1.1 Background to 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).
Corporate image is closely related to brand equity. In general, corporate image is considered an asset which gives the organization a chance to differentiate itself aiming to maximize their market share, profits, attracting new customers, retaining existing ones, neutralizing the competitors’ actions and above all their success and survival in the market (Bravo et al., 2009; Sarstedt et al., 2012).
Customer satisfaction has been defined in two ways: either as an outcome or as a process. The outcome definitions characterise satisfaction as the end-state resulting from the consumption experience. Customers’ willingness to maintain a relationship with a organization is contingent on their perception of the benefits of a high relationship quality, satisfaction with a relationship, and the benefits of a relationship that provide a continuous flow of value (Zeithaml, 2000).
One of the greatest challenges facing firms today is how to gain an advantage over competitors in satisfying customer needs. This is being driven primarily by more demanding customers (Herington, Johnson and Scott, 2006). Attracting new customers remains an important marketing management task. However, today’s companies must also focus on retaining current customers and building profitable, long-term relationships with them. The key to customer retention is superior customer value and satisfaction (Khodarahmi, 2009). Loyal customers are more likely repurchase the same service or brand, provide positive word-of-mouth and be willing to pay a premium price (Kwon and Lennon, 2009).
Modern organisations are increasingly becoming customer-oriented and are embracing marketing initiatives that seek to understand, attract, retain and build intimate long term relationship with profitable customers (Kotler, 2006). Customer-centric business organizations are interested not just in getting new customers but more importantly, retaining existing customers through customer satisfaction and loyalty. Competition in many service industry contexts forces firms to move beyond competing based on cost, to competing based on superior quality that satisfies and exceeds customer requirements (Lovelock & Witz, 2007). The thought of public relations as the management of the relationship between an organisation and its key publics has found enough explanation in public relations text and in the scholarly literature of the discipline. In the relationship management perspective, public relations is seen as an organisational function whose primary focus is to initiate, develop and maintain relationship between an organisation and its key publics (Amponsah, Asamoah and Isaac, 2015).
In recent years, the contemporary customer is always changing and looking for alternatives therefore, it is necessary to consider the importance of and satisfying the customer. Public relations help with identifying and communicating with the customer, processes referred to as customer relations management (Emerson, 2007). Another period of customer relations management is providing customer pleasure that is important for gaining and holding the customer and that, public relations provide direct and indirect support to provide customer pleasure. Public relations have various works for holding a good reputation in the customer’s mind and improving the relationship that exist between the organization and its customers (Amponsah, Asamoah and Isaac, 2015).
Hence, businesses must be able to show more concern for customers than the competition in order to gain any competitive advantage. A disparate group of leaders of successful firms have reported enjoying a unique and sustained competitive advantage by showing greater concern for customers; this was achieved by focusing on building strong relationships (Herington, Johnson and Scott, 2006). Moreover, many practitioners and managers believe that effective press relations and the purported goodwill that results, positively influence key public members to be favorably predisposed toward the organization, inferring that enhanced organizational image is linked to key public members’ behavior. As a result of its journalistic heritage, public relations have generally been practiced using a mass communication perspective in which message creation, dissemination and measurement are the primary focus (Bruning and Ledingham, 2000).
Through effective public relations, an organization will be able to win public acceptance. Effective coordination of activities will be needed to achieve these goals and objectives. Public relations, which is a management function becomes handy in facilitating effective communication of organizational goals and objectives. The public relations department in any human organization handles various activities, which include: conflict resolution or crisis management, internal or employee relations, community relations, promotions, media relations, environmental scanning and sponsorship programmes (Asemah, 2009). Therefore, it is on this premises this study intend to out into the impact of public relations in building corporate image and customers’ satisfaction.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Corporate organisations have been embarking on Public Relations to create and maintain a mutual understanding with their publics. Corporate image or customer satisfaction is the single most important issue affecting organizational survival. The problem is that most past studies or researchers focus on either public relations and corporate image or public relations and customers’ satisfaction. Corporate image and customers’ satisfaction are separate entity which needs to be discussed and deals with.
Hence, this study to find out the impact of public relations in building corporate image and customers’ satisfaction, using Unilever Nigeria Plc., Ikeja Branch, Lagos as a study.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of this study is to examine the impact of public relations in building corporate image and customers’ satisfaction. Other specific objectives include;
- To know how public relations helps in creating a mutual understanding between a corporate organization and its publics.
- To find out the degree to which public relations helps to maintain mutual understanding between a corporate organization and its publics
- To examine the relationship between public relations, corporate image and customers’ satisfaction
- To find out the impact of public relations in building corporate image and customers’ satisfaction in Unilever Nigeria Plc., Ikeja Branch, Lagos.
- To examine how effective public relations practice in Unilever Nigeria Plc., Ikeja Branch, Lagos is influencing customer satisfaction.
1.4 Research Questions/Hypotheses
- How does public relations helps in creating a mutual understanding between a corporate organization and its publics?
- What is the degree to which public relations helps to maintain mutual understanding between a corporate organization and its publics?
- What is the relationship between public relations, corporate image and customers’ satisfaction?
- What are the relevance of public relations in building corporate image and customers’ satisfaction in Unilever Nigeria Plc., Ikeja Branch, Lagos?
- To what extent has public relations practice in Unilever Nigeria Plc. have been effective to influence customer satisfaction?
H0: There is no significant relationship between public relations, corporate image and customers’ satisfaction.
H1: There is significant relationship between public relations, corporate image and customers’ satisfaction.
1.5 Significance of the study
This research study will be useful to any corporate organisations, the students and it will also be of immense benefits to any researcher.
To the Corporate Organisation: This research will enable them know how to use public relations effectively in building corporate image and customers’ satisfaction.
To the Students: This research will broaden their mind on the impact of public relations in building corporate image and customers’ satisfaction.
To Researcher: This research will serve as a foundation for any research work similar to this further help them know the relevance of public relations in building corporate image and how to influence customers’ satisfaction.
1.6 Scope of the Study
The scope of this study would cover the impact of public relations in building corporate image and customers’ satisfaction. It is a statement of fact that the average Nigerian researcher is constantly faced with a gamut of interacting variables that tend to impede his/her efforts at promoting learning and improving the functional knowledge of people.
1.7 Limitations of the study
Limitation of the study is time constraint, period in which the researcher would be conducting research, getting information (data collection), availability of materials similar to the study, attitude of respondent before they respond to the questions and funds to finance movement from one place to another.
1.8 Operational Definition of Terms
Public Relations: As a way of management which functions as an evaluation of the publics’ attitude, and identifies the policies and procedures of an individual or an association with the public interest. It is a planned and implemented program that requires actions, so as to earn publics’ understanding and approval.
Corporate/Company Image: Is the perception of the company held by the public based on how they portrayed through branding, Public Relations exertions, media, stakeholders, employees and trade unions and consumer advocacy organizations. Companies invest a large part of the marketing and advertising dollars to build and maintain a positive corporate image, which is vital to the competitive status.
Customer Satisfaction: As an outcome of purchase and use resulting from the buyer’s comparison of the rewords and the costs of the purchase in relation to the anticipated consequences. On the other hand, satisfaction can be considered as a process, emphasizing the perceptual, evaluative and psychological processes that contribute to satisfaction.
Communication: Is the links which bind organizations together in order to evolve common understanding or could be described as a process of passing information and understanding to one or more person.
Corporate Organisation: A united single group that share the same ideology and is recognised by the law.
Customer: The term ‘customer’ is commonly used to refer to end-users of a product. Also customer is a general term referring to anybody who receives a service or product from some other person or group of people.” Generally, there are internal and external customers, where internal customers refer to the staff or employees and external customers refer to stakeholders of an organisation.