COMMUNITY RELATIONS AS A TOOL IN ENHANCING CORPORATE IMAGE: CASE STUDY OF TOTAL NIGERIA
1.0 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Organisations are understandably concerned with managing their Corporate Image. This shows that there is a strong positive correlation between how people perceive an organization and the pro-corporate supportive behavior. Corporate images are perceived as the mental pictures of an organization. It is the sum total of these perceived characteristics of the corporation that we refer to as the corporate image. Every organisation has its image whether the organization does anything about it or not. Corporate image is formed based on the stakeholders’ perceptions of specific company actions as well as associated industry and nation issues. An organisation’s image to a large extent influences stakeholders’ reactions to specific corporate actions and products.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2000) defined corporate as “connection with a large business company”. Formbrun (1996) defined corporate image as “the overall estimation in which a company is held by its constituents through perceptual representation of an organisation’s past actions and future prospects when compared with other leading rivals.
According to Rayner (2003), corporate image confers clear-cut advantages and privileges on companies. It proves difficult to imitate, at the same time, it creates responsibilities. Whereas, the obligations that managers and the organization owe must meet the personal standards of the employees, the quality standards of customers, the ethical standards of the community and the profitability standards of the investors. Therefore, organizations sustain their corporate image by building strong and supportive relationships with all of their constituents- i.e. customers, suppliers, investors, community, government, etc. (Formbrun, 1996).
The world as can be noted is constantly becoming sophisticated, complex and dynamic. Public relations as a Profession have continued to play tremendous revolutionary roles in changing the face of the earth. As the human society becomes more challenging and complex, people become more enlightened and aware of their fundamental human rights. This has led to series of crisis and face off among business organizations and their host community. There is no doubt that most of the activities of these organizations constitute a nuisance to the host inhabitants and put their health at great risk. The paramount objective of every business organization is profit maximization. This would not be achieved without serene business environment. The concept of community relations is fundamental for effective public relations practice in every organization. The survival of any organization is contingent upon the measure of cordiality and continued acceptance it enjoys in its business premises. A company whose policies do not reflect the desires and aspirations of its host inhabitants is seriously inviting reprisal attack from the community. It is only through good community relations programme that company can improve the quality of life of the host inhabitants. Community relations entail creating and sustaining environmental friendly programmes and actions of mutual benefit to both the organization and its host community. In business parlance, the transaction of these needs and expectations is regarded as “Corporate Philanthropy” (Nweke, 2001:20).Good community relations ensure a well planned and sustained corporate identity which inversely plays a paramount role in shaping the corporate image of an organization.
In Nigeria today, community relations is growing very fast and more interest is being taken by organizations and corporate bodies in this aspect of public relations. This is so because of some important factors (Osuji, 1999:951-99).Today Nigeria’s economic survival is dependant on petroleum. Since the exploration and exploitation of crude oil which give the country major percentage of its income are carried on in rural communities with its attendant numerous risks, it becomes imperative that public relation practitioners in those organizations should give more attention to community relations. Secondly, the oil installation and gas flaring that are located in these communities make the people vulnerable. It becomes important that adequate measures should be taken to reduce the risk of this vulnerability. The surest way is by designing and executing a good community relations strategy. Thirdly, the constant leadership tussles, conflicts and youthful violent outburst among youths and community leaders could have carryover effect resulting to misdirected aggression against oil companies. Maintaining a good rapport with these groups through excellent channels of communication which invariably must be a concomitant of effective community relations strategy.
This study therefore, will look into the concept of community relations as a tool in enhancing corporate image of Total Nigeria PLC.
1.1 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
People like Bittner (1989) argue that in a bid to ensure good community relations, organizations expend shareholders money, cut down workers salaries, waste precious time which should be used for other profitable things. He calls it “a fundamentally subversive doctrine which offers insoluble practical problems”. While Nweke (2001:220) is of the view that compliance and non compliance with the idea of corporate philanthropy determine the measure of goodwill, cordiality and continued acceptance an organization enjoys in its business premises. The problem of this study is to ascertain the role of Total’s Community Relations has played in enhancing their corporate image. The reason behind the negative or positive public perception about total Nigeria PLC. As well as whether this is a result of its compliance or non compliance to the business philosophy of corporate philosophy and the positive or negative attitude of the management and staff members towards the money expended on community relations. Moreso, it will examine the extent to which these perceptions and attitude are capable of affective the success or failure of the organization.
1.2 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The central goal of this study is to find out the role community relations has played as a tool in enhancing corporate image of Total Nigeria PLC; with the aim of evaluating their corporate philosophy, its benefits and peoples attitude towards Total Company. This would be achieved through the following objectives:
- Assessing the community relations programmes of Total Nigeria PLC.
- Finding out people’s opinion and attitude toward Total Nigeria as a corporate entity.
iii. Probing into the reasons for such perception about Total Nigeria PLC.
- Assessing the programmes of Total Nigeria PLC for enhancing the lives of its host community members in order to forestall crisis.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The following questions will serve as a guide to this research work
- What are the community relations programmes of Total Nigeria PLC?
- What are the people’s opinion and attitude towards Total Nigeria as a corporate entity?
- What are the reasons for such perception?
- What are the programmes of Total Nigeria PLC for enhancing the lives of community members to forestall crisis?
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
This study is not only significant but absolutely essential, because it will help students or practitioners of public relations in diverse organizations to understand the usefulness of good community relations in the life of every organization. Since public perception is very crucial in every organization, the study will help Total Nigeria PLC in understanding people’s feelings towards its community relations practice. Other organizations will see the findings useful as they will help them in ensuring good community relations in their host areas. The study will help in furtherance of knowledge in the areas of community relations and the emergent business ethnics of corporate social responsibility.
1.5 DEFINITION OF TERMS
Community Relations: It is a public relations activity that tends to create and sustain environmental friendly programmes and actions of mutual benefits to both the organizations and its host community. It fosters and nurtures good neighbourliness in a reciprocal interest of both parties.
Corporate Identity: This means and also includes the totality of what an organization stands to its public and host community, how it does that, its communication process and environment. It serves as the forerunner to corporate image, it hits the soil for corporate image to grow without problem. This is seen by the physical manifestation of good deeds the organization does.
Corporate Image: This is the public perception of the organization. This sums up the impressions formed about an organization based on its corporate identity and general relationship with its public. It goes with mental perception.
Corporate Social Responsibility: This is a business philosophy which is of the view that organizations in the pursuance of their profit motive ought to be responsive to the needs of the society, socially and economically.