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Etisalat is the largest company that provides telecommunication services in UAE. The company is quite widespread and is spread over 18 countries across Asia, Middle East and Africa. Etisalat today has a customer base of over 100 million people and has the 13th largest mobile network in the world. According to the reports of October 18, 2008 the revenues of the company were USD $7.712 billion and the company reported a net profit of USD $1.989 billion.
The field in which the company operates its business is quite widespread and ranges from business management and operations to the areas involving high technology and also to the support and services sector.
Etisalat also provides connectivity to other telecommunications operators operating in the region and also acts as an internet hub in the Middle East. Etisalat today holds the position as the 12th largest voice carrier company in the world and also serves as the largest voice carrier when it comes to the countries of the middle east and Africa. With the widespread network and through contracts with other telecommunication companies in places where it does not have its own network the company covers over 186 countries. This service has been made possible by 510 roaming contracts that the company has signed at different parts of the world. Thus the company provides connectivity to its customers in nearly all parts of the world.
Public Relations and the role of Public Relations Department:
Public Relations commonly refer to the relationship between an organization and the public on whom the company is dependent for its growth and development. The public relations department of an organization aims at establishing and maintaining relations that result in mutual benefits to the entities in the relationship. In most of the progressive departments the PR head communicates directly with the Chief Executive Officer of the company in order to avoid any communication gaps. The company's image in the public largely depends on its PR department as the PR department is responsible for taking the views of the company to people and thus serves as a mediator in the process.
The effective functioning of the PR department is necessary for the growth of the company. The department plays a major role in developing and strengthening the communication system of the organization. The activities of the PR department of an organization are listed below:
Promotion of efficient two way communication between the employees and the management
Managing the media by deciding what to present in front of the media and how to present it.
Creating awareness among people about the activities that the organization is indulging in to complete its Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR).
Aims to develop long term relationships with stake holders.
Finds efficient methods to advertise and publicize an organization.
The PR department aims at creating better interpersonal relationships in an organization. The main purposes of this department are carried out by its two subunits in most organizations. The job of the PR department divided into the sub-units is described below:
This unit mainly aims at bringing the aims of the organization in front of the public along with bringing the point of view of the company in front of the people. It acts as a mediator to notify the public about the policies and planning of the company. It aims at enhancing the goodwill of the company. The main activities of this unit include writing related jobs-news items, press notes, articles, speech drafts, documentary scripts, goodwill messages etc. The department also requires some equipments like printers, modems, scanners, photocopy machine, computers and fax machine in order to function efficiently.
The most visible and the attractive work of the PR department is carried out by the photography unit this unit does tasks related to both still and video photography. Proficient photographers are hired by organizations to ensure smooth working of this unit of the photography unit. This unit has archives of the photographs and videos of the events taking place in the organization and thus forms an important part when things have to be documented. Visual inputs to the house magazine, audio - visual programs, presentations, media releases and statutory documentation are given by the photography unit of the PR department.
The Organizational Structure:
PR department at Etisalat:
The public Relations of Etisalat have been criticized for a long time. The company enjoyed a virtual monopoly position in UAE for the past many years and the decisions taken were just on the basis of company's plans to get profits out of it. The issues that have spoiled the image of the company in maintaining public relations are as follows:
Taking advantage of the lack of completion the company has been charging a large amount from its consumers for the services provided by them.
The delayed payment and renegotiation on prices after winning the bid for Pakistan Telecommunication Company also spoilt the image of the company.
The company has also been blamed for using an imperfect content filter for internet censorship.
The company was also blamed for giving patches to the customers for running unauthorized software's.
However with the entry of another telecommunication provider du the company has now started to face some competition but till now the impact on prices has not been as severe as the people were expecting due to the regulations of the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA) which has curbed the price war by allowing only the companies to give only few discount and promotional offers to its customers.
Owing to this competition the Etisalat has developed a Media relations department whose role has been described below:
Functions of the Media Relations Department:
The main functions of the media relations department at Etisalat are listed below:
The main task is to manage all the activities that involve media. The areas that have to be covered include both organizational and corporate factors.
The department aims to maintain good contacts with both local and international where the media relations department aims to put in tailored stories which may help to improve its position n the market and earn profits for it.
The department also manages and edits interviews given by the key people of the organization.
Results of interview with the Media Relations Manager:
The first question that was put in front of the Media Relations manager was to tell the role of a Media Relations manager in Etisalat. On the question he answered that the role of a media relations manager is to handle everything that brings anything related to the people in front of the public. He said that as a media relations manager you need to be good at handling enquiries that are made by media and magazines and must have good contacts with people involved in all formats of media. He also added that as a media relations manager you must have control over your anger as with the increasing power of media any bad behavior nay result in a big chaos for the company. He also added that the responsibility also increases because whenever you go in front of the people you are representing your organization and presenting yourself as an individual. He also added that as a media relations manager you must also have god writing skills as you may have to write press notes and also speeches for the key persons of the organizations. He added that anything that goes out of the organization has to go out through the public relations manager of the company.
After getting the answer for the first question another question was put up for him that was more related to Etisalat. I asked him that with increasing competitiveness the public relations is becoming more important for all companies and in the past there have been instances where Etisalat was accused for bad public relations and especially the pricing of services. On this the media relations manager answered that the economy and the business style followed in UAE is quite different from other parts of the world and the business strategy of the company like any other company has been to aim good profit out of its business and Etisalat has been able to do that for a long time. He added that UAE being the major market for us decisions are taken keeping in view the economy and market of UAE.
The media is one of the ways that can affect the image of the company in a great way in one of the shortest possible times. The relations of a company with the media largely affect its position as a company having good relations with the media is generally presented in a better way in front of the public by the media
The employees are the ones who make things possible for the company and form an important part of the agenda for most companies. But when it comes to Etisalat and the United Arab Emirates the feeling that comes in is dictatorship which is also true in some cases. Although the company gives good salaries and incentives but it is harsh on deadlines of completion of tasks.
The company has started concentrating a bit on consumer relation since du has entered the telecom market. Before the arrival of du the company almost enjoyed a monopoly in the market and did not have to emphasize much on consumer relations as the consumers had no other options.
The views of the company in relation to the community serve as a factor of creating goodwill for the company. Etisalat also believes in Emiratization in the UAE and works in a way that is closely affected by the common living conditions and the traditional ways followed in UAE.
Effectiveness of Public Relations at Etisalat:
The public relations department of Etisalat has been able to bring forward its point of views to the public when it comes to earning profit. Although the work done is not praiseworthy as the department has published tailored articles and used their contacts to get larger number of customers but it can still be considered successful as it has helped the company to gain large profits.
Critical appraisal of Etisalat's website:
The company gives information about all its offers and areas in which it is providing business on the website. It uses its website to promote its website in a way that it gives sufficient information to its customers as well as its clients. If we have a look at the company's website we find that the website gives sufficient information it's various offices, its projects and its offers for the public. The website is efficiently used for campaigning as the companies profile as the biggest telecommunication company is quite visible. Also the first page of the site gives some of the main offers of the company which attracts the customers. The company also has sufficient area for attracting its clients also as there are easy links to its projects, press releases and training programs that company provides which are very well supported by its history of long dominance over the UAE markets.
The only thing that was found lacking in the website was a section of FAQs that is frequently asked questions of the customers where they can give the answers to the common queries of the customers and find their answers. Also the link to customer support and offers must be made more visible than it currently is as these are the sections a customer is more likely to visit. Moreover the company can also flash some of its achievements on the home page of the site in order to create a positive impact of the company's stature and the level of working of the company.
Crisis Communication Plan:
The company at the moment is far away from crisis the only crisis possible is due to its high prices some other company might take advantage of the situation and thus attract Etisalat's customers.
In such a case the best strategy would be to lower the prices although keeping them higher than the other company and then placing stress on the higher quality of services offered by the company. Under such circumstances going at a cost below the other company might lead to a loss of goodwill hence the strategy of aiming at higher quality of services might serve well for Etisalat