Key words

Public Relations, Reputation, Relationship, Organization and Management

Introdution

Contemporary public relations tend to be obvious as existing within the management of the organization. As public relations has shifted from an emphasis on the technical role of the communicator to the strategic communication role of the manager. Management theory has defined organizational effectiveness in a number of ways. Early theories of management stressed meeting goals as measures of effectiveness. This approach proved to be rather simplistic and did not recognize the interconnectedness of organizations with their environments. A systems model approach was developed as a reaction to the limitations of the goal-attainment perspective. However, the systems approach tends to be too abstract to measure effectiveness. A third approach, which recognizes the dependency of the organization on its environment, places specific focus on key constituents and is more measurable because of its focus on relationships with these stakeholders. This approach, recognizes the value of strategic constituents to the success of any organization, and recognizes that the interests of these stakeholders often conflict. Each impacts on how public relations are practiced within the organization. However, a wealth of studies has underscored the effects of marketing and advertising on companies’ sales volumes. But few of them deal with the potential effect of public relations —especially one that focuses on media relations—on organizations’ management. Therefore, this study sort to examine the effects of Public Relations in achieving effective organizational management.

Defining public relations

Due to the dynamic functions of Public Relations in human society, the concept has attracted varied views and definitions from different scholars of management and social sciences, especially of communication, public administrations and business management, etc. The Public Relation News of New York quoted in (Okafor, 2002) conceptualized public relations as: ‚The management function that evaluates public attitudes, identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or organization with the public interest, and plans and executes a programme of action to earn public understanding and acceptance.” In the words of Black (1989) ‚Public Relations is the art and science of achieving harmony with the environment through mutual understanding base on truth and full information‛. Harlow as cited in Udeze & Okoro (2010) views Public Relations as: “A distinctive management function which helps to establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its public and involves the management of problems or issues. “ To the British institute of public relations, the term Public relations are conceptualized ‚as a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its publics‛. Also, the Mexican statement (1978), posits that; ‚Public relations is seen as the art and social science of analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organizations leaders and implementing planned programmes of actions which will serve both the organization and the publics’‛. Flippo (1983) also defined public relations; ‚As the management functions primarily responsible for shaping and implementing policies of mediation among social, political and economic interest capable of influencing the growth and for survival of an organization’s basic franchise. ‚ Basically, the above definitions and descriptions of public relations are concerned with the communication function of an organization’s management towards making the organization effective. Hence, effective organizational communication has a lot to do with effective public relations communication. Public relations can be defined in terms of what practitioners do as opposed to what it is. For a clear definition, the field of public relations can be delineated as ‚the management function that identifies, establishes, and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organisation and the various publics on whom its success or failure depends‛ (Cutlip et al., 2006). Public relations play a crucial role in organizations. An organization’s profitability, appearance to the public, and its reputation is the remit of public relations.

Public relations functions

The different definitions of Public relations from scholars of differing orientations and professional bodies stem from the dynamic nature and function of Public relations. However, no matter how Public Relations is perceived and defined, certain features remain outstanding and tends to run through the different conceptions of the subject matter of Public relation. Some of these outstanding features include, Public Relations is a management function, Public Relations is deliberately planed, Public Relations establish mutual understanding between individuals and organizations etc. It is therefore from these prominent features that Public relations derives its roles and functions which in turn enables it’s practice to impact positively on organizations thereby helping to enhance organizational effectiveness. There are several roles played by Public relations in organizations as pertained to organizational communication which also ensures organizational effectiveness. As highlighted in the definitions above: Public relations analyze trends and predict their consequences; public relations counsel organization’s leaders; it processes are to plan and execute a programme of action; it also evaluates public attitudes, and identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or organization. Other roles of public relations include: research and data collection, media relations which helps to keep abreast of media or communication technology, familiarizing with traditions and culture of foreign land in the case of IPR etc. (Omenugha, 2002). These functions and lots others makes an organization to functions effectively:

Analyzing Trends and Predicting their Consequences

The public relations unit or personnel in an organization play this role of analyzing trends through venturing or looking into the future situations from the present one through data collection and giving analytical reports. Ahukannah and Ugorji (2009) posit that ‚analytical reports are usually formal reports that present analysis of data, an interpretation of data and perhaps recommendations. It also examines all sides of a problem or subject, evaluate the findings and put out alternative result or conditions impartially. It is always unbiased and should allow facts to speak for themselves‛. The public relations personnel carry out research on any issue or subject to be able to play this function.

Counseling Organization Leaders

This is another viable function of the public relations in an organization that makes organization function effectively. Okpoko (2004) posits that public relation practitioners give warning to organization leaders in advance of factors that can trigger off crisis or constitute impending danger. And hence advice and counsel the organization managers of what to do in order to solve an existing problem and/or to avoid getting into one.

Planning and Executing Programme of Action

To plan a program of an action means articulating, organizing and drawing up a system of action. Public relations play this role by arranges the parts of a design; devise or project the realization or achievement of the design. Also, to execute means to carry out actions on already planned design. The role of public relations in the words of Okafor, (2002) is to plan and execute short, medium and long term programs in order to ensure knowledge and understanding, particularly through dialogue so as to create an atmosphere of confidence and goodwill needed for the harmonious co-existence of both organization and its various publics. Public relations uses different models of planning to formulate and apply stepby-step and systematic manner of solving various problems that face organization (Omenugha, 2002).

Evaluates Public Attitudes

According to Okpoko, (2004), evaluation means taking stock of what has been done and what would be done if not done. It also involves feedback, which provides the organization with information concerning her success and failure. The evaluation of public attitude as the function of public relations implies the review of the feedback from the program already executed. It is where the results are related to the original objectives; it involves ascertaining the present level of achievement, the opportunities still available to be exploited and the major weaknesses to be corrected (Omenugha, 2002). By doing this, the public relations assess the effectiveness or ineffectiveness and success or failure of activities on such program that had been executed or the ones to be executed.

Identifying Policies and Procedures of an Individual or Organization

This is another vital role the public relations play in organization, making known the policies, interests and activities of both organization and its publics on individual basis. The public relations seek to identify the interest of the individuals making known to the organization vis-à-vis the organizational interests to the individual publics. In the other word, the public relations keep management or clients informed about public opinion as well as other trends or events that could undermine or adversely affect their reputation (Okafor, 2002).

Educating management, staff and public through communication

Public relations is a communication facilitator, sensory agents and information broker (Okpoko, 2004). Public relations strategy provides two way channel of communication between and among the publics’ of an organization. The practitioner/personnel ensures these through:

  • Maintaining open-door policy between management, staff and publics.
  • Conducting opinion polls from time to time amongst the publics’.
  • Holding regular dialogue session/meeting with the internal public in particular and external public occasionally.
  • Ensuring that authorities keep promises made.

Planning and managing Communication Activities and Procedures in Organization

It may be useful to think of public relations simply as the use of communication by an organization to inform, resolve conflicts, and improve understanding with its strategic publics. Public relation as the management of communication between an organization and its publics is also taken as the management function that plans the activities and procedures of information flow (communication process) in the organization. Communication between employees and the management is an essential element of conflict resolution. The public relations personnel use internal communication process in ensuring goodwill and mutual coexistence of the individuals working together in same environment. Planning as have noted earlier involves articulation and organization and drawing up a system of action (Okafor, 2002). Communication activities in organization are planned and managed to produce effective result. It is the role of public relations to plan all the communication activities and procedures in organizations. Communications Management employs the processes required to ensure timely and appropriate generation, collection, distribution, storage, retrieval, and ultimate disposition of information. These processes also provide the critical links among people and information that are necessary for successful communications. The processes include:

  • Information Distribution – making needed information available to the management and the public in a timely manner.
  • Activities/function Reporting – collecting and reporting performance through status reports, progress measurement and forecasting.
  • Communicating the Management/Stakeholders – managing communications to satisfy the requirements of, and resolve issues with, organization management/stakeholders.

All of these processes interact with one another throughout the life of the organization and as far as the organization exist.

Communications planning

Communications planning in an organization determines the information and communications needs of the management and its publics. The role is more efficiently played by the public relations unit of an organization. It includes identifying who needs what information, when they should receive it, and how it will be provided. It therefore, identifies the information needs of the organization entirely and devises a suitable means of meeting those needs for the success of any project in the organization. Organization that maintains good and effective communication planning functions effectively and as well makes effective organization. According to Northrop Grumman’s Communications Management Plan (2007), the communication management plan provides:

  • Stakeholder (management) communication requirements
  • Information to be communicated, including format, content, and level of detail
  • Person responsible for communicating the information
  • Person or groups who will receive the information
  • Person or groups who are responsible for making decisions
  • Methods used to convey the information, such as memoranda and email
  • Frequency of the communication, such as weekly
  • Escalation process for resolving project issues that cannot be resolved at the staff level

Information distribution

Information distribution involves making information available to both the management and publics of an organization on a timely manner. This is because, according to Northrop Grumman’s Communications Management Plan (2007), Information distribution includes implementing the Communications Management Plan, as well as responding to unexpected requests for information.

Take for instance; information can be distributed using a variety of methods, including:

  • Electronic communication and conference tools, such as e-mail, fax, voice mail, telephone, video and Web conferencing, and Web publishing
  • Electronic tools for project management, such as Web interfaces to scheduling and project management software, meeting and virtual office support software, portals, and collaborative work management tools.

It is obvious that we cannot mention completely the roles of public relations in organizational communication just in a work like this. This implies that there are uncountable roles public relations play in organizational communication. In fact, with the name Public Relations we cannot in any way separate any of its function form communication. This is because according to Udeze & Okoro (2010) ‚Public relations practice if well harnessed, stands at the centre of every human and organization activities, because in every of our communication activity, we try to present a good, descent and robust image of ourselves or our organizations‛. The function of image presentation mention by (Udeze & Okoro, 2010) is played by the Public relations in an organization. Hence, Public relation functions are centered on communication.

Assessing the effect of public Relations in effective Organizational management

Several public relations scholars have observed that scholars and public relations professionals have generally embraced different concepts to assess public relations effectiveness (Grunig & Hung, 2002). According to Daft (2001), organizations are ‚social entities that are goal-oriented, deliberately structured activity systems linked to the external environment‛. To answer the ‚effectiveness‛ question, the Excellence research team identified the following four approaches from organizational theory (Grunig and Hung, 2002):

The goal attainment approach

Organizations are effective when they meet their goals. The goalattainment approach is limited, however, because it cannot explain effectiveness when an organization has multiple goals and different stakeholders of an organization have conflicting goals. It also cannot explain the role of the environment in organizational effectiveness.

The systems approach

Organizations are effective when they survive in their environment and successfully bring in resources necessary for their survival. The systems approach, therefore, adds the environment to the equation of organizational effectiveness, but it is limited because survival is an extremely weak goal. The systems approach also defines the environment in vague terms. It does not answer the question of how an organization determines what elements of the environment are important for its success.

The strategic constituencies approach

This approach puts meaning into the term ‘environment’ by specifying the parts of the environment that are crucial for organizational survival and success. Strategic constituencies are the elements of the environment whose opposition or support can threaten the organization’s goals or help to attain them. Taken broadly the environment is both external and internal so employee groups and management functions can be strategic constituencies as much as can external groups.

The competing values approach

This approach provides a bridge between strategic constituencies and goal. It states that an organization must incorporate the values of strategic constituencies into its goals so the organization attains the goals of most value to its strategic constituencies. Thus, different organizations with different goals, and their effectiveness will be defined in different ways.

Organizational theorist Daft (2001) defined organizational effectiveness as ‚the degree to which an organization realizes its goals‛. Daft differentiated ‚effectiveness‛ from ‚efficiency.‛ According to him, ‚Effectiveness is a broad concept. It implicitly takes into consideration a range of variables at both the organizational and departmental levels. Effectiveness evaluates the extent to which multiple goals—whether official or operative—are attained‛. For this reason, Daft’s definition of organizational effectiveness falls into the goal attainment approach identified by the IABC research team. To explain how the term organizational efficiency is different from organizational effectiveness, Daft added: ‚Efficiency is a more limited concept that pertains to the internal workings of the organization. Organizational efficiency is the amount of resources used to produce a unit of output. It can be measured as the ratio of inputs to outputs‛. In analyzing organizational effectiveness, levels of analysis in public relations effectiveness is very crucial. To clarify the ways to demonstrate the value of public relations, (Grunig et al., 2002) explained levels of analysis in public relations effectiveness at the programme level, the functional level, the organizational level, and the societal level as follows:

The programme level

Individual communication programmes such as media relations, community relations, or customer relations are successful when they affect the cognitions, attitudes, and behaviours of both publics and members of the organization—that is, the cognitive, attitudinal, and behavioral relationships among organizations and their publics.

The functional level

The public relations or communication function as a whole can be audited by comparing the structure and processes of the department or departments that implement the function with the best practices of the public relations function in other organizations or with theoretical principles from scholarly research.

The organizational level

To show that public relations has value to the organization, it must be clarified that effective communication programmes and functions contribute to organizational effectiveness.

The societal level

Organizations have an impact beyond their own bottom line. They also affect other organizations, individuals, and publics in society. As a result, organizations cannot be said to be effective unless they also are socially responsible; and public relations can be said to have value when it contributes to the social responsibility of organizations.

According to Grunig et al., (2002), ‚The programme level has been the traditional focus of evaluative research in public relations. However, effective communication programmes may or may not contribute to organizational effectiveness; many operate independently of the organization’s mission and goals‛. This means that public relations effectiveness at the programme level alone cannot ensure the value of public relations at the organizational level, although effectiveness at the programme level is the starting point of effectiveness. Thus, for public relations to have value to organizations, public relations professionals need to consider higher levels of analysis in effectiveness—relationship management with strategic publics—than short-term outputs or outcomes at the programme level. Based on the findings of the Excellence study, Hon & Grunig (1999) suggested that the value of public relations is in ‚relationships‛ that an organization develops and maintains with strategic publics. This is because organizations become effective when achieving their goals; by means of quality relationships, organization can achieve goals because they choose goals valued by strategic publics (Grunig & Hung, 2002; Grunig et al., 2002). In addition to the focus on the value of public relations at the organizational level, public relations scholars have also extended the value of public relations to society in general based on the relationship concept (Grunig & Grunig, 1996, 2001; Ledingham, 2003). Practitioners generally have attempted to prove the bottomline value of public relations in terms of the effect of favourable reputation on the organization’s financial performance, assuming the viable role of public relations in creating favourable reputation (Grunig & Hung, 2002). In contrast, some scholars suggested that public relations obtains value by helping organizations reduce organizational costs, associated with issues, crises, regulation, litigation, and bad publicity, by means of cultivating quality relationships with strategic publics (Grunig et al., 2002). Likewise, many public relations theorists have suggested that organization-public relationships affect organizational reputation (e.g., Coombs, 2000; Grunig, 1996; Grunig & Hung, 2002; Grunig et al., 2002). For instance, Grunig et al., (2002) explained the results of the IABC Excellence study: “In a nutshell, we show that the value of public relations comes from the relationships that communicators develop and maintain with publics. We show that reputation is a product of relationships and that the quality of relationships and reputation result more from the behavior of the organization than from the messages that communicators disseminate.” It is important to understand how organizations define their success because they place more value on the functions that contribute to that success.

Conclusion

The interest of every organization is to function effectively and achieve its primary goal and objectives. It is obvious that organization cannot function effectively without effective communication which is the major function of public relations. Therefore, public relations roles are very critical toward enhancing effective organization. Organizations are managed with a number of skills and strategies to ensure function ability, these strategies are more of public relations strategies applied with communication skills. These include crisis management strategies: social responsibility/community relations tool, corporate social responsibility tool, synergistic communication strategy, consent engineering tool; the management strategies: total quality management tool, consultative decision-making tool, etc.; communication strategies: propaganda, publicity, advertising tools; Relation strategies: opinion poll, negotiation, mediation, inquiry, conciliation, arbitration, mass media tools etc. (Nwosu, 2004). Lots of public relations/communication scholars (Nwosu, 2004; Onah, 2001; Okiyi, 2004; Okpoko, 2004; Owuamalam, 2004; Okafor, 2002; Nkwocha, 1999; Nwogu, 2005; Gibson, & Hodgetts, 1991; Aliede, 2004; Okpoko, 2004) believe and have mentioned these strategies/tools in one way or the other attributing them to public relations tools. This implies that, public relations as a management concept and function is very critical to the effectiveness of organization (Nwosu, 2004).