This report attempts to evaluate the National Youth Council (NYC) of Mauritius’ corporate communications strategy. It draws on the methodology of Mintzberg and colleagues to suggest that corporate strategy needs to take into account five Ps: perspective, position, ploy, plan and ultimately, pattern.
The ‘five Ps’ idea as a whole can be usefully adapted and developed to create a broader relationship-oriented understanding of corporate strategy, that is specifically applicable to contemporary public relations. Additionally, this report also uses Michel Foucault’s discourse perspective on corporate strategy. Strategy has been seen to be a developing set of practices. It has a distinct power influence and control in an organisation.
When a strategy is put forward as an fundamental component in the managerial discourse, it has to be tailor-made for a particular purpose in the organisation, because the strategy automatically becomes an instrument of power that converts an entity into other types of spheres which acquire a comfort through involvement in strategic undertakings. Here, conflict becomes an important factor which rises above the organisation’s culture and branding.
The National Youth Council (NYC) of Mauritius is a body corporate which operate under the aegis of Government of Mauritius’ Ministry of Youth and Sports. The officialdom was established by parliamentary session in March 1998, under the NYC Act 1998. The intent behind establishing a NYC was to create a bridge between the government and the youth of Mauritius (NYC, 2012).
Apart from granting affiliation and allocating grants to youth organisations in Mauritius, it also acts as an “advisory board to the Minister on the development and implementation of programmes to integrate youth in all sectors of national development” (NYC, 2012).
NYC’s corporate strategy
The importance of corporate strategy has increased gradually in the wake of globalisation, when all corporations are involved in global trade wars. In such a competitive PR and marketing environment, corporations which have better corporate strategy will alone survive, while others will perish (Reddi, 2009, p. 151).
- The process
A reputation and relationship-oriented understanding of strategy will produce reputation and relationship-oriented public relations (Linjuan, 2011). While strategising this approach, it is important to define the range of publics who are important to the organisation. Furthermore, the balance of symmetric and asymmetric public relations while conducting campaigns, the emphasis that will be placed on relationship-building outcomes, the values or ethical principles that are important, the general timeframe within which goals will be measured, and what kind of entity that NYC sees itself as being.
It has often been observed that a strategy is communicated in just a few sentences in a plan, yet those few sentences are crucial to the organisation as a whole, and to the scope and nature of any particular public relations plan.
- Critical analysis
In companies where the goal of public relations is to support the marketing department to sell products, services or to increase sales and targeted audience, a simple understanding of the word strategy will be sufficient. Dalton and Croft’s (2003: 155) defined strategy as the “process of identifying and analysing opportunities in the external environment, and adapting resources and capabilities to take advantage of them.”
However, when it comes about assessing the corporate strategy of an organisation like the National Youth Council (NYC) of Mauritius, Dalton and Croft’s (2003) definition looks imperfect. When the goal of PR is to build and maintain long-term relationships for the NYC with all of its current and future publics, the words ‘opportunities’ and ‘take advantage of’ are too limiting as parameters for strategy.
The NYC considers its relationship with various publics – local youth community, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), clubs, among others – as more important than immediate financial or profit advantage (GoM, 1988).
The PR corporate strategy of NYC is to concentrate on building long-term reputation through corporate citizenship, listening and responding to youth concerns, and ensuring that the relationship is authentic, consistent and responsive. This undoubtedly gives more credibility to the government, thus maintaining the integrity of the governing political party. For this kind of public relations, a highly developed understanding of strategy is required.
Evaluation: NYC’s corporate communications
Two strategy and communications frameworks have been used to assess the corporate communications strategy of the National Youth Council (NYC) of Mauritius. They are as follows:
- Henry Mintzberg’s 5Ps of strategy
- Michel Foucault’s Theory on Power
- Henry Mintzberg’s 5Ps of Strategy
Mintzberg and colleagues (Mintzberg, et al., 1998; Mintzberg, et al., 2003) suggest that strategy needs to take into account five Ps:
- Perspective – a fundamental way of doing business; that is values and norms;
- Position – in relation to market;
- Ploy – a deliberate plan or tactic relating to a specific competitor;
- Plan – a specific direction;
- Pattern – a consistent series of actions.
Position and ploy are clearly marketing-oriented principles; they refer clearly to market and competitor. In our context, the NYC is not concern with these elements. However, ‘five Ps’ idea as a whole can be usefully adapted and developed to create a broader relationship-oriented understanding of corporate strategy, that is specifically applicable to contemporary public relations. Table 1, which begins from the general premise of the ‘five Ps’ as suggested by Mintzberg et al. (1998, 2003), also provides definitions, insight about NYC’s current corporate strategy and recommendations for public relations.
Table 1: Five Principles of Strategy for Public Relations Mintzberg et al. (1998, 2003)
|Principle||Description||NYC current situation
|Perspective||Understand the organisation or client’s own nature and role, and perspective on the world.||
|Position||Understand the organisation’s position within the social web of all its relationships with publics – what is the nature and extent of its reputation with publics such as media, communities, staff, government, cyber-publics and other business in its industry?||
|Purpose||Clarify, broadly, what this public relations activity should achieve. Will you aim to fix particular gaps or misconceptions, or bring existing practices into line with publics’ expectations? What is your priority?||
|Process||In a very general sense, decide how you are going to achieve your purpose. What approach or direction will you take to het the organisation closer to its goals?||
|Pattern||Ensure your strategy statement is consistent with the organisation’s overall perspective, position and purpose.||
Mintzberg and colleagues’ ‘first P’, perspective, provides a solid foundation for any strategy. Just as identifying our own biases and assumptions can help us relate successfully to others in interpersonal relationships, every organisation needs to know itself, understand its own values and cultural norms, and set clear expectations for its own behaviour in order to relate to its publics. This creates an important first practical step for strategising.
The ‘second P’, position, refers only to ‘position in market’ in their original conceptualisation (Mintzberg, et al., 1998; Mintzberg, et al., 2003), but for contemporary public relations – which is concerned with relationships across a broader front than just immediate targetted audience – we can expand this to ‘position in relation to all publics’. A second practical step in strategising, then, again involves researcg, but this time to understand who the organisation’s publics are, and what its relationshops are like with each.
No public relations strategy can proceed to the ‘third P’, purpose, without first understanding the nature and extent of the organisation’s links with its publics, and identifying the issues which impact on the support or otherwise it may receive from publics now or in the future when trying to achieve that purpose.
Mintzberg and colleagues use plan for their ‘fourth P’, but I have used the word process as it fits the context of the NYC. Decisions about process are high-level decisions about the philosophical approach behind the corporate strategy. Will the process involve, for example, mostly informing people of NYC’s perspective, or mostly increasing opportunities for two-way communication to build long-term relationships, or mostly gaining a better understanding of its publics and their expectations?
The ‘final P’, pattern, usefully reminds us that in order to build and maintain trust with publics, NYC’s activities need to be consistent over time. Does its proposed strategy build upon the reputational strengths identified when relationships with publics were analysed at step two, position?
- Michel Foucault’s Theory on Power
Power is everywhere. In society, power is tied to ‘knowledge’ – getting ‘your truth’ recognised as ‘the truth’. According to Foucault, both power and truth can be considered as one thing: ‘power/knowledge’.
“The exercise of power perpetually creates knowledge and, conversely, knowledge constantly induces effects of power” (Foucault, 1980).
Strategy has been seen to be a developing set of practices. It has a distinct power influence and control in an organisation. When a strategy is put forward as an fundamental component in the managerial discourse, it has to be tailor-made for a particular purpose in the organisation, because the strategy automatically becomes an instrument of power that converts an entity into other types of spheres which acquire a comfort through involvement in strategic undertakings. Here, conflict becomes an important factor which rises above the organisation’s culture and branding.
Power is a series of relationships, persistently slightly shifting between those with more and more ability to act in society. Foucault sees public relations as a discourse practice with power effects (Foucault, 1980).
When the National Youth Council (NYC) of Mauritius created its corporate strategy, and got established as a legitimate entity under the aegis of the Ministry of Youth and Sports within several discourse contexts, they constructively used specific power/knowledge constitutions (NYC Act, 1988) to ascertain new truths in Mauritius. Normalisation becomes the very basis of this course of action. According to Foucault (1980), only corporate bodies which function within discourse norms will be acknowledged by the public as ‘truth’.
– KRISHNA ATHAL
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