Today’s competitive business environment requires more than offering good products to excel in any industry. Relationship with the consumers goes a long way in creating the atmosphere of success companies need to succeed in business. One crucial way of establishing a friendly atmosphere for business to thrive is through community relations.
What is community relations?
Community relations consists of various strategies used by companies to establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the communities in which they operate. The primary idea behind community relations goals is that when a company accepts its civic responsibility and takes an active interest in contributing to the well-being of its community, there are long-term benefits that company enjoys especially in terms of community support, loyalty, and good will. Good community relations programmes ensure community involvement which helps a company to build favourable public image and improve employee morale. This positive image also fosters a sense of teamwork between an organization and its host community, and this is essential in long-term success of that company. Both small and big businesses require good community relations programmes to ensure business prosperity.
Community relations efforts should be deliberately planned by organizations. A comprehensive, well-planned community relations programme can help an organization achieve visibility as a good community citizen. Communities recognize organizations as good citizens when they support programmes that improve the quality of life in their community, including crime prevention, employment, environmental programs, clean-up and beautification, recycling, and restoration. Other community relations programmes which portray an organization as a good community citizen include scholarship programmes for a community, urban renewal projects, performing arts programmes, social and educational programmes, children’s activities, community organizations, and construction projects. Furthermore, small businesses might achieve community visibility and engender good will by sponsoring local sports teams or other events. Organizations can do this by supporting the community financially or through employee participation strategies.
Benefits of community relations
Good community relations programmes come with a wide variety of benefits for small and large organizations. These benefits include the following: employees have a reason to be proud of the company; loyalty to the company is increased; a company with happy employees and a good reputation in the community is likely to attract highly qualified new employees; small companies also might generate new business through the contacts and leads generated through community relations activities; such contacts might also make it easier for the company to obtain financing for expansion, find promising new locations, or gain favorable treatment in terms of taxes, ordinances, or utilities; good community relations can also be beneficial in times of crisis, such as a fire or a plant closing, by rallying the community around the affected business.
Community involvement helps in achieving positive, measurable change to both the communities in which an organization operates and the organization’s business. A few examples of community involvement include in-kind and financial donations, employee volunteer days, enduring nonprofit partnerships, among others.
Corporate community involvement could be of benefit to an organization in two major ways. First, it provides positive returns to local charitable organizations and neighborhoods. Second, it boosts company performance indicators, such as reputation and employee engagement. Your organization strengthens neighbourhod relationship by building partnerships and working relationships with local community nonprofits and service-based organizations.
Types of community relations activities
Community relations activities could come in various ways. Norman R. Soderberg in his book Public Relations for the Entrepreneur and the Growing Business, suggests the following community relations programmes: taking an active interest in community problems; sponsoring youth activities; participating in local government; joining business and service groups; purchasing materials and supplies from local companies; encouraging community education and culture; making offices or other facilities available to community organizations; supporting local charity drives; and taking part in civic activities.
There are specific programmes that could be designed to increase a small business’s visibility and prestige within a community.
Soderberg further suggests the company might volunteer to develop a civic program, like a charity drive or auction. In addition, the small business owner, or another company representative, could give talks before the local chamber of commerce or civic association. The company could also invite community groups to tour its plant or offices, or could make its facilities available to such groups for meetings or events. Alternatively, the company could prepare an informational videotape about its products, services, employment policies, and overall mission and make this resource available to the community. Informational brochures and newsletters might also be distributed to civic and government leaders. Another way to improve community relations might be to beautify the company’s surroundings with a fountain, sculpture, or garden, so that it becomes a local landmark. The media have to be carried along in executing community relations programmes. Keeping the media informed about the company’s activities in any community is very crucial to the overall success of community relations campaign.
Community relations is not only an exciting public relations specialty but also crucial to the long term success of an organization in today’s competitive business environment. Small and large companies need this to build good reputation in their host communities and beyond. Employees or organizations should be encouraged to participate in community relations programmes. Company’s employees should endeavour to represent the organization well in all their interactions with the public, from practicing good manners on the road while driving company vehicles to treating customers well. Every staff of an organization should be made to understand that community relations is a team work and every step taken on and off work counts.