Community relations vital in nation-building

The use of digital communication is very much in trend and most consumer brands continue to invest heavily in this. That’s all well and good to boost sales.

However, what people are forgetting is that digital communication and social media are short term, impersonal, and superficial.

If you truly wish to build a deep and long-lasting relationship with your target audience, be they consumers, policymakers or the general public, community relations is the way to go.

A core pillar of public relations (PR), community relations is more important, now than ever before, due to the number of issues that society and communities are experiencing.

Community relations refers to the various methods companies use to establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the communities in which they operate.

Why is the community important to a business, you may ask. First and foremost, the community are your neighbours, and particularly with regards to the manufacturing sector, they are also your resource pool.

Neighbourliness is just good manners and has numerous benefits. It also makes life that much more pleasant for all parties. I think everyone will agree that a good neighbour is a blessing, and a bad one can be your worst nightmare.

Community relations has the potential to amplify a company’s good deeds, reputation, and brand recognition when the community talks about it. After all, praise by a third party is so much more valuable than talking about oneself.

Today, any business that’s interested in embarking on community relations is fortunate to have the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a guide. Pick from any of the 17 SDGs and you can’t go wrong.

The three important things to bear in mind when considering a community relations programme are:

•  Community relations is a long haul. It’s a sustained long-term PR commitment and investment, not a one-off quick fix to any issue the business may be facing.

•  Relevance. What is relevant to the business and can simultaneously be beneficial to the community?

•  What gets measured, gets done. Set quantitative targets and agree on measurements. Set short-, medium-, and long-term targets, and decide the elements you’re going to measure. Hot tip – The first year is more of a pilot to take learnings from, so set realistic goals for the first year.

If it’s purely media coverage and PR value you’re after, don’t even bother with the programme because you’ve obviously missed the point.

Right about now, you might be wondering what all of this has to do with nation-building. Well, if you examine the 17 SDGs closer, you’ll see that the goals, while aimed at transforming our world, can also transform our own nation.

Building local community relationships is one of the most important communication activities undertaken by an organisation, yet it’s often overlooked until an issue arises. This Merdeka, let’s pledge to be proactive in community relations initiatives.

Even medical science agrees that there’s no replacement for the human touch. And that is precisely what community relations is about, humanising businesses and demonstrating to the community that they really care.

This Merdeka, let’s do something nice for our neighbours.

Selamat Hari Merdeka, my fellow Malaysians!

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the writer and do not necessarily represent that of Twentytwo13.

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