1.1 Background of the study
The purpose of public relations practice is to establish a two-way communication seeking common ground or areas to mutual interest and to establish understanding based on true knowledge and full information. The scale of activity to promote good public relations may vary considerably according to the size and nature of the interested parties, but the philosophy and strategy and methods will be similar whether the public relations program is designed to influence international understanding or to improve relations between a service provider and its customers (Nwude & Uduji, 2013). Lenka, Suar, and Mohapatra (2009) observe that public relations are a term that is wildly misunderstood and misused to describe anything from selling to hosting, when in fact, it is a very specific communication process. Every company, organization, association and government body deals with groups of people affected by what that organization does or says (Simeon, 2012).
Sharma and Rao (2010) observe that they might be employees, customer’s stockholders, competition suppliers or just the general population of consumers a company interacts with on a daily basis, and these groups may be referred to as one of the origination’s publics and hence impact or are impacted by the organization’s activities. Sharma and Rao (2010) therefore maintain that public relations management the organization’s relationship with these publics. Importantly, governments, companies, and organizations know they must consider the public impact of their actions and decisions because of the powerful effect of public opinion. This is why Rehman and Ahamed (2008) suggest that in times of crisis, emergency or disaster, public relations is especially needed to handle public opinion and hence, limit the negative impact it could have on the organization. However, this is also true for major policy decisions concerning changes in business management, pricing policies, labor negotiations, the introduction of new products or changes in distribution methods. Each of these decisions affects different groups in different ways. In other words, efficient and effective public relations managers can use the power of these group's opinions to bring about positive changes. Similarly, Odu and Ihejiamiazu (2000) assert that it is a crystal that the purpose of everything labeled ‘public relations’ is to influence public opinion towards building goodwill and a positive reputation for the organization or company.
The service industry in Nigeria is increasingly becoming complex with emerging issues and challenges that require creative and imaginative solutions from those involved. With the ongoing process of globalization, access to information through the ever-dynamic communication technologies are exposing individuals to new realities that promote new tastes, expectations and demands on product and services providers in p laces like Nigeria (Odu & Ihejiamiazu, 2000). Nwagbara (2001) opines that for the business sector competition is getting stiffer by the day, the challenges to remain profitable in business with appreciable public support and understanding are indeed enormous due to growing national and international competitions complex and challenging operational climate, hostile surrounding communities, growing expectations, security issues, depressed nature of the economy, increasing rates of poverty among the general population, rising costs of production, unending demands from labour, unpredictable government policies, expensive media services etc. These and many more, Nwagbara (2001) identifies as issues that continue to chalets the performance of companies and other private sector concerns in Nigeria. In other words, management of business has to deal with complex environmental issues that affect their business in continuously changing and challenging circumstances like what we are currently experiencing in Nigeria.
Thus, multiple institutional strategies that include effective public relations are evolved and implemented to ensure that their businesses succeed and the public understands and appreciates their existence. Among the most effective and highly reliable options for achieving such objectives, as contained in Anyim, Chidi and Badejo (2012), is the public relations units. Such units, they assert, facilitate an organization’s capacity to anticipate and adapt to societal demands and trends that positively impact on company’s image and reputation that result in the better environment; and which can lead to an increase in sales.
Though many marketing practices have been adopted to help a company cope in volatile markets like Nigeria, this study will seek to investigate the impact of public relations in the service industry as it related to MTN Nigeria Plc.
1.2 Statement of the problem
It is often said that public relations is a link between an organization and its various publics and is one of the important tools to communicate with than in order to advance goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics. As a result of this inherent importance of public relations, it has received considerable attention from researchers like Lenk, Suar, and Mohapatra (2009); Sharma and Rao (2010); Rehman and Ahmed (2008); Odu and Ihejiamiazu (2000); Nwude and Uduji (2013), Broom and Smith (1999); Grunig and Grunig (2000) and a host other. However, it has been observed in the existing literature that most of the scholarly work on the impact of public relations in the service industry were conducted in developed countries of the world, especially in the European and Asian countries. Only a few have been made to cover developing countries in Africa. This had created a gap that needs to be filled by research on the subject matter.
That gap, therefore, is what this research attempts to fill and to add to the available literature, by providing empirical data on the impact of public relations in Nigeria’s service industry as it relates to MTN Nigeria plc.
1.3 Objectives of the study
This research has the broad objective of investigating the effect of public relations on customers’ preference for GSM services of MTN NIG Plc, and the following specific objectives:
To examine the effect of customer relations on customers’ preference for GSM services of MTN NIG Plc.To examine the effect of community relations on customers’ preference for GSM services of MTN NIG Plc.To evaluate the effect of corporate social responsibility on customers’ preference for GSM services of MTN NIG Plc.To examine the effect of employee relations on customers’ preference for GSM services of MTN NIG Plc.
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