1.1 Background of Study
Organizations need to maintain a positive outlook with members of the public to build a favourable reputation; along these lines, achieve success. The communication of an enterprise’s critical messages through different trusted media helps its validity and enhances its relationships with key stakeholders. Public relations have proven to be a vital aspect of an organization’s success. It is the business that deals with reputation, with the aim of gaining understanding, support as well as influencing public opinion, attitude, and behavior. Similarly, it is a planned and sustained effort to build and maintain goodwill with a mutual understanding between an organisation and its various publics (CIPR, 2010). Public relations refer to a planned process which is used to influence public opinion through apt performance and sound character and is basedevidently on a beneficial and satisfactory two-way relationship (Seitel, 2011). The practice of Public Relations (PR) also provides adequate information disseminated to the general public and persuasion directed at the public. This practice is carried out to modify their many actions and outlooks of targets.
Public Relations is a concept which focuses on building good relations with an organization’spublicto gain positive publicity, createan excellent corporate image and manage crisis (Cohen, 2011). PR is the creation, distribution and dissemination of critical messages, information and communication to promote and foster positive reputation, associations, relationships, imagery and perception of an organisation, a product, brand or individual amongst various publics to influence their behaviour (Cohen, 2011). Public relations is also defined within the marketing context as a marketing practice that fosters purchases and customers; satisfaction through reliable information, impressions and communication (Valjak & Draskovic, 2011).PR as a concept, sparks controversies amongst several scholars due to its ambiguous nature which make it somewhat difficult to define. Scholars contemplate on whether or not PR belongs to the marketing field or if it is a distinct management concept (Valjak & Draskovic, 2011). Although there is no generally accepted definition of public relations, there is now a clearer understanding of the concept as various practitioners have come to terms with the fact that no matter the description of PR, there is a consensus that the practice remains a management function. PR, therefore,helps establish and maintain mutual communication and benefits between an organisation and its publics.Public relations consequently, aid an organisation and its publics to adapt mutually to one another in a bid to influence their attitudes and actions.
The management function of PR deals with the evaluation of public attitudes while identifying the procedures and managerial policies of an organisation with interest of the public at heart. Seitel (2004) explains that as a management function, public relations serves as a platform for evaluating both internal and external attitudes, needs and opinions of the public. Thisis doneto act as an instrument that brings about policy changes to direct innovative plans of action. Public relations as earlier mentioned serves the purpose of balancing the interest of organisations and their publics through the management of relationships. The practice, which offers diverse functions (such as from stakeholder relations, media relations, content development, crisis management) contributes to the effectiveness of an organisation when its relationships are managedstrategicallyand sustained (Travis, 2018). While there are specific types of stakeholder relationship management, this study aims to focus on the communication efforts directed at customers in the Nigerian banking sector.
Public relations have been widely accepted by many businesses particularly the banking and financial institutions. Banks tend to thrive on the knowledge and trust of their various stakeholders. Considering that the practice of public relations deals with fostering mutual interest, increasing visibility and building a reputable brand name, banks,therefore, require the management function of public relationsto achieve its set out goals and objectives. The banking industry needs a certain level of customer’s trust to flourish in its endeavors’. It is as a result of this trust that customers are confident enough to entrust their funds in the various banks. Thus, the success of a bank depends on how it intends to build a positive relationship with its key publics.
The reputation of a bank is one of its most prized assets, which serves to advantage its customer-experience facilitating high performance and customer relations.This,in turn, enables the bank to earn understanding, support and positively influences the behaviors of its customers. Over the years, the banking industry has experienced several changes in its operations; however, the advent of digitisation has brought about a more drastic change in the way banks operate. With the birth of new developments such as automated-teller machines (ATMs) and online banking, platforms physical human interaction at bank outlets isminimisedmostly for customers’ banking transactions. Consequently, banks are striving to proffer virtual services via alternative means to meet the needs of its broad customer base. Other factors such as harsh economic conditions, rising costs, evolving banking services, dynamic business environments, domination by larger banking institutions, continuous entry of new banks in Nigeria all prompt banks to remain leaders amidst growing competition (Keating, 2005).
Furthermore, the ensuing devaluation of naira from the year 2014, as well as the several other antics above-mentioned,has made customers of Nigerian banking institutions skeptical as they opine that commercial banks are causing more confusion in the economy than in other sectors (Adamolekun & Ekundayo, 2007). Given all the complexities associated with the banking industry, it has become imperative that all organizations employ effective strategies to deal with such issues.
Furthermore, when the Nigerian economy is experiencing low activity in most sectors, the noose of financial indiscretion is tightened by the government for a more functional economy. However, there is now a prevalent phenomenon of acquisitions and mergers in the Nigerian banking sector. Some mergers and acquisitions which have occurred over the years are Oceanic Bank PLC and Ecobank Nigeria PLC, Intercontinental Bank PLC and Access Bank PLC and more recently, the acquisition of Diamond Bank PLC by Access bank PLC to expand the former’service delivery and achieve economies of scale and scope (Articles, 2013). It is, therefore, no surprise that some distressed banking institutions have ceased to exist. Invariably, surviving banks are now challenged to be ingenious, more prudent, and strategic in their approach to dealing with existing and prospective clients as well as in formulating marketing strategies (Adamolekun & Ekundayo, 2007). This being the case with the Nigerian banking industry, it is evident that there is a need to improve communication usingactive channels to build a good reputation; hence, the need for public relations.
Banks, therefore, in a bid to keep abreast of these developments have to take into consideration schemes and activities that will ensure it maintains positive relationships with its key stakeholders, hence, the need for Public Relations strategies. Some of the tools and techniques employed by public relations practitioners include press releases, blogging, newsletters, events, audio-visual releases, exhibitions, and social media marketing amongst a host of others.
In the era of instant communication, it is behooved of institutions in the Nigerian banking industry to employ the most appropriate PR tool(s) for disseminating key messages and information to customers. Thisis also required in addition to the issues mentioned above (digitization, new entrants in the industry et al.) faced by the Nigerian banking industry.
While other PR techniques are equally suitable for banking institutions, communication via social media remains a paramount platform for spreading information to customers. Social media which refer to a series of computer-mediated technologies (such as applications and websites) allow its users to share information on virtual platforms in real time. More recently, Social media allows for open and transparent dissemination of data with an organization and its various publics (Leben, Gardner, & D.Myers, 2015). Its ability to facilitate a more direct channel between organizations and their targets bypasses the ambiguity and complexity associated with other media channels. Since the organization itself remains the most trusted source of its information, social media provides it with an opportunity to clarify misinformation and relay key messages while taking accountability.
Social media which includes (but not limited to) media sharing sites, social bookmarking, wikis, social network sites, blogs are used to facilitate communication using the web. Its universal use has caused an enormous increase in the volume of User-generated Content which consists of videos, photos, texts accessible via the internet (Choudhury & Alani, 2014). The ubiquitous growth use and distinct features of social network platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have inspired institutions to promote their business values, products and key messages on social media. Consequently, this has helped in growing customer base, increasing sales, building positive brand reputation and communication of crucial product/service information (He, Zha, & Li, 2013). Although many banks are striving to develop effective social media strategies, many are still yet to actively engage with these new platforms. The level of engagement and social media activity can either benefit or impede a bank’s long-term success strategy and growth (Leben, Gardner, & D.Myers, 2015). If a bank’s social media strategy is notsituatedcorrectlyaround its customers’ experiences, it is likely heading towards failure (KPMG, 2012). This study, however, aims to focus on Instagram as its primary social network platform.
Instagram, which refers to a video and photo capturing mobile application with a distinct shareability feature, allows its users to capture life moments in instantaneous ways. Thisis aided through altered filters which transform the photos and videos’ appearance(Ting, Ming, Run, & Choo, 2015). Instagram also lets its users add hashtags and captions to their various posts to describe the content of their video or photo. Like Twitter, the social media application offers a social connectivity platform which allows its users to follow people of interest as well as tag or mention these “friends” using the @ symbol. The social network, Instagram is said to be a dynamo amongst rival networks like Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. Recent statistics indicate that a billion people use Instagram monthly and of these users, 500 million users actively engage with this social media platform daily (Clarke, 2019). These statistics double monthly Twitter users and triples the number of monthly Facebook and WhatsApp Users (Osman, 2018). Instagram’s key features such as its conducive interface; ease of use and navigation, visual aesthetics make the social network essential for online businesses’ strategies. The audio-visual storytelling application is a unique way for banks to communicate their key messages to their publics, form a relationship with them and build brand awareness (Glenwright, 2018).
In this competitive banking industry where customers can easily migrate at a relatively low cost, it is,therefore, imperative that banks seek to be different and innovative by building mutual understanding with its customers and investing in binding relationships as this is the cornerstone of gaining success (Logvinov, 2013). As earlier mentioned, due to the current competitive nature of the contemporary banking industry, banks need to utilize specific social media platforms to engage with their audience. Instagram on the one hand, reaches the younger generation and appeals to diverse societies more prevailingly than other social networking services Prior research also reports that younger audiences spend more time on Instagram than Facebook (Wendy, Jessie, Joanna, & Peta, 2013).This is because these users are driven to snap photosusing their mobile phones, and then instantly sharing these pictures with others (Wendy et al., 2013).
This study utilises Access Bank considering that it is one of the top 10 banks in Nigeria. Furtherjustification of thebank above stems from its recent merger plans with Diamond Bank PLC which makes the research timely. This merger, therefore suggests the need for communicating with its stakeholders to update and inform them of essential merger information as well as to counter the negative influences of its various publics on its operations.
1.2 Statement of Problem
Due to the ferocious competition accompanied by the struggles to maintain a relatively large market share in the Nigerian Banking industry, banking institutions are striving to sustain an adequate customer relationship strategy. This is done in a bid to yield better results and achieve set objectives (Cvijović, Kostić-Stanković, & Reljić, 2017). Thus, the need for banks to invest their efforts in providing added value to their customers as customers is king in every institution. Customers are one of the most critical stakeholders in the banking industry; banks will not exist without their patronage.
Furthermore, as earlier mentioned, changes in communication and technology have birthed the emergence of new media, digital media and social media. This has subsequently resulted in the dynamics of Public relations practices in the banking industry. Information is presently disseminated in real time across digital platforms using the internet. This is as opposed to the traditional or old media era where organisations could only communicate their messages via radio, television or print advertisement. As a result of this alteration in the manner in which banks disseminate its key messages to its publics, it is essential that public relations adapt to these technological changes to efficiently and effectively communicate to its customers and other publics (Verma, 2015).
Banks are using social media platforms to achieve this communication objective and customer relationship with its key stakeholders. Instagram provides banking institutions with a compelling and interactive interface which aligns with the values and needs of its customers hence, its adoption as a suitable tool for ‘humanising’ content and maintaining a positive relationship with customers.
This study seeks to examine the influence Instagram usage as a public relations strategy in the banking industry with special reference to Access bank, Lagos…has on establishing and maintaining positive, mutual understanding with customers in Access Bank, Lagos. Consequently, it will evaluate if this adoption is an effective public relations strategy that aids the bank mentioned aboveamidst the challenges it faces.
1.3 Research Objectives
- To identify the influence of Instagram usage on customer relations in Access Bank, Lagos.
- To evaluate the influence of Instagram as an effective public relations strategy in Access Bank, Lagos.
1.4 Research Questions
- To what extent does Instagram usage influence customer relations in Access Bank, Lagos?
- How effective is Instagram as a public relations strategy in Access Bank, Lagos?
1.5 Research hypotheses
H0: There is no influence of Instagram usage on customer relations in Access Bank
H1: There is a significant influence of Instagram usage on customer relations in Access Bank
H0: There is no relationship between instagram usage and customer usage in Access Bank
H1: There is a significant relationship between instagram usage and customer usage in Access Bank
1.6 Significance of the Study
As earlier mentioned, this study aims to examine the influence Instagram usage has on establishing and maintaining positive customer relations in the Nigerian banking industry. The research is relevant during this new media era where commercial communication channels have revolutionised,and public relations professional’sareexposed to a wide range of new communication media. It is therefore imperative to study Instagram as a social media platform that aids banks disseminate its key messages to its customers amid the challenges. This renders this study a timely one. Nigerian banking institutions are set to benefit from this research work as it would give banks an insight into the extent to which Instagram can be a suitable social media network that positively influences customer relationship. The study, although targeted at Access Bank, can serve as a reference point for other banks to inform them on whether or not Instagram is used as a successful public strategy.
PR practitioners are also set to benefit from this research as the research provides them with some insight into social media marketing (using Instagram) which will aid organisational policy making especially in the banking sector.
Access Bank Lagos is another beneficial stakeholder of the study as it will enable the organisation to understand its customer’ digital needs. The study will also aid the bank’s awareness of how effectiveInstagram is as a PR tool for communicating its vital information to its publics.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This research sets to examine how useful Instagram is in forming and maintaining a positive relationship with the customers in the Nigerian banking industry using Access Bank as its primary focus. It is limited t major Access bank branches in Lagos state as opposed to all its regionalsubsidiaries. Using a qualitative approach, it will only explore the insights of customers and public relations practitioners at these branches.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
A significant limitation to the study stems from the generalizability of the research work. The findings of the work may not apply to other Access bank branches nationwide as well as other Nigerian banks. A further limitation is the sample size of the research. A specific number of Access bank branches will be studied, and this may not give an accurate representation of other Access bank branches situated in the outskirts of Lagos State. Chosen research methodology and design also pose a constraint to the study as a result obtained from respondents may not wholly reflect the real findings of the study. Additionally, a seeming death of adequate research literature on Instagram and its effectiveness in the banking industry poses a limitation to the study.
1.8 Operational definition of terms
Instagram: This is a social networking application that allows itsusers to share images and videos via the internet.
Public Relations: This is the practice that entails the planned, sustained and deliberate efforts aimed at establishing and maintaining goodwill and communication of information between an organisation and its publics.
PR: An abbreviation of Public Relations
Public Relations Strategy: In the context of this work, PR strategy suggests the communication materials and means by which an organisation presents its offerings to its publics/ stakeholders in a bid to satisfy their needs and form a mutual understanding with them.
Customer Relations: This is the process by which an organisation establishes and sustains a positive relationship with its customers.
Nigerian Banking Industry: This entails all the banking institutions situated in Nigeria.
Influence: In the context of this research, influence refers to the effect of Instagram on banking activities.
Instagram Usage: The act of using Instagram’s features such as sharing videos, pictures, tagging followers, liking comments for various activities.
Access Bank: This is a multinational Nigerian commercial bank owned by Access Bank Group.
Can't find what you are looking for? Hire A Researchproject Writer To Work On Your Topic or Call 0806-703-7559.
Proceed to Hire a Writer »