For some time, the organization’s social involvement has been considered a new solution to the public sentimental attitude that can be influenced by the organization’s involvement in solving certain social problems; consequently, it can translate into the trust of stakeholders, partners, and clients. In such a manner, the positive consequences of CSR are obvious. It is critical to understand that corporate social responsibility and public relations are in a strong co-relation. They both provide companies with dividends in terms of reputations, and both rely on communication strongly. Therefore, the CSR of a company can be analyzed through the length of PR theories. Hence, the paper is focused on the CSR campaign analysis, particularly, the Living Wage Campaign, which is studied with the help of excellence and rhetorical theories.
Living Wage Campaign: Summary
A great number of people that have full-time jobs in a profitable organization can still find themselves in poverty. Members of the security, catering and cleaner staff often need two or more jobs to survive (Living Wage Foundation n.d.). The national minimum wage is 16.9 pounds per hour, while the living wage that employers now pay to their workers can be as low as 8.55 pounds per hour in London and 7.45 pounds per hour outside the capital (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d). There has been launched a long-running campaign that aimed at promoting employers to provide the higher wage to the lowest-paid staff. Nonetheless, despite the years of lobbying and protests, politicians and business owners have been slow to respond.
In 2012, the Living Wage Foundation (LWF) and its principal partner KPMG launched the integrated communication campaign in order to position KPMG as the leading advocate of sustainable fairness and employment, promoter of changes in the working conditions for employees with a lower salary. It encouraged other businesses to promote living wage employers and demonstrated the true extent and meaning of the low payment in the UK (KPMG 2016). Because of the utmost importance of this campaign, the Corporate Social Responsibility PR approach is analyzed in this paper.
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In order to develop an effective national campaign, it was crucial to combine and channel various activities of numerous living wage groups and supporters in a single unified lobbying and awareness program with the main goal of securing the mandate for the change. It was critical for education leading businesses to explain to employers that the living wage accreditation would result both in cost savings and improved reputation. Politicians were to understand that it would make the government intervene with the view to reaching the aim. Lastly, for the public, it meant the development of the public concern and the media buzz (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d).
There are several implementation stages. Stage one: The KPMG PR professionals support the LWF on a pro bono basis. In October 2012, the press office was opened by the KPMG for the coordination of all actions of all living wage support groups around the country and to provide advice concerning the communication strategy to be adopted (KPMG 2015). It included gaining consensus and coordination between a lot of different interest groups and stakeholders, whole acknowledgment of the opposition of business organizations that believed that the living wage was unaffordable for employers and would cause job losses.
Stage two: It was launched on October 29, 2012, when the KPMG research was issued; it demonstrated the real extent of poverty in the UK in terms of the payment (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d). It reported that about one in five workers is paid less than the living wage; these people faced the hardest hit of the recession.
Stage three: It was launched on November 4-10, 2012 when the platform of the “Living Wage Week” convened keynote speakers and audience into a series of events in the UK in order to channel communication activities and encourage businesses to become accredited (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d). These involved “the Greater London Authority launch at the City Hall that was hosted by the Mayor Boris Jonhson, the Scottish parliament event that was hosted by the Deputy First Minister Nicola Strugeon, and the KPMG event directed to the developing the country’s first living wage zone in Canary Wharf” (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d). The number of protests and demonstrations were organized by different groups connected to the living wage movement during the campaign (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d). Moreover, certain efforts were made in order to combine the activities of different groups supporting the living wage under one banner with consistent messaging and purpose in the future.
There was blanket coverage of this political endorsement; all media channels encouraged organizations to sign up and become living wage employers (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d). The news media provided commentary support involving the BBC’s Stephanie Flanders and the Daily Telegraph’s Jeremy Warner, print articles in MA papers, including the P1 leads in The Independent and Observer, radio, particularly, the World Tonight, PM, Today, the World at One, and most BBC local radio stations, TV, including ITV, regional BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Sky, and BBC, and more than 750 separate coverage items (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d).
In terms of politics, the KPMG survey that was referenced in Prime Minister’s Questions by the Work and Pensions Secretary Lain Duncan-Smith and “by Rachel Reeves, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and in the speech, labor leader Ed Miliband pledged to deliver the living wage to millions of people if Labor wins in the next elections” were engaged (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d).
Regarding the events, in London, a joint event of KPMG, Living Wage Foundation, and Greater London Authority were organized. One hundred employers attended it in order to realize accreditation mechanics and benefits. Also, in the capital, Living Wage Standards in the FTSE 100 were organized by Fair Pensioners at Aviva Investors (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d). In Glasgow, the Poverty in Action was provided by KPMG, while in Cardiff, the City Country Council event was held. In addition, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation event in York was organized (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d).
The living wage movement was one of the most successful social change campaigns in recent years, the main outcome of which was the change in levels of corporate engagement and public awareness. Now, the living wage is becoming the mainstream topic. Today, there are more advanced discussions with main brands being involved, including Telco and FTSE 100 companies (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d). A lot of employers have been engaged in the accreditation, and the LWF had to hire additional staff to handle the process. The campaign by conservative estimates has added a hundred million pounds in the pockets of forty-five thousand low-paid workers every year (Chartered Institute of Public Relations n.d).
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The Excellence Theory
This CSR campaign can be realized with the help of several public relations approaches. One of them is the excellence theory. This general public relations theory resulted from a fifteen-year study of the best practices in communication management, which was funded by the International Association of Businesses Communicators Research Foundation (Grunig 2008). The excellence theory “was the first that explained the value of public relations to the organizations and society based on the social responsibility of managerial decisions and relation quality with the stakeholder publics” (Grunig 2008). According to this theory, for an organization to be effective, it must behave in ways that strive to address problems and satisfy the stakeholder’s goals (Toth 2007, p.53). In the case of failure to embrace this conduct, stakeholders will pressure an organization to change it in ways that will translate into risks and costs to the organization’s decisions and policies (Zerfass, van Ruler & Sriramesh, 2008, p. 20). Therefore, organizations have to communicate with the public and consider the interests of both the public and the organization with the view to cultivating long-term and high-quality relationships with them.
The excellence theory has developed principles of how the function has to be organized in order to maximize the values. First of all, engagement in strategic management is a crucial characteristic of excellent public relations. A PR executive plays a critical managerial role just as the administrator does (Franklin et al. 2009, p. 107). Also, in the case of the limitation to marketing functions, public relations lose their unique role in strategic management. The limitation to other functions resulted in the attention only to the interests of stakeholders, for example, marketing consumers (Grunig 2008). Also, the excellent research proved that the symmetric internal communication system could increase the employees’ satisfaction with the organization and their own jobs (Footea, Gaffney & Evansa 2010, p. 800). Nonetheless, usually, internal communication is not involved until companies adopt the participative instead of authoritarian culture, as well as a decentralized and less strict structure instead of a centralized and mechanical structure. Fourth, the excellence theory has demonstrated the effect of increasing the number of women in public relations to the same level as men on the implementation of the strategic role and developing programs for empowering females in an organization (Grunig 2008).
Interviews with the senior management and senior public relations officers revealed that good relationships were of huge importance to organizations. They could decrease the costs brought by the negative publicity, legislation, regulation, and litigation that were provoked by poor relationships increase revenue by providing services and products desired by stakeholders, and reduce the risks of taking decisions that could affect various stakeholders (Michaelson & Stacks 2011, p. 1942). According to the main point of the excellence theory, the interests of both sides are to be considered. In the case of the Living Wage Campaign, it is possible to see that this CSR approach was based on the same idea. In order to build effective relationships with the aimed populations, the KPMG promoted the support of their living wage and showed itself as a great advocate of this issue. The campaign involved the media, as well as political and public representatives, in order to promote an effective relationship between all stakeholders that could bring benefits to the company itself.
In such a manner, based on the excellence theory, public relations can be developed in four steps. The first one involves a press agent or a publicity model that represents a press agent; it plays a crucial role in the sector of public relations at that time. The second issue is the public information model. In this case, instead of press agents, public information dominates the public relations practice. It focuses on the public’s values and interests and strives to reveal the truth (Grunig 2008). The third approach is the two-way symmetric model. Hence, the asymmetric model accepts public relations as a powerful scientific endeavor (Mackey 2013, p.5). In opposition, the two-way symmetric model promotes the open dialogue between organizations and their audience. The Living Wage Campaign is a bright example of the two-way symmetric model because it aims to set the dialogue between the organization and its stakeholders, including employers and employees, as representatives of the social and political organizations.
In general, in the excellence theory, a good relationship with the strategic populations is crucial for an organization to develop and achieve the aimed goal by both the public and the organization. In order to increase the public relation value, the PR has to identify the strategic audience and develop long-term relationships with them with the help of symmetric communication programs (Cameron, Pang, & Jin 2007, p. 135). The excellence theory has managed to identify characteristics of effective public relations in four categories. They include the public relations function empowerment that means that efficient organizations have to empower public relations as the crucial management function (Cornelissen 2007, p. 37). The second model is the communicator role; it means that it is critical to allow public relations executives to play a managerial role in addition to traditional administrative functions. The third model is the communication function organization that means that public relations have to be integrated into the communication function and to be separated instead of being limited to marketing (Laskin 2009, p. 38). The last model is the public relation model; a profitable organization has to base the external and internal relationship and communication on the two-way symmetric model.
The Living Wage Campaign can be analyzed based on these four characteristics. For instance, the PR function empowerment can be seen in this campaign because the PR has been used by the LWF and KPMG as an important management tool. Similarly, in this campaign, PR executives have been considered administrators; they were tasked with promoting good relations between all stakeholders. Moreover, in this campaign, the PR has been separated from the marketing and integrated into the communication with the targeted public. Also, as already mentioned, the Living Wage campaign is based on the two-way symmetric model. Therefore, this campaign fits the excellence theory, as well.
At the same time, the excellence theory faces some criticism. For instance, it is believed that the excellence theory mostly focuses on the consumers as the main audience. In addition, it provides no chance for exploring the broader implications of the relationship between an organization and its market (Grunig 2008). In addition, it is stated that the two-way symmetric component of the theory is too idealized. Also, there are arguments that the theory simplifies human behavior. The focus on public relations overlooks the social world, in which an organization operates.
The campaign can be analyzed with the help of rhetorical theory. This theory can allow public relations to consider the communication, the symbolic aspects of which are the basis of the public relation activity (Heath, Toth, & Waymer 2009, p. 97). Despite some fleeting mentions that had been made regarding the term in the early PR literature, it is popularly stated that the rhetorical approach was developed in 1980. At that time, Heath proposed to consider rhetoric as the background of the organization’s relationship to its environment (Heath, Toth, & Waymer 2009, p. 97). Rhetoric helps organizations to gain legitimacy in specific aims. Moreover, it allows joining different interpretations and the stakeholder’s meaning zones, as well as to co-define and co-create the same. Therefore, concurrence is the goal and the clash of various perspectives that empower the public opinion process.
Rhetorical studies are closely related to public relations. Some represented organizations have a symbolic context, while others concentrate on the relationship between corporate advocacy and society. The later research considered the issues management; it analyzed how corporations are involved in responding, evaluating, identifying, and anticipating issues that can impact both an organization and its audience (Ihlen 2011, p. 460). Several debates focused on efforts of implementing rhetoric in public relations. Some have had the problem with accepting persuasion as the legitimate activity, while others challenged the epistemological stance of the approach (Heath, Toth, & Waymer 2009, 103). It was stated that the scholars of rhetorical public relations could acknowledge that the reality is socially constructed, while at other times, it is assumed that there is only the universal truth and that some facts are better than others are.
Moreover, it was pointed that the rhetorical approach has an ontological weakness because it had faith in the well-functioning marketplace where the resource issue was of no role. The critical response emphasized that a better metaphor could be a supermarket, in which huge corporations offer their customers a limited number of brands that are promoted by several social leviathans (Courtright & Smudde 2007, p. 160). Another common issue is that by large, the approach has been tied to the instrumental agenda of the mainstream public relations research that tried to improve the organizations’ communications instead of questioning their methods or goals from the societal perspective. It is crucial to analyze the rhetoric approach regarding the main organizational strategy types. The first type is the way, in which organizations respond to the existing rhetorical situation, for example, through crisis communication (Courtright & Smudde 2007, p.160). The second issue is how organizations anticipate future rhetorical situations, for example, through the issues management process. The third one is the way, in which organizations try to shape rhetorical situations, for example, through strategic definitions. The last issue is how organizations shape their identities.
Rhetoric in public relations is the language study, and it is used to develop shared meanings. This approach to examining persuasive messages is the language that is used by communicators and the information exchange or the discourse between parties that look for a way to influence each other through the symbols and use of words (L’Etang 2008, p. 37). Therefore, from this perspective, persuasion has neither positive nor negative characteristics, because it is an issue of human interaction. According to the rhetorical theory, through the language, the Living Wage Campaign communicates its position regarding certain issues to stakeholders. Moreover, it is true that it is difficult to make the sent message either positive or negative because it is only the communication that aims at the exchange of opinions; thus, it is natural.
Moreover, the public relations practice is the rhetorical process that helps in building the society, in which people examine each other’s perspectives, choices, and values that are relevant to the public policies, services, and products through counterstatements and statements. Rhetoric recognizes that participants have self-interest just as the altruistic reason for involving in any debate. The meaning is developed in the communication interpretations instead of the message passage process (Parsons 2007, p. 149). Hence, through the involved strategies and events, the Living Wage Campaign aimed not only to transmit the message but also to achieve the dialogue while persuading stakeholders to raise the living wage. Therefore, the rhetorical public relations practice is highly ethical because it allows participants to engage in the dialogue. This issue can be clearly seen in the Living Wage Campaign.
Overall, public relations have a crucial role in effective corporate social responsibility promotion. Moreover, in PR, there is a CSR approach that aims to educate and engage people in some social issues. A bright example is the Living Wage Campaign that aimed to increase the living wage among representatives of the security and cleaning staff. In response, as an organization, the KPMG earned the reputation of the crucial advocate in this area. This campaign can be analyzed with the help of some PR theories, such as excellence and rhetorical theories. Therefore, the excellence theory includes the theoretical standards that allow utilizing PR more effectively. Moreover, it represents the PR paradigm that is concerned with handling professional domain problems. Its results aim to explain and improve the PR functions in an organization. According to this theory, the Living Wage Campaign strives to improve the relationship between all stakeholders in order to gain an effective public response. At the same time, the rhetorical theory looks at the interpretation, discourse, and how the meaning is constructed. In addition, it emphasizes the role that the information and facts play in shaping opinions and knowledge and in motivating and convincing others. According to this theory, the Living Wage promotes the open dialogue with the view to persuading the public in the importance of the living wage increase.