Globalisation Starts Locally
“Most companies today…understand that in the 21st century an organisation must be a citizen of the community in every respect and accept its role as an agent for social change in the community.”
– Seitel (2007) about Corporate Citizenship
A. Can borderless communication drive responsibility?
As society has made a move into the 21st century, one of the most important questions to be asked is what efforts will be undertaken to define and maintain strong relationships between organisations and communities. Community relations can be defined as a function that identifies an organisation’s mission and evaluates public attitudes in order to establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and the communities they operate in.
However, new technological devices that further global interconnectedness and “borderless communication” (Flew, 2008, p.25) are increasingly shedding light on organisational ethics and their approach to corporate social responsibility. As stakeholders become increasingly technologically savvy and gain knowledge of business practices online, multinational organisations progressively have to prove their trustworthiness and reliability, not only in monetary terms, but also with regard to their social identity. Therefore, public relation practitioners have to develop and maintain effective relationships with organisations, key publics and audiences within the community through engaging both parties to participate and interact with each other.
B. Community as term for creative tension
There are various ways in defining the notion of community. A wide spread connotation of community is a geographical one – a village, a state, or a nation. Plaisance states, “the Internet has allowed the cultivation of new, interest-based communities that transcend geography in unprecedented ways” (2009, p.200). Thus, it seems that everybody thinks of the term in different ways.
However, the accepted opinions fail to resolve the notion that community is a rather loaded concept in ethical thinking in general and socially responsible acting in particular. For instance, Aristotle in his Politics thought about community not only in terms of cooperation, but also with a view to conflict. He disagreed with Plato’s notion of collective identity because “it pushes a goal of eliminating social tension created by heterogeneity” (Yack, 1993, p.30). Applying this notion to the concept of community relations, it seems obvious that organisations can only take an active role in communities they operate in when they are willing to listen to a variety of environmental and social issues that drive stakeholders’ attitudes. Treating each individual community problem the same way would further the gap between organisations and the community. For Aristotle “the creative tension that emerges from combinations of sharing and difference is one of the essential features of community” (Yack, 1993, p.31). Thus, recognising and addressing specific community issues and needs can contribute to the organisation’s profitability, its image, its employer morale, and its customer loyalty.
A very good example of corporate community involvement (CCI) and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are the so-called micro-funds that strive to bring a social and economic change to regions and people most in need. Clearly, this effort does not target ostensible funding, traditional donation or philanthropy. Rather, it contributes to the development of entire economies and enables people to escape poverty. Many developing countries cannot provide sufficient funding, which leaves potential entrepreneurs out in the rain simply because they lack sorely needed financing to realise their projects. The founding father was Muhammad Yunus who developed the concept of micro-credits
that enabled entrepreneurs to receive loans even though they did not qualify for by general bank standards due to their poverty. Increasingly, organisations and politicians pay attention to the concept of micro-funding.
However, not only huge corporations can contribute to these long-term sustainable solutions, as this video impressively shows.
However, what organisations expect from public relations consultants is to monitor successful long-term relationships with communities in order to allow vital interaction among each other. In order to peacefully co-exist within the community three skills seem to be essential. Communication professionals need to determine what the community knows and thinks about the organisation. Further, they need to inform the community of the organisation’s goals and strategies and constantly keep up the flow of information to allow the community to actively participate and maintain relations. Finally, public relations practitioners need to negotiate and mediate between the organisation and the community if different viewpoints arise that could potentially convulse their relationship. With this new openness as a strategy, the organisation will clearly position itself not only as financially successful, but also as loyal and trustworthy.
Cairncross, F. (2001). The Death Of Distance 2.0: How The Communications Revolution Will Change Our Lives. New York, NY: TEXERE Publishing Limited.
Flew, T. (2008). New Media: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Plaisance, P. (2009). Media Ethics: Key Principles For Responsible Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Seitel, F. (2007). The Practice Of Public Relations. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Tench, R., & Yeomans, L. (2006). Exploring Public Relations. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.
Waddock, S., & Boyle, M. (1995). The Dynamics Of Change In Corporate Community Relations. California Management Review, 37(4), 125-140.
Yack, B. (1993). The Problems Of A Political Animal: Community, Justice And Conflict In Aristotelian Political Thought. Berkley, CA: University Of California Press.