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IMPORTANCE OF CONSUMER PUBLIC RELATIONS

The CIPR defines PR as about reputation- the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Therefore, PR is the decision which looks after reputation with the aim of earning understanding and support and to influence opinion and behaviour. It is planned and sustained efforts to establish and maintain goodwill between the organization and its public. In addition, PR is about companies making friends and influencing behaviour that facilitates a two way street in order to develop thorough understanding of the perceptions, views and opinion of the target audience. Hence, it is vital to develop an effective communication strategy consisting of PR initiatives. Subsequently, Public relation characteristics can be used to help organization in following ways:

  • Help build a positive reputation amongest stakeholders.
  • Contribute towards changing attitude and perception and ultimately behavior
  • Educate stakeholder about the organization and its products and services
  • Gaining information about stakeholder and competitors which will help formulate overall approach to marketing
  • Encourage debate and discussing about issues affecting the organization and its sector

Researchers suggest that purpose of public relations is to help organizations build relationship with the public’s in order to facilitate effective communications. Strong PR program and cause related campaign can engage with the consumers positively. According to research 90% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a company associated with a good cause, conversely consumers inclined to stop dealing with the company if they disapprove of their business behavior.

Consumer PR helps to change attitude and behavior of consumer by creating more favorable sales environment for a company and its products and comes helpful to facilitate the path to purchase.

It seems as PR interface with marketing activities such as advertising to stimulate the set of product and services, but role of PR in this is subtle and sophisticated than other direct forms of communication that is why people often mistake PR with advertising. Additionally, it is a diverse practice when successfully applied manage to grab huge attention and move people to action. However, it is not something that change people’s attitude, value and opinion overnight and build positive reputation when the organization does not deserve.

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CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY UK

Corporate Social Initiatives for Organisations

Corporate social responsibility involves going way beyond looking only at making lot of money for businesses but also to include wider societal issues that impact all of us and commitment to build a better society to live in. This can be done either through actual business practice or supporting charity organisation or contributing a bit for various causes.

In the UK, the business in the community (BITC) organisation has long been actively involved to improve standards in responsible business practices since its inception in 1982.It’s all the member companies are committed to best practice in order to make a more positive impact on community members and society as a whole. Businesses are inclined to carry out cause- related marketing (A commercial activity by which businesses and charities form a partnership with each other to build an positive image and market their products and services for mutual benefits).

Companies derive benefits from a more strategic, long-term association with a charity or cause which involves activity at a number of levels within organisation. A company may undertake such an association either to improve relations with the wider community (in which case it would be classified as CRM) and to improve relations with its staff (in which case it would be classified as CCI)

CSR may be divided into two main divisions and both the company and the community (Whether local, national or international) may derive benefit from initiatives under both of these main divisions i.e. corporate community investment and ethical business practice.

Corporate community investment & Corporate Social Initiatives

Corporate community investment activities cover a broad range of activity. Followings are the activities that are undertaken for community investments

  • Gift in Kind- donating redundant items to good causes, or unsold foods or temporarily letting others make use of unneeded space or manpower
  • Volunteer programs- Supporting employee participation in voluntary work, whether occasionally or regularly or perhaps on vacations
  • Work experience- programs run with schools or other local organisations
  • Education programs- to provide training for the young and others
  • Promotion of local events
  • Donation of funds

All above activities help develop and combine links with the community and crate goodwill for the community,

Ethical business practice

Ethical business practice is also called socially responsible business practice which at its essence, means running the core activities of a business compliance with ethical behavior. Following are the areas where companies carry out their ethical practices:

  • Employment practice-This covers all aspects of employees welfare that includes training, equal opportunities.
  • Environmental practice- This covers broad area that includes packaging, disposal of waste products, use of recyclable material, products design and training
  • Animal welfare
  • Investment and purchasing

Many CSR campaigns in the UK have been very successful such as “Tesco Computer for schools” and Sainsbury’s “Comic relief” have rested primarily or targeted family shoppers.

Marks & Spencer is also committed to CSR programs, despite the tough economic climate and slowdown in sales. After 60 percent drop in its share prices during 2007-08, its CEO at that time Stuart Rose made it clear that they will invest into their plan “A” that was to invest for combating climate change, waste reduction, sustainable raw material, health and fair trade. According to Rose who expected to monetize green to gold and gain competitive advantages over its rivals who discount. As a result of CSR initiatives M&S named as one of the world’s most ethical companies by Ethisphere magazine in 2007. This initiative has been widely lauded and will likely be the new standard by which every other CSR program is judged.

For 35 years, FedEx has been committed to a continual improvement process in environment management. FedEx measures environment performances through auditing with employee accountability and reporting to senior management. Also harness their logistics expertise to provide emergency and disaster relief, both to reach communities around the world quickly and efficiently in times of need and to support the rebuilding process.

In the UK among the retail sector, the food retail companies are the major players. Their developments and innovations have significant influence on the society and they are expected to address societal concerns appropriately.

According to annual CSR report (2011) the achievements of Tesco are:

  • Carbon labeling 100 own products
  • Built environment friendly stores with lesser carbon footprints
  • Reduced emissions
  • Created a sustainable technology fund
  • Aimed to become the green grocer of the UK
  • Aimed to reduce carbon emissions by 30% by 2020.

Time has come when lot of super rich people have realized that with lot of money comes a lot of responsibility. Therefore, using money to change the world by helping people in need is something like killing two birds with one stone.

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CONFLICT MANAGEMENT AT WORKPLACE

Hat is conflict?

Conflict is any situation where your concern or a desire differs from another’s, Many times managing conflicts is a requirement not an option such as when working with a team or working as self-employed or managing relations who you love the most.

It is much easier to resolve conflicts as soon as you start to see the early signs of conflicting behavior, this would work to prevent habit of conflicting behavior. If you ignore unacceptable or unreasonable behavior in people or employees you are dealing with, then problems will certainly escalate until the disciplinary process has to be used or a formal grievance is lodged. However, by which time it may be much harder to achieve successful resolution.

Following are typical responses to disagreements

  • Get angry, criticize, call names, use sarcasm or other aggressive behaviour, try run down people
  • Continue to persuade long after the issue is deadlocked
  • Deny or pretend that everything is okay- no conflict exist
  • Get mad inside but give the other the silent treatment
  • Withdraw because you don’t like to argue
  • Be submissive

Common Myths or Misconceptions

  • Harmony is normal or conflict is abnormal
  • Conflict is the result of personality differences
  • Conflict and disagreements are the same

You need to understand that conflicts are natural and take place every now and then in every relationship, since this is something human beings cannot avoid so better we learn to manage them effectively. Conflict is like a sign of a need for change and an opportunity for change, understanding and revolution.

Conflict occurs as a result of following…

  • Lack of communication
  • Value conflicts from different attitudes beliefs and expectations
  • Lack of effective leadership or decision-making
  • Discrepancies in role performances and expectations
  • Low productivity
  • Change takes place
  • Unresolved prior conflicts

Managing conflict at workplace or at personal level is an integral part of good people management. Good communication, offering ongoing feedback and effective development coaching at workplace facilitates good work delivery and manage performance.

Confrontation readiness index

  • Is it really worth the efforts?
  • Is it other person important to me?
  • Will things improve by talking about it?
  • Do I have the time?
  • Is the time and place right?

Analysing the cause helps to resolve it soon. Looking at things such as causes, who we are angry with, what we are afraid of losing. If we view the issues closely and see the both side of the story help makes the issue more manageable.

Strategies for dealing with disagreement and conflict

  • Competing Style
  • Collaboration Style
  • Avoidance Style
  • Accommodating Style
  • Compromise Style

Competing Style

  • I win, You lose
  • My way or the highway
  • Power, force, coercion
  • Pulling rank

Collaboration style

  • I win, you win
  • Synergistic
  • Values goals of all parties
  • Two heads are better than one

Avoidance Style

  • Lack of actual presence
  • Remote when there

Accommodating Style

  • It would be my pleasure
  • Concern for relationship above all
  • Human beings are fragile
  • Avoid conflict and please others

Compromise Style

  • Let’s make a deal
  • Negotiated resolution
  • Concessions
  • You give X, I will give Y
  • May remain opponents

Following are creative conflicts rule

  • Agree that now is a good time
  • The goal is to have deeper understanding not I win you lose
  • Discuss the specific issue or specific behaviour, not the person, personality or motivation
  • Stay in the present
  • Provide face saving mechanisms
  • When you have come to terms, put the disagreement away

Conflict Situation exercise
Conflict styles

  • Competing style (I win, you lose)
  • Collaboration style ( I win, you win)
  • Avoidance style( I lose, you lose)
  • Accommodating style(I lose, you win)
  • Compromise style ( I win a little, You win a little)

Conflict summary

  • Incompatible interests or goals
  • Incomplete understanding
  • Feeling threatened
  • Hidden personal feelings

Creative Conflict management

  • Recognize and acknowledge
  • Open communication
  • Active listening
  • Be objective-not emotional
  • Negotiate when possible
  • Make adjustments
  • Use all conflict management styles
  • Follow through

You must need to respect all opinions while listening or managing conflicts. Each of us has different mind-sets and view point on things in life based on various experiences and awareness. Therefore, seeking exact righteous in everyone could work as trap, therefore agree to disagree is something we must need to practise in daily lives. Since if we all were of same race, colour, opinions and would do the same thing, then life would have been too boring. We human beings are diverse by all means and that’s the beauty of life which excites us to get along with people around.

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WHY IS BRANDING HUGELY IMPORTANT FOR YOUR BUSINESS?

In the sea of organisations, some new organisations join the race every day. Your new business needs to compete, not only with the well-established firms, but also with the upcoming ventures like yours. In such a cut-throat scenario, the one who doesn’t clearly define the goals and services is bound to miss the bull’s eye. That’s where “Branding” comes in. Branding is not just about your name, logo and tagline; it is more about “what you want to be known asto your target customers”. A great name and a nice logo surely help, as they introduce you to people and communicate your purpose to them in short. For example, Coca –Cola’s “Open Happiness” tagline is associated with their campaign to brand themselves as a soft-drink, over a bottle of which, you can share happy moments and bond with each other. But as I said, it’s more than that. The wholesome experience of customers with your company is what constitutes your “Branding Strategy”. In the process to establish yourself as a brand, you lay out your organisational goals and keywords spelled out crystal clear; decide your target clients or customers and then focus on executing the visions outlined in your ‘Branding Strategy’.While you may be tempted to look after the technical aspects of your business, it is equally crucial to define your branding strategy.

Branding makes you known: People are more likely to buy your product if they are familiar with you. No one would want to invest their money in an unknown, random product. With consistent brand building, as you earn more familiarity, you earn more customers.

Stand apart from the rest: Branding sets you apart from the crowd as a company with well-established identity. Every day, new ventures jump into the market. In a flock of settled as well as blossoming organisations, how do you stand out from the crowd? Branding helps you do that, be it with a catchy name or a tagline, unique logo or flaunting that edge or special quality of your business which no one else in the market offers.

Brand is your face to people: People know you by your brand. A brand is your company’s face to people. Be it your name, logo, the way you handle your customers, whether or not you deliver on your promises, what do you want to be known as, or who is your target –all of these constitute your brand.

A strong brand leads to word-of-mouth marketing: If you have been consistently delivering on your promises and standing by your brand goals, you have arrived in the market scene as a strong brand. People know what you stand for. For example, when you have branded yourself as an online shopping site that delivers strictly within two days, and you do that dedicatedly, people are more likely to turn to your site if they want to order something urgently. People are also more likely to suggest your website to others who are looking for quick delivery.

You know what to do: – As a part of your branding strategy, you have clearly outlined your organisational goals and visions. You now know what you need to deliver as an organisation. The chances to meander and wander have been lessened as you have finalised a roadmap to your scaling up journey.

Branding infuses confidence in employees: Confidence is the key. A confident person, who knows what he or she wants in life,attracts people. Similarly, an organisation that has a well-chalked out branding strategy infuses confidence in the company that the boat they are sailing in knows its way.

Branding increases your financial worth in the market: A good brand makes a name for itself in the market. In due course of time, it becomes easier for you to attract businesses, partnerships and finances. If you are looking to expand your business or take it to the IPO, you will be much better equipped if you have a strong brand name in the market.

People are willing to pay more for a Brand: As you prove your mettle in the market space and become a known and trusted brand, people will be more likely to shell out more bucks to buy your product. For example, we are willing to pay more for a Levi’s jeans because of the Levi’s brand. A brand with consistent delivery on its promises becomes a stronger brand and that is when you can ask more for your product.

Branding leads to a better advertising campaign: When an organisation has a clear branding strategy, it knows whom to target and how. This strategy helps them in coming out with a bang on advertising campaigns as you are clear about what exactly you want in your advertisements and who could be the face of your brand.

From the points stated above, one clear conclusion is not to underestimate the power of “Branding”. As times passes and your business grows, you have only to gain from branding, but if you ignore its importance, you just remain a part of the crowd. Better to strategize early than to regret later!

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FROM CHARITY TO PHILANTHROPY TO CSR

From what was started as a goodwill gesture to assist somebody in dire need of something, to serve the need of a village community/society given rising income as a part of one’s self assumed responsibility to now almost a mandatory act, popularly termed as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), theways and mode of giving back to society and serving its need has seen some changes and other dimensions.

What was limited to a few people to give money as charity and investing to serve local community, has now undergone a sea change and many more helping hands are turning up to serve society and tackle various challenges of underdevelopment and other ills plaguing society.

Evolution of CSR and its Stages

  • Charitable corporate social responsibility
  • Promotional corporate social responsibility
  • Strategic corporate social responsibility
  • Corporate social responsibility for members of social community

We have many prominent names who have been continuing with charitable, philanthropic and CSR work; Bill Gates, Ratan Tata, and Azim Premji to name a few. Apart from that different companies based on their work preferences and core objectivesof brand promotion and protection are engaged in strategic CSR activities. People like Gates, Tata and Premji, among others, through their selfless act have shown a ray of hope for many people.They have been working to improve the standards of living of people through their respective areas of interventions such as in healthcare and nutrition, community development, education,and skill development, etc. Big international brands such as Wal-Mart, PepsiCo, CoCa-Cola, among other companies, have also brought substantial changes in their work operations over the years to shape their strategies in serving customers while keeping intact the interest of local population and environment from where they are procuring vital resources and operatingunder their CSR policies.

A Law in Effect to Safeguard the Interests of Local Population and Community (Indian Context)

Now, India has a law to this effect that mandates big corporates to share a portion of their profit with local population. It mandates companies to engage in social welfare act, work in the realm of the betterment of society by taking along the people and local community who are lagging behind,and ensure that all are benefitting from the fruits of industrial development. The motive behind the enactment of the law is to ensure that companies return back to society in some or any form, from where they are picking up resources and utilizing them for their own growth and benefit from the work labour of the local population, and serve it and its inhabitants.

A new Phase of CSR Development

World renowned faces have played a very important role in the development and evolution of CSR. It has been largely realised that other members of society toomust take part in the core objectives of CSR activities and share the responsibility of improving the conditions of fellow citizens to take the country forward, and it should not just be the government who has this sole responsibility. The economically and socially strong people should come forward and contribute in the making of the country and help provide different services to make the lives of those economically weaker sections to join the mainstream. With this thought and the ideals of the framers of the Constitution who wished for a just and equitable society, where everyone’s liberty is protected, and opportunity created for all to prosper, a need for change in law governing companies was thought of by the lawmakers of India that culminated with the mandatory provision of CSR wherein a firm with high revenue worth crores have to spend at least 2 per cent of their profits in CSR activities, in a sense carrying out social welfare act, and this law directs them to mandatorily disclose their expenditure on CSR activities as part of their audit reports.

Every law has a positive side to it and must be taken in a positive stride by aspiring corporates looking to grow their business on alien soil.

Corporate Social responsibility identifies the role of a company in the realm of shouldering the welfare of the community and society from where it is carrying out its work and production. They owe to the local community and environment and must realise their responsibilitytowards society. India has taken a bold step in this regard by enacting a law toward this effect. The success on this part is yet to be ascertained. However, the move is a praiseworthy one to bring it under a law and ensuring that firms also act socially while deriving profits from society. Firms are either roping in civil society groups to carry out CSR activities or having a separate CSR wing to carry out social welfare activities.

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IMPORTANCE OF CSR FOR ORGANISATIONS

Over the years CSR has been much debated subject for organizations globally, and the influence it leave’s on organizations is enormous. However, there are pervasive misconceptions exist in people’s perception as to how does it impact organizations and what characteristics has it got in order to implement and to capitalize in both short and long run.

Before going any further bit of a summary is inevitable here as to what CSR is? Hence, CSR symbolizes as instrument that addresses, executes and evaluates issues which are affecting societies, people and organizations in general. It compels organizations to think that they also have social impacts as being corporates. Therefore, must become good corporate citizen as we humans should. Therefore, CSR got to be an imperative part of corporate strategy in sectors where inconsistencies arise between profits and social goals. A number of CSR initiatives make people and organization aware those actions that affect all the stakeholder positively needs to be undertaken in order to enhance fairness and transparency.

CSR programs have significant role to play in the society and offer win-win situation for everyone, if they are executed effectively. Research suggests that organizations shouldn’t just emphasis on their customers and profitability, but also the good of the wider communities e.g. local and global within which they exist. Following are the recommended measures that not only tend to guard organizations against reputational risk but also improve their profits as well.

  • Economic responsibility to generate profit, provide job and create a kind of authentic product that consumers want
  • Legal responsibility to comply with local, state and international laws.
  • Ethical responsibility to meet other social expectations i.e. not written in law such as avoiding harm or social injury, respecting people’s moral rights, doing what is right or justified.
  • Discretionary responsibility to carry out activities that society finds desirable such as offering resource to cultural enterprises, providing benefits to employees and doing desirable for local environment and state issues.
  • Apparently, doing the right things by organizations is the motivational factor for consumers combined by press and media influence; ultimately it entices them to pay even more for ethical organizational goods.
  • Integrate philanthropy activities, community Involvement with the company’s overall CSR strategy.
  • Making a real difference in the community
  • Establish, maintain, and enhance relationships of trust with stakeholders.

In some countries carrying out CSR programs is mandatory for public and private companies such as in UK & India nearly all leading corporate are involved in CSR programs in areas like health, education and empowering underprivileged background people. However, lot more need to be done in order to see the real difference in the society.

Currently, it is also seen an activity just to pretend and influence people that something is being done for the society with the help of print and broadcast media. Apparently, this way real objective is far from achieving. Henceforth, if initiatives are implemented the way they should be, then it creates a huge amount of trust and enhance reputation of the company. As distinguished writer Philip Kotler said that reputation is the most important thing than any other characteristic, as it is about ability to perform effectively and living out personal values, it is one of those factors that set organisations aside from their competitors.

In the end all organisations should take this call to achieve inclusive objective by taking care of all the stakeholder in the society be it employees, consumers, government authorities or shareholders. In addition, CSR is the most urgent issue that continues to grow in importance and integral components of that path to growth, thus it cannot be ignored in modern business environment; as it touches every part of business and help company culture to succeed.

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Importance of Ethical Business Practices

CSR helps to shape organisations ethos value, there upon add brand value in stakeholders mind. Since brand value and reputation are two of the main characteristics of organisations which take them to new heights and create a desired value propositions and energy to compete in the market. Consumers of emerging and developed markets are becoming highly aware and informed about the companies CSR activities.

CSR creates point of differentiation for competitor’s which later creates trust and loyalty and that’s something all organisation desperately needs. Adapting ethical business practices translate into a number of advantages within firm such as attracting better quality workforce and raising a degree of employee commitment that helps reducing misconduct of any sort. In order to achieve long term financial performance firms must go for ethical compliance’s  as a result they can manage to kill two birds from one stone, first is doing good for the society and second is getting monetized for that.

Therefore, ethical business practices certainly improves relations among businesses, communities and governing authorities, thus leads to achieve long term financial goals expected by stakeholders. Furthermore, every now and then questions are raised whether some organisations really carry out CSR activities or believe in ethical behavior?  If yes then how can that be measured? That’s a big question!

Hence, Research and CSR consultants have pretty authentic measuring tools to analyse as to whether CSR business practices are being applied or organisations are just doing lip services. There are a number of qualitative and quantitative research techniques which offers realistic picture. However, general perception in a common men mind is that CSR offers two values in consumer’s mind one is functional value and other one is symbolic value.

Functional value is something that consumer look into any product or service, in other words the more reliable or robust product or services are the better functional value organisation has. Based on recent research studies functional value for organisations is the driving force to integrate CSR initiatives in their corporate communication strategies. However, some initiatives are perceived promotional initiatives by some consumers. At the same time it is also perceived highly appreciative work by a vast majority. Nevertheless, repercussions of conducting CSR initiatives are that consumer are ready to pay even more money for those products or service.

Symbolic value is something that consumer feels as if some element in brand is boosting their self-esteem, social approval and touching them emotionally.

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IMPORTANCE OF EFFECTIVE CSR FOR BUSINESSES- AN INDIAN PERSPECTIVE

There is a lot of emphasis nowadays on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, Given that there is now a law to this effect, mandating at least 2 percent profit sharing by companies earning in crores on CSR activities, corporate houses now have to ensure its execution well. Why this is important from the point of view of a corporate? What benefit corporate houses will get from CSR activities? This requires a nuanced understanding of purposes CSR serves at large and social responsibility of firms towards society.

Firms must ensure that the very purpose of CSR is not destroyed through its implementation

The very purpose of CSR is to ensure that the benefits of development are reachingto a wider society;to ensure that a firm where it is operating and extracting resources from is also giving back and contributing in the development of that region. For example a steel firm contemplating a factory in some rural part of the country, and that will require acquisition of land and for that local population will have to give permission. First the government has to ensure that the firm has all the requisite clearances and land is acquired by following the due course of law. In case there is a need to relocate the families, they have to be provided with all the facilities besides taking care of their livelihoods and other needs like education for kids, health facilities,sanitation and water facilities. It is this firm’s responsibility and social obligation to ensure that these affected families are not deprived of their rights, and instead, they are being provided by better employment opportunities for their growth and welfare, and at the same time, ensuring too that the environment is least impacted. The development of the steel firm in the vicinity should take care of the social needs of the society where it is operating from. This form of CSR activities can be conducted by the firm by roping in local agencies and civil society groups, or by having a separate dedicated wing to carry out these activities. The objective is to ensure that the fruits of development are reaching to all people without having much impact on the local environment and conditions.

It is up to corporates to decide whether they wish to see the glass half full OR the same glass half empty

The consent and support of local population is crucial for any business. In case local population are not supportive of the firm given the fact that it is not going to do anything in return of taking back their lands and natural resources on which their livelihoods are much dependent on, there is a chanceof unrest and backlash. That will definitely impact the dream of the firm and may cause it to die forever. However, if the firm ensures that its operation/industry will provide gainful employment and skill development, it will get easy labour at low cost as outsourcing will cost more. With little investment in skill development of local population as part of the CSR activities, besides creating other social avenues like schools and health centres, the firm will not only gain the confidence of the local population, but also help the rural society to grow and help them connect with the mainstream,and developing India in a true sense, besides creating a cordial work environment for increased production.

Do we need a law to even fulfil our obligations???

Now that there is a law, businesses have to invest in CSR work at least 2 per cent of their earnings. This is very important given the rising resentment and feelingsof the masses that corporatesexploit local resources without giving back anything in return and rather creating social unrest and affecting the local culture and disintegrating the society. The social work carried out by the firm will help it not only gain national but internationalattention that will culminate into taking their footprints in other parts across the borders, given its high reputation in CSR activities. Otherstates and nations may invite the firm if it can not only help grow their economy but can also play a vital role in developingtheir societies and local traditions, while keeping everything intact.

“If you wish to eat fruits of development, you must water the soil to plant more trees, which will nourish the roots, the soil, and in fact the tree itself.”

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