The power of parasocial relationships

I recently learned about the term parasocial relationship from The Business of Authority episode on The “Secret” Benefit of Podcasting. Quoting Wikipedia:

Parasocial interaction (PSI) refers to a kind of psychological relationship experienced by an audience in their mediated encounters with performers in the mass media, particularly on television and on online platforms. Viewers or listeners come to consider media personalities as friends, despite having no or limited interactions with them. PSI is described as an illusory experience, such that media audiences interact with personas (e.g., talk show hosts, celebrities, fictional characters, social media influencers) as if they are engaged in a reciprocal relationship with them. The term was coined by Donald Horton and Richard Wohl in 1956.

A parasocial interaction, an exposure that garners interest in a persona, becomes a parasocial relationship after repeated exposure to the media persona causes the media user to develop illusions of intimacy, friendship, and identification. Positive information learned about the media persona results in increased attraction, and the relationship progresses. Parasocial relationships are enhanced due to trust and self-disclosure provided by the media persona.

Interestingly, I feel exactly that sense of familiarity with Rochelle Moulton and Jonathan Stark, hosts of The Business of Authority. This is despite having no direct interactions with them. I only listened to a few episodes, read some of Jonathan’s materials, and signed up to his daily mailing list (which means he’s now a constant presence in my life).

As both Rochelle and Jonathan have been putting themselves out there for years, sharing quality content, and creating parasocial relationships with their target audience, they can charge premium fees for their expertise. At the time of this writing, Rochelle charges $1000 for a one-hour coaching session, while Jonathan charges $2500.

It’s embarrassingly simple, but incredibly powerful and applicable in a wide range of areas. Or in Jonathan’s words: “It takes time, but if you want to justify premium fees, becoming a celebrity in your space is a great way to grow your profits.”


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