Multinational enterprises and public relations : a study of the bauxite/alumina companies in Jamaica
Shaw, Audley Fitz-Albert
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Multinational enterprises have in recent years come under the intense scrutiny of the world community. The modus operandi of these institutions has undergone some transformation partly as a response to this increased visibility. This study concerns the public relations problems and activities of multinationals and focuses on the public relations functions of the five bauxite/alumina companies (multinationals) operating in Jamaica. This project was an exploratory and descriptive exercise. The literature search contains an historical overview of multinationals, the consequences associated with them, and their public relations problems and implications. Information was collected in Jamaica based on interviews with the public relations managers of the companies. The public relations functions of these companies were found to be based on long-term, responsible activities with a pattern of community involvement and carefully nurtured goodwill. It was found that good, sustained, and socially responsible performance at community levels was the main determinant of overall goodwill and the tendency for achieving negotiated settlements. This finding, at least in this experience, debunks the popularly held theory that the host government is the eminently primary public relations public of the multinational company. The study also confirmed that firms which are naturally high in profile, whether due to bigness or the nature of their businesses, are obliged to adopt high visibility communication strategies, as low visibility communication strategies tended to detract from a positive image. It also was confirmed that successful public relations initiatives are not necessarily based on the size of the public relations budget, but the dexterity with which the public relations strategy is conducted. Overall, the study concludes that multinationals may not affect developing host countries in a "generic” way, but that it was manifest in the Jamaican experience, that responsible, empathetic performance by multinationals over the long haul is bound to pay off dividends.