The study: The Role of Public Relations in Building a Sustainable Corporate Image. A study of Benue State Internal Revenue Service Board (BIRS) was set out to investigate how public relations can be used to build and sustain the corporate image. Consequently, the researcher employed the survey research method to investigate. Findings revealed that public relations can build and sustain the bureau’s corporate image, although BIRS has not recognized other public relations strategies but is confine to customer relations services. It further shows that, the bureau has not really involved in community relations services. As a result, the community members could not appreciate the kind of relationship that exists between the agency and its host community. Based on these findings, the study concludes that for public relations to be very effective in building and sustaining the bureau’s corporate image, the bureau should embark on different programmes, knowing that image building is not a product of just one good action but a totality of good practices put forth by an organisation. It finally recommends among others that the agency should accord greater recognition of public relations by establishing an in-house department with qualify professional staff who would ensure efficiency in initiating and executing tactical public relations programmes that will give surety to the bureau’s image. Also opinion research should be constantly carried out to understand the publics’ perception of the bureau and to evaluate the efficacy of the existing programmes which will help the bureau or to either maintain or change its programmes
1.1Background of the Study
The importance of public relations in any organization cannot be overemphasized. This is largely buttressed by the fact that the public relations unit of an organization is an important factor which aids in the success of any organization through building and sustaining its corporate image. In many government, Parastatals and private organizations whether seeking profit or not in their operations, public relations practitioners and public relations practice play a very important role. As Rensburg and Cant (2003:34) indicate, public relations exist in every company and institution, irrespective of whether or not the company or institution wants it. Within an organization, activities such as phone calls, newsletters, public letters including its everyday encounter with its public, to name only few, form a perception and an image in its public’s minds about the organization. Various images come into the public minds based on how the organisation has identified itself to the public. According to Lukusa (2009:1) if an organisation’s portrayed identity does not coincide with the image perceived by its public, the organisation’s reputation and corporate image might suffer and as a result this might also affect the management of the entire organisation. The roles of public relations practitioners are thus very important and crucial in building the corporate image of their organisations to the public.
These roles contribute to the development, the sustainability and a good functioning of the organisations. Public relations practitioners’ roles also contribute to identifying, establishing and extending the organisation’s sphere of influence. The practitioner’s roles help in monitoring, controlling and establishing its corporate identity and corporate image. The image making functions of public relations are principally counseling based on the understanding of human behavior. By analyzing trends and predicting their consequences, through research of public opinion, attitudes and advising a necessary action, public relations establishes and maintains two-way communication based on truth and full information. This is to say that public relations is concerned with maintaining public image for high profile organizations, programs, or individuals (Seitel, 1998:6). Building the corporate image of an organisation is not an easy task that can be achieved in a day within an organisation by a public relations practitioner. Some industries, financial services, chemicals factories, etc. suffer from a serious (corporate) image problem. In the eyes of many, they are seen as exploiters, inefficient, having fat-cat bosses, etc. Varey (2002: 193). Meanwhile, according to Dowling (1994: 8) quoted in Varey (2002: 195), corporate identity is the symbols (such as logos, colour scheme) that an organisation uses to identify itself to people. Since corporate image is sometimes deemed as the organisation reputation, therefore, reputation is considered by a growing number of management practitioners and scholars to be an intangible asset that enables the enactment of relationships among the corporation and their public. The importance of the foregoing according to Nwosu (1992:8) is that: The time has come when professional public relations are made to play its proper role towards promoting the type of positive image which the organization needs. This can be achieved, if the public relations professionals are allowed to influence the policies at the stage of initiation, analysis and preparation of programs. According to Dozier and Grunig quoted in Grunig et al. (1992: 395), “Public relations must be placed high in the organisation hierarchy and must be practiced strategically if it is to make the more effective and, thus, to be excellent”. Meanwhile, in many existing organisations the roles of public relations practitioners in building the corporate image of the organisation to the public are taken for granted, neglected and even attributed to other departments within the organisations. It should also be noted that, public relations’ roles have become the subject of extensive research by public relations scholars. Roles define everyday activities of the public relations practitioners and practitioners roles are keys to understanding the functions of public relations in building the image of an organisation to the public. Practitioners’ roles are at the nexus of a network of concepts affecting professional achievement of practitioners (Dozier and San Diego in Grunig et al, 1992: 328). According to Kitchen (1997: 16), pubic relations practitioners fail to realise their full potential because of how their roles are perceived within organisations. He adds that the question whether public relations practitioners are allowed by management to fulfill their potential various roles played in organisations are considered, along with implications for the profession (Kitchen, 1997: 7). It is in the light of the above issues that the research examines among other things, the extent at which roles played by public relations practitioners in building the corporate image of an organisation. 1.2 Statement of the Problem
Issues on the role public relations plays in building and sustaining corporate image of an organisation have being an area of importance in public relations research. Scholars are of the view that a corporate image is powerful; it helps to determine how a person will behave towards a company. How that company is perceived a weak or strong, open or dubious, warm or cold, rigid or flexible. The role of PR therefore is to assist in building and protecting an organization’s image (Bernestin, 1984:103). There are lots of Public criticisms bordering on the attitudes of BIRS staff over tax issues and the nature of tax to be paid. People complain that the organisation does not carryout adequate public education on its activities generally. Also, the organisation is alleged as exploitive since the monies collected by it are allegedly spent by those working there. These sundry criticisms are likely to give a bad image to the organisation. The problem this study investigates is therefore, how Benue State Internal Revenue Service uses public relations strategies in managing its corporate reputation in order to avoid having negative image among its teaming publics. 1.3 Objectives of Study
The broad objectives of this study is to determine the extent to which public relations has been used in building a sustainable corporate image for Benue State Internal Revenue Service Board. Specifically, the study objectives are:
i. To determine whether Benue State Internal Revenue Service utilizes public relations in building a sustainable corporate image. ii. To ascertain how Benue State Internal Revenue Service’s management is carrying out public relations activities that will enhance and sustain its image. iii. To determine the factors which encourage or hinder the practice of public relations in Benue State Internal Revenue Service. iv. To find out the extent the usage of public relations activities has contributed to the positive image of Benue State Internal Revenue Service. 1.4 Research Questions
Effort will be made to provide relevant answers to the following questions in the course of this research work; 1. To what extent does the Benue State Internal Revenue Service board utilize public relations in building a sustainable corporate image? 2. How does the management of Benue State Internal Revenue Service carryout public relations activities? 3. What factors encourage or hinder the effective practice of public relations in Benue State Internal Revenue Service? 4. How has the usage of public relations activities contributed to the image of Benue State Internal Revenue Service? 1.5 Significance of the Study
This research was conceived in full realization of the various interests it would serve. The corporate institutions and public relations practitioners would likely be activated by the findings to invest their utmost creative abilities in marketing communication- commensurate with current image building challenges facing their esteemed profession. To the public relations and mass communication students, the study is intended to motivate further study on other much unattended subject matter on product branding, and provide them with a storehouse of knowledge as well as provide direction to enable them exercise high prudence in their daily economic decisions especially on how they brand themselves. The study will also provide corporate marketing executives in Nigeria with an insight into the dynamic nature of image branding activities in the economy. 1.6Scope of the Study
This study is concerned with the distinctive and effective role that public relations can play in building a sustainable image for public institutions.
It is limited to the Benue State Internal Revenue Service (BIRS) corporate headquarters at km 2 Gboko road in Makurdi metropolis. 1.7Profile of Benue State Internal Revenue Service Board (BIRS) The Benue State Internal Revenue Service Board (BIRS) was established by the Benue State of Nigeria Gazette no.46 vol.35 of November 18th, 2010. This made provision for the establishment of the administration and collection of internal revenue due to the state and local governments. The state board of internal revenue made provision for the agency to have powers of jurisdiction in the assessment and collection of all taxes, levies, fees and penalties as constituted by the state under relevant laws. The powers of the Benue State Internal Revenue Service Board include the following:
1. Assess all persons chargeable with tax in the State.
2. Collect recover and enforce any tax, or levy due to the State
3. In collaboration with the relevant ministries and agencies, review the tax regime and promote the application, of tax revenues for development.
4. Appoint agricultural produce revenue agents or consultants in consultation with the ministry of agriculture.
5. Make a determination of the extent of financial and other losses by government caused by tax evasion or fraud as a result of waivers.
6. Adopt measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize the proceeds of tax evasion or fraud.
7. Adopt compliance, enforcement, investigative and control techniques for detection and prevention of non-compliance.
8. Collaborate and facilitate exchange of scientific and technical information with relevant National and International agencies on tax matters.
9. Undertake exchange of personnel or other experts with complimentary agencies.
10 Collect all revenue due from manufacture, transportation and supply of industrial goods and services in the State. The services provided by the Benue State Internal Revenue Services include: 1. Assessment of individuals and non incorporated bodies to tax 2. Pay As You Earn (P.A.Y.E) scheme administration
3. Assessment of Stamp Duties on documents
4. Registration of new vehicles
5. Renewal of vehicle particulars
6. Issuance of Tax clearance certificate to individuals and unincorporated
bodies 7. Collection of taxes, fees and levies accruing from the services enumerated above and Economic 8. Development Levy
9. Supervision of all other Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the state. 1.8 Conceptual Definition of Terms
Publics: Publics are specific groups of people who are linked by a common interest or problem Heath (2005:718). Public Relations: Is the deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its publics Jefkins (1998:6). Corporate Image: Is the set of meanings by which a corporation is known that can be used by the observer to describe, remember and relate to it via the interaction of beliefs, feelings, perceptions, and impression Copley (2004:276) in Akin and Dimerel (2011:130). Internal Revenue: Is the returns the state generate from the taxes paid by domestic corporations, groups, and individuals. Gazette: Is an official government publication that conveys government business, news, and laws as they are passed to the public.