1.1 Background of the study
The banking sector in recent years has become very competitive that without the use of good promotional tools, such as public relations, success in business may become uncertain and elusive, if not impossible. Since the major aim of every business is to make profit and continue to stay afloat by having its products and services patronized, consumed and appreciated by its target market, it has become important therefore that the organization must also communicate with its present and potential consumers.
The constant changes being experienced in the business environment have further made marketing of services and business operations harder, more intensive and highly competitive. The dynamic nature of today’s business, resulting from the stiff competition from competitors, necessitate the need for a good promotional tool which can boost the image and goodwill of an organization and position it properly among its publics.
In all facets of social, economic and political interactions and interrelationships, the role and uses of public relations as a promotional tool cannot be undervalued because it is associated with success especially when it comes to establishing and maintaining good image. Public relations is therefore a powerful communication tool which is available to every organization in building up, sustaining good and mutual relationship with its target publics.
Over the years, organizations have come to realize that for them to carry out their businesses effectively and efficiently, a good environment and cooperative publics must be maintained, hence they see public relations as the best tool in achieving their aims.
The importance of public relations was recognized early at the dawn of civilization by the ‘‘Greeks who conceived the idea of the public will’’ (Bittner,
1989:229). From this recognition, public relations has grown to become a part and parcel of every image conscious cooperative organization. For public relations creates good business environment, an understanding, cooperative external public, a dedicated
and hardworking internal public, who serve the external public by utilizing the conducive environment.
In Nigeria, public relations have come a long way. Many organizations have contributed to its practice and growth. With the indigenization decree, several key
positions in private organizations afforded Nigerians the opportunity to pioneer the crusade for public relations practice. For instance, in1949, the United African Company (UAC), established its public relations department, and thus became the pioneer in the private sector (Ajala, V.2001:6). The basic aims of the company then were to inform business and commerce about business activities, as well as to project UAC as a major Nigerian industrial, technical and commercial company involved in the stability of the economic life and progress in Nigeria.
In the post independence era, there was significant development in government public relations, with the formation of Information Departments which handles and manages information-related activities in the different government ministries and parastatals. In the private sector, the UAC example and successes achieved motivated them into establishing public relations department to carry out image laundry, building of goodwill, creating and sustaining patronage for their goods and services. For long, therefore public relations practice in Nigeria has been dynamic, and has been growing with the changing tides of the country’s environment.
The dynamism of public relations in Nigeria, is that it adapts to changes as the business environment, as well as the external and internal publics changes with varying
techniques and methodologies. It is obvious therefore that the major job of public relations are to establish, maintain and sustain good relationships with its publics. Public relations are also a people oriented activity which seeks to serve a purpose: maintain or improve an image, repair an image, create an appreciable and acceptable reputation, and good market for services, and sustain its activities in order to achieve goodwill and profits.
The contribution of public relations to marketing, according to Kotler, (1988:657), includes:
To assist in the launch of new products, to
assist in repositioning a mature product category,
influence specific target groups, defend products
that has encountered public problems and build
the cooperate image in a way that reflect favorably
on its products.
A public relations is therefore the wheel on which marketing activities rotate. It creates awareness before and after the product is launched, turns awareness into patronage, and retain the patronage for as long as possible. It builds the cooperate image and reputation that projects the products of an organization in such a way that subsequent products would be effectively patronized. Furthermore, public relations carry out intensive research on the target public on their perception about similar goods and services, and make valuable recommendations to the management. It also researches on the activities of Competitors and reports accordingly to the management on ways of checkmating them.
When one assesses the banking industry presently, it is full of what we could call ‘‘public relations war’’. This is because each bank is trying to outdo one another with distinctive unique service propositions: offering what others do not offer, which are aimed at ensuring that old consumers are happy, while potential ones are encouraged to patronize them.
Since survival in the banking industry depends largely on individual and cooperate patronage; it behooves on the public relations personnel to create the path to distinguish one image from the others; one service from the others, and one innovation from the others.
Public relations is defined, according to the Dansk Public Relations Klub of Denmark as:
A sustained and systematic managerial effort through which private and public organizations seek to establish understanding, sympathy, and support in those public circles with which they have or expect to obtain contact (cf. Wilcox, et al, 1988:131).
In similar definition, the British Institute of Public Relations, according to Ibekwe, O. (1984:166), sees public relations as ‘‘the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its public.’’
The two definitions clearly show that public relations is ‘doing something to achieve a desired aim’. This will form the foundation of this work.
1.2: Statement of the problem
The stiff environment of banking sector of the Nigerian economy has necessitated an array of strategies adopted and being adopted by the competitors towards attracting new customers, and maintaining old ones. In this era of ‘distress and liquidation’ in the industry, public relations job is now at its peak. This is because people are gradually loosing confidence in the sector, and are at the point of withdrawing patronage from the existing ones, so, in order to restore the much-needed confidence, public relations becomes the only tool to effectively erase doubt and re-establish trust in the system. One can reason that if many banks are still operating successfully presently, it is because public relations has made it so, by identifying what people want, how they want it, and providing it the way they want it.
The theoretical premise on which this work would be based derives from the following premises:
- Are promotional tools effective in marketing?
- How useful is public relations in banking services?
- Is public relations as a promotional tool able to sustain an organization’s competence?
- Is public relations able to checkmate competitors?
- Is public relations capable of projecting organization’s image?
1.3 Objectives of the study
Since it is widely acknowledged that the main objective of every business organization is to produce and market its products and services to a target market in the best way possible, and at a profit, it becomes necessary for such an organization to choose an effective promotional tool, like public relations purposely to project its image and status in a better way than its competitors.
The objectives of this study include:
- Investigating the needs and importance of public relations in a competitive marketing environment.
- Evaluating the general contributions of public relations in the banking sector.
- Ascertaining how public relations could enhance good image and goodwill for an organization.
- Finding out how public relations activities presently in use at Keffi Community Bank Nig Ltd., have helped in establishing and maintaining good
relationship with its customers, and thereby creating a conducive business environment for cooperate survival and profit making.
1.4: Research Hypothesis
The formulation of hypothesis are always in line with the selection of a research problem. According to Ndagi, (1989:43), ‘‘hypothesis is a testable, tentative and probable explanation of the relation between two or more variables that create a state of affairs or phenomenon’’.
For Osuala (1987:46), ‘‘hypotheses are guides for the investigator in the entire process of research endeavor, and they keep the researcher on the mainline of his study’’.
The hypothesis for this work will be based on the research problems and objectives which could be tested for possible rejection. It is denoted by Ho, it corresponds directly with the absence of the effect being tested.
Alternative hypothesis determines whether a particular hypothesis requires a one tail tests. It is denoted by H1 , it could be tested in any particular or particular direction at all.
This work shall be based on the following hypothesis:
Ho: Public relations as a promotional tool adopted by an organization has not been able to sustain the organization’s objectives and competence.
H1: Public relations as a promotional tool adopted by an organization has been able to sustain the organization’s objectives and competence.
Ho: Public relations has not contributed to the enhancement of good image and goodwill for an organization.
H1: Public relations has contributed to the enhancement of good image and goodwill for an organization.
1.5: Significance of the study
The essence of a good promotional tool for any organization can not be underestimated in the overall survival and growth of its business. This research would be of immense help to many organizations, because good public relations has become sine qua non with business progress and profitability.
One of the major objectives of most business include to communicate and create awareness on the importance of its services or products, and to have the target audience to patronize them. This study intends to acquaint such organization with basic and major ways, tools and techniques of public relations in the achievement of such objectives or goals.
In addition, it would help organization build their corporate image in a way that
will project its products and services favorably. It will also help in creating a mutually acceptable two way communication between it and its publics.
1.6: Scope of the Study
Public relations is used in almost every public oriented organization: be it profit
or non profit making. Since all of such organizations cannot be covered in an academic
exercise like this, the scope of this work would be limited to public relations activities of
Keffi Community Bank Nig Ltd, at its Office in Keffi Local Government of Nasarawa State.
1.7: Limitations of the study
This study would not be in any way exhaustive because of some apparent
limitating factors. The main reason being lack of some vital information and data which
the bank has dubbed ‘secret’, because they serve as the life wire of their existence, the
leakage of which will cause some corporate harm, as they may be copied by their
competitors. This fear is somehow general, as most organizations are not usually willing
to divulge personalized information which serve as their albatross against their competitors.
This work would therefore relay on the information and data willingly made
available to this researcher.
1.8: Definition of concepts
For the purpose of clarity of this work, the definition of basic concepts which would be used in this work is necessary. The concepts to be defined form the bedrock of this study, and would be used as defined throughout this work. Such concepts include, promotion, marketing and publics.
Promotion: This is derived from the word ‘promote’, which means, ‘to raise, encourage, organize or help the progress of; to encourage the buying of ; to advertise… (Kirkpatrick, 1980:567).
The Oxford Advanced Dictionary of Current English: 3rd Edition (1980:668), defines promotion as ‘‘encouragement by publicity; advertising, publicizing ones’ products’’.
Promotion, therefore, is the act of encouraging buyers or customers into patronizing or appreciating a product or service through publicity or adverts. It is also the art of publicizing an activity, products, services through publicity, and other means of communication.
Marketing: The Chartered Institute of Marketing, defines marketing as ‘‘ the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably’’. In our own opinion, marketing here involves all possible activities carried out by an organization leading to increase awareness of its activities: goods and services, and patronage (Ajala, 2001:22).
Publics: Every public relations activity has its target group or point of focus within a given population. The target group is regarded as ‘public’. Publics are therefore the group or individual to which a public relations message or activity is directed.
The word ‘public’, as defined by Kotler, (1988:659), is ‘‘any group that has an actual or potential interest in or impact on a company’s ability to achieve its
Publics, is an all-embracing term for customers and potential customers of an organization.
Image: Image can be described as the impression, feeling or opinion which somebody has about an organization, product, services or individual, as a result of his contact with any of them. Wally, (1989:78), defines image as ‘‘the totality of all the impressions that an organization makes on all its audiences.’’
Image is like a two-edged sword: it is either good or bad, favorable or unfavorable, perfect or imperfect. What every organization, aspires is to have a good, favorable and perfect image.
Communication: Communication is an instrument of social interaction. It helps us to understand ourselves, to keep in touch with other people, to understand them and to predict their response to situations. It is the means by which power is acquired, exercised and sustained. It is the medium through which relationships are established and extended.
It provides a means by which people in business, politics and the professions act and interact; exchange information and ideas; develop plans, proposals and policies; make decisions and manage men and materials (James, Ode, and Soola, 2000:2)
Implicit in the above is that communication is the lubricant that keeps the machinery of an organization functioning. It is the means of transferring ideas, feelings, instructions, etc., from one person or group to the others. Communication is today the life-wire of every existing organization.