ROLE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS IN CRISIS MANAGEMENT IN AN ORGANIZATION

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1       Background to the Study

Public relations play a vital role between an organization and its public. Its practice aims at establishing a two-way communication, seeking common ground or areas of mutual interest and establishing understanding based on truth, knowledge and full information. It is that indispensable bridge that fosters co-operation and understanding. With increasing intensity, the civil society is rather active than passive in the affairs that concern them. Similarly, organizations are more socially responsible in their business undertaking in reference to public opinion. The reason is not far-fetched.

Today’s organizations, no matter how pretentious they are, are aware that they need to build dependable relationship with their publics. However, it is obvious that no matter how hard an organization attempts to project her image, occasions arise when crisis develops and threatens the very foundation of the organization concerned.

Public relations have myriad of definitions. The British Institute of Public Relations (1994) defines it as deliberate, planned and sustained effort to establish mutual understanding between an organization and the public. The Mexican definition which was as a result of International conference held in Mexico City in 1978, says, Public relations practice is the art and social science of analysing trend, predicting their consequences, counselling organization leader, and implementing planned programmer of action which will serve both the organization and the public interest.

Harlow (1976) defines it as distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its public; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management to keep informed and responsive to public opinions, defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management keeps abreast of and effectively utilize change; serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends and uses research and ethical communication techniques as its principal tools. Indeed, Public Relations have long been discovered as not only a management function but the basis of philosophy of management.

According to Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (7th edition) crisis entails a time of great danger, difficulty or confusion when problems must be solved or important decisions must be made. ‘Crisis can be said to be an unsettling situation with disquieting disposition needing a return from the status quo. In view of the situation in Nigeria currently, crisis can be in different forms, example political crisis, financial crisis, fuel crisis, labour crisis, civil disturbance engendered by a perceived wrong doing by a corporate organization, management, shareholder and management related crisis and so on. These are to mention but a few instances because there are so many dimension of crisis. Crisis can occur as a recall of an action of omission or negligence; even a natural disaster can trigger off crisis in an organization. Crisis can either be violent or non-violent in nature. Solu, (1994).

However, in as much as crisis is an inevitable situation, there is always the need to develop pre-emptied strategic method to prevent its occurrence. But in case crisis occurs and poses great danger, difficulty or uncertainly, the big questions for public relations experts or managers is: what do they do? How best do they utilize their training and knowledge to resolve a situation that is unstable and capable of a highly undesirable outcome?

A brief history is necessary because several structural changes and innovation have taken place in the bank to make it what it is today. Union Bank is a large commercial bank, serving individuals, small and medium –sized companies, as well as large corporations and Organizations. A brief history is necessary because several structural changes and innovation have taken place in the bank to make it what it is today. The first branch of the Union Bank opened for business in Lagos in 1917 and almost immediately, the Jos and Port-Harcourt branches followed. Then the bank was known as colonial Bank to reflect the signs to time. Nigeria was under the British rule and who of course, introduced the bank. The bank opened twelve more branches in different parts of the country and later became known as Barclays Bank.

In 1971, the shares of the bank stock were listed on the Nigerian stock Exchange. In the same year, 8.33% of the bank’s shares were offered to Nigerians. The following year, the federal Government of Nigeria acquired 51.67% ownership of the bank, leaving Barclays Bank Plc of London with 40% ownership. In 1979, that 40% was sold to Nigeria individuals and business to comply with the recently enacted banking and investment laws. The bank changed its name to Union Bank of Nigeria Plc., to reflect its new ownership structure. In 1993, the federal Government of Nigeria completely divested its ownership in the bank. Subsequently, Union Bank of Nigeria Plc. acquired the former Universal Trust Bank Plc. and Broad Bank Limited. It also absorbed its former subsidiary Union Merchant Bank Limited.

Union bank has grown enormously since 1979.Beween 1981 and 1984, the bank made the highest level of profits in the banking sector. While In 1986, it became the first Nigerian to hit 1 billion naira mark in the savings deposits. Its total assets which stood at 5,29.550 billion naira in 1986 has risen to about 329.6 billion naira in 2003. In July 2009, it was rated the 556th largest bank in the whole world and the 14th largest world in Africa. As of June 2012, the bank’s asset base was estimated at US$6.784 billion (NGN:1.049 trillion).The shareholders equity at that time was estimated at US$1.22 billion (NGN:188.4 billion). The bank has a branch in London which commenced operations in September 1983 with five million pounds and 12 members of staff, now it has grown to more than 30 million pounds with staff strength of 42.

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