1.1. Background of the study
The importance of public relations in any organization cannot be overemphasized. This is largely buttressed by the fact that the public relations unit of an organization is an important factor which aids in the success of any organization through building and sustaining its corporate image.
In many government parastatals and private organizations whether seeking profit or not in their operations, public relations practitioners and public relations practice play a very important role. As Rensburg and Cant (2003:34) indicate, public relations exist in every company and institution, irrespective of whether or not the company or institution wants it. Within an organization, activities such as phone calls, newsletters, public letters including its everyday encounter with its public, to name only few, form a perception and an image in its public’s minds about the organization. Various images come into the public minds based on how the organisation has identified itself to the public.
According to Lukusa (2009:1) if an organisation’s portrayed identity does not coincide with the image perceived by its public, the organisation’s reputation and corporate image might suer and as a result this might also act
the management of the entire organisation. The roles of public relations practitioners
are thus very important and crucial in building the corporate image of their organisations to the public. These roles contribute to the development, the sustainability and a good functioning of the organisations.
Public relations practitioners’ roles also contribute to identifying, establishing and extending the organisation’s sphere of influence. The practitioner’s roles help in monitoring, controlling and establishing its corporate identity and corporate image.
The image making functions of public relations are principally counseling based on the understanding of human behavior. By analyzing trends and predicting their consequences, through research of public opinion, attitudes and advising a necessary action, public relations establishes and maintains two-way
communication based on truth and full information. This is to say that public relations is concerned with maintaining public image for high profile organizations, programs, or individuals (Seitel, 1998:6).
Building the corporate image of an organisation is not an easy task that can be achieved in a day within an organisation by a public relations practitioner.
Some industries, financial services, chemicals factories, etc. suer from a serious (corporate) image problem. In the eyes of many, they are seen as exploiters, inefficient, having fat-cat bosses, etc. Varey (2002: 193).
Meanwhile, according to Dowling (1994: 8) quoted in Varey (2002: 195), corporate identity is the symbols (such as logos, colour scheme) that an organisation uses to identify itself to people. Since corporate image is sometimes deemed as the organisation reputation, therefore, reputation is considered by a growing
number of management practitioners and scholars to be an intangible asset that enables the enactment of relationships among the corporation and their public.
The importance of the foregoing according to Nwosu (1992:8) is that: The time has come when professional public relations are made to play its proper role towards promoting the type of positive image which the organization needs. This can be achieved, if the public relations professionals are allowed to influence the policies at the stage of initiation, analysis and preparation of programs.