Essays on Organisation-Public Relationships in relation to Coles Supermarkets Case Study

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The paper "Organisation-Public Relationships in relation to Coles Supermarkets" is a good example of a business case study. Public relations strategy and activity in organisations should be the nexus that holds stakeholder relationships and corporate reputation together in order for the organisation to work towards corporate sustainability. These issues and expectations require strategic thinking in the context of the public relations section of an organisation, such that it will contribute to the much-needed synergy, integration and placement of activities, systems and processes in the organisation. In some sense, it is needful for public relations strategists to revisit the basics and remember that communication is the essence of sharing of meaning as well as the creation of understanding that can only be established between an organisation and the public.

In helping an organisation to become more sustainable in creating and maintaining good stakeholder relationships – and in so doing – developing strong corporate reputations, public relations and practice as well as discipline, can also become better sustainable and more appropriate. This paper aims to define and discuss organisation-public relationships (OPRs) in relation to Coles Supermarkets, a giant Australian- based retail organisation.

In recent times, the company has significantly and permanently reduced its prices on staple foods such as milk and bread. This has notable implications for consumers, suppliers, competitors, and the company itself. The paper takes into consideration various studies especially those conducted by Ledingham and Bruning (1998) to help explore and understand the nature and importance of OPRs. Along this line, it is important to review the importance of effective relationship management, which is defined as “ the development, maintenance, growth, and nurturing of mutually beneficial relationships between organisations and their significant publics” (Jo, 2004).

The Coles Supermarkets’ pricing strategy and how this affects its relationship with its customers, suppliers, competitors and other stakeholders. Definition and relevance of organisation-public relationships Organisation-public relationships refer to the pattern of interaction, transaction, exchange and linkage between an organisation and its publics. These interactions have features that are dissimilar from the identities, attributes and insights of the individuals and social collectivities in the relationships. Although they are dynamic in nature, organisation-public relationships can be described at a specific time and tracked over time.

For instance, it is possible to evaluate Coles’ pricing strategy and how this has affected the relationship between the organisation and its customers over time (L'Etang & Pieczka, 2006). In order to explain the organisation-public relationship, the relational elements or features that are deemed to be essential for a relationship must be considered (L'Etang & Pieczka, 2006). Relational characteristics are discussed in literature from related disciplines such as marketing, organisational theory, interpersonal communication, conflict resolution as well as public relations (L'Etang & Pieczka, 2006). Because the purpose of public relations is to create, develop and maintain relationships, focusing public relations efforts on organisational actions and activities that enhance relationships should help to demonstrate the value of public relation both in terms of effective relationship building and in the context of public satisfaction and consumer purchasing behaviour.

Along the same line, understanding the importance of organisation-key public relationships, their ramifications on key public behaviour, and their nature continues to be of vital importance to both practitioners and scholars (Ledingham & Bruning, 2001). Public relation is a two-way process through which organisations must focus on the relationship with their key publics and communicate involvement of those programmes or activities that build the organisation-public relationship with members of their key publics.

It is under this process that the role of communication becomes clear as pertains to relationship building. The organisation must be involved in behaviours that benefit its public and also serve the interests of the organisation. Essentially, communication should be utilised to inform key publics about the behaviours of the organisation. At Coles, communication is aimed at gaining and retaining acceptance from stakeholders as well as changing the attitudes of stakeholders towards the company.

In this regard, effective communication is needed in respect of the permanently reduced prices offered by Coles Supermarkets. There is a need for the company to communicate to customers why it sets its prices much below those set by competitors. It is worth noting that the prospect of lower prices can encourage selling which drives down prices further (The Economist, 2007), and this is the opportunity that Coles seems to have capitalised upon. It should also be put in mind that poor communication can damage the entire meaning of the strategy applied by Coles.

As Grunig (1993) put it, “ communication – a symbolic relationship – can improve a behavioural relationship, but a poor behavioural relationship can destroy attempts to use communication to build a symbolic relationship or to improve a behavioural relationship” (Ledingham & Bruning, 2001). Coles’ pricing strategy and strategic management Strategic management aims to maximise organisational efficiency and profitability by making decisions that are focused on that goal. A number of studies have been done in this perspective. Grunig (1992) (cited by Bowen, 2007) proposed that linkages with publics could be utilised to facilitate decision making by an organisation in a balanced, symmetrical manner.

The idea of symmetry here is that organisations accomplish more of their long term goals when they incorporate some of the publics they want, implying that management engages in an ongoing mutual relationship with publics. Further, Grunig and Grunig (1996) maintained that a strategic management approach is consistent with teleological moral philosophy, commonly referred to as utilitarianism, due to its emphasis on consequences. Both utilitarian philosophy and public relationships are perceived in regard to their consequences and potential outcomes.

In utilitarianism, the ethical decision is defined as that which maximises positive implications and minimises negative consequences. Strategic management also tries to predict probable consequences of management decisions and hence fits perfectly with utilitarian ethics (Bowen, 2007). According to the general systems theory, the organisation can be viewed as an open and interdependent system dependent on interactions with its environment for continued existence (Skyttner, 2001). In the same magnitude, publics are perceived to be part of the environment providing information inputs and feedback to management.

It should be noted that maintaining a process of ethical decision making in management could help an organisation to have successful interactions with its environment (Bowen, 2007). As a routine component of the management system, ethical considerations need to be reviewed and be subjected to common examination than be left to chance. Hence, even as Coles engages in a low pricing strategy for its commodities, it should put into consideration the aspect of ethical decision making. Coles pricing strategy can be likened to penetration pricing.

This is a pricing technique of setting a relatively low initial entry price (it should be noted however that Coles is not a new player in the Australian market). The price is often perceived to be lower than the eventual market price, but can be maintained as long as the organisation deems it to be appropriate and increasing its competitiveness. Penetration pricing is commonly associated with a marketing goal of increasing market share or sales volume, as opposed to short term profit maximisation. The advantages of such pricing as employed by Coles areas highlighted below (according to Talloo, 2007): The pricing can result in fast diffusion and adoption which can, in turn, achieve market penetration rates quickly.

This implies that competitors can be taken by surprise, and as such, they may not have adequate time to react.


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