Public Relation Practices Of The Oil And Gas Industry
This project undertook an indepth appraisal of the effectiveness of public relations practices of Oil Corporations in Nigeria in managing environmental issues and conflicts in the Niger Delta, with special focus on the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, SPDC. The main research objectives were to find answers to the following research question: How effective have been the public relations practices of Oil Companies operating in Nigeria, in managing environmental problems/conflicts in the Niger Delta regions; Have the Oil Companies and the Federal Government employed adequate two-way communication in relating with the oil bearing communities; Are the Public relations strategies/techniques employed so far in addressing environmental issues in the Niger Delta adequate enough; Are qualified and competent public relations managers being used by the Oil Companies in executing their public relations programmes. To find answers to the above, the following null hypotheses were formulated and tested in this study: The Public relations practices of the oil companies operating in Nigeria, in managing environmental issues/conflicts in the Niger Delta have not been effective; The Oil Companies operating in Nigeria have not employed adequate two-way communication in relating with their host communities; The Public Relations strategies/techniques/media employed so far in addressing environmental issues in the Niger Delta are not adequate. The researcher employed opinion survey techniques of face to face interviews, telephone interviews and questionnaires in gathering data for the study. The data were analyzed and tested with the statistical techniques of chi-square (x2 ). At the end of the tests, the following results were obtained: That the public relations practices of the Oil Companies operating in Nigeria in managing environmental issues, crisis and conflicts in the Niger Delta have not been effective.
1.1 Background to the Study
Public relation regularly known as “PR” is often confused with “press release” or “press relation”. These are in fact only a part of real public relations.
Public relation is one of the marketing communication elements designed to build goodwill for products/services, personality or corporate image of a firm. It is a complementary tool in the hand of marketers to cement together the overall promotional by attempting to garner a favorable public perception, a better imaging of the worth and value of the firm an its product in the eye of its publics.
Good imaging is crucial in public relation and is essential for creation of respectability, clout and prestige. Good image is often equated to character. It is popular to hear the maxim “…..if a man loses money he has lost nothing, if a man loses his health, he has lost something, but if a man loses his character, he has lost everything”. This underscores the pride of place good image occupies if a product and its firm is to find acceptability in a market and in society. PR expert therefore strives to build character and integrity for their organization and their products. If PR people attempt to hide the fact and tell lies in the attempt to promote company image and product, they become mere “propagandist” in the eyes of the public. If they tell the objective truths backed with facts people can believe and not attempt to fool the public, then they become “valued partners” in marketing the image of their company and by extension contributors to growth and development of the firm and society.
PR is a two-way street and the same time a double edged sword. In this respect, PR creates reciprocity of respect and value between the market and producers of the goods/services. It therefore can be used to propagate and build goodwill, respectability and reputation. Likewise, PR can be used to put down, dismember and destroy a person’s image and reputation. Most products in the market fail because they have been branded as “clones and imitations”. Others have succeeded because they have been promoted as “the real and the original” that will deliver in value and satisfaction at consumption.
Public relation plays on the mental perception of people and consumer by aligning product messages, appeals, etc, with what customers want to hear. Or out rightly manipulate customer’s psych to believe positive things about the product or firm. The task of managing these complexes of customer’s emotions, perceptions and believe constitute the art and practice of PR. It can therefore be said that PR works on the platform of the 3Ps it is used to propagate, promote and protect the image of the product, organization or person. This is with a view to perpetually retaining the positive feeling most favorably in the sub-conscious and mind of the target market.
1.2 Statement of the Problem:
Most publics of African petroleum plc are not satisfied with the way and manner AP relates to them. They want more precise understanding and cordial relationship. Public relations has remained a major tool in building goodwill of both the product and organization
African petroleum plc is an organization that has a lot of branches in areas like Kaduna, Kano, Lagos Port Harcourt and Warri. It has depots at (Apapa) Lagos, Jos and Kano but its main source of Petroleum Company (NNPC).
Presently the company entered into the marketing of chemical, real estate development and manufacturing of insecticides.
Therefore, continued conflicts and crisis in the Niger Delta region is an evil wind that blows no one any good. Neither the oil companies, nor their host communities nor the Federal Government gains from that. Hence, what has been the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the public relations strategies/techniques so far employed in managing these environmental problems/conflicts in our Niger Delta region?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is therefore to find answers to the following pertinent research questions:
- To determine how effective the public relations practices of the Oil Companies and the Federal Government in managing environmental problems/conflicts in the Niger Delta region have been.
- To determine if the Oil Companies and the Federal Government have employed adequate two-way communication in relating with the oil-bearing community publics.
- To ascertain whether the public relations strategies/techniques employed so far in addressing environmental issues in the Niger Delta are enough.
- To find out whether qualified and competent public relations managers are being used by the Oil Companies in fashioning-out and or executing those Public Relation strategies/techniques.
1.4 Research Questions
The following are the research questions
- How effective are the public relations practices of the Oil Companies and the Federal Government in managing environmental problems/conflicts in the Niger Delta region?.
- Have the Oil Companies and the Federal Government employed adequate two-way communication in relating with the oil-bearing community publics?
- Are the public relations strategies/techniques employed so far in addressing environmental issues in the Niger Delta enough?
- Are qualified and competent public relations managers used by the Oil Companies in fashioning-out and or executing those Public Relation strategies/techniques?.
1.5 Research Hypotheses
To find answers to the research questions posed, the following hypotheses are hereby formulated for tests by the researcher:
- The public relations practices of the oil companies in managing environmental problems/conflicts in the Niger Delta have not been effective.
- The oil companies have not employed adequate two way communication in relating with the oil host communities.
1.6 Significance of the Study
The significance and importance of this research lie in the following scores:
- It would help the government to stem the incidence of social unrests, crisis and conflicts that have come to characterize the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
- It would also unearth some facts that could aid the government in its policy and decision-making formulation that will be mutually rewarding to all the parties involved in this conflict.
- It would help to engender a climate of peace, friendliness, goodwill and cooperation between the oil companies and their host communities.
- It would help to arrest the acts of vandalism of oil pipelines, kidnap of oil workers and general acts of violence and restiveness in the Niger Delta regions.
- It would help the Oil Companies to establish what they have wrong in the past in their Public Relations practices and how best to do it now and in future in order to earn and sustain the confidence and goodwill of their host community publics.
- It would aid the host communities to better appreciate the realities of the situation and the genuine efforts being made by the Oil Companies and Government to better their lots.
- It will serve as a reference material for students and practitioners of public relations and other related fields.
- It would provoke further studies on this subject matter from other students and researchers alike.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The study would be restricted in scope to three core Niger Delta states of Rivers, Delta and Bayelsa states and some of their oil producing communities which include; Ogoni land, Bonny, Brass, Eleme, Ijaw, Kolokoma, Jesse, Warri, Odi, Yenegoa, etc. These would serve as sample representatives of other Niger Delta States. While the Public Relations practices of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC) will also be used as our case study or sample representative of other oil companies/operating in the Nigeria Delta.
This research was originally intended to go beyond the South East, and the three television houses serving as focus of study. However, the researcher was constrained by time and finance from extending the research to other zones and other T.V. stations outside the South East.
Summary of Findings, Discussion and Conclusion Recommendations
This chapter is devoted to a summary presentation of the findings of our study. This would be followed with an in-depth discussion on those findings and other issues raised, then some suggestion and recommendations for the way forward, and finally, the conclusion.
5.1 Summary of Findings
After a statistical analysis and testing of the data collected and hypotheses formulated for this study, the following results were obtained:
- That the Public Relations practices of the Oil Companies in Managing environmental issues/crisis/conflicts in the Niger Delta have not been effective.
- That the Oil Companies operating in the Niger Delta have not been employing adequate two-way communication in relating with their host community Publics.
- That the relations strategies/media/techniques employed so far by the oil companies in addressing environmental issues in the Niger Delta have not been adequate and right.
As clearly depicted by all the three findings of this study, the Public Relations practices of the Oil companies operating in the Niger Delta. In the context of the broad criteria of considerations in this study leaves much to be desired.
Firstly, our number one finding explicitly shows that the public relations practices of those companies in the Niger Delta areas of our country have not been effective. No wonder then, we have been having the cycle of crisis characterized by vandalisation of oil pipelines and other facilities, kidnap of oil workers, killings, arson, fire outbreaks just to mention but a few.
Secondly, we were told by our number two findings here that the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta have not been employing adequate two-way communication in relating with their host community publics. In Public Relations practice, adequate two-way communication is considered a portentous solution to many relationship problems of man. In fact, communication is taken, not to be complete, except there is a feedback.
Hence, the attitude of communicating to the best community publics, without giving them enough avenues/opportunities to air their own views, feelings and perception on the issues at stake, could certainly be one of the factors finalling the Niger Delta crisis
Then, the number three findings tells us that neither the strategies, nor the media nor the techniques used in executing the public relations practices in the Niger Delta area are adequate or right.
For Public relations practices to be effective, the right strategies appropriately tailored to the right issue/problem at the right time must be fashioned out or packaged. Such strategies, must as be blended with the right techniques and finally dished out to the target public through the right media, that are suitably amenable and accessible to the socio-cultural backgrounds of the target publics. If the right message is disseminated through the wrong media, the result is going to be negative.
Hence, the practice by the oil companies of mainly using opinion leaders and or traditional rulers in communicating to the publics in their host communities is not acceptable to most of those publics, especially the youths, who always accuse those opinion leaders/traditional rulers of serving their own selfish interests and not the interest of the entire community. They believe either rightly or wrongly that the oil companies “settle” those traditional rulers or opinion leaders to stand against or work against the common interest of their people. Hence, the killing of the “Ogoni 5” by aggrieved Ogoni youths.
All said and done, it is then our earnest belief that if the findings, revelations, discussions, suggestions and recommendations of this study are given due consideration, it would go a long way in arresting tensions, conflicts and crisis in the Niger Delta regions and restore the much desired climate of peace, friendship and cordial relationship between oil companies and their host communities there.
In view of the foregoing, we hereby proffer the following suggestions/recommendations for improving the public relations practices of the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta:
- Effort should be geared towards fashioning out grassroots oriented public relations practices that are tailored to the socio-cultural lives, needs and perceptions of the Niger delta people, who are mainly agrarian and riverine fishermen.
- Adequate Public relations research should be employed to clearly appreciate the needs, feelings and perceptions of host communities before dispensing social responsibility goodies to them.
- Adequate two-way communication mechanisms should be instituted between the oil companies and their host community publics.
- The right public relations communication media/techniques which are amenable and suited to the socio-cultural and traditional realities of the Niger Deltans should be employed in communicating to/with them.
- Selected enlightened people from the Niger delta areas, should be involved in packaging incentives, development projects and even communication messages to the people.
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