Public relations (PR) and psychology are interconnected in their focus on people and people’s behavior.

PR firms focus on building and maintaining personal relationships with individuals and communities. Psychology helps us understand how the human mind works, what it takes to build trust, and why the power of association is so impactful on people’s buying decisions.

The Balance Theory is often used in marketing, but public relations agencies can just as easily apply it to PR and the topic of corporate social responsibility.

A company’s values and the issues they choose to support influences people’s buying decisions – 75% of people are likely to start shopping at a company that supports an issue they agree with and 59% of people are likely to stop shopping at a company that supports an issue they disagree with.

Balance Theory states that in situations or relationships where multiple elements are involved, people will seek to balance them.

Within the context of corporate social responsibility, these elements include the consumer, the business, and the value or social issue the business supports.

“In our desire to have balance, we tend to like what is associated with what we already like,” said Vassilis Dalakas, professor of marketing at California State University San Marcos. “However, as you’d expect, just as we tend to like what is associated with what we like, we also tend to dislike what is associated with what we dislike.”

If a business shares the same values as a consumer, the consumer will likely view the business more positively. If a business supports beliefs that go against those of a consumer, the consumer will likely view the business more negatively, even if he or she liked the business before.

For example, Gillette’s January 2019 “We Believe” ad sparked mixed reactions – some positive, some negative.

In the ad, Gillette encourages its audience to reflect on the “boys will be boys” mentality and encourages men to hold each other accountable in their treatment of each other and women.

Those who like Gillette as a brand and who agree with Gillette’s values are balanced, according to Balance Theory.

Those who like Gillette before but disagree with Gillette’s values are imbalanced.

According to Balance Theory, either they will start to agree with Gillette’s values or they will start to dislike Gillette to achieve balance. In this case, it is reasonable to assume that people would be more likely to start disliking a brand than redefine their values which they likely feel passionately about.


Understanding how people view brands gives businesses insight into the risks they take when they speak out on social issues.

By knowing what their customers value and what issues are relevant to their brand, businesses can be better able to navigate consumers’ changing expectations of businesses.

Toby A. Cox

Toby A. Cox


Toby A. Cox, Content Writer and Developer at Clutch