trust, commitment, satisfaction, and control mutuality (Hon and J. Grunig, 1999; Huang, 1997, 2001). These four features have been found consistently in the literature of relati onships that postulates that these relational outcomes represent the
73 essence of organization public relationships (Huang, 2001; Yang, 2007). Of these relational outcomes, trust, commitment, and satisfaction are particularly relevant to this study: Trust: Identified as one of the relational outcome s Grunig, 1999, p. 19). Conceived as a multidimensional construct (Burgoon & Hale, 1984), trus organization is fair and just ; what it says it will do ; ability to do wha Commitment: Conceived as a form of brand loyalty, commitment is defined as Hon & J. Grunig, 1999, p. 3). In other words, commitment reflects the willingness of partners to exert efforts and resources to maintain a relationship that they perceive as important (Morgan & Hunt, 1994). Hon and J. Grunig (1999) identified two dimension s of commitment: Satisfaction: One of the most commonly studie d relational outcome, satisfaction party feels favorably toward the other Grunig, 1999, p. 3). Satisfaction refers to the perceptions that the benefits of a relationship outweigh the costs to maintain and nurture it (Ferguson, 1984; Hon & J. Grunig, 1999; Huang, 199 7, 2001 ). Based on the initial conceptualizations of relational outcomes, Yang (2007) operationalized the four relational outcomes in his study using a 28 item questionnaire responses on a five point Likert scale. This study use d p ublic relationships along the relational dimensions i.e., trust, commitment and satisfaction In addition to quantitatively measuring relational outcomes, J. Grunig (2002) also proposed some ways to qualitatively assess these outcomes as perceived by their stakeholders. Because of the
74 nature and focus of this study, relational o utcomes of perceived organizational authenticity were also evaluated using qualitative approach of in depth interviews As the multi disciplinary literature review suggest ed the construct of perceived organizational authenticity lacks theory building stud ies and empirical support in the context of public relations. A limited theoretical understanding of what is meant by authenticity and how it can be measured is notable in contemporary public relations literature. Given t he combined interest in the constru ct, its increasing use in the field and its lack of development, the purpose of this dissertation is three fold: (1) to further conceptualize and operationally define the construct of perceived organizational authenticity and its dimensions by developing a theoretical framework that identifies its causal linkages with organizational identity, reputation, and relational outcomes ; (2) to develop and test a refined, theory based measure ment of perceived organizational authent icity ; and (3) to identify relevan t construct relational outcomes ( trust, commitment, and satisfaction ) emerging from perception s of an authentic experience. With this purpose in sight, t his di ssertation operationally defined perceived organizational authenticity as a function of the degr ee to which stakeholders perceive an organization, its offerings and communication claims to be consistent with its identity and reputation, which ultimately affects their trust, satisfaction, and c ommitment with the organization Table 2 2 presents the t heoretical conceptualizations of each of the constructs in the proposed perceived organizational authenticity (POA) model The conceptualizations guide d the construction of instrument s as detailed later in c hapter 3 on methods.
75 Table 2 2. Conc eptualizatio n of constructs in the Perceived Organizational Authenticity (POA) model Construct Conceptualization Authors/Study Perceived organizational authenticity e xperience and active e ngagement in a tourism setting Molleda (2010b), Molleda & Jai n (2011) Identity Four sub constructs: communication & visual identity, behavior, corporate culture, and market conditions Melewar & Jenkins (2002) Reputation Open ended measure of reputation related to the schema of attributes that public associate with an organization Bromley (1993), J. Grunig & Hung (2002) Relational outcomes Trust, satisfaction, and commitment with an organization Hon & Grunig (1999) Yang (2007) Research Questions and Hypotheses Using tourism experiences as the cont ext for evaluat ing the perceived organizational authenticity model and empirically investigating its measurement scale, this study conducted data collection at Xcaret, a cultural and eco archaeological theme park in Mexico. Specifically, the following research questions and hypothese s were examined to further our understanding of perceived organizational authenticity from a public relations and communication management perspective : RQ1 : How do the marketing and public relations pr actitioners of Xcaret describe their roles and responsibilities in the construction, execution, and promotion of identity, authenticity, and reputation of the park and its main special events ? RQ2: What are the dimensions that best explain the construct of perceived authenticity? RQ3: What are t he factors that influence perceived organizational authenticity? H1: The degree to which visitors perceive that their experience was consistent has a positive influence on the perceived authenticity of the park. H2: The degree to which visitors perceive that their experience was consistent reputation has a positive influence on the perceived authenticity of the park.
76 RQ4: What are the relational outcomes that may be associated with perceived organizational authenti city? H3 : Perceived organizational authenticity is positively related to the quality of relationship between the park and its visitors. H4 : Perceived organizational authenticity is positively related to park visitors trust outcome. H5 : Perceived organiz ational authenticity is positively related to park visitors satisfaction outcome. H6 : Perceived organizational authenticity is positively related to park visitors commitment outcome. RQ5: ved organizational authenticity? H 7 : Older visitors will evaluate perceived organizational authenticity of the park higher than younger visitors. H 8 : Out of state visitors will evaluate perceived organizational authenticity of the park higher than visito rs from the state in which the park is located. H 9 : Female visitors will evaluate perceived organizational authenticity of the park higher than male visitors. RQ6: What amount of time visi tors spen t in the park and their previous visits to the park ? H 10 : The longer a visitor stays in the park, the higher is his/her evaluation of H1 1 : A previous visit to the park will be associated with higher levels of perceived authe nticity. RQ7: What is the relationship between the type of source (media versus friends and family) from where the visitors obtained information about the park and their authenticity? These questions were explored using focus g roup in depth interviews, an d face to face intercept survey The data collection and analysis procedures are discussed in the following chapter.
77 CHAPTER 3 METHODS This is a triangulation study that used qualitative and quantitativ e research methods to ex amine the research questions and test proposed hypothes e s. Scholars recommend ed that integrating qualitative and quantitative research approaches in social sci entific inquiry draws from the respective strengths of both of these paradigms while minimizes th eir weaknesses in a single study (Creswell, 2009; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). Emphasizing integration of the two dominant research paradigms (qualitative and quantitative) as a key tenant of mi xed methods approach, Tashakkori and Creswell data, integrates the findings, and draws inferences using both qualitative and quantitative approaches or methods in a single study or a program of inquiry Similarly, Johnson, Onwuegbuzie, and Turner (2007) called mixed methods research as an alternative, third research paradigm along with qualitative and quantitative research, of researchers combines elements of qualitative and quantitative research approaches (e.g. use of qualitative and quantitative viewpoints, data collection, analysis, inference techniques) for the broad purposes of breadth and depth of understanding and c 123). Johnson et al. (2007) described that the range of possibilities for integrating qualitative and quantitative research approaches under the mixed methods paradigm can be seen as a continuum bounded by pure qualitative and pure quant itative methods research
78 approach that attributes equal status to both qualitative and quantitative data and e end of the continuum is the qualitative dominant mixed methods research that argues for the inclusion of quantitative data and approaches into otherwise qualitative research poststructuralist cr perspective (p. 124) Finally, closer to the quantitative end of the continuum are the quantitative dominant research methods that rely on a post positivist, quantitative research perspective, while advocating for the inclusion of qualitative data and approaches to strengthen the study. Triangulation is a mixed methods approach that can be used to integrate qualitative and quantitative research approaches in various ways (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). Triangulation de sign is a special form of mixed methods research, where the researcher gathers both qualitative and quantitative data concurrently and then compares the two databases to determine if there is convergence, difference, or some combination, also known as cross validation, or corroboration (Creswell, 2009; Greene, Caracelli, & Graham, 1989; Morgan, 1998). Morse (2003) explained that such comparison and combination of the results obtained from qualitative and quantitative means of inquiry provides a more comprehensive picture of the results than either study could provide alone. Further, the authors described that there are two ways in which triangulation can be achieved: sequential and simultaneous. In sequential triangulation, two separate projects are conducted in order where the results o f the first inform the nature of the second project.
79 On the other hand, simultaneous triangulation compares and contrasts the data obtained from two projects conducted at the same time. Grounded in a quantitative dominant approach, t his study applie d simu ltaneous triangulation to compare, contrast and corroborate the data obtained from quantitative surveys with that gathered using qualitative interviews, to further our understanding about perceived organizational authenticity and it dimensions, its relati onship with organizational identity and reputation, and its influence on organization public relational outcomes. Further, qualitative findings were used to explain the results of the quantitative survey, an application of triangulation approach that schol ars have recommended (Creswell, 2009; Greene, Caracelli, & Graham, 1989; Morgan, 1998). This study used three research methods focus group, in depth interviews, and face to face in tercept survey to investigate it s research questions and hypotheses in t he context of an eco archeol ogical park, Xcaret, in Mexico (Figure 3 1). Figure 3 1. Methods used in the study
80 A focus group and two in depth interviews were marketing and public relations practitioners to examine the first resear ch question about the involvement and motivation of this group with the construction, execution, and authenticity, and reputation. In depth interviews and a face to face intercept survey with visitors of the park we re used to investigate the remaining research questions and corresponding hypotheses that this study put forward. Each of these research methods are described next. Focus Groups Focus groups have been extensively used as a research tool within the social and behavioral sciences (Kidd & Parshall, 2000). The research method has also been used by severa l public relations scholars ( e.g. Aldoory & Toth, 2002, 2004; L. Grunig, 1993; Hon, 1995; Palenchar & Heath, 2002; Sriramesh, Morghan, & Wei, 2007). As a data co llection technique, focus groups gather rich experiential data elicited from the interactions within a selected group of subjects (Asbury, 1995). Merton (1987) explained for the collection and analysis of qualitative data that may help us gain an enlarged sociological and psychological understanding in whatsoever sphere of human qualitative rese arch methodology for understanding audience attitudes and behavior. Analysis of focus group data provides key insights into what participants know about the subject matter and why they know what they know (L. Grunig, 1993 ). Typically, six to 12 participan ts who are similar in some way are interviewed by a trained facilitator and a note taker in a relatively unstructured, in depth discussion about one topic or issues of specific interest to the researcher (Asbury, 1995; Greenbaum,
81 1998). The focus group mod erator or facilitator acts as catalyst for social interactions and discussions that gradually build up to provide specific insights into the concept of concern by the dynamic interaction of the participants to provide researcher with detailed perspectives that could not be obtained through other research methods (Gaskell, 2000). Focus groups are an appropriate research strategy to collect preliminary information about a topic or a phenomenon that has not been previously explored or lacks a theoretical unde rstanding (Ausbury, 1995; Greenbaum, 1998; L Grunig, 199 3 ) such as perceived organizational authenticity. It also allows for researchers to adopt a flexible question design and follow up, which contributes to the reliability of the data (Morgan, 1997). F urther, focus groups are appropriate to gather data from participants who share similar backgrounds and are willing to talk about issues of common interest d the shared ex periences of marketing and public relations practitioners of the park, focus group wa s an appropriate research method. In d epth Interviews Unlike focus groups, in depth interviews are a useful technique to intensively explore the experiences and life worl d of an individual (Charmaz, 2006). Gaskell (2000) to and perceptions (p. 45) In other words, an in depth interview explores the personal worldview of the interviewee in detail. Much like focus groups, public relations scholars have also employed in depth interviews while studying various issues and contexts such as health communicati on
82 (Aldoory, 2001), role of women in public relations profession (Tsetsura, 2011), and organization public relationship s assessment (Huang, 2001). Under a mixed methods paradigm, s cholars have used a combination of surveys and in depth interviews to bette r understand the phenomenon under observation (e.g. Lippe, 2010, Kramer, 2010; Wheeldon, 2010). Advocating for integration Bauer and Gaskell (2000) recommended that in depth interviews offer profound understanding of valuable contextual information that helps to explain particular findings of quantitative methods such as a survey. Therefore, this study use d in depth interviews to enhance our understanding of perceived organizational authenticity by illuminating this multidimensional construct as described by the managers and e xperienced and narrated by its international visitors. Further, a semi structured interviewing approach was used, which starts with a few questions asked to the interviewee but is flexible to allo w new questions to be brought up during the interview as a result of what the interviewee says (Lindlof & Taylor, 2002). Face to f ace Intercept Surveys In addition to in depth interviews this study use d a face to face intercept survey to answer the remai ning research questions their relationship with the park and its identity, reputation, and authenticity The results of the survey were used to empirically test the proposed perceived o rganizational authenticity (POA) the oretical model and measurement scale. Scholars recommend ed that face to in travel and tourism setting (Kim, Borges, & Chon, 2006; McHone & Rungeling, 2000; Pearce & Sch ott, 2005). In particular, such an approach is a valuable tool to evaluate the experiences of visitors after a daylong engagement in a tourism setting as
83 demonstrated by Moscardo and Pearce ( 1986 ). Evaluating a tourism experience right after a visit is pr eferred over a survey where participants have to recall elements of a visit in the past (Moscardo & Pearce, 1986). 1). Surveys are an appropriate methodology for co llecting responses from a large sample and for purposes of generalization of findings when random sampling procedures are used (Fink, 1995). Further, s urveys have become a method of choice for collecting r esponses and testing measurement instruments in public relations (e.g. Gordon & Kelly, 1999; Huang, 2001; Kelly, 1994). Bec a use the purpose of this study i s to test the proposed perceived organizational authenticity (POA) model and measurement scale, quan titative survey was an appropriate research method. The specific procedures of sample development and participant recruitment, instrument construction, data gathering protocol, and data analysis under each of these methods are described in the following s ub sections of the chapter. Populations and Samples Focus Group and In depth Interviews with Marketing and Public Relations Practitioners marketing and public relations department has 15 members of which five are m anagers and 1 0 are communication technicians (persona l communication, Nov. 28, 2011) The researcher invited all the communication technicians to participate in a 90 minute focus group and the managers for 60 minute interviews. The purpose of keeping the conversation with communication te chnicians separate from the managers was
84 professionals were invited to ensure that a range of opinions and different perspectives were examined. Gaskell (2000) recommended t hat the real purpose of qualitative group interviewing is not counting opinions or people but rather the range of opinions, the different representations of the issue, and thus a focus group should include different members of the social milieu. However, one pr actitioner could not participate in the focus group and three managers in the interviews due to professional or personal commitments and appointments. Therefore, this study include d insights from a total of nine focus group pa rticipants and two inte rviewees. The focus grou p and interview s were conducted on March 12, 2012 at the marketing and public relations head office in Cancun, Mexico In depth Interviews with International Visitors Because of language limitation, th s international visitors who can communicate in English to take part in 30 40 minute interviews. Sixteen international visitor s participate d in individual interviews with the researcher over a five day period between March 11 and March 15, 2012. The objec tive of these individual interviews was experience in the park, motivation of visit and perceptions of an authentic tourism experience. In a previous study, Molleda and Jain (2011) found that guests from (Quintana Roo) evaluated the overall authenticity of a festival hosted by the park lower than the guests from other states and countries emphasizing the subjective nature of the construct. Further, Cohen (1988) argued that increased commoditization of lo Therefore, in depth interviews were conducted to further explore the experiences of international
85 visitors who migh t not be much familiar with Mexican culture heritage and traditions that the park a ttempts to preserve and showcase Face to face I ntercept S urvey with Visitors ed The data was collected over a five day period from March 11 to March 15, 2012 usin g a face to face intercept survey of visitors as they were waiting for the last show of the day The park received about 10,000 visitors during the five day period of data collection (personal communication, March 15, 2012 ). With a 95 percent confidence level and two percent margin of error the sample size required was 566 participants. A total of 5 70 surveys were collected by the researcher with the help of 10 customer relations staff members of Xcaret. Construction of the Instruments Instru ment for Focus Group and In depth Interview s with Marketing and Public Relations Practitioners identify an organization and are considered as enduring and central by its me mbers (Albert & Whetten, 1985; Dutton & Penner, 1993). Further, public relations and strategic communication practitioners perform a key role in developing, communicating, and Cheney & Christensen, 2000 ). Therefore, t he focus group and in depth interview agenda contain ed five questions re lated to the perceived role of marketing and public relations professionals in the development, maintenance, and promotion of authenticity, and reputation. Table 3 1 presents the specific questions. In addition, participants and interviewees were asked to provide information regarding their position in the organization roles and
86 responsibilities, and the years of experience in the current position. Both the focus grou p and in depth interviews were conducted in a semi structured manner with follow up questions asked by the researcher for clarification and explanation of a response. to understand the involvement and integration of marketing and public relations with the core business strategy, decisions and actions. Table 3 1. Agenda for focus group and in depth interviews with marketing and public relations practitioners Quest ions Please describe What are y identity? What are the unique features of the park that you promote in your strategic communication efforts ? Please des cribe t he experiences you want to offer to the tourists and what you want the visitors to take aw ay from their visit to the park. What specific communication media, channels, actions, and tools you use for communicating p authen ticity claims, and offerings ? Instrument for In depth Interviews with International Visitors The instrument for interviews with international visitors was also semi structured. Underl ying the interviewing approach wa s the objective to elicit responses fr om participants about their experience in the park and whether this experience met the ir expectations from the visit ( Table 3 2) Participants were asked to narrate their experience in Xcaret with as much detail as they could provide. They were also asked to share their opinions about the park and its identity and reputation. Finally, participants were asked to evaluate their relationship with the park using J. G followed by specific questions a bout relationships
87 Table 3 2. Agenda for interviews with international visitors Questions Grand tour questions : Would you begin by telling me about your experience in the park and things you did (e.g. activities, shows, park features)? How would you d escribe your experience in the park? What part of your visit to the park you liked the most? Are there any things you did not like or wish were different about your visit to the park? Specific questions: How did you come to know about Xcaret? What did y ou expect from your visit to Xcaret? Do you think the park met your expectations? Please provide specific examples. Do you feel that you have a relationship with Xcaret? Why or why not? Please describe your relationship with Xcaret. I nstrument for Face t o face Intercept Survey with Visitors The survey instrument wa s divided into five sections. The first section evaluate d the authenticity of the park as perceived by its visitors. This section wa s adapted from 11) proposed authenticity index by re wording and eliminating few existing items and adding news items to reflect the context of this study The second section measured the extent to which visitors noticed during their visit to the park the expressions of it s identity and mission, which is to preserve Mexican culture and traditions ( Experiencias Xcaret n.d ) Items in this section were constructed using Melewar and Jenkins (2002) conceptualization of organizational identity. The third section examine d park against its reputation by asking them to evaluate the extent to which their visit met their expectations The constru ction of items in this section wa s grounded in Bromley and Hun not provide a l ist of things or attributes that define an organization but rather using a broader approach to let participants describe whether their experience was consistent with their perceptions about the organization
88 The fourth section use d alization of organization public relationship dimensions to evaluate the quality of relationships between Xcaret and its visitors. T (i.e., age, gender, and country of origin) visit characteri stics, and sources of information about Xcaret The purpose of the data collection in this section was to examine whether opinions about organizational authenticity vary and to evaluate the scholarly claims that perceived authenticity is a subject ive and contextual construct (Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011). The first four sections in the i nstrument use d a Spanish/English, five point Likert scale, where one is no ne (1 = nada), two little (2 = poco), three some (3 = algo), four much (4 = mucho), and five totally (5 = totalmente). This is an interval scale suggested by communication executives of Xcaret as most approp riate for the kinds of visitors that Xcaret receives (see Molleda & Jain, 2011) The first section include d 1 0 statements aimed to measure the per ceived authenticity of the park ( Table 3 3 ). The items in this section were adapted from Molleda special event sponsored by Xcaret. To fit the purpos index was revised and reworded to capture the experiences of participants in a tourism setting. The first six statements assess ed asking how satisfactory, fun, memorable comfortable, extraordinary, and unique their visit was. These survey questions capture d the first item of the proposed authenticity index
89 stakeholders, individually or collectively when they encounter or are exposed to the Table 3 3 Survey instrument (Part I) Items on perceived organizational authenticity measurement scale My visit has been fun My visit has been satisfactory My visit has been memorable My visit has been comfortable My v isit has been unique My visit has been extraordinary My visit has inspired me to value Mexican culture and traditions more My visit has motivated me to contribute to the prese rvation of Mexican culture and traditions My visit as inspired me to advocate for conserving Mexican culture and traditions During my visit, I felt active part of Mexican culture and Traditions The next set of four statements, also drawn from the items o f the proposed index of perceive d authenticity, asked participants to characteri four statements: nspired me to value Mexican culture and traditions more otivated me to contribute to the preservation of Mexican culture a nd traditions ake me feel active part of the Mexican traditions These items we re used to measure engagement with the park and its tourism offerings. Melewa conceptualization of corporate identity was used to evaluate the degree of consistency between s perceived identity and visitors experiences Nine items corresponding to the four sub constructs of identity ( i.e., communication and visual identity, beh avior, corporate culture, and market conditions ) were developed. Xcaret identifies itself as a place of genuine cultural expressions of Mexico ( Experiencias Xcaret, n.d ; Molleda & Jain, 2011 ). Therefore, participants were
90 asked t o evaluate the extent to which they experienced these cultural expressions of Mexico during their visit to Xcaret ( Table 3 4). Table 3 4. Survey instrument (Part II) Colors, symbols, and other visu als in the park Marketing and advertising Building and architecture Shows and activities Mission Food Music Art and handicrafts eputation this study used the approach that Bromley (1993) and J. Grunig and Hung (2002) suggested. Participants were asked to think about the park and then evaluate a set of four statements that describe whether their visit fulfilled their expectations from Xcaret ( Table 3 5). Table 3 5. Survey i nstrument (Part III) Xcaret has been much like I Expected Imagined Read or heard about Hoped reputation is that the survey part icipants did not need to forcibly provide a list of things that describe the park and then evaluate whether their experience was consistent with them (Bromley, 1993). Instead, the survey simply asked them to evaluate their experiences against their expecta tions from Xcaret and their visit.
91 The fourth section ask ed participants to evaluate their relationship with the park after their visit. These statements we re ad a pted from the instrument developed by Hon and J. Grunig (1999) and revised by Yang (2007) to m easure the quality of organization public relationships. This section contained a set of 1 4 statements level of trust, commitment, and relational satisfaction with the park ( Table 3 6 ). Table 3 6. Survey instrument (Part IV) Items on relational outcomes measurement scale The park treats visitors fairly The park delivered on its marketing/advertising claims The park has the ability to accomplish its goals The park cares for long term commitment with visitors The park is trying to cultivate a relationship with visitors The park wants to establish a long lasting bond with visitors The park values relationship with visitors I am c I am happy with the park I had happy interaction with the park I will visit the park again I will recommend the park to friends and family and sou rces of information about Xcaret were collected in the final section that asked participants questions regarding their age, gender, country of origin, time spent in the park, number of previous visits, and the sources from which they obtained information a bout the park ( Table 3 7 ). language of communication could be different from that of the researcher (Park, 2001; Wu, Taylor, & Chen, 2001). The face to face intercept surv ey instrument was written in English and translated into Spanish by a bilingual translator. Following
92 recommendations the Spanish in strument was back translated into English by another bilingual speaker to ensure accuracy. After careful e xamination, the Spanish Instrument was found to be consistent in meaning with the original English version. Table 3 7 Survey instrumen t (Part V ) Questions about demographics, attributes of the visit, and sources of information Age Gender Country of orig in Time spent in the park P revious visits Sources Media (Newspaper, TV, Radio) Some other website Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) Friends and family Others Pretest of Survey Instrument Before the full scale data collection began, t he survey instrument was shared with feedback on measurement items. The two practitioners suggested simplifying and shortening the s cale to measure relational outcomes. In addition, some items were problematic when translated into Spanish. Therefore, the researcher re worded the items on this scale and conducted a pretest of the survey instrument with 40 visitors of Xcaret between Febr uary 7 and February 10, 2012 Three of the items on the original relational outcomes scale were found to be problematic during the pretest. The p retest participants commented that these items were not clear. These items also obtained low means and large s tandard deviations during data analysis and hence were dropped. In addition, the marketing research team
93 provided suggestions regarding rewording the rest of the items on the original scale. The feedback from the communication professionals and the pretest helped refine the measurement items and make them relevant to the park and its visitors. The revised and re worded scale contained 11 items, as shown in Table 3 8. As Table 3 intended behav iors to seek information about the park, visit it again, and recommend it to family and friends. These items served to evaluate the value of public relations efforts by investigating the influence of perceived organizational authenticity on outcomes such a Table 3 8 Revised survey instrument (Part IV) Items on relational outcomes measurement scale Employees of Xcaret treat visitors well Employe I would like to learn more about Xcaret I would like to receive regular information from Xcaret I would like to visit Xcaret again I would like to recommend Xcaret to friends and family I am hap py with Xcaret I am pleased with Xcaret I enjoyed myself at Xcaret I liked Xcaret Data Gathering Protocols All partici pants in the study approved the IRB consent form that explain ed the conditions of anonymity and confidentiality (Appendix A C ) The park provided a display her in approaching the survey and interview participants. The researcher showed the briefed the participants about the purpose of the study, its risks and benefits, the time required, and what it involves. They
94 were also informed about the voluntary participation guidelines and their right to withdraw from the study at any point in time. The cont act information of the principal investigator and IRB at the University of Florida were shared with the participants. Following which, the actual data collection began The focus group and interviews were digitally recorded for later t ranscription and data analysis. While, all the marketing and public relations practitioners understand and speak English, a few focus group participants expressed some of their thoughts in Spanish. In fact, the researcher encouraged the participants to choose either language t hat best communicated their ideas and comments. After a response was obtained in Spanish, one of the focus group participants translated it in to English for the researcher to understand and follow up, if the need be. In this manner, the researcher was able to flow in During data analysis, all the responses in Spanish were again translated into English by a bilingual speaker. Data An alysis The data from focus group and in depth interviews was transcribed and analyzed using thematic analysis to identify specific themes emerging from the responses Thematic analysis, a characteristic of most qualitative research, identifies groups of co des that recur through being similar or connected to each other in a patterned way ( Braun & Clarke, 2006; Buetow, 2010; Ryan & Bernard, 2003). Ryan and Bernard (2003) suggested several ways to identify themes in textual analysis of data: repetitions, indig enous typologies or categories, metaphors and analogies, transitions, similarities and differences, linguistic connectors, missing data, and theory related material.
95 were compiled with spe cific themes and verbatim quotes as illustrations Survey data w ere entered in and analyzed with IBM SPSS Statistics 1 9 and IBM SPSS Amos 20.0 .0 for Windows. Frequencies and descriptive statistics were computed A n exploratory f actor analysis was used to explore the dimensionality of the perceived organizational authenticity measurement scale as well as the relational outcomes F actor analysis is recommended to explore the underlying structure in set of variables when no a priori theory of the relation ship between indicators and factors is known (Dunteman, 1989; Kim & Mueller, 1978; Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001). In this case, the researcher explore d all the potential factors of an indicator. Since, the scales used in this study we re modified ( some it ems w e re dropped or reworded and new items were added ) from the way they have been previously used factor analysis is an appropriate method t o explore scale dimensionality. A Principal Axis Factoring (PAF) with a Direct Oblimin with Kaiser Normalization rotati on was used to extract components that explained maximum variance in the observed variables that measured perceived organizational authenticity and relational outcomes. The internal consistency of the scales was assessed using a Cronbach lpha reliabilit y test. To explore the third and fourth research question s and the corresponding hypotheses regarding the relationship between perceived organizational authenticity identity, reputation, and relational outcomes, multiple statistical analyses were carried out Spearman rho correlations and multiple regression analyses were conducted to examine the individual relationships between variables i.e., identity, reputation, perceived organizational authenticity, and relational outcomes. Further, to test the
96 propo sed theoretical model a path analysis was carried out using the Maximum L ikelihood (ML) estimation ( Figure 3 2) Model fit indicators 2 /df, CFI, and RMSEA were used to examine the goodness of fit of the proposed theoretical model. To examine the fifth, s ixth, and seventh research questions, a series of T t ests and correlation analyses using Spearman rho coefficients were conducted T o explore the variation in perceived organizational authenticity with age (H 7 ), correlation analysis with Spearman rho coeff icients was used. The variations in perceived organizational authenticity with national origin (H 8 ) and gender (H 9 ) were assessed using T t ests statistics. Similarly, correlation analysis was used to examine the association between perceived organizational authenticity and the amount of time spent that a visitor spent in the park (H 10 ) and number of previous visits to the park (H11 ). Finally, the last research question was explored using multiple regression analysis to determine if perception s of authentic ity vary with the type of sources from which visitors obtained information about the park Figure 3 2. Path model identifying linkages between identity, reputation, perceived organizational authenticity, and relational outcomes concerns regarding the reliability and validity of qualitative data and the ways in which it tri es to control a nd minimize them are described in the n ext section
97 Trustworthiness of Qualitative Data Reliability and validity of qualitative data is defined as an evaluation of its trustworthiness (Creswell, 2009 ). In this study, several measures were followed to ensure trustworthiness of the data obtained from focus groups and in depth interviews. Creswell (2009 ) suggested that researchers use triangulation, or a combination of findings. In this study, data were collected using focus group, in depth interview s, and survey questionnaires Along these lines, Lincoln and Guba (1985) recommended thick d escription and maintaining an audit of the research process to enhance the credibility of the qualitative findings. Both of these recommendations were followed by the researcher by keeping the original audio files and transcripts of the focus group and int erviews, as well as a detailed record of the data collection process. The next chapter presents the qualitative and quantitative findings of this study, followed by the discussion and conclusion that discuss the findings and their implications to the theo ry and practice of public relations. Specific contributions and limitations of the study and avenues of future research are also presented
98 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS This study use d a triangulation of qualitative and quantitative research methods to examine th e research questions and test the proposed hypothes e s. Focus group and in depth interviews with 11 marketing and public relations practitioners, face to face intercept surveys with 545 visitors and interviews with 16 international visitors were conducted to test the proposed perceived organizational authenticity (POA) model and measurement scale In this c hapter, these findings are articulated and presented. Qualitative Findings Focus Group and In depth Interviews with Marketing and Public Relations Practi tioners The first research question explore d the roles and responsibilities of marketing and public relations professionals in the construction, execution, and promotion of identity, authenticity, and reputation of the park and its main special ev ents Th is question was examined using a focus group wi th the marketing and public relations communication technicians and in depth interviews with the chief communication officer and the art director of the park The purpose of keeping the conversation wi th managers separate from communication technicians wa s to avoid the Both t he focus group and interviews started by each member describing their respective role in the marketing and public relations depar tment and the amount of time they have served in their cur rent position The major public relations roles that focus group participants identified we re media executive s graphic designer, head of public relations Xcaret, public relations chief Xcaret, Ri vera Maya media executive, and d from six
99 months to 10 years. The c hief c ommunication o fficer indicated working with Xcaret for 19 years and the a rt d irector for eight years. History and heritage of Xcaret During the interview, t he c hief c ommunication o fficer describe d Xcaret as an an owner of Xcaret Miguel Quintana. Quintana the respon dent explained However, because of his love and admiration of the Mexican culture, Quintana eventually transformed Xcaret from an ec ological park to a cultural one. W hen p erformances, the internal members were surprised, because culture was not a part of Though, Quintana eventually c onvinced the internal members of his philosophy that c ulture in the world that developed in places that have not invested in natural environment the chief communication officer described. Therefore over time, the a balanced re presentation of the natural and cultu ral richness of Mexico This history and heritage of Xcaret define what it is today, its values, and its offerings. identity and mission that members ascribe to i t. Therefore, t o understand the identity of Xcaret from the perspective of its members, focus group participant s and the interviewees w ere asked to describe Xcaret in their own words. This also served to understand what aspects of Xcaret are most prominent ly communicated to its external publics by the members of its marketing and public relations depar t ment s
100 In general, p articipants and interviewees described Xcaret as a place that personifies Mexico and its culture. When the research er asked what Xcaret is o ne focus group participant e The participant who has served as a media executive for about a year and a half further elaborated p eople, who just visit Rivera Maya or Cancun, do not find a lot of culture. But, if you vi sit Xcaret, you can experience everything about Mexico Another participant described Xcaret as a beautiful cultural and natural habitat that manifests Mexico She added, w e hope that all the people who come here [Xcaret] find it unique, experience e verything and be proud of us Mexicans All participants agreed that Xcaret is a place that offers unique experiences to its visitors. One of the features that differentiate Xcaret from other parks is its exclusive geography and locat ion as described by the chief communication officer The respondent explained: There is no place like Xcaret anywhere else. Mexican culture is Mexican culture, so you can have the same idea anywhere else but it will be unique to that country and that cult ure and that nature. The concept could be the same but not the experience Reflecting on the cultural diversity of Mexico, a focus group participant who has worked with the park for over five yea rs said, see so man y things from all over Mexico in just one place Reflecting on the negative associations about Mexico, the head of public relations said that Xcaret is a place that demonstrates its love to Mexico where people can come and forget about violence, war and drug; the negative stereotypes that the country is often associated with In addition to Mexican cultural heritage, Xcaret is also associated with ancient Mayan culture which sites, shows and
101 performances A media executive explained that several visitors come to Xc aret looking for Mayan culture and get inspired to acquire more knowledge about the history of this culture. Emphasizing this cultural association a media executive also contrasted Xcaret with Disn ey: but in Xcaret you have fun and learn something about the Mexican and Mayan culture s. has preserved Mexican and Mayan culture s and tradition s for visitors to learn about in a fun and exciting way. Communication practitioners as storytellers As a common theme, marketing and public relations practitioners described their ilosophy to its publics. The chief communication ur job is to tell the story of what is behind the scenes marketing and public relations are responsible for communicating those to its myriad publics. The respondent added: It [Xcaret] generates lots of stories every day. Most of public relations practitioners usually have to invent or create stories. We do have the stories. It is har d to choose which ones to tell. Expressing the chall enges of communicating the various to its diverse public s the a rt d irector described his role as a translator between Quintan expectations of the park. t he researcher asked the marketing and public relations practitioners about the key aspects and features of the park that they emphasize in their communication with external publics To this question, a graphic designe r responded t is a challenge to sh ow people what they will experience in the park and get them excited even before they see it [Xcaret] The participant expressed
102 the difficulty of articulating the experience that Xcaret offers in a few pictures or words. Similarly, the Rivera Maya media executive who is responsible for coordinating local, national, and international media visits to Xcaret explained that it is hard to imagine what Xcaret is unless journalists visit the park to directly experience its various elements and activities A medi s ometimes when I receive a media request to shoot a TV show on Xcaret, the journalist has no idea what Xcaret truly is The a rt d irector said that he deals with this challenge by communicating the various elements of the park but actually see Explaining this with an example, he said: When people see a Toucan on our brochure they want to come see a ambience, which is hundred times mor e than what you expected to see T he marketing a nd public relations are cautious about not over promoting the park a nd its offerings. According to the c hief co mmunication o [public] want, less of what they will get, knowing that they will be satisfied Overall, the marketing and public relations manager s expressed that the park is aware of its offerings to the visitors and does not promise anything that it will not be able to deliver. Xcaret as an indentifying feature o you see while in Xcaret what you feel To this another member added that the mission of Xcaret is to make people happy by providing them with a fun experience in the park.
103 Since eting and public relations promote the park as an experience, the department is constantly looking for creating possibilities for media and people to directly experience the park and its offerings The Rivera Maya media executive explained that Xcaret uses media as a tool to promote the park and is constantly looking for opportunities for media visits In fact, for developing possibilities for media and guests to directly observe the park and get familiarized with its values, mission, and services (e.g. media and familiarization tours special events, festivals, etc ). In this process, public relations practitioners described their role as facilitators who help guests experience Xcaret by sharing their person al stories, feelings, and emotions with guests As a common theme public relations practitioners emphasized that they all have personal memories associated with Xcaret that they often narrate to guests. A participant summed it up when she said, i t is fai rly obvious that we all have our o wn passions about here [Xcaret] and by talking to people who want to know about the park you can transmit that passion Communication practitioners as ambassador s of Xcaret When describing the role of marketing and publ ic relations, a graphic designer called the department Xcaret with the park. Participants unanimously agreed that being the first impression that people have of the park, public relations bears great responsibility to communicat e the true essence of Xcaret and what it stands for. One of the ways in which p ublic relations engages and interacts with targeted publics is through social media. Describing his role as a social media executive, a participant said that he is responsible to
104 visitors, so that they feel that they are talking to an actual person. As a group, participants expressed t heir passion in making every experience a memory for visitors. Some of these memories are c aptured in the c omment books that management has placed all around the park. The purpose of the comment books is to gather visitor feedback and use it to The Rivera Maya media executive mentioned that the reads the comments at regular intervals during a day to address any concerns or issues that guests might have encountered during their visit. The participant s said that they feel extremely proud when visitors describe Xcaret as agical p lace, a mazing e xperience participants said that they considered themselves as bearers of the Reviving identity The chief communi cations officer mentioned that o ne of public relations challenge s is to constantly revive the i dentity of Xcaret, not only for visitors but also for people who sell tours to Xcaret. The tour operators are considered a strategic public for the park who actively participate in the construc The a rt d irector mentioned that he conducts extensive discussions with tour operators to ls. As a consequence, Xcaret is constantly communication the subsequent themes most recently, current communication oy M exico (I am Mexico) is designed to engage visitors from all over the world by telling them that they become a part of Mexico by visiting Xcaret.
105 Integrating public relations with core business A overall bu siness strategy of Xcaret. The chief c ommunication o fficer works closely with the owners of the park, particularly on matters that involve communication with external public s such as the media. The interviewee descr ibed her relationship with the p resident as that of a peer who counsels and consults him on organizational issues, opportunities, and challenges. Personal involvement and identification During the conversation with focus group participants and interviewees an interesting theme emerg ed that of personal involvement and identification of marketing and public relations practitioners with Xcaret and its philosophy When asked to describe their role in the current position, several members added member who has been wo rking with Xcaret for over five years said that for her Xcaret d ay, you always learn something that you take home with you and use. member who works as a media execu tive commented i can give you as an employee and teach you a lot When asked how the participants would describe their job, the head of public relations of Xcar I am very proud of my job becaus e I know when my family or people I know are going to visit Xcaret they are going to be proud of Mexico and they will forget all the violence and narco trafic. One member who works as a social media executive narrated a story about a group of children wit h cancer who visited Xcaret a day before the focus group was held Each child participated in the release of the turtles program sponsored by Xcaret. As part of the program, Xcaret raises the turtles until they are 15 months old and then
106 releases them in h opes of providing them with a better chance of survival as they g row. Each child got to name a turtle and release it into the ocean. The member described his experience with these kids as heart touching and something that he could only feel while working f or Xcaret. He further added that experiences like these make his job meaningful and gratifying. Overall members expressed that their association with Xcaret is a source of pride and satisfaction for them This personal identification and involvement of m embers with Xcaret manifests itself in their daily activities and interaction with publics. experience The focus group and interviews were conducted in a friendly and positive environment. The marketing and public relations practitioners seem ed to enjoy working with each other and the managers seemed to support the subordinates using a participatory management style. All members of the focus group expressed their opinions about the topic in an open and cheerful manner. Participants often used narratives to support their views, which added to the richness of the data obtained during the focus group and interviews. As the managers did not participate in the focus group, it is reasonable to assume that participants expressed their opinions without influence or reservations. Participants approached the researcher in a friendly manner and at the end of the focus group asked her to describe her experience in the park A social media executive instantly tweeted about the focus group while it was about to begin. In sum, t he researcher was impressed by the level of detail and knowledge that marketing and public relations practitioners seemed to possess and the key insight s she obtained during her conversation with them.
107 Interviews with Internati onal Visitors Sixteen interviews with international visitors of Xcaret we re conducted to further understand the reputation of the park, examine the experiences of visitors, motivations of visit, and assess their relationship with Xcaret. The interviews pro vide d an opportunity to gain more insights into the quantitative findings and further our understanding about the relationship between perceived organizational authenticity identity reputation, and organization public relational outcomes Xcaret: An auth entic representation of Mexico When asked to describe Xcaret, visitors acknowledged that Xcaret is a special and instance, a visitor from the United States said, i s a treasure and a gem for Mexico and the country should be proud of what Xcaret has do n e to create a good representation of not only Yucatan but all of Mexico. Another participant from India called Xcaret a cohesive place to represent the wide range of M exican culture been to six provinces in Mexico but I did not kno w anything about their culture and just a regional dances Another respondent from Canada w ho was re visiting Xcaret after 20 that it [Xcaret] still looks like the 19 th century Mexico th at I remember from my last trip In general, r espondents admired the multidisciplinary nature of the park where natural and cultura interviewees described Xcaret as a multidisciplinary theme park that offers a range of attractions an d activities for people of all ages and preferences. Another visitor from the
108 United States summed it up i Authentic cultural experience not a tra vel motive In a tourism setting, perceptions of authenticity are contingent upon what travelers are seeking from a destination. During the interviews, visitors were asked to describe their reason to visit Xcaret and whether their expectations were met. In response to this question, all the interviewees said that their principal reason for visiting Xcaret was to have fun and spend a day with their family and friends. Therefore, the researcher asked the interviewees to describe some characteristics of such a place. As a common theme during the interviews, none of the visitors expressed their interest in place visitors used terms such as beaches, an underground riv er, wild animals, good food, music, and entertainment through activities and shows. For instance, a visitor from Canada said t he impression we had of the park was more of a party atmosphere, having fun, and drinks and yet, when you land and spend time wi th indigenous people here you get an entirely different experience The researcher followed up by asking the interviewees about their desire to experience Mexican or Mayan culture at Xcaret. To this one respondent from Canada ell, that is a plus b ut I was not here to experience that as I have already seen which is a collection of cultural performances from the various states of Mexico. Again, respondents stated entertainment as their principal reason to watch the show rather than a desire to experience Mexican culture
109 experience and engagement Nevertheless, several dimensions of authenticity were implicitly or explic itly expressed by visitors in their description of overall experience at and engagement with Xcaret. Most visitors found the natural environment of Xcaret authentic and commended the park for preserving the landscapes in their natural state and not contami nating the how a person has preserved nature to create a place for culture to prosper and flourish Visitors also remarked about the originality or uniqueness of Xcaret as a tourism parks we see in Orlando or other places. You will not see such architecture and natural setting in any other theme parks of the world Some visitors also stated that they enjoyed visiting the Mayan ruins within the park and the performances about Mayan traditions. The park strives to provide its visitors with an exp erience of this historic culture by preserving the Mayan ruins, delivering performances that educate people about this culture, and by selling artifacts that are representative of Mayan culture. It should be noted that during the last three days of this re search, the shows demonstrating Mayan traditions were canceled in preparation of a new show that the park will launch this year Therefore, some interviewees had not seen these performances at the time of the interviews. However, the visitors who watched t A visitor from t [Xcaret] is reminiscent of all Mexico as i t takes you back in ancient times Another participant from London explained h ow the park takes its visitors o n a journe y in history and inspires them to respect where they have come from.
110 ancient civilization. A couple from London who booked a tour to ancient Mayan cites in Mexico during their v isit to Xcaret mentioned that the park inspired them to gain better we feel good about visiting Xcaret and respect it for donating a sum of their earnings to the preservation of the Mayan culture. V isitor s also admired the park for its sustainability efforts and eco friendly practices. Finally, visitors also commented on the exceptional nature of services that Xcaret and its employees treate d here, in a land where I am a foreigner and people do not understand my language that well Overall, international visitors mostly commented on their overall experience being fun and satisfactory due largely to their interaction with the natural element s of the park rather than the culture. When asked, most participants could not describe anything that they learned about the Mexican culture and traditions during their visit to Xcaret. Interestingly here is no such thing as the Mexican culture as it is not as homogenous. respondents with Mexican culture and traditions at Xcaret. While the park strives to develop a cultural understanding among participants, it is hard for international visitors to get engaged and feel an active part of the traditions because of a lack of prior knowledge about the subtle cues that constitute a culture. This was also pointed out by a visitor from India who was vacationing with his son at Xcar want my son to learn about th he might remember the flying men, he will not remember its cultural significance
111 Perceptions about Mexico Another theme across all responses related to resp about Mexico In general, r espondents stated that they were wary about their visit to Mexico because of its negative associations with crime, violence, and drug trafficking However, t heir visit to Xcaret revealed an entirely new perspective about Mexico and its people. A visitor y friends warned me about this place [Mexico] and asked me to stay cautious and now, I want to go back and recommend them to visit Mexico and Xcaret Another participan that Mexicans are so polite Overall, respondents praised Xcaret for changing their perceptions about Mexico More satisfaction, less commitment In response to the question regarding a long term relationship with Xcare t, a respondent from Canada said t he problem as tourists is that you cannot just focus on one thing. There is so much to do. You probably gotta go to the next thing. Time is valuable a nd there is so much more to see This was a common theme among all the respondents. While visitors expressed their satisfaction with Xcaret and even mentioned recommending the park to their friends and family, no one expressed a desire to keep in touch with the park or actively seek information about it. This was a surprisin g finding considering many respondents were re visiting Xcaret. This might suggest that relational satisfaction describes international experience The interviews were con ducted while participants were waiting for the last show of This place and time was suggested by the marketing and
112 public relations professionals as the most appropriate setting to conduct interviews. This gave the researche they had spent an entire day at the park experiencing its various elements, activities, performance, and shows. On the downside, some participants gave short answers because of exhaustion f up short responses with requests to elaborate or reworded the question. In general, the interviews were conducted in a friendly and positive manner. Respondents seemed excited to share their experi ences with the researcher. A few respondents also wanted the interview was over. In general, the interviews provided valuable insights about rism destination and their motivations to visit a theme park such as Xcaret. Quantitative Findings Face to Face Intercept Survey with Visitors Sample description A total of 570 surveys were collected of which 25 were discarded due to incomplete data Tab l e 4 1 presents the demographic and visit specific details of the 545 participants in the final sample. The parti years with an average age of about 38 years ( SD = 14.6). Over half of the survey participants identified thems elves as females ( n = 301, 55% ) and about 60 percent as international visitors ( n = 325). The average amount of time that participants indicated they had spent in the park at the time of data collection was about nine hours ( SD = 2.4) with a minimum indic ated as one hour and maximum 12. Most of the survey participants were visiting Xcaret for
113 the first time ( n = 383, 70.3%). However of those who had visited the park before ( n = 149, 27.3%), most visitors indicated that this was their third visit to Xcaret ( n = 57, 10.5 %). Table 4 1 Profile of survey participants N= 545 # % Age Average Range Standard Deviation 38 years 73 (12 85 years) 14.6 Gender Male Female 236 301 43.3 55.2 Country of residence Mexico International 220 325 40.4 59.6 Times Spen t Average Range Standard Deviation 8.92 hours 11 (1 12 hours) 2.409 First visit to Xcaret Yes No 383 149 70 .3 27 .3 Number of Previous Visits 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 49 57 23 7 4 1 7 9 10.5 4.2 1.3 0.7 0.2 1.3 Source of Information about Xcaret News media Pa Some other website Social Media Family and friends Other sources 127 121 43 60 340 140 60 23.3 22.2 7.9 11 62.4 25.7 11
114 Participants were also asked to indicate the source from where they obtained information about Xcaret. As Table 4 1 shows, most participants heard about the park from friends and family or word of mouth ( n other promotional materials ( n = 140, 25.7) was indicated as the second most frequently used source of information about Xcaret, followed by news media ( n = 127, 23.3%), and n = 121, 22.2%). Dimensions of perceived organizational authenticity The second research question in this study explore d the dimensions of perceived organizational a uthenticity. The con s tr u ct of perceived organizational authenticity was examined using a measurement scale with 10 items. Authenticity is conceptualized as a multidimensional construct in scholarly literature. Therefore, this study use d P rincipal A xis F act oring (PAF ) with a Direct Oblimin with Kaiser Normalization rotation to extract components that explained maximum variance in the observed variables that measured perceived authenticity of Xcaret. The choice of direct oblimin over the varimax rotation wa s justified by a 0.6 corr elation between the two factors, which reflected enough variance to warrant oblique rotation (Pedhazur & Schmelkin, 1991). For this study, PA F wa s an appropriate method to extract the dimensions of authenticity. Scholars recommend f actor analysis to explore the underlying structure in set of variables when no a priori theory of the relationship between indicators and factors is known (Dunteman, 1989; Kim & Mueller, 1978; Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001). As the review of existing research s uggest ed, there are no previous attempts to develop a measurement scale of perceived authenticity of organizations with an exception of Molleda and Jain ( 2011 ). However, the ir scale evaluated perceived authenticity of a special event, while this study ex amines the perceived authenticity of an organization, in
115 this case, Xcaret. To fit the purpose of this study, the scale of Molleda and Jain was revised and reworded to capture the experiences of participants in a tourism setting. Tabachnick and Fidell ( 20 01 ) recommend ed an eigenvalue of more than or equal to one. Applying this rule and the scree plot method a two factor solut ion of perceived authenticity wa s obtained Table 4 2 presents the factor loadings for th e component matrix and the means and standard deviation of the items. The first factor of the two factor model represent ed 55 percent of the variance in the latent variable, perceived authenticity and the second factor explain ed 11 percent. All the items in the two factors obtained a factor loading of greater than or equal to 0.6 and therefore we re considered meaningful ( Pedhaz ur & Schmelkin, 1991 ). Similar to (2011) study, the first factor wa overall experience second active engagement Overall experience : The first factor evaluated overall experience during their visit to Xcaret. This factor contained six items qualifying the degree to which omfortable, unique, and extraordinary on a five point Likert sc ale. The means of the items varied from 4.25 to s factor obtained factor loadings in the range of 0.7 to 0.9. Active engagement: The second factor, active engagement reflected the degree to to contribute to the p reservation of Mexican culture and traditions to advocate for
116 conserving Mexican culture and traditions, and the degree to which participants felt an active part of Mexican culture and traditions. The four items obtained means of 4.45, 4.46, 4.50, and 4.2 1 respectively, on a five point Likert scale. The respective factor loadings of these items were 0.8, 0.9, 0.9, and 0.6. Both the factors were saved as variables while conducting the factor analysis. In addition alpha values of the two fac tors were computed to examine the internal consistency of the items that measure them. Both the factors obtained an internal consistency of 0.9. Table 4 2 Dimensions of perceived organizational authenticity : Factor loadings, eigenvalues, and percentages o f variance explained using Principal Axis Factor analysis Factors Items Overall Experience Active Engagement M SD My visit has been fun My visit has been satisfactory My visit has been memorable My visit has been comfortable My visit has been unique M y visit has been extraordinary 0. 678 0.7 35 0.812 0.673 0.773 0.8 97 4.48 4.51 4.56 4.25 4 47 4. 41 0 72 0.69 0.72 0.91 0.77 0.84 My visit has inspired me to value Mexican culture and traditions more My visit has inspired me to contribute to the preservati on of Mexican culture and traditions My visit has inspired me to advocate for conserving Mexican culture and traditions During my visit I felt active part of Mexican culture and traditions % of variance explained Eigenvalue s 5 6 74 5. 7 0.827 0 .9 63 0. 90 9 0.600 1 5 00 1. 5 4.45 4.46 4.50 4.2 1 0.76 0.7 6 0.74 0.95 Notes. a. Rotation converged in 5 iterations. Extrac tion Method: Principal Axis Factoring Rotation Method: Direct Oblimin with Kaiser Normalization.
117 Dimensions of relational outcomes The composite scale of relational outcomes comprise d of three items to measure trust five items to measure satisfaction and three items to measure commitmen t. Instead of using a sum or average of the items to make composites for each of these t hree variables, Principal Axis F actoring with D irect O blimin rotation with Kaiser normalization wa s used The factor loadings, eigenvalues, percentage s of variance explained means and standard deviation are presented in Table 4 3 Table 4 3 Dimensions of relational outcomes : Factor l oadings, eigenvalues, and percentages of variance explained using Principal Axis Factor analysis Factors Items Satisfaction Trust Commitment M SD I am happy with Xcaret I am pleased with Xcaret I enjoyed myself at Xcare t I liked Xcaret I will recommend Xcaret to family and friends 0.902 0.875 0.981 0.945 0.610 4.56 4.55 4.6 0 4.63 4.69 0.69 0.69 0.65 0.64 0.68 Treats visitors well C interests C apable of delivering on promises Li ke to learn more a bout Xcaret L ike to receive regular information from Xcaret L ike to visit Xcaret again 0.896 0.867 0.712 0.848 0.794 0.511 4.63 4.60 4.62 4.24 3.85 4.46 0.62 0.66 0.65 1.00 1.32 0.94 % of variance explained Eigenvalues 59.80 6.6 13.15 1.4 8.55 0.94 Notes. a. Rotation converged in 12 iterations. Extraction Method: Principal Axis Factoring. Rotation Method: Direct Oblimin with Kaiser Normalization. The first factor ( satisfaction ) represent ed about 60 percent of the variance in relational ou tcomes, the second factor ( trust ) attribute d for 13 percent, and the third factor ( commitment ) explain ed nine percent of the variance. While the third factor
118 obta ined an eigenvalue of 0.9, it was retained because of its theoretical conceptualization in thi s study. The means of items in satisfaction var ied from 4.55 to 4.69, with the highest mean and d f rom 0.6 to 0.9. All the items in trust received about the same means of 4.6 and their factor loadings var ied from 0.7 to 0.9. Finally, the items in the third dimension of relational outcomes i.e. commitment received means in range of 3.85 to 4.46, with th e lowest mean reported for Identity and reputation Xcaret identifies itself as a special place that represents all of Mexico a nd its cultural diversity Therefore, this study measure d the extent to which visitors observed elements such as food, music, artifacts, buildings and architecture, a nd activities an d sh ows. The study also investigated by asking them to evaluate the extent to which their visit met their expectations from Xcaret. On a five point Likert scale, t he means and standard deviation of these items are presented in Table 4 4 obtained similar means.
119 Table 4 4 Means and standard deviation of items on identity and reputation scales Items M SD Mexica Colors, symbols, and other visual elements 4.51 0.660 Marketing and advertising 4.17 1.018 Buildings and architecture 4.46 0.774 Employees actions and behavior 4.53 0.729 Shows and activities 4.39 0 .923 Mission 4.16 1.126 Food 4.29 0.979 Music 4.34 0.965 Art and handicrafts 4.50 0.775 Xcaret has been m uch l ike I Expected 4.35 0.911 Imagined 4.34 0.885 Read or heard about 4.37 0.860 Hoped 4.40 0.858 Perceived organizational authenticity, identity, and reputation The third research question in this study examined the relationship between identity, reputation, and perceived organizational authenticity. Two hypotheses corresponding to this research question were explored. These hypotheses we re approached using a variety of statistical tests. First, Spearman rho correlations between the composite scores of the items measuring each variable were computed ( Table 4 5 ) Table 4 5 Correlation between identity, reputation, and perceived organizati onal authenticity and its dimensions Variables Perceived organizational a uthenticity Overall e xperience Active e ngagement Identity 0.667** 0.650** 0.588** Reputation 0.664** 0.623** 0.615** **. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2 tailed). The perceived authenticity variable was found to have a significant positive correlation with both identity ( r = 0.667, p = 0.01) and reputation ( r = 0.664, p = 0.01). Also, the correlations between the two variables, identity and reputation, and the
120 dimen sions of perceived organizational authenticity, overall experience and active engagement wer e significant and positive ( Table 4 5 ). After examinin g the relationship between the composite scores of the variables, multiple linear regression analyses were ca rried out to determine the degree of influence of independent variables identity and reputation on the dependent variable perceived organizational authenticity First, regression equations we re c omputed for the composite scores of the three variables. B oth identity ( B = 0. 362 p < 0.001) and reputation ( B = 0. 921 p < 0.001) were found to have significant influence on perceived organizational authenticity. T his model obtained an overall R square of 0.549. Therefore, bot h H1 and H2 were supported demonstrati ng that the greater the stakeholders feel that their ex and reputation the greater is the perceived authenticity of the organization. To further explore these relationships, multiple linear regressio ns were executed between the two perceived organizational authenticity dimensions ( i.e., overall experience and active engagement ) and the individual ite ms used to measure identity and reputation Four items corresponding to identity we re found to have sig nificant association with overall experience : isual identity ( B = 0.250 p < uildings and architecture ( B = 0.080 p < 0.1), hows and activities ( B = 0.117 p < 0.01), and usic ( B = 0.084 p < 0.05). Similarly, three items on the reput ation scale we re found to have significant relationship with overall experience : Xcaret has been much like I expected ( B = 0.231, p < 0.01), imag i ned ( B = 0.119, p < 0.1), and hoped ( B = 0.15, p < 0.01). The overall R square for this regression model wa s 0.508.
121 For the second dimension of perceived organizational authenticity i.e., active engagement five items of identity had significant association: isual identity ( B = 0.2 33 p < 0.01), ui ldings and architecture ( B = 0.1 39 p < 0.01), actions and behavior ( B = 0.10 9 p < ission ( B = 0.074 p < 0.05), and Food ( B = 0.72 p < 0.1). However, only two items of reputation obtained significant association with a ctive engagement : Xcaret has been much like I expected ( B = 0.14 1, p < 0.5) and hoped ( B = 0.1 64 p < 0.01). This model obtained an overall R square of 0.515. Perceived organizational authenticity and relational outcomes The fourth research question and the corresponding hypotheses examine d the association between perceived organizational authenticity and organization public relational outcomes. Three relational outcomes trust commitment and satisfaction we re measured. Mu ltiple statistical measures we re again used to evaluate whether perceived authenticity enhances participants relationship with Xcaret. First, Spearman rho correlations we re obtained between the composite scores of perceived organizational authentici ty and relational outcomes ( Table 4 6 ) Table 4 6 Correlation between relational outcomes and perceived organizational authenticity Variables Perceived authenticity Overall e xperience Active e ngagement Rel ational o utcomes 0.727** 0.655** 0.678** Satisfactio n 0.657** 0.493** 0.516** Trust 0.531** 0.602** 0.609** Commitment 0.669** 0.587** 0.626** **. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2 tailed). Both variables were significantly and positively correlated ( r = 0.727, p = 0.01). Further, associa tions between perceived organizational authenticity dimensions and relational outcomes were also found to be significant and positive. Finally, perceived
122 organizational authenticity and its dimensions were found to be significantly and positively associate d with the dimensions of relational outcomes obtained using factor analysis. After computing the correlations between the variables a multiple linear regression was conducted between the dimensions of perceived organizational authenticity and the composi te score of relational outcomes. B oth overall experience ( B = 2.332 p < 0.001) and active engagement ( B = 3.660, p < 0.001) were found to have significant influence on the relational outcomes composite score The overall R square of this model wa s 0.439. Therefore, H3 was supported showing that perceived organizational authenticity has a positive influence on the quality of organization public relationships. The individual effects of items on perceived organizational authenticity scale we re further explore d by fitting a multiple regression between the items and the relational outcomes composite score. Six of the 10 items of perceived authenticity we re found to have significant association with relational outcomes. These include y visit to Xcaret has been fun ( B = 1.159 p < 0. 0 5), memorable ( B = 0. 783 p < 0.1), extraordinary ( B = 1.693 p < 0. 0 01), My visit inspired me to value Mexican culture and traditions more ( B = 1.854 p < 0.0 0 1), My vi sit inspired me to contribute to the preservation of Mexican culture and traditions ( B = 0.985 p < 0.1), and I felt active part of Mexican culture and traditions ( B = 1.277 p <0. 0 01). The R square for this regression model was 0.59 furt her support ing H3.
123 Finally, this study hypothesized that perceived organizational authenticity has a positive influence on organization public trust (H4 ), satisfaction (H 5 ), and commitment (H 6 ). To examine these hypotheses, multiple regression analyses we re carried out with the two dimensions of perceived organizational authenticity (i.e. overall experience and active engagement ) as predictor variables and trust satisfaction and commitment as dependent variables. The results of these analyses are shown i n Table 4 7 Table 4 7 Multiple regression analysis associating relational outcomes dimensions to perceived authenticity dimensions and its individual items Items in the model B p value R 2 Model 1 a Overall e xperience 0.167 0.022 0.233 Active e ngagem ent 0.444 0.000 Model 1b My visit has been memorable 0.227 0.004 0.309 My visit has inspired me to contribute to the preservation of Mexican culture and traditions 0.345 0.000 Model 2a ** Overall e xperience 0.458 0.000 0.363 Active e ngagement 0.370 0.000 My visit has been fun 0.136 0.081 0.513 Model 2 b ** My visit has been satisfactory 0.179 0.036 My visit has been memorable 0.130 0.055 My visit has been extraordinary 0.254 0.000 My visit has inspired me to value Mexican culture and trad itions more 0.330 0.000 During my visit I felt an active part of Mexican culture and traditions 0.146 0.003 Model 3a *** Overall e xperience 0.214 0.001 0.386 Active e ngagement 0.559 0.000 Model 3b *** My visit has been fun 0.196 0.006 0.535 My vis it has been extraordinary 0.237 0.000 My visit has inspired me to value Mexican culture and traditions more 0.289 0.000 During my visit I felt an active part of Mexican culture and traditions 0.278 0.000 *Model for trust **Model for satisfaction ***Model for commitment Both overall experience and active engagement were found to significantly trust ( Model 1a), satisfaction ( Model 2a) and commitment ( Model 3a)
124 levels with Xcaret. The overall R square for these models was 0.23 3, 0.363, and 0.386 respectively. Therefore, H4, H5, and H6 were supported. trust satisfaction and commitment with Xcaret, multiple linear regressions were carried ou t between the individual items on perceived organizational authenticity scale and the three relational outcomes dimensions. The individual items that had a significant dif ferent for each r elational outcome dimension ( Model 1b, 2b, and 3b). These items and their be ta values are shown in Table 4 7 The respective overall R square for these models was 0.309, 0.513, and 0.535. Relationship between identity, reputation, perceive d authenticity, and relational outcomes This study developed a model that proposes a positive relationship between identity, reputation, perceived authenticity, and relational outcomes. To evaluate the suggested model, path analysis using Maximum Likelihoo d estimation i n SPSS Amos 20 .0 wa s conducted ( Figure 4 1) The model fit indicators show ed that the proposed model has a good fit: 2 /df = 0.502, p = 0.478, CFI = 1.000 and RMSEA = 0.000 [0.000, 0.100]. Figure 4 1 shows the path model with the correspondin g path estimates between the variables The path analysis also supports H1, H2, and H3 explored in the study. Table 4 8 shows the Maximum Likelihood estimates of structural paths. H1 and H2 predicted a positive relationship between identity, reputation, a nd perceived authenticity. The standardized direct effect of identity on perceived authenticity was found to be 0.29 ( p < 0.001) and of reputation to be 0.99 ( p < 0.001). Therefore both H1 and H2 were
125 supported. Further, the hypotheses regarding a positiv e relationship between perceived authenticity and relational outcomes was also supported with perceived authenticity having a standardized direct effect of 1.07 ( p < 0.001) on relational outcomes. Figure 4 1. The path analysis showing associations betw een identity, reputation, perceived organizational authenticity, and relational outcomes Table 4 8 Maximum Likelihood Estimates of structural paths for model with relational outcomes Standardized e stimate Unstandardized e stimate Standard e rror p v alue Identity > Perceived organizational authenticity 0.261 0.287 0.034 <0.001 Reputation > Perceived organizational authenticity 0.510 1.049 0.069 <0.001 Perceived organizational authenticity > Relational outcomes 1.055 1.117 0.050 <0.001 In addition, a model between perceived organizational authenticity and the three dimensions of relational outcomes ( i.e., trust commitment and satisfaction ) wa s also tested using Max imum Likelihood estimation ( Figure 4 2). The model fit indicators showed that the prop osed model also has a good fit: 2 /df = 1.561, p = 0.196, CFI = 0.999 and RMSEA = 0.032 [0.000, 0.085]. Table 4 9 shows the Maximum Likelihood
126 estimates of structural paths for this model. The path analysis showed that perceived organization authenticity p ositively influences trust (H4), satisfaction (H5), and relational commitment (H6) with Xcaret as all the path estimates were found to be significant (Figure 4.2). Figure 4 2. The path analysis showing associations between identity, reputation perceived organizational authenticity, and dimensions of relational outcomes Table 4 9 Maximum Likelihood Estimates of structural paths for model with trust, satisfaction, and commitment Standardized e stimate Unstandardized e stimate Standard e rror p v alue Identity > Perceived organizational authenticity 0.2 83 0. 311 0.03 2 <0.001 Reputation > Perceived organizational authenticity 0. 491 1.0 11 0.06 5 <0.001 Perceived organizational authenticity > Trust 0.938 0.261 0.016 <0.001 Perceived organizationa l authenticity > Satisfaction 0.878 0.408 0.026 <0.001 Perceived organizational authenticity > Commitment 0.815 0.447 0.025 <0.001 Perceived The fifth research question examine d the relationship b d emographics and perceived organizational authenticity Using t hree hypotheses the
127 variation in perceived organizational authenticity with age (H 7 ), country of origin (H 8 ), and gender (H 9 ) wa s analyzed. H 7 hypothesized that older particip ants will evaluate perceived authenticity of Xcaret higher than younger visitors. The Spearman rho correlations between age and the two perceived authenticity dimensions (i.e. overall experience and active engagement ) wer e not found to be significant. Ther e fore H7 wa s not supported. To gain more insights into this relationship, correlations between age and individual items on the perceived authenticity scale were computed. Only one item, During my visit I felt active part of the Mexican culture and tradit but weakly correlated with age ( r = 0.097, p < 0.05). The country specific variations we re explored using H 8 that predicted that international visitors will evaluate perceived authenticity of Xcaret higher than the visitors from Me xico, the country in which the park is located. Results of independent sample T t ests show that visitors from Mexico evaluated the active engagement dimension of perceived authenticity higher than the international visitors ( t (541) = 3.206, p < 0.001 d = 0.3, medium effect ). This dimension consists of items that reflect the degree to which participants were inspired to value, contribute, and advocate for the conservation of Mexican culture and traditions and their level of active involvement with Mexican culture and traditions during their visit to the park. To further explore this interesting finding, the two groups of visitors we re compared along each of the 10 items on the perceived organizational authenticity scale. For each item, the means of visitor s from Mexico were found to be higher than the means for international visitors. However, the differences were statistically significa nt for six of the 10 items ( Table 4 1 0 t (541) =
128 2.003, p < 0.05, d = 0.2, sm all effect t (541)= 1.843, p < 0.1, d = 0.2, small effect Mexican culture and traditions more t (541) = 4.674, p < 0.001, d = 0.4, medium effect contribute to the preservation of Mexican culture and traditions t (541) = 3.616, p < 0.001, d = 0.3, medium effect advocate for conserving Mexican culture and traditions t (541) = 3.675, p < 0.001, d = 0.3, medium effect During my visit, I felt active part of Mexican culture and traditions t (541) = 4.098, p < 0.001, d = 0.4, medium effect ). Therefore, H8 was not supported. Table 4 1 0 Means of Mexican and authenticity items Items Mexican v isitors (n=219) International v isitors (n=324) M SD M SD My visit has been fun 4.56 0.637 4.43 0.768 My visit has been satisfactory 4.58 0.673 4.46 0.698 My visit has inspired me to value Mexican culture and traditions more 4.63 0.597 4.33 0. 828 My visit has inspired me contribute to the preservation of Mexican culture and traditions 4.6 0 0.640 4.36 0.819 My visit has inspired me to advocate for conserving Mexican culture and traditions 4.64 0.617 4.41 0.804 During my visit, I felt an activ e part of Mexican culture and traditions 4.41 0.815 4.08 1.011 Finally, H 9 predict ed that f emale visitors to Xcaret will evaluate perceived organizational authenticity of the park higher than male visitors. No significant differences we re found between m overall experience and active engagement dimensions. Si milarly, no gen der differences we re observed along the individual items that constitute the perceived organizational aut henticity scale. Therefore, H9 wa s no t supported.
129 Perceived organizational authenticity and visit characteristics This stu dy also examine d whether the duration of time that visitors experienced Xcaret (H10) and their previous visits (H11) to the park had any associ ation with their evaluation of the park Weak, significant association wa s found between the overall experience dimension of perceived authenticity and the time spent by a participant in the park ( r = 0.095, p <0.05). However, none of the individual items on the perceiv ed authenticity scale obtained a significant association with the time duration for which a participant was in the park. Therefore, H 10 wa s only partially supported. Ind ependent sample T tests reveal ed a significant difference between participants who ha d been to X caret before and those who ha d no t along the active engagement dimension ( t (528) = 2.278, p < 0.05, d = 0.2 medium effect ) In addition, significant differences we re also found along all the items that compr ise this dimension ( Table 4 1 1 ) Thes e items we re: My visit inspired me to value Mexican culture and traditions more ( t (528 ) = 4. 452 p < 0.001, d = 0.4, medium effect ), contribute to the preservation of Mexican culture and traditions ( t ( 528 ) = 1.796 p < 0.1, d = 0.2 small effect ), advocate for conserving Mexican culture and traditions ( t (528 ) = 2.452 p < 0.0 5 d = 0.3, medium effect ), and During my visit, I have felt active part of Mexican culture and traditions ( t (5 28 ) = 2.115 p < 0.0 5 d = 0.2 medium effect ). Therefore, H 11 was partially supported. Interestingly though, the number of times a participant ha d visited Xcaret had no significant a ssociation was found between this variable and the two perceived authenticity dimensions. This finding might suggest that authentic experiences remain
130 unchanged over time, unless the setting in which they take place changes dramatically from its original s tate. However, this finding needs further investigation. Table 4 1 1 Means of responses from participants who had visited Xcaret before and Visited Xcaret b efore Items Yes (n= 149 ) No (n= 381 ) M SD M SD My visit has inspired me to value Mexican culture and traditions more 4.67 0.551 4.35 0.814 My visit has inspired me contribute to the preservation of Mexican culture and traditions 4.55 0.678 4.41 0.795 My visit has inspired me to advocate for conserving Mexican culture and traditions 4.63 0.602 4.45 0.791 During my visit, I have felt active part of Mexican culture and traditions 4.34 0.834 4.15 0.993 Perceived organizational authenticity and sources of information Finally, this study explore d the relationship between the type of sou rce from where participants obtained information about Xcaret and their evaluations of perceived authenticity of the park Multiple linear regression equations were fitted with the sources of information as predictors and overall experience and active enga gement as dependent variables. were found to have significant influence. For overall experience receiving information ha d a positive influence ( B = 0.052, p < 0.001) and social media a negative influence ( B = 0.05, p < 0.01). Similarly, active engagement wa s positively influence d B = 0.029, p < 0.05) and negatively by social media ( B = 0.061, p < 0.00 1).
131 Internal Consistency of S cales four scales in this study obtained an internal consistenc y higher than 0.8 ( Table 4 12 ), indicating that the scales have good reliability ( Lee & Shavelson, 2004 ). Table 4 1 2. Scale reliability Scale Number of Items Perceived organizational authenticity 10 0.91 Identity 9 0.85 Reputation 4 0.91 Relational outcomes 11 0.91
132 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION AND CONCL USION This study f urther conceptualize d and operationally define d the construct of perceived organizational authenticity and its dimensions by developing and testing a theoretical framework that identifies its causal linkages with organizational identity reputation and re lational outcomes In addition, the study develop ed and empirically examined a n improved measurement scale for perceived organization al authenticity that is more parsimonious and has higher internal consistency than the i ndex that Molleda and Jain (2011 ) p roposed and tested Using a triangulation of qualitative an d quantitative research methods, seven research questions and 11 hypotheses were investigated regarding the relationship between perceived organization al authenticity, identity, reputation, and re lational outcomes. Focus group and in depth interviews were conducted with 11 marketing and public relations practitioners of Xcaret (esh caret), a cultural and eco archeological theme park in Riviera Maya, Mexico, to understand their roles and responsibil ities in the construction, execution, and promotion of identity, authenticity, and reputation of the park and its main special events. Face to face intercept surveys with 545 visitors and interviews with 16 international visitors of Xcaret were analyzed to understand the dimensions of perceived organizational authenticity and test the proposed theoretical model and measurement scale Variations in perceived authenticity in relation to demographics visit specific characteristics and the type of sources tha t visitors used to obtain information about Xcaret we re also examined. In this chapter, t he key qualitative and quantitative research findings and their interpretation s theoretical and practical implications, limitations, and avenues for future research a re explained
133 Key Research Findings Qualitative Findings Table 5 1 presents a summary of the qualitative research findings from the focus group and interviews with the marketing and public relations practitioners of Xcaret and the interviews with its inter national visitors. Table 5 1. Summary of qualitative findings Key themes from focus group & in depth interviews with practitioners of Xcaret Key themes from in depth interviews with international visitors of Xcaret History and heritage of Xcaret Identity and mission Communication practitioners as storytellers Xcaret as an experience Communication practitioners as ambassadors of the park Reviving Xcaret s identity Integrating public relations with core business Personal involvement and identificati on Xcaret: An authentic representation of Mexico Authentic cultural experience not a travel motive Visitors experience and engagement Perceptions about Mexico More satisfaction, less commitment Focus g roup and in depth interviews with marketing and publ ic relations practitioners those characteristics of an organization that members perceive as enduring, central, and unique about their organization ( Albert & Whetten, 1985). ity defines its Balmer & Greyse r 2006 p. 735). Scholars suggest ed that an mission statements, strategy, values, and beliefs are the foundation of its identity (Sha, 2009; van Riel & Balmer, 1997). t he marketing and public relations professional s of Xcaret This also served to and public relations
134 efforts. The practitioners describ ed the organization as a special place that re presents Mexico its culture and traditions natural richness and diversity traditions are manifested in the various elements of the p ark such as food, music, artifacts, buildings and architecture, and shows and performances Molleda (2010a) suggested that organizations progressively build their identities by selecting and communicating certain features to their stakeholders who interpre t these claims and promises to form perceptions about an organization and its reputation. In general, the Mexican and Mayan cultural traditions and history is an identifying feature that they emphasize in their communication with identity over time, beginning with its origin and heritage, and leading up to what it is today Gilmore and Pin e (2007) emphasized that the process of rendering authenticity is defined by a and n that defines the future possibilities for an organization based on its history and heritage. The findings reveal ed that Xcaret gradually construct ed its which is culture, and traditions The marketing and public relations leaders des cribed that over the past couple of years, Xcaret gradually transformed from an ecological to a cultural theme park Since then, the park has revitalized its identity and image while remain ing true to its core values and mission Further, its overall vis ion and philosophy have guided Xcaret in maintaining it s current positioning as a cultural and ecological theme park ; identifying business and
135 communication strategy for the future ; limiting its future possibilities to those it can achieve and value; and e nhancing its operating zone by capitalizing on its existing strengths to create new opportunities in the future These findings are consistent with principles for rendering organizational authenticity. While there are several them e parks in the Riviera Maya ( additional three under the same ownership as Xcaret ) the park has retained its unique position ing due to its exclusive geography, location, overall setting, and original performances including live music, entertainment, cultur al dances, and shows According to the marketing and public relations practitioners, the park is aware of its current positioning as a cultural theme park and uses it as a source of differentiation to distinguish it from the other parks in Riviera Maya T he park also understands its limits in terms of what it is and what it offers to its visitors The marketing and public relations practitioners mentioned that they are cautious about not over promot ing the park and its offerings and strive to communicate a publics. While t he objective of all communication is to inspire interest in the park Xcaret avoids making claims that would generat e false hopes or expectations among its target publics regarding the experience s th e park can offer by generat ing opportunities for the media and publics to directly experience and interact with the par k, its offerings, claims, and values. The objective of media and familiarization tours, special events, and festivals is to provide the target and promises about tourism experiences.
136 During the proc ess of constructing and communicating a cohesive and consistent identity of Xcaret, the marketing and public relations practitioners described their role as The participants and in terviewees agreed that their personal involvement and identification with the park and its values manifests itself in their daily activities and interaction with publics. Further, the practitioners specified their professional roles at the park as facilita tors who help guests experience Xcaret by sharing their personal stories, feelings, and emotions. Further, the leaders emphasized that the overall integration of marketing and public relations with the core business and the open access the departments have to the owners is a significant contributor in the ir success Overall, the interactions and discussions with the marketing and public relations practitioners demonstrate d their intricate involvement and engagement in the construction, execution, and promot ion of identity, authenticity, and reputation of Xcaret Further, the findings reveal ed the strategic role of participatory management style and open communication in building consensus about and personal identification with the philosophy, and vision. Most importantly, the findings illustrate d the significant role that public relations could perform in helping organizations render authenticity Scholars recommend ed that organizations can portray themselves as authentic by being transparent, sharing periodic and accurate information with its publics, engaging them in a dialogue by soliciting their feedback, and disclosing its personal values, motives, and believes in a manner that enable publics to more accurately assess the ident ity and integrity of the
137 Pine, 2007). As t he findings show ed all the s e actions we re described as the roles and responsibilities of marketing and public relations practitioners. Interviews with international visi tors This study also conducted interviews with 16 international visitors of Xcaret to examine their tourism experience in the park and motivations of the visit, as well as to s from the perspective of its inte rnational publics. The interviews provided an opportunity to gain further insights into the quantitative findings and enhance our understanding about the associations between perceived organizational authenticity identity reputation, and organization pub lic relational outcomes In general, respondents described Xcaret as a multidimensional theme park that offers a range of attractions and activities that people of all ages and preferences can enjoy. R espondents stated that before visiting the park they im agined it place with beaches, an underground river, wild animals, music, and entertainment. However, their experience in the park revealed a new aspect of Xcaret, which is its association to Mexican and Mayan culture and heritage. Overall, t he p articipants said that they would describe Xcaret a natural and cultural richness. As a common theme, obtaining an authentic cultural experience was not identified by respondents as a principal motiv e to visit the park. R espondents also accepted not conduct ing much research about the park before their visit. Most of the visitors heard about the park from their friends and family or from other sources such as hotel staff and tour operators. Therefore, i t could be assumed that these sources did not include the cultural aspects of the park in their explanation and f r aming of Xcaret as a tourism
138 destination This might suggest that the park needs to find more ways to communicate its identity and offerings particularly it s cultural aspects to its international publics. While lready coordinate with the Riviera Maya Tourism Trust to develop effective international media relations, especially for its special events suc h as the Festival of Life an d Death Traditions, the s e efforts may need to be extended and intensified during the rest of the year. Another interpret ation of international and interest in obtain ing a n authentic cultural experien ce at Xcaret was provided by Wang (1999) According to the author authentic experie nces are not necessarily object related ; t ourists often seek their own v ersion of authentic experiences through other forms of tourism such as experiencing nature, going to the beach, partaking i n adventures, enjoying family time, and visiting friends and relatives, irrespective of whether the toured objects are authentic. Th e author refe r r ed to t his form of authenticity as existential. on of authentic tourism experiences, the findings suggest ed onal visitors we re looking for existential authenticity and derive d it by engaging in nature oriented activities and spending time with family and friends at the park. Inte restingly though respondents did admire Xcaret efforts to preserve Mayan cultural heritage and represent this ancient culture through performances and shows. Knudsen and Waade (2010) call ed this performative authenticity which is an experience that is created by the active involvement of people with the tourism setting Through performative authenticity, entities such as Xcaret can authenticate sites,
139 surroundings the y visit. The findings suggest ed that visitors achieve d performative authenticity in Xcaret by visiting the Mayan ruins and learning about this c ulture through active engagement and interacti on with p erformers and indigenous people. Further, t he interviews r eveal ed the r eferences to the five genres of authenticity invoked by the visitors in their conversations about Xcaret (Gilmore & Pine, 2007) : original authenticity in the fact that Xcaret is a unique and special place that represent s Mexico and its cultural and natural heritage, and referential authenticity through its association to the ancient Mayan civilization. The visitors also referred to the influential authentic ity of the park that is manifested through its efforts to conserve the environment as well as an ancient civilization and exceptional authenticity through outstanding quality of services and care that its employees provide. In general, the international v isitors stated that the park exceeded their expectations by providing them with unanticipated cultural experiences and offerings. This is relate d to the findings reported earlier regarding the efforts of marketing and public relations practitioners to not over promote the park. It appears that by refraining from f ake promises in the marketing and public relations claims, Xcaret has succeeded in rendering authentic offerings and experiences to its international visitors. This is consistent with Gilmore and P organization is authentic, they do not have to claim that they are, but once they make claims about authenticity, they should better deliver on their promises. This finding also support ed argument that communication plans, programs or campaigns cannot achieve organizational authenticity unless the underlying object,
140 person, or organization in its true essence represents an authentic being by manifesting its true identity in its act ions, de cisions, and philosophy. While describing their relationship with Xcaret, visitors expressed satisfaction and even mentioned recommending the park to their friends and family. However, none of the respondents expressed a desire to keep in touch with the p ark or actively seek information about it. Respondents also declined to join the park on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. This was a surprising finding considering many respondents were re visiting Xcaret. This might suggest that relati onal satisfaction describe d international commitment. This finding identifie d key strategic areas in which tourism organizations such as Xcaret should invest its resources to achieve maximum effic iency and effectiveness of its marketing and public relations efforts in terms of establishing and cultivating relationships with its international publics. Quantitative Findings Table 5 2 presents a summary of the qua ntitative research findings of the f ace to face intercept survey with visitors of Xcaret with the corresponding hypotheses. Results of face to face intercept surveys showed that the perceived organizational k and its authenticity. The factor analysis produced two dimensions, overall experience and active engagement that explained about 70 percent of the variance in the underlying construct of perceived organizational authenticity. These findings supported sc holarly claims that authenticity is a multidimensional construct ( Beverland, Lindgreen, & Vink, 2008; Camilleri, 2008a, 2008b; Fine, 2003; Gilmore & Pine, 2007; McLeod, 1999; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011; Zickmund, 2007 ).
141 Table 5 2 Summary of quantitative findings RQs Hypotheses Findings 2 Perceived organizational authenticity is a multidimensional construct with two dimensions: Overall experience and a ctive engagement 3 The degree to which visitors perceive that their experience was c onsistent H1 > and reputation < H2 > has a positive influence on the perceived Supported 4 Perceived organizational authenticity is positively related to the quality of relationship between the park and its visitors < H3 >, park visit ors trust outcome < H4 >, satisfaction outcome < H5 >, commitment outcome < H 6 >. Supported 5 Older
142 The perceived authenticity measurement scale developed and tested in this study is an improvement from Molleda and = 0.91 = 0.81). Despite the improvement and significant refinement of the original index, the factor anal ysis revealed the same two dimensions of perceived organizational authenticity i.e., overall experience and active engageme nt that Molleda and Jain (2011) reported in their evaluation of a special event sponsored by Xcaret. Further, the two dimensions expl ained higher variance (70%) in the latent construct of Consistent with the findings of the interviews with international visitors of Xcaret, t he high means obtained fo r items that describe the active engagement dimension such as Mexican culture and contribute to the preservation of Mexican culture and support ed Knudsen and t performative authenticity; a feeling that is experienced and performed by visitors in a tourism setting. The findings showed that to preserve Mexican and Mayan culture and traditions and present them to the visitors inspire d e motional/af fective relatedness among them and enhance d performative authenticity of the park. Additionally, the two dimensions of authenticity, i.e., overall experience and active engagement, represented the interplay between organizational communication and actions. attractions, activities, and events. Similarly, the park and its employees strive to
143 gener ate opportunities to actively engage visitors with Mexican culture and traditions through performances, activities, and shows. This dynamic interaction between organizational communication and actions reflects the two aspects of perceived organizational au thenticity recommendation that an organization can only achieve a uthenticity when its actions and communication are consistent with each other and the identity and reputation. Findings of th e path analysis also support ed the proposed theoretical model and as a function of the degree to which stakeholders perceive an organization, its offerings and communication claims to be consistent w ith its identity and reputation. Scholarly literature on a uthenticity explain ed that it actions and behaviors reflect its origi ns, heritage, core values, vision, and philosophy, or in other words its identity and reputation ( Avolio & Gardner, 2005; Fombrun & van Riel, 2004; Ladkin & Taylor, 2010; Molleda, 2010a, 2010b; Walumbwa et al., 2010; Wong & Cummins, 2009 ). Xcaret identifies itself as a special place that represents all of Mexico and its cu ltural diversity. The path analysis show ed visitors and its various elements and felt that their experience was consistent with their expec tations from the park had a positive influence on their evaluation of its authenticity. Further, findings of this study also reveal ed that perceived organizational authenticity is an important factor in determining the q uality of organization public relat ionships. Specifically, path analysis showed a positive association between
144 perceived organizational authenticity and the dimensions of relational outcomes i.e., trust commitment and satisfaction Discussions about authenticity in academic literature emp hasize d its role in fostering trustworthiness, credibility, legitimacy, and honesty (Edwards, 2010; Molleda 2010a, 2010b; Molleda & Jain, 2011; Watson, 2011). In fact, Molleda and Jain (2011) proposed that future studies fo cused on authenticity should examine its impact on organization publics relationship to understand how organizations can benefit from developing and cultivating perceptions of authenticity. These findings are significant from both r eputation and relationsh ip management perspective as they reflect a way to evaluate the value of public relations efforts in building organizational authenticity through communication and ultimately, organization public relationships. In this study, t he positive influence of per ceived organizational authenticity on recommend it to their family and friends demonstrated the value of this construct for public relations research and practice. Meas uring the impact of public relations efforts in terms of behavioral and action outcomes is an important endeavor for the field (Hon & Grunig, 1999; Yang, 2007 ) and this study contributed to this research stream by illustrating how perceptions of organizati onal authenticity can significantly affect public s intended behavior actions, and decisions. In addition, this study found that people differ in their perceptions of authenticity as was found to be higher than the international visitors along the active engagement dimension and the items that describe it This finding could be explained by the lack of familiarity of international
145 visitors with Mexican culture couple d with the fact that the park cance lled some of the shows and performances representing Mexican and Mayan culture s and traditions during the last three days of data collection for this study. The shows and performances were canceled in preparation f or a new show that Xcaret plans to introdu ce this year This finding could also be explained by reviewing the interviews with the international visitors that showed that this group is not as interested in obtaining an authentic cultural experience at Xcaret. In fact, this group of visitors explai ned that the ir motivation to visit Xcaret was to have fun and spend a day with family and friends. This could explain the low means of the responses from international visitors on items such as Mexican culture and traditions more me to contribute to the preservation of Mexican culture and traditions inspired me to advocate for conserving Mexican culture and traditions and visit, I felt active part of Mexican culture and traditions This finding is different from what Molleda and Jain (2011) observed in their study. The authors found that the evaluations of perceived authenticity were higher by out of state visitors than the natives An explanation of this difference is the unique context in which the two studies were conducted. While this study examined the perceived authenticity of Xcaret during a regular tourism season, Molleda and Jain analyzed the experiences of visitors during a special annual event sponsored by the park the Festival of Life and Death Traditions This is a special occasion for the park when one of the states in Mexico hosts the event to showcase a long established tradition of Mexico and its rituals through a variety of dance performances, theatre presentatio ns, and
146 concerts Visitors from all around the world come to Xcaret exclusively to experience this cultural and traditional manifestation. The differences in the findings between the two studies might suggest that it is more challenging to convince the do mestic visitors about the authentic representation of a deep rooted cultural tradition. On the other hand, the international visitors who visit Xcaret during a regular tourism season might not be motivated and willing to actively engage with Mexican cultur e and traditions. This finding also supported scholarly arguments that perceived authenticity is a subjective and contextual construct which develop s through the direct and indirect experiences of people with the underlying object about which authenticity claims are being made (e.g. Grayson, 2002; Gilmore & Pine, 2007; Molleda 2010a, 2010b; Moscardo & Pearce, 1986) In terms of gender and age variations, t his study did not find statistically significant authenticity. Similarly, variations in perceived organizational authenticity along age were not significant. These findings might suggest that Xcaret offers a range of experiences that people of all age like and find authentic. T his was also a common theme among the interviews with international visitors who described Xcaret as a multidimensional theme park with a variety of attractions and activities for people of all ages and preferences. Again, these findings are different fro m those reported by Molleda and Jain (2011), who found statistical significant difference s along both age and gender variables. These differences could again be attributed to the differences in the overall setting and contexts in which the two studies were executed. These findings suggest ed that while the park could use similar communication efforts across target publics for the rest of the
147 year, it is important to incorporate a udie nce segmentation strategies in its communication about the special events an d festivals that the park hosts In terms of visit characteristics, while the duration of visit had a weak association ed between participants who had been to Xcaret before and those who had active engagement dimension. These findings are similar to those observed by Moscardo and Pearce (1986) in their evaluation of perceived authenticity of historic theme parks. Relevant to this study, the findings could be explained by the fact that people who revisit the park are more aware of its cultural associations and might be more actively engaged in its mission to preserve the Mexican culture and traditions. Interestingly though, the nu mber of times a participant had visited Xcaret was found to This finding might suggest that authentic experiences remain unchanged over time, unless the setting in which they take place a nd its ac tivities change dramatically from their original state. However, this finding needs further investigation Finally, this study explored the relationship between the type of source from where participants obtained information about Xcaret and their evaluat ions of perceived authenticity website was found to have a positive and social media a negative influence. These findings suggest ed that the information obtained on social media might n ot have been similar to what participants experienced in the park. In fact, the cancelation of some of the shows and performances during the last three days of data collection could have affected the perceived authenticity evaluation of visitors who obtain ed information about
148 the park from social media Social media represents a public platform where people share their experiences and interact with others. It could be assumed that visitors read about these shows on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter and were disappointed by their cancelation during their visit to Xcaret. Knudsen and Waade (2010) explain ed that media plays a significant role in the construct of authenticity by producing representations of a place, which can not only inspire pe ople to visit a destination but also provide a platform for tourists to validate a media image with their actual experiences. Therefore, t his finding suggest ed that public relations practitioners of Xcaret should revise their communication ap proa ch on social media to present more accurate and updated information about the park and its offerings. Implication s for Public Relations Theory A primary contribution of this study is to develop and test a theor etical model that conceptualize s the lin kages between identity, reputation, perceived organizational authenticity, and relational outcomes. T his is the first study that simultaneously examine d the causal associations between predictors and outcomes of perceived organizational authenticity to fur ther our understanding of the construct from a multidisciplinary perspective. Perceived authenticity is a promising construct in the theory an d practice of public relations, particularly in an experience economy where competing and contrasting voices are vying for attention of their stakeholders. And yet, a review of academic literature suggest ed that the construct lacks theory building studies and empirical support in the context of public relations. A limited theoretical understanding of what is meant by authentic ity and how it can be measured was notable in contemporary public
149 relations literature. Therefore, this study further conceptualize d and operationally define d the construct of perceived organizational authenticity and its dimensions and fill ed an important gap in the scholarship According to Shoemaker et al. (2004), theory building is an important exercise in accumulating knowledge in a discipline and it starts by articulating constructs and their measurement. In this s tudy, perceived authentici ty was operationally defined as a function of the degree to which stakeholders perceive an organization, its offerings and communication claims to be consistent with its identity and reputation, which ultimately affects their trust, satisfaction, and c ommi tment with the organization Another contribution of this study is to develop and test an improved measurement scale for perceived organization al authenticity that is more parsimonious and has better internal consistency than the index that Molleda and Jai n (2011) p roposed. The issue of measurement and evaluation of perceived authenticity of an organization and its communication activities is a significant stream of research in public relations for both academic and professional communities. For instance, M olleda (2010b) argued that strategic communication management and their specialized functions because organizations are progressively being pressured by stakeholders dema nding greater s a relatively undefined and abstract construct of perceived organizational authenticity by constructing and testing its measurement scale This study also co ntribute s to the growing body of research in public relations measurement and evaluation, an on going challenge and opportunity for the field. The
150 effectiveness of public relations in relationship management wa s assessed by identifying the influence of per ceived organizational authenticity on the quality of organization publics relationship Of the various indicator s of the value of public relations, relational outcomes such as trust, commitment, and satisfaction are the most widely recognized ( Bruning & Le dingham, 1999; J. Grunig, L. Grunig & Ehling, 1992; Hon & J. Grunig, 1999; Huang, 1997, 2001; Jo, 2006; Kim, 2001; Ledingham & Bruning, 1998 ). Yang (2007) argued that organization public relationship management demonstrates a long term and endurable conce pt that is particularly relevant to public relations. This study found that perceived organizational authenticity is a significant factor in Similarly, perceived organizational behavioral intentions to seek information about the park, visit it again, and recommend it to their family and friends. By operationalizing and quantifying the linkage between public relations efforts and organization public relational outcomes behavior this study provide s research eviden ce of value of public re lations in achieving organizational objectives and contribute s to theory building in relationship management. Im plications for International Public Relations Theory and Research This study also inform s international public relations and strategic communication theory and research The theoretical model and measurement scale for perceived organizational authenticity was tested in an international context, which contributes to the body of knowledge in international public relations. quantitative findings reflect ed the various reputation and relationship management
151 strategies that public rela tions practitioners operating in a unique cultural context of Mexico use to cultivate relationships with national and international publics The study also reveal s the opportunities and challenges involved in planning, developing, and executing internati o nal public relations research. During adoption and translation of research instruments and measurement scales into a different cultural context and language, some items might lose their meaning This was found to be the case with the relational outcomes sc ale that was revised and reworded following the suggestions from public relations practitioners and a pretest with a sample of the population Further, researchers should be cautious and aware of the cultural context in which a study is conduct ed while drawing meanings and interpretations from data As it turned out, having an inside person as a personal liaison wa s an effective way for the researcher to gain access to the international participants, develop cultural understanding a nd analyze the meanings of the data collected in this study. In addition, language could be a barrier for researchers planning an international research project. Again, this was overcome by the help of the personal liaison who had a bilingual public relations practi tioner accompany the researcher during her visit to the park and data collection. Implications for Public Relations Practice This study is significant for public relations practitioners as it quantifie d the impact of their efforts on relational outcomes a nd thereby also contribute d to the practice of relationship management. The issue of measurement and evaluation has always been crucial to public relations. The findings of this study d emonstrate how public relations can help organizations construct and co mmunicate their authenticity to publics, which
152 ultimately can enhance organization public trust, satisfaction, and commitment. Since, transparent and open communication is at the core of perceived organizational authenticity p ublic relations practitioner s are best trained and skilled to perform a leadership role in helping organizations achieve an authentic identity and reputation. The improved measurement scale will provide practitioners with an alternative to the ad hoc scales or measurements that they currently use in their communication efforts to convey authenticity to their myriad publics This would help in planning future activities, rationalizing budgets, and claiming a seat at the management table. For public relations agencies this research woul d suggest ways for developing new services around building an identity and reputation for the clients that is perceived as authentic. Counseling and advising companies to audit, improve, and evaluate their communication efforts to project an authentic iden tity is a growing business. The agency that can provide a model based on solid research and supported by academic and professional knowledge is in a good position to capitalize in this area. F inally this study identifie d key areas that public relations pr actitioners should emphasize in their messages and best practices to achieve authenticity for their organizations. As the qualitative findings revealed, relational satisfaction describe d onal co mmitment. This finding suggests the strategic areas in which tourism organizations such as Xcaret should channel their public relations efforts to develop cultivate, and improve the quality of their relationship with key publics. Best Practices i n Constructing and Communicatin g Organizational Authenticity Articulate your identity: The process of developing organization authenticity should start by public relations practitioners identifying the history and heritage of the
153 organization as well as it s current values, mission, philosophy, and vision. P ublic relations should articulate organization al identity and its various facets as defined by the owners, management, and other internal members. Communicate who you are: The next step to achieve organizational authenticity is to selectively and consistently communicate the dominant set of attributes that identify the organization to its key external stakeholders. Public relations should be cautious about communicating only the characterist ics that truly represent the organization and what it stands for. Identify and fill gaps between identity and reputation: Using a reputation audit, public relations should also help organization identify the attributes and characteristics that external st akeholders use to describe the organization. Any gaps between what the organization is and what it is recognized as should be immediately addressed using transparent and open communication with key stakeholders. Avoid over or under representing yourself: Public relations should council organizations to avoid making claims and promises that they cannot deliver to stakeholders. Making false or fake claims regarding the organization, its offerings, and values will be perceived as inauthentic and ultimately d satisfaction, and commitment with the organization. The objective of all communication should be to present accurate and genuine informatio n regarding the organization while avoiding over or under rep resenting its identity to sta ke holders. Generate opportunities for direct experience: Perceived organizational careful claims and offerings made through its actions, decisions, and communication.
154 Therefore, p ublic relations practitioners should g e nerate opportunities for stakeholders to directly experience the organization and its offering as well as validate its claims and promises. Familiarization tours special events, on site visits, and exhibits at public events are a few such opportunities for organization public engagement and interaction. Actively e ngage your stakeholders: Creating opportunities for direct experience are not enough. Public relations shou r of knowledge and information about its values and mission. Creative and innovative ways should be conceived to actively engage stakeholders while they are experiencing the organization and its products or services to realize most effective outcomes in te rms of enhancing their relationship with the organization. Integrate public relations in to core business : In order to succeed in their efforts of developing an d communicating organizational authenticity, public relations shou ld be integrated in to the over all business strategy while having full and open access to management decisions and actions. Performing the role of an organizational counselor, p ublic relation s should actively participate in daily decisions regarding issues, opportunit ies, and challenges. Limitations of the Study While this study makes significant contributions to the theory and practice of public relations, it has some limitations that should be addressed First, this study was conducted at a cultural theme park in Mexico and therefore its findings should be interpreted in that context. Since perceived authenticity is subjective and contextual, the background in which participants described their experiences and the cultural influence on responses should be considere d while understanding the findings and their implications.
155 Language could be considered a limitation of this study. Language is the medium culture. While the marketi ng and public relations practitioners of Xcaret were comfortable conversing with the researcher in English, it is possible that they would have expressed their thoughts better in Spanish, their native language. The researcher encouraged the practitioners t o choose either language that best communicated their ideas and comments. However, it is possible that the practitioners were shy or wanted to please the researcher by communicating in her language. Another limitation that should be considered is the poten tial social desirability bias of both public relations practitioners and visitors who took park in this study focus group, interviews, and face to face intercept survey. have influenced the responses of the practitioners w ho participated in the study. the researcher and staff members who collected the data. S cholars suggested that socially desirable reporting is most common while examini ng topics that are personally or socially sensitive (Fisher, 1993; King & Bruner, 2000). While a tourism experience and professional roles and responsibilities should not fall under the realm of a sensitive construct it is still a possibility T he researc her tried to minimize social desirabil ity bias in responses by employing promises of anonymity and confidentiality However, it is still possible that participants responded in a manner that they viewed will please the researcher. As mentioned before, som e of the cultural shows were canceled during the last three days of data collection, which might have influenced survey and interview
156 While the researcher attempted to explain the findings in this context as much as possible, readers must bear this in mind while drawing interpretations f r o m this study. Finally, while the study obtained good fits between the data and the hypothesized theoretical model, there could be other causal elements t hat might have not been accounted for by the researcher. The path analysis conducted in this study used single indicators for each of the variables in the causal model, i.e. it used a structural model to analyze the data but no t a measurement model, which could be considered a limitation of the data analysis method used in this study. Avenues for Future Research This study developed and tested a theoretical framework and improved measurement scale of perceived organizational authenticity. Future research s hould further refine and test the proposed theoretical model to continue building a theory of perceived organizational authenticity. Researchers interested in the construct should replicate this st udy with another theme park to validate the theoretical mod el as well as the perceived organizational aut henticit y measurement scale. Not limiting to theme parks, future studies should examine the perceived authenticity of a variety of organizations in various industries. Today, stakeholders get to experience org anizations and their offerings through various online and offline perceptions of and expectations from an organization under a variety of settings The proposed measurement scale i s flexible and can be adapted to other organizations and contexts.
157 Another ave nue for future research is to examine experiences to evaluate the perceived authenticity of organizations in the digital space. For instance, an identity via social media could be evaluated by conducting textual and visual analysis of its conversation s with stakeholders on social media pages such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Emer gent and new media technologies provide publics a range of opportunities to experience an organization, its offerings, and communication claims and promises. The direct and indirect experience and engagement of publics with an organization also fuels skept icism and distrust, which is a challenge of the experience economy. Future research should identify best practices in developing, nurturing, and communicating organizational authenticity on online and digital communication platforms. Other future applicat ion s of this research could be to evaluate the perceived authenticity of organizations crisis response. Both of these situations represent special issues for organization s R ecognizing what social responsibility identity and reputation is a crucial issue in an economy where stakeholders are skeptical of all organizational actions, decision, and behavior. Similarly, choosing a crisis response that will be perceived as authentic identity and reputation could be regarded a significant stream of research and practice for public relations. Future research could integrate the proposed theoretical model with the exist ing theories and models in crisis responses, in particular, the situational crisis communication theory.
158 Further, this study could also inform future attempts to evaluate the perceived authenticity of organizational leaders and spokesperson s In academic literature, organizational leadership is described as an influential factor in organizational reputation. An authentic leader will also contribute to building the reputation of an authentic organization. The organizational leadership literature reviewed in this study along wit h the theoretical model and the measurement scale could serve as a platform to evaluate leadership styles and identify key features that contribute to developing an authentic leader. Finally, theory building in the area of perceived organizational authenticity could also benefit from a diversity of research methods employed to analyze the construct. Future research could approach the examination of the proposed theoretical model and the measurement scale using a variety of methodologi cal approaches including experimental research. In addition, future research could use structural as well measurement model for data analysis. In sum, perceived authenticity of organizations is a significant and emerging area for public relations research and practice and this study hopes to contribute to these efforts.
159 A PPENDIX A FO CUS GROUP INFORMED C ONSENT FORM Study Title : Distinguishing real from fake : D eveloping and testing a theoretical model and measurement scale for perceived organizational auth enticity Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study. Purpose of the research study: To explore how tourism promoters make authenticity claims in their communication efforts, as well as the means through whi ch they reach their intended audiences. What you will be asked to do in the study: The moderator will ask you about the identity and mission of your organization and your role and responsibilities in communicating and preserving this identity. Time req uired: Approximately 90 minutes. Risks and Benefits: There are no anticipated risks or benefits involved with this study. Compensation: There is no compensation offered for participating in this study. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confide ntial to the extent provided by law. Your information will be assigned a code number. The list connecting your name to this number will be kept in a password protected file. Your name will not be used in any report. The focus group will be recorded. Volu ntary participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if y ou have questions about the study: Dr. Juan Carlos Molleda, Associate Professor, Department of Public Relations, University of Florida. (352) 273 1223/ firstname.lastname@example.org For information regarding your rights a s research participant contact the IRB at 352 392 0433 Agreement: I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participant: ___________________________Date : _________________ Principal Investigator: _________________ __ Date:__________________
160 A PPENDIX B INTERVIEW INFORMED CONSENT FORM Study Title : Distinguishing real from fake : D eveloping and testing a theoretical model and measurement scale for perceived organizational authenticity Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study. Purpose of the research study: To explore the tourism experiences of visitors to Xcaret. What you will be asked to do in the study: The interviewer will ask you to describe your experience in the park and things you did (e.g., activities, shows, park features). Time required: Approximately 30 40 minutes Risks and Benefits: There are no anticipated risks or benefits involved with thi s study. Compensation: There is no compensation offered for participating in this study Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your information will be assigned a code number. The list connecting your name to this number will be kept in a password protected file. Your name will not be used in any report. The interview will be recorded. Voluntary participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participat ing. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Dr. Juan Carlos Molleda, Associate Professor, Department of Public Relations, Univ ersity of Florida (352) 273 1223/ email@example.com For information regarding your rights as research participant contact the IRB at 352 392 0433 Agreement: I have read the procedure described above. I volun tarily agree to participate in the procedure and I have received a copy of this description. Participan t: ______________________ __________ Date: _________________ Principal Investigator: _____________ ___________ Date: _________________
161 A PPENDIX C SUR VEY INFORMED CONSENT FORM Study Title: Distinguishing Real from Fake : Developing an Organizational Authenticity Scale Please read this consent document carefully before you decide to participate in this study. Purpose of the research study: To explore th e tourism experiences of visitors to Xcaret. What you will be asked to do in the study: You will be asked rank the degree of your agreement with a set of 32 statements on a scale of 1 5 (where 1= Nothing and 5= Totally). You will also be asked questions a bout your age, gender, home country, time spent in the park, and where did you hear or read about the park. Time required: Approximately 15 20 minutes Risks and Benefits: There are no anticipated risks or benefits involved with this study. Compensation : There is no compensation offered for participating in this study. Confidentiality: Your identity will be kept confidential to the extent provided by law. Your information will be assigned a code number. The list connecting your name to this number will be kept in a password protected file. Your name will not be used in any report. Voluntary participation: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. There is no penalty for not participating. Right to withdraw from the study: You have the right to withdraw from the study at anytime without consequence. Whom to contact if you have questions about the study: Dr. Juan Carlos Molleda, Associate Professor, Department of Public Relations, University of Florida. (352) 273 1223/ firstname.lastname@example.org For information regarding your rights as research participant contact the IRB at 352 392 0433 Agreement: I have read the procedure described above. I voluntarily agree to participate in the procedure and I h ave received a copy of this description. Participant: _________________ __________ Date: _________________ Princ ipal Investigator: ___ _________________ Date: _________________
162 A PPENDIX D FOCUS GROUP INSTRUME NT 1. How would you describe t he identity and m ission of the park? 2. Please describe y our role and responsibilities in communicating and preserving 3. What unique features of the park you promote in your strategic communication efforts? 4. What experiences you want to offer to the touris ts and what you want the visitors to take away from their visit to the park ? 5. What specific communication media, channe ls, actions, and tools you use for c ?
163 A PPENDIX E INTERVI EW INSTRUMENT Grand tour questions: Would you begin by telling me about your experience in the park and things you did (e.g., activities, shows, park features)? How would you describe your experience in the park? What part of your visit to the park you li ked the most? Are there any things you did not like or wish were different about your visit to the park? Specific questions: How did you come to know about Xcaret? What did you expect from your visit to Xcaret? Do you think the park met your expectation s? Please provide specific examples. Do you feel that you have a relationship with Xcaret? Why or why not? Please describe your relationship with Xcaret.
164 A PPENDIX F SURVEY INSTRUMENT Q: Thinking about your visit to Xcaret, please rate the following items on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1= Nothing, 2= Little, 3= Some, 4= Much, and 5= Totally. My v None Little Some Much Totally ...fun 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 ...memorable 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 inary 1 2 3 4 5 M y None Little Some Much Totally traditions more 1 2 3 4 5 of Mexican culture and traditions 1 2 3 4 5 Mexican culture and t raditions 1 2 3 4 5 None Little Some Much Totally Mexican culture and traditions 1 2 3 4 5 Mexican culture and traditions are r None Little Some Much Totally her visual elements 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 behavior 1 2 3 4 5 .. shows and activities 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 ..music 1 2 3 4 5 nd handicrafts 1 2 3 4 5 Xcaret has been m uch l ike I... None Little Some Much Totally 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5
165 None Little Some Much Totally 1 2 3 4 5 interests 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 None Little Some Much Totally 1 2 3 4 5 from Xcaret 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 and family 1 2 3 4 5 I.. None Little Some Much Totally ..am happy with Xcaret 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 1 2 3 4 5 Q5. What is your age? ___________________ want to answer_______ Q7. Which country are you from? _________________ Q8. How long were you in the park today? __________ _______________ Q9. Have you visited Xcaret before? ___________________________ If yes, how many times? ___________________________ Q10. Where did you hear or read about the park? (Check all th at apply) 1. Media (Newspaper, TV, Radio) 2. 3. Some other website 4. Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) 5. Friends and family 6. 7. If other, please specify _____________________
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180 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Rajul Jain holds an M.A. in Mass Communication with a specialization in Public Relations and an M.A. in Internati onal Business from the University of Florida. Originally from India, Rajul received her M.Tech in Information and Communication Technology from Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, India, and a B.E. in Information and Communication Technology from Rajiv Gandhi Technical University, India. Prior to coming to the United States in 2007, Rajul worked as a Business Analyst and Communication Coordinator at a multinational telecommunication firm in India. Rajul is a recipient of the 2011 Ketchum Excellence in Public Relations Research Award. She has several years of professional experience in corporate and non profit public relations, as well as teaching experience at the university level, which includes teaching public r elations courses at the University of Florida. Her research focus is on corporate and transnational Public Relations.