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COMMUNITY RELATIONS AND THE IMPLEMENTATION OF CHEVRON’S GLOBAL MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (GMOU) IN THE NIGER DELTA
1.1 Background to the Study
Building local community relationships can be the most important communication activity undertaken by an organisation, yet it is often overlooked. It is a priority goal to develop a solid, ongoing and reliable community relations programme. It starts when an organisation becomes aware of its role in contributing to community welfare. It aims at bridging the communication gap between an organisation and its community.
In addressing this situation, Njoku (2000) sees community relations as a sphere of public relations which includes enlisting the cooperation and support of civic authorities and local citizens of the area in which the organisation is located. It is predicated on the recognition of the relationship between business and society and the conscious planning of corporate actions taking this into account.
Yet, Community Relations does not end when the company succeeds in fulfilling its obligations. It starts when the organisation becomes aware of its role in contributing to community welfare (Ezirim, 2001). Community Relations is a public relations function that aims at establishing and sustaining cordial relationship between an organization and its host communities. It is the act of engaging in goodwill building through good deeds. An example is the provision of essential amenities for communities. It refers to the various methods companies use to establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the communities in which they operate. The underlying principle of community relations is that when a company accepts its civic responsibility and takes an active interest in the well-being of its community, then it gains a number of long-term benefits in terms of community support, loyalty, and goodwill. Desatnik (2000) has noted that "Community involvement builds public image and employee morale, and fosters a sense of teamwork that is essential in long-term success" (Cincinnati Business Journal 2000).
A comprehensive, ongoing community relations programme can help virtually any organisation to achieve visibility as a good community citizen. Organisations are recognised as good community citizens when they support programmes that improve the quality of life in their community, including crime prevention, employment, environmental programmes, clean-up and beautification, recycling, and restoration. Some other examples of ongoing programmes might include scholarship awards, urban renewal projects, sponsorship of performing arts programmes, as well as social and educational programmes, children's activities, support to community organizations, and construction projects (Gale Encyclopedia of small business 2011). On a more limited scale, small businesses might achieve community visibility and engender goodwill by sponsoring local sports teams or other events. Support may be financial gifts or take the form of employee participation.
Good community relations programmes offer small businesses a wide variety of benefits. For instance, they give employees a reason to be proud of the company, which increases loyalty and may help to reduce labour and production costs.
Furthermore, a company with happy employees and a good reputation in the community is likely to attract highly qualified new employees. A small company might also generate new business through the contacts and leads it generates in its community relations activities. Such contacts might also make it easier for the company to obtain financing for expansion, find promising new locations, or gain favourable treatment in terms of taxes, ordinances, or utilities. Good community relations can also be beneficial in times of crisis, such as a fire or a plant closing, by rallying the community around the affected business.
The way and manner, in which an organisation and its activities are seen, noticed or perceived by members of her host community is central to the growth and peaceful operations of the organisation. Their impressions, understanding and feelings about the activities of the organization are key. Responsible corporate organizations strive to create a positive impression of themselves so as to enhance the perception of their host communities about their operations.
1.1.1 Types of Community Relations Programmes
According to Soderberg in his book, Public Relations for the Entrepreneur and the Growing Business 1986, small businesses can become involved in their communities in a number of ways. Some recommended routes toward increasing community involvement include: taking an active interest in community problems; sponsoring youth activities; participating in local government; joining business and service groups; purchasing materials and supplies from local companies; encouraging community education and culture; making offices or other facilities available to community organizations; supporting local charity drives; and taking part in civic activities.
Soderberg (1986) discusses a number of specific programmes designed to increase a small business' visibility and prestige within a community. For example, the company might volunteer to develop a civic programme, like a charity drive or auction. In addition, the small business owner, or a company representative, can give talks before the local chamber of commerce or civic association. The company can also invite community groups to tour its plant or offices, or can make its facilities available to such groups for meetings or events.
Alternatively, the company could prepare an informational videotape about its products, services, employment policies, and overall mission and make these resources available to the community. Informational brochures and newsletters might also be distributed to civic and government leaders. Another way to improve community relations might be to beautify the company's surroundings with a fountain, sculpture, or garden, so that it becomes a local landmark. Whichever types of community relations programmes are used, it is important to keep the media informed about the company's activities.
Soderberg (1986, p. 243), stresses that for a business, community relations should involve more than just an annual contribution to the “United Way’’. Instead, the small business owner should become personally involved in the effort, and should encourage employees to participate as well.
A company's employees should try to represent it well in all their interactions—from practicing good manners on the road while driving company vehicles, to treating customers and even visiting sales people with courtesy. In order to motivate employees to be good company representatives, small business owners should take whatever steps that are needed to boost morale. These might include maintaining an open-door policy, setting up a complaint box, or recognizing employees who are helping the community.
The practice of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which refers to a business practice that involves participating in initiatives that benefit society, is very fundamental