THE EFFECT OF COMMUNITY RELATIONS TO CORPORATE IMAGE
- BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The complex nature of the business world, couple with economic, social and environmental inequalities have raised the issue of community relations and corporate image. From time immemorial, organisations have tried in one way or the other to be identified by the community where they are operating. This need for identity and communication led to the development of public relations which community relations are part and parcel of. Public relations is a major tool in building good relations with the organisations’ various publics (community) by obtaining favourable publicity, building up a good corporate image, and handling, or heading off unfavourable rumours, stories and events, (Kotler and Armstrong, 2006). Organisation or company is dependent on community relations if it is to be successful. Therefore, the purpose of public relations practice to community relations is to establish a two-way communication that will help to create and sustain mutual relationship and understanding between the organisation and the host community. Communities are the main part of business plan that help in promoting the sustainable development of business activities of corporate organisation through partnership activities that help them to realised their potentials to live a better life and prepare the future for generation yet unborn. The respect of the culture of our community is part of the global plan for symbiotic relationship between humanity and its society for the progress of all (Chiejina, 2001).
The above assertion explains the importance of every organisation to be responsible and responsive in the community to ensure a proper balance of business activities that promote their corporate image in the eye of the community members.
The CELTEL Communications LTD which is a corporate organisation needs to take community relations programmes as part of their “CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY” if it is to sustain their growth. As part of their social responsibilities, CELTEL must be responsible and responsive to their host communities by sponsoring community-oriented programmes. One of the channel through which organisations reach out to their host communities are through a deliberate community relations strategy, usually facilitated by Public Relations department of the organisations (Ajayi, 1997).
In the early 1900s, the mission of business firm was exclusively economic. Today, partly due to the interdependence of the many groups in our society, the social involvement of business has increased through proactive community relations programmes. The imperativeness of community relations actually necessitates their full involvement in socially oriented programmes in the host communities.
The concept of social responsibility which stimulates community relations programmes among most companies is not new. Although the idea was already considered in the early part of the 20th century, the discussion of community relations programmes by organisations got a major impetus with the book social responsibilities of businessmen by Howard Bowen, who suggested that businesses should consider social implications of their decisions (Koontz and Wellrich, 1988; Jefkins, 1998).
This appears to be consensus among researcher on the specific meanings of social responsibility which gives birth to community relations. It has been agreed by many that corporate social responsibility is seriously a means of considering the impact of the company’s action on society (Steiner, 1985). In addition, some researchers have viewed community relations programmes as pragmatic attempt by organisations to be socially responsive; which also in simple terms means, “the ability of a corporation to relate its operations and policies to the social environment in ways that are mutually beneficial to the company and the society” (Paluszek, 1986).
There has been a protracted argument on why business organisations should embark on community relations activities irrespective of diversity in the nature of argument postulated. Today, many businesses involve in social actions through community relations programmes. A decision as to whether companies should extend their social involvement in their host communities requires careful examination in order to establish benefits, to both the organisation and the communities. According to Keith (1984), society’s expectation is changing and the trend seems to be towards greater social responsiveness. He noted further that most observers of business relationship between the society and organisations consider social responsibility through involvement in community –oriented project as a legitimate and achievable aims for business (Keith, 1984; Estein, 1986). Thus the involvement of organisations in community projects must not jeopardise their vision and mission in business. Kootz and Wellrich (1988) opined that various kinds of organised business enterprises have different mission, entrusted to them by the society. The mission of business is the production and distribution of goods and services. For instance, the mission of police department is protection, safety and welfare of the people. The mission of a state highway department is the design and construction of highways.
Thus, we should not hold business organisations responsible for solving all social problems in the community. Some writers like Millins (1999) and Schein (1998) have argued against making it the job of business to furnish public schools, education or the many other things, like police and fire protection, that the government provides. But business like any other type of organisation, must interact with, and live in, its environment (Ben-Eluwa, 1998).
Whether business organisations achieve their mission, and how they do so, are matters of great social importance. A society expects and deserves the accomplishment of the mission of approved enterprises. This also requires that managers must take into account element in their surroundings that are important to others who may be affected by the actions they take. In other words, business organisations respond to their environment and become active participant in the community to improve the quality of life. This is what they must do, since the survival of their enterprise depends upon successful interaction with all environmental elements in the community.
Furthermore, to live within a community and be responsive to it does not mean that organisations should merely react in the face of stress. Since no enterprise can be expected to react very quickly to unforeseen developments, an enterprise must practise ways anticipating development through forecast (Steiner, 1985).
An alert organisation for instance, does not wait until its product is obsolete and sale volume reduced before coming up with improved product. However CELTEL management have found it as an advantage in boasting their sale volume through corporate social responsibility to their host community which have positively enhanced their corporate image. Therefore CELTEL seek approval and recognition for their corporate image through proactive community relations projects. If positive corporate image and success is measured in terms of pollution control, human capacity building and rehabilitation in the society, financial support for individual in the community, and employee seeking university education, and other intervention programmes by organisations, managers will strive to achieve them to build positive corporate image for their organisation and public acceptability. Finally, the research is focus on community relations and corporate image of Celtel Nigeria Limited.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Different studies have been carried out on community relations and corporate image of organisations. Some have tried to determine the strategies adopted by organisations in promoting their corporate image, while others have looked at the practice of community relations in particular organisation. This particular study among other things tries to look at community relations and corporate image of Celtel Nigeria Limited. The attitude and perception of people at the host communities of Celtel Nigeria Limited is that unfriendly disposition depicting lack of goodwill and mutual understanding. It is also to demonstrate the unfortunate neglect suffered by the community in spite of the enormous support the company enjoy from it.
The decisions and actions of management in the organisation have an increasing impact on individuals, other organisations and the community (Worthington, 1997). The power and influence which many business organisations now exercise should be tempered by an attitude of responsibility by management. In striving to satisfy its goal and achieve its objectives the organisation cannot operate from the environment of which it is part. The organisation requires the use of factors of production and other facilities of the society. The economic efficiency of organisation is affected by governmental, social, technical and cultural variables (Friedman, 1990).
However, the main problems of the study are to evaluate the community relations and corporate image of Celtel Nigeria Limited with a view to know the factors and the performance of the community relations strategies and expose the benefit points of promoting good image; investigate the prospects and potentials of community relation strategies so as to assess the major advantage of adopting community relations programmes as image boosters; to examine the constraints faced in the effort of adopting community relations as a significant corporate communications approach and investigate the degree of community relations applicability in promoting mutual relationship and corporate image building.
CELTEL as corporate organisation have some responsibility to society, to respect environmental factors and take care of amenities. Such responsibilities to the host communities by organisation can be categorised as: preventing the effect of noise pollution, sitting and appearance of new buildings and avoidance of radioactive materials on the environment.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
The research objectives include the following:
- To identify the problems encountered in the organisation in trying to communicate effectively with its host communities.
- To determine the community relation strategies employed by CELTEL Nigeria limited in maintaining mutual understanding and corporate image building.
- To ascertain how the host communities perceive the organisation and the effect of this on their corporate image.
- To find out the organisation target community in their community relations programmes.
- To know how effective the company community relations programmes has helped in enhancing the organisation corporate image.
- To contribute to existing literature in the area of community relations and corporate image building.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTION
For the purpose of this study, the following questions have been raised by the researcher:
- To what extent has the current corporate image of Celtel Nigeria limited been affected by its community relations policies, strategies programmes and corporate communication?
- What are the community relations strategies Celtel Nigeria Limited uses towards its host communities?
- To what extent is the current community relations policies and programmes of Celtel Nigeria limited executed?
- Is it true that the host communities are the main determinant of Celtel Nigeria limited community relations programme?
- In what degree is the current corporate image of Celtel Nigeria limited perceived by its host community?
- How do people in the host communities get informed on the activities of the company?
1.5 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
In the process of implementing the procedure of this research, the following hypotheses are hereby formulated:
H1 The majority of the host communities’ member rates the assistance of CELTEL Nigeria high in terms of communications and other facilities.
H2 Majority of the people in the host community will prefer employment of indigenes to community relations executed projects.
H3 The current corporate image of the company is a function of its community relations efforts to the host communities.
1.6 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
In spite of available research efforts on how the organisation’s community relations programmes affect the perception and evaluation of their corporate image, specific impact of community relations programme need to be more effectively researched and focused by researcher in the field of public relations and corporate image. Therefore, the focus of the current research effort is to contribute to existing body of knowledge in the area investigated.
This study is significant as it helps to evaluate the organisation corporate image in relation to their host community relations approach. It is also significant in exposing the actual perception and attitudes of the host communities towards the organisation. Beside, the degree of community relations programme and strategies of the organisation has been described as the lifeblood of its existence as good corporate citizen. The collapse of one leads to the demise of the other. So, this study anticipates elaborating this to the benefit of the companies and the entire publics or host communities.
Apart from its contribution to organisation realigning their community relations strategies to win support and mutual understanding, the researcher also stand to benefit from the findings for future references.
It is also significant as it will be a means by which government and mediating agencies could look through in times of crisis between organisations and host communities to resolve possible differences. By it government will design a possible community guideline in helping both the organisation and the community.
The essence of public relations is the creation and maintenance of good and favourable image for a body or institution. Finally, it will help provide an effective way of image making to any institution that aspires to meet goals of its business.
1.7 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study dwelt on community relations and the corporate image of Celtel Nigeria Limited with particular reference to South-East region. This is to ascertain the organisation corporate image, and the public perception of the company.
This research will thus examine how community relations in the areas of health care, road maintenance, provision of water, rural electrification, education, and environmental protection have affected their corporate image.
As survey study, the enlarged size of the population of the host communities constituted a lot of limitations in terms of penetration to get information. Besides, time and fund were clearly seen just as dearth of materials as the field is still barren in terms of detailed study in the past.