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Public relations is about the effort of planning in communications between an organisation with its stakeholders or the public in order to achieve better understanding among them as well as to enhance the reputation of the organisation (Institute of Public Relations Malaysia 2011). It is different from the view of "Public Relations" of the people who always misunderstood it as merely a advertising based activities (Public Relations Institute of Australia 2010). This paper is about the public relations efforts done by KFC, BP and NAB, the impacts of the public relations on the key publics as well as the effectiveness of their public relations.
1.0 KFC's mission
KFC is trying hard and on a mission to change the image and the perceptions from the public towards the organisation (Andrew Cave 2011). Their efforts include changing the food options offered on their menu and healthier ingredients in preparing their food as well as their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives (Andrew Cave 2011). One of the reasons behind these is the increased in the number of health conscious consumers around the world (Shamini Bundell 2007). The organisation is trying to change the public perceptions towards their food of offering only the fried food (Shamini Bundell 2007). It will be threat for KFC which will lead to the decrease in their sales and profit if the organisation is not aware in regards to the changes surroundings and adapt to them.
1.1 Impact of KFC initiatives on key publics
The key publics or stakeholders that KFC needs to convince include its existing and potential customers, activist group like World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as the media. KFC need to convince and maintain their existing customers while attract more potential customers with their healthier menu in order to meet their needs as both groups are becoming more health conscious nowadays. These consumers may have to opportunity to get to know more about the nutrition facts of the food offered and plan their calories intake since the calorie count are shown beside the prices on the menu boards in the outlets. Besides that, KFC may need to convince World Health Organisation (WHO) with their initiatives in order to avoid unnecessary pressure from the group which may lead to the loss of the organisation. At the same time, KFC's initiatives may become part of the sources and materials for the media to write or report. Hence, it is crucial for KFC to carry out these initiatives in order to promote and improve their image in front of the media as these may drive to free media advocacy.
1.2 Effectiveness of KFC's mission
KFC is considered adopting the two-way symmetric model from Grunig's four models of public relations in their mission. In this model, mutual understanding between the organisations and the publics is essential (Michael Turney 1998). Adoption of communication theories is crucial in this model instead of persuasion theories (Michael Turney 1998). Besides that, formative research will be done by the organisation in order to find out the perceptions of the public towards the organisation (John R. Luecke 2004). On the other hand, the organisation may also consider the outcome of the actions taken by them towards the public (John R. Luecke 2004). The organisation may then consider the results of the research in their policy making in order to serve the public with their best interest (John R. Luecke 2004). This can be seen when KFC is trying to change ingredients of preparing their food and the food option offered on their menu as they realised the public's perception towards their food as unhealthy.
According to the surveys and research done, KFC had successfully attracted more health conscious customers after they offered healthier options on their menu regardless the price and convenience level as compared to other fast-food brand (Jordan Melnick 2010). Besides that, there are 17 percent of the KFC's customers consider the healthy menu as one of the main factors which lead them to choose the brand (Jordan Melnick 2010). According to CFI's Michael Drago, the positive results from the surveys and research about KFC's healthy menu is also due to the perceptions from the customers who assume that chicken is a healthier food option as compared to beef (Jordan Melnick 2010).
However, KFC's efforts in changing the perceptions of the public towards the organisation may be ineffective since the public always link fast-food and junk food together ("KFC - Cricket Australia sponsorship" 2008). Besides that, KFC has limited choices in preparing and offering their food as it is operating in the fast-food chain ("Hit or Miss" 2011). In addition, there is high brand loyalty among the customers towards the fast-food brand which make it difficult for KFC to switch them away from other competitors (Jordan Melnick 2010). According to the surveys, there are 49 percent of those who choose to dine out at the fast-food restaurant while 78 percent of them knew clearly which brand they are going for (Jordan Melnick 2010). The remaining 51 percent are those who choose not to dine out at the fast-food restaurant while 70 percent of them had already in their mind which brand they will go for once they decide to dine out at the fast-food restaurant (Jordan Melnick 2010). Hence, it is crucial for KFC as further public relations and high sensitivity is needed in order to understand their customers better.
2.0 BP sponsorships
BP is trying to recover the reputation and image for both the organisation and the brand by sponsoring the 2012 Olympics as well as other high profile events and organisations after the oil spilled incident at the Gulf of Mexico in year 2010 (Sarah Arnott 2008) .The sponsorships may help BP to boost up their business again as well as regain the trust and confidence from the public towards the organisation (Sarah Arnott 2008). The sponsorships may also create awareness among the customers and provide them with the link in order to buy more financial products from the organisation (Sarah Arnott 2008).
2.1 Risks of BP sponsorship program
BP may in danger at their sponsorship programs if the organisation is found guilty of negligence by the court in regards to their oil spilled case at the Gulf of Mexico (Pete Norman 2010). Their sponsorship initiatives may raise the attentions from the skeptical group. According to the some agents, BP's sponsorship will leave an unremovable mark as it may jeopardize the other sponsored brands and the value of the Olympic Games (Danny Groner 2010). Besides that, objections will be raised from those athletes who concerned about their own image in regards to the corporate connections of BP with the Games (Danny Groner 2010). They may not want to publicly engage themselves with BP (Philip Hersh 2010). At the same time, BP sponsorship programs in these high profile events and organisations may lead to the negative public perceptions as a publicity stunt and showing off their money (Sarah Arnott 2008).
In order to further promote as well as to salvage the image and reputation of the organisation, BP also putting in more efforts in their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR), as for instance their effort in promoting environmental sustainability. Besides as the official oil and gas partner, BP also successfully joined and become a sustainability partner in London 2012 Games (Sports Journalists' Association 2011). BP is in a commitment to reduce the carbon dioxide emission from the 5000 vehicles utilized during the running of the Games (Sports Journalists' Association 2011). According to Hugh Robertson, who is the Britain's Olympics and Sports Minister, the faith in BP's remains as compared to British Airways which also facing serious problems recently as one of the main sponsors in Olympics 2012 (Duncan Mackey 2010). Besides that, the chairman of London 2012 organising committee, Sebastian Coe also confirmed the participation of BP with their trust and strong partnership as well as their good track record and best understanding of the directions of the games ("BP to Sponsor London's" 2010). Hence, BP may receive extremely high rewards and returns for several years despite the risks through their sponsorships for 2012 Olympics as well as other high profile events and organisations (Sarah Arnott 2008).
3.0 Grunig's four models and NAB campaign
NAB's 'break-up' campaign can be categorised as both press agentry/ publicity and two-way asymmetric model under Grunig's four model of public relations. Press agentry/ publicity are those publicity stunts done in order to attract attentions from the public towards the organisations, events as well as their products (Sierra Patricia G. Milan 2011). It is one-way communication in nature and propaganda is the main function in this model (Sierra Patricia G. Milan 2011). It can be seen in NAB's campaign of writing out a break-up story in order to grab the attentions from the public through newspaper advertisements and web videos ("It started with a tweet" 2011). At the same time, NAB is also considered adopting the two-way asymmetric model when they use the social media and the creation of blog or newsroom as their public relations' tool for their campaign (Christophe 2011). This model is two-way communication in nature where feedbacks are essential (Michael Turney 1998). The organisations involved may attempt to persuade and change the attitude as well as the behaviour of the public through public relations instead (Michael Turney 1998). It is obvious when NAB actually start up their 'break-up' campaign at twitter which enables them to have conversation with their customers ("It started with a tweet" 2011).
3.1 NAB's use of social media
NAB is the first Australian bank which utilised the social media in the smart way to launch its 'break-up' campaign (Christophe 2011). The bank had designed a micro site for the campaign which linked it with the social media like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. with their various feeds (Christophe 2011). Besides that, blog and newsroom had been set up for the campaign as well (Christophe 2011). The bank had utilised the social media to produce sharable content and promote the campaign through its official Twitter account, Facebook page and Youtube channel (Christophe 2011).
NAB is gaining several benefits as the first-mover which include the positive perceptions from the public as unique and exclusive as well as transparent as compared to the other competitors in the market (Christophe 2011). Social media adoption is deemed to be a efficient way for NAB to communicate with its customers (Christophe 2011). The bank is enjoying a huge coverage in the press and blog through the incredible speed and power of the word of mouth spread online in the social media (Christophe 2011). These may improve the customers' relations as well as the perceptions of the public towards the brand (Christophe 2011). Hence, these may indirectly lead to the increased in the sales and market share of the organisation (Christophe 2011). According to the CEO of NAB, Cameron clyne, the transaction accounts at NAB had increased by 20 percent since they start using social media to launch their 'break-up' campaign ("It started with a tweet" 2011). Besides that, the organisation also experienced 35 percent and 45 percent increased each in both of their mortgage enquiries and re-finance application ("It started with a tweet" 2011). Apart from that, social media utilization had also boost up the credit card application at NAB by 50 percent ("It started with a tweet"2011). Hence, social media are not only adopted as a marketing tool by NAB but also successfully help the organisation to handle and reach better understanding of the customers in their business ("Banks not keen on" 2011).
Public relations are essential for the organisations to manage their reputation and build up the relationships with their public or stakeholders. It is a long term investment for the organisations or business in order to compete and survive in the competitive environment.