Public relations are one of the major functions of public and private organizations thus critical to the strategic plan of the organization. Public relations roles are executed by the public relations department also identified as the communications role in some organizations. Depending on the size of the organization and its communications needs, public relations department plays critical roles mainly identified as advertising and encouraging, seeking integration, cooperation and optimizing affairs and informing among others. The role of public relations is described as the “art and social science” in an organization that connects its internal and external aspects (Gilaninia, Taleghani &Mohammadi, 2013). The significance of the public relation role to an organization’s strategic objectives defines the positioning of the public relations function within the organization for efficiency. After all, modern-day organizations are driven by corporate social responsibility as a primary goal for success, and it entails regard for the public and people’s rights, accountability, adherence to government and transparency all who are roles that public relations is responsible for in an organization (Gilaninia, Taleghani &Mohammadi, 2013). Therefore the positioning of public relations function relative to the strategic goals of an organization is critical to its success. This paper analyzes public relation activities and positioning of Coca Cola Company and makes a necessary recommendation on whether the company should reorganize its public relations or uphold its current PR structure and positions.
Public relations in Coca Cola Company
Coca Cola is one of the biggest global soft drink manufacturing companies located in Atlanta, Georgia. Coca Cola products include more than 500 soft drink brands which are distributed in more than 200 nations in the world. Coca cola’s primary function, goals, and objectives are centered on satisfying people and that coupled with its large size and multinational nature make public relations critical to its strategic objectives and plan. As a global beverage company, public relations is important to control the companies narrative among the public, advance the company’s visibility, promote the value and credibility of the brand and handle any public relations concerns professionally to uphold the companies brand (Digital world, 2018).
Public relation is a primary function in coca cola since it is a company that is grounded of corporate social responsibility and its size and nature of the business is also highly vulnerable to PR concerns especially health and environmental concerns. Also, Coca-cola is a company that has had to change through its 127 years of existence since the society is increasingly changing and will continue to adjust due to the changing nature of the global market place. The provision emphasis the need and role of the public relations function for Coca Cola Company. The public relations function in coca cola are subsumed into the communications or rather it is considered as one with the communications unit and identified as Public affairs and communications unit (Coca Cola, 2018). The public affairs and communications role and business unit in coca cola are tasked with roles such as conversing with the consumers, employees and the governments among other on issues and matters relating to the company and social responsibility. The unit takes the forefront in company roles such as projects in the community, communicating products information to the relevant stakeholders and social responsibility campaigns and managing Pr issues against the company. The PR and communications department is represented in all coca cola regional basis across the globe.
Coca-cola is a large company with a presence across the globe and also has been around for many years. In the global context, coca cola is prone to public relation issues especially regarding the health benefits of its products in an increasingly health-oriented society and the increasing attention paid by the public on corporate social among others. For coca cola, public relations issues range from cultural, national and global issues thus an independent department for public relations and communications is thus an effective fit to efficiently manage PR issues. An autonomous public relations function is the most optimal option for Coca Cola.
Systems theory application to PR in Coca Cola
Systems theory refers to the outlook of any real system in existence such as business organizations as a social system that has to interrelate with their surroundings to thrive (Teeboom, 2018). Systems theory is categorized into two including the open systems continuum and the closed systems continuum. The open systems continuum refers to systems that involve the exchange of resources between the environment and the system while closed systems do not exchange resources with the environment. In open systems, the systems receive resources, energy, and information from the external environment and process them within the system then release them out back to the environment and follow up to gain feedback from the society it serves (Saylordotorg.github.io, 2019). Ideally, it is impossible for a system to be entirely open or closed as that would result in technicalities in its functionality yielding relatively open and relatively closed systems. The more responsive a system is to the external environment the more open it is while closed systems are barely responsive.
Coca-cola as n organization is a social system and interrelates with its environment extensively. Coca-cola deals with consumer goods, and thus the public is its market, and thus it has to relate and consider the public needs in its operations. Coca-cola is on the open systems continuum of the systems theory by a great extent. It listens and invokes the people to produce to meet their needs as well as operate in consideration of society. The openness of Coca Cola Company as a social system increases its need for a public relations department that is whole and well established. Coca-cola sources information and input from society to produce to the needs of society and get feedback to improve its process. For instance, Coca Cola is developing soft drinks that have less sugar so has to meet the health needs of the society. Such developments are possible through the ability of coca cola to interact with society and gain feedback regarding their products.
Public relation theories applications
There are different theories of public relations some which describe the public relations practices in Coca Cola Company while others do not relate. One of the theories of public relations or communications is the Schramm’s theory of communication which provides that communication is a circular process with a sender and a receiver who take turns in receiving and passing on information. It also includes a message and barriers that affect how the message is passed on to the sender (), the public relations at Coca Cola do exhibit the Schramm’s theory of communication in that there are messages being interchanges between the company and the public who act interchangeably as the sender and the receiver. At one point in the communication cycle, the public is the receiver of messages from coca cola regarding products information. At some other point, coca cola is the receiver of information from the public in the form of feedback.
Another theory of communication is Shannon and Weaver’s theory of communication which is linear since it provided a one-way system of communication. In the Shannon and Weaver theory, the sender communicates a message to the receiver through persuasion and without the channels for the receiver to communicate. Furthermore, four models were advanced by system theorists including press agentry, public information, two-way symmetry and two-way asymmetry which offered different characteristics of communication (Bowen, 2010). Coca-cola public relation would not work well with Shannon and Weaver’s theory since it is a linear theory and Coca cola’s activities are primarily determined on the public’s needs and responses to their products and systems. The press agentry model and the public information models also would not be effective for coca cola since they involve one-way communications, propaganda and minimal research. The modern customer base for edibles and consumables required intensive and continuous market research to understand the diverse and changing needs of the public. The two way asymmetric and symmetric models are more applicable for coca cola especially the two-way symmetric model which involves mutual; understanding, balanced effects, group to group communication and feedback and formative research ( Bowen, 2010)
In conclusion, coca cola’s public relations function should stay put since it is effective in meeting the communication needs of the company in its size, capacity, and strategic goals. As coca cola continues to pursue its strategic goals and meet its corporate social responsibility, maintaining and advancing public relations function will facilitate its ability to adjust to the changing society and respond to the public concerns thus sustain the company and propel it towards sustainability.
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