Public Relations and Crisis Management in Public Utility Companies in Kampala District. A Case Study of National Water and Sewerage Corporation
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Public Relations (PR) is one of the most significant functions that helps an organization to establish the trustworthiness of products and services among its stakeholders. It is a conduit through which crises befalling organizations can be lessened or mitigated. This study examined the influence of PR on crisis management in public utility companies in Kampala district. National Water and Sewerage Corporation was the case study. The study was guided by the following specific objectives; To establish the media outlets used in dissemination of communication messages and their effectiveness in crisis management in NW&SC; To examine the competences of staff in the PR department on handling crisis in NW &SC; and To identify the community outreach activities used in dissemination of information by PR staff. Staff of NW&SC and customers constituted the study sample. In all, 146 respondents were involved. Stratified, simple random and purpose sampling techniques were used to select the respondents. Data were collected using questionnaires, document review and interview guides and analyzed qualitatively and quantitively. Study findings indicated that PR staff of NW&SC used Newspapers, TV, Radio and Social media to communicate and pass information to the public. However, several weaknesses were also identified regarding the use of the outlets above leading to below par performance. Also, study findings indicated that PR staff exhibited a small degree of competences in handling crises in the area. For example, most respondents were not pleased with the way how staff of the corporation handle their complaints related to service failures. Equally, the findings also showed that efforts have been taken by the corporation to engage the customers in different communities. Water barazas and school water committees for example have been held and formed respectively. However, these arrangements have not covered a wider section of the society served by NW&SC. The study concluded that PR staff have not adequately exploited the available media outlets to address crises. Regarding staff competences, it was concluded that PR staff are not competent enough to handle the crises while it was also concluded that community outreach activities much as formalized by the Strategic Plan are not effectively carried out. Most customers expressed ambivalence regarding the activities in their communities. The study recommended the need for staff refresher training, effective timing of the press release and TV/radio messages and need for instant push notifications to customers, among others.