ABSTRACT: The research examined the role of public relations in building corporate image of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC). The study was justified with the use of Model of Public Relations by Grunig and Hunt with emphasis on the Two Way Systematic Model because it is appears more effective and accurate especially in gaining how an organization is perceived by the public. Survey research method was employed while respondents were drawn using purposive sampling based on convenience to pick 200 respondents within staff and customers from which 184 copies were correctly filled and analysed using frequency and percentage table method with SPSS version 20. Findings show that 77.5% were not aware and feel the impact of PRs of AEDC but larger percentage (87.5%) said there is need for PRs in an organisation particularly in AEDC and even if AEDC has PRs Department, 76% submitted that AEDC has not fully utilised them in building good rapport with customers leading to poor image experienced by the organisation. Also, 71% of the respondents expected AEDC to supply adequate electricity to the customers because 94% of the respondents maintained that AEDC has not live up to the expectation of its customers especially in the area of electricity supply and customer relations. It is recommended that PRs Unit of the AEDC should be well equipped with tools and personnel not only those with traditional media orientation and background but also those that can manipulate, relate and integrate new media for the PRs purposes while PRs should take their time in knowing and identifying their target public by conducting a demography survey and analyse them this will enable them shoot the target.
1.1 Background to the Study
The common aim of every business organization is to achieve growth, increase in turn over, assets and profit while that of non-profit have similar intention except for the sales of turnover. However, all of these depend on the public perception and goodwill of the organization otherwise known as image. Yoruba adage will say, “a good name is better than silver and diamond” i.e if one or an organisation has good reputation and integrity such could be entrusted for many good things which could in turn make one better or leave successfully. To business firm, good name is a soft selling no wonder some people pay heavily to buy franchise in another company because of the existing reputation.
Corporate image, or reputation, therefore, can be described as the manner in which a company, its activities, and its products or services are perceived by outsiders. In a competitive business climate, many businesses actively work to create and communicate a positive image to their customers, shareholders, the financial community, and the general public. A company that mismanages or ignores its image is likely to encounter a variety of problems. Reputation problems grow like weeds in a garden (Davis, 2014).
Dominique, (2002) says the concept of Corporate Image draws the company’s attention to the way in which it is perceived in the market. The market as mentioned contains the company itself. Of course, the companies are chiefly interested in what image their most important audience have of them. No matter how much or how well the company seeks to influence this, its image on the market usually never corresponds with the ideal as the managers wants it to be and as the employees perceive it.
Meanwhile, several factors have contributed to the increasing importance of corporate image in recent years. For example, the business climate worldwide has become one of environmental complexity and change. This has forced many business enterprises to significantly alter their strategies to better compete and survive. Other factors are stated below as highlighted by Reference for business (2015)
- The acceleration of product life cycles is another vital dimension of the turbulent business environment.
- Globalization has been still another catalyst in the rise of corporate image programs, as companies have sought ways to spread their reputations to distant markets.
- A related factor is that as a corporation expands its operations internationally, or even domestically, through acquisitions, there is a danger that its geographically dispersed business units will project dissimilar or contrary images to the detriment of corporate synergy.
- A final factor stimulating the current interest in corporate image is society’s growing expectation that corporations be socially responsible. Many of today’s consumers consider the environmental and social image of firms in making their purchasing decisions. Some companies have recognized this reality and reaped tremendous benefits by conducting themselves in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
Electricity is one of the key challenges facing this country that is yet to be solved since 1898 when the first generating power plant was installed in the city of Lagos. The company has taken different names in the past which people taught it will improve its service but to the public surprise, instead of getting improved the opposite continued to surface. The company has wear different name at one time on the other from the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) in 1950s, National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) in 1972 to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) in 2000s when it became public limited company.
For several decades, despite consistent perceived cash investment by the federal government, local and at times even nationwide power outages have been the norm instead of the exception. Because of such outages, over the years the Nigerian public has given the company numerous humorous acronyms such as “Never Expect Power Always” (NEPA), “No Electrical Power at All; Please Light Candle” (NEPA plc), and “Please Hold a Candle Now” (PHCN).
However, following the 2013 divestiture of the federal government from PHCN, the company was divided into separate companies or entities called Local Electric Distribution Companies or Local Distribution Companies (LDC). Each company will be responsible for handling electricity distribution in each state or region. As of May 2016, the structure of the companies was as follows:
Distribution (11 companies), Abuja Electricity Distribution Company plc, Benin Electricity Distribution Company plc, Eko Electricity Distribution Company plc, Enugu Electricity Distribution Company plc, Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company plc, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company plc, Jos Electricity Distribution Company plc, Kano Electricity Distribution Company plc, Kaduna Electricity Distribution Company plc, Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company plc, Yola Electricity Distribution Company plc
It is against this background that the research examine into the coproate image of the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company and what the public relations department of unit is doing to ensure good image of the company.
1.2 Problem Statement
This research has observed that in so many organizations, management neither recognizes nor appreciate public relations efforts in building and projecting corporate image and good reputation in Nigeria they pay attention to the advert or commercial department. It has also been observed that the management’s attitude is lukewarm and non-challant towards public relations department and its activities.
Besides, they don’t want to spend money on its activities such as organizing seminars, workshops, symposium, public opinion generation, etc because of the erroneous and selfish belief that public relations efforts bring little benefits to the organization. Whereas the publics of an organisation remain a powerful stakeholders, and bedrock of every successful organization that a serious institution must never toy with.
It is against this backdrop that the research examines the role of public relations in building corporate image of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) with the view to the extent at which its public relations have been able to promote the image of the company.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The objective of this study is primarily to do the following.
- To examine the role of public relations in building corporate image for Abuja Electricity Distribution Company.
- To examine the effects of crisis and depressed economy on the corporate existence of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company.
1.4 Research Questions
- Does public relations have any role to play in building corporate image of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company.
- Does crisis and depressed economy have effect on the corporate image of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company?
1.5 Scope of the Study
The scope of this research has been narrowed to the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company due to the proximity, inadequate time to study all Electricity Distribution Companies in Nigeria, inadequate fund to run around among other logistics.
The demographic factors of the respondents will be studied before the structuring and administration of the research instrument (questionnaire). Such factors include but not limited to age, gender, marital status, education e.t.c
1.6 Significance of the Study
At the end of this study, the following categories of people will benefit from the research findings.
Different organizations will know the benefits of public relations through the result of the findings and how they can use PR for their gain.
Future researchers who will be researching into the area related to this topic will find this work relevant as a reference material.
Public relations students and mass communication students will as well understand the importance of their course of study to the industrial development and success.
Moreover, this work will also serve as a working tool for Chief Executives and managers in an organization like (AEDC); this piece of work will actually form a basis for further development and as well contribute to the existing body of knowledge in the area of public relations corporate image.
1.7 Operational Definition of Terms
Public Relations: This is the department or unit of Abuja Electricity Distribution Company that is saddled with the responsibility of maintaining mutual understanding between management, staff and publics and enhancing good corporate image.
Building: This involves all efforts, programmes and activities towards achieving public confidence or trust from the various publics which in turn earn a company a good reputation.
Corporate Image: Corporate image refers to the overall reputation of an organization as determined by the various pictures, impression, knowledge, information and perceptions that the publics of that organizations have about it.
Public Relations Programmes: It refers to some of the PR activities that helps build good image, reputation and enhance mutual understanding between and among AEDC’s publics such as effective communication.