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Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502

Stephanie Harris Public Relations and Communications Corporate Communications Individual Essay CCA503 06/12/13

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502

Sainsbury's PLC is a well established company within the United Kingdom, they were established in 1869 and currently are holding the position of the second largest supermarket chain in the country, this essay will set out how Sainsbury's are currently communicating their community relations issues to all of its key stakeholders. Analysing who Sainsbury's are currently responsible to communicate with and in turn understanding when they interact with them and how they go about doing so. Corporate Communications is key to a business, helping allow the different sectors of a business to work together to communicate the organisations performance successfully, "Corporate communication is a management function that offers a framework for the effective coordination of all internal and external communication with the overall purpose of establishing and maintaining favourable reputations with stakeholders groups upon which the organization is dependent" (Cornelissen 2008, cited in S Roper 2006 Pg. 213). Community relations are a key contributor to a company's success, especially as a supermarket; it is in Sainsbury's best interest to ensure their communications flows as successfully as possible with its stakeholders. Community Relations was defined by CIPR as "Corporate social outreach programmes designed to build relations and foster understanding of the role of the business to neighbours in the local community." (, 2013) Those in the local communities with interests in Sainsbury's will have high expectations of the values that Sainsbury's put forward; the way in which the supermarket operates with them could have lasting negative impacts if they are not up to the expected standards. Gower states that stakeholders expectations are based on previous interactions with the organisations, he believes that their views and opinions are based on the interaction and outcomes with a company, also believing the more frequent the interaction the stronger the trust (Fitzpatrick & Bronstein, 2006, Pg. 92), this theory helps back up the importance of strong communication with all four key business components, with strong communication links leading to a stronger overall business with loyal customers and stakeholders. Sainsbury's have based themselves on their five main values, formed to helped develop the company whilst ensuring that their overall aim is met ' to be the most trusted retailer where people like to work and shop', using these visions Sainsbury's have set up a 20/20 plan in which they aim to achieve 20 sustainability targets by 2020. The argument will be discussed as to how well Sainsbury's are presenting themselves to outside parties, the essay will then begin to look at whether the company offers specific messages to particular stakeholders or whether they form general and broad messages that in turn may confuse stakeholders and cause unnecessary noise. Community relations issues may also have effects on other components of a business, such as public affairs, investor relations or even media relations, through research and observations we will then begin to see which messages are being shown to which groups of people. The way in which this communication is channelled can also be important to its interest groups as we will

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502

then acknowledge whether messages are shown through set sources or varied such as internet sources, CSR reports or through the media itself. Although different sources may not be relevant to them specifically, allowing this may have an overall effect on the success of their corporate communication influencing the way the organisation is viewed by specific stakeholders. After closely researching Sainsbury's it is fair to say Sainsbury's try to promote a fairly equal amount of information to all its stakeholder groups regarding community relations, with sources of information reaching all four components, however it is clear certain components of the organisation are favoured and highlighted receiving clear direct links to community messages. Sainsbury's have a number of key stakeholders all wanting different information and all using varied communication channels, a lot of the time they will also have different values and expectations of the company itself and what they want from them. A stakeholder "refers to a groups or individuals who have an interest or stake in an entity such as an organisation" (Theaker, 2012, Pg. 112). Supermarkets are very focused on continual improvement of their corporate social responsibility putting a strong importance on all their community relations issues and achievements, Sainsbury's base themselves on their work with local areas and for this reason ensure that they promote any achievements to a wide range of stakeholders, specifically media relations. It is clear Sainsbury's promote their community relations throughout their business to the majority of their stakeholders. The company use a wide variety of sources to communicate with their stakeholders the main being digitally with their websites and social media. Sainsbury's PLC website is a perfect example of this with a direct link to many investors, media, bloggers and those with interest in the current success of the business. In this section anyone accessing the PLC website is instantly introduced to the main community relation messages and aims that Sainsbury's have set out such as their 5 main values as well as links to their 20/20 sustainability plan and the latest updates and stories on campaigns. The website is a main source of information specifically for investor relations as there are links to reports and financial updates as well as public affairs regulators who will have continual access to the website, therefore opening them to widen their knowledge of community issues. As mentioned earlier it is important for Sainsbury's to continue to engage with all stakeholders giving them positive views of the company as a whole whilst allowing them to gain a strong relationship and reduce any uncertainty towards Sainsbury's. Graham Kenny (2001) formed a management system based on strategic factors, which are the areas and ways in which a business need to get right to succeed with its stakeholders. He believes managers should ask their stakeholders how they feel the business is performing and look from the outside in (Kenny 2001, cited in Freeman 2010, Pg. 114). Developing strong relationships and communication channels with stakeholders can help build a business allowing them to understand and set common objectives and goals.

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502

Sainsbury's continue to show their strength throughout their corporate communication, one channel of messaging they use is their CSR report which is updated every year and is available on their PLC website. Although this report is directly aimed at Sainsbury's community relations it is also an available and interesting source for the media, the report highlights the changes and improvements the business are making that year to their communities helping them reach their 20/20 aim. Although this is not directly linked to the media, this is something bloggers and other media outlets are very interested in selling stories, keeping Sainsbury's good causes out in the public whilst insuring their stakeholders are in the know with what is currently happening. Throughout the report whilst informing stakeholders of their current positioning the theme of trust is highlighted regularly, in that Sainsbury's want all of their stakeholder groups to feel that they are the most trustworthy retailer, this is another key strength of the business reinforcing to their stakeholders the corporate strategies and current themes they are promoting. This repetition of the same community messages can be argued to be helping the business by promoting consistent messaging, "it is important to be consistent in the way these messages are conveyed as this will help avoid confusion and misunderstanding and promote clarity, interaction and the development of suitable relationships" (Roper, 2012, Pg. 226). Sainsbury's Annual report is another main direct link to all of its stakeholders, with shareholders, employees, media, investors and even customers accessing this report. This is another key example of strong promotion of community affairs within the business, informing anyone reading the report of the different actions taking place within the year. However on the other hand it can be seen that Sainsbury's communication chains are not always found to be as strong in certain areas, such as their point of sale communications where there is almost no form of communication relating to their community relations and projects. Another main issue that is seen is the little interaction with public affairs in particular, as there are very few sources of information directed to the government departments that are referring to community relations. Even the areas where community issues are raised are still very unspecific and vague, for instance Sainsbury's corporate governance statement although very specific to public affairs it does not give them a wider understanding of what is going on in the business within the local areas. A businesses' communication links can have strong impacts on the way in which it operates and can impact the relationships with its workers, this was argued by Grunig who stated that "the value of public relations at the societal level is the long term impact of good relationships identified at the organisational level and cultivated at the program level" (Grunig, cited in Fitzpatrick, 2006, Pg. 68) suggesting that Sainsbury's poor communication with stakeholders such as their link with public affairs may lead to weak relationships within the organisation and primarily giving its stakeholders negative preconceptions.

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502

It has be argued that corporate communication is more complex than just ensuring messages are sent correctly and can actually help form a company's reputation, this phrase refers to "the stakeholders overall evaluation of the qualities associated with the company (image) and the emotional reaction those qualities produce (reputation)" (Dowling 1994, Pg. 116) , it is important for Sainsbury's to keep on top of their reputation management as it is important for stakeholders to hold a good opinion of the business and help it run smoothly overall. This can also be seen through the lack of community representation in some investor relations sources. Sainsbury's investor centre for instance is key for all financial stakeholders, giving them a vast amount of information of the current financial status of the company, however it is clear there is a lack of significant information regarding community issues. Although there are other sources for investor relations that may hold more information, the investor centre is specifically set up by the company for its financial investors therefore it should be a crucial source to inform them of community affairs. Sainsbury's failing to meet all its stakeholders needs and not giving them a strong degree of interaction may weaken the corporation, putting strong emphasis on the balance a company should have between all four main components. On balance it can be seen that Sainsbury's are very strong in certain areas and are excelling in communication within their media and community relations in particular, this was seen whilst researching into why Sainsbury's believe all publicity is not good publicity debate. The argument was based on why Sainsbury's do not agree just receiving publicity to gain attention will positively impact the company, Sainsbury's have had a number of stories in the media that could have had devastating impacts for instance when a story was released about a blade found in a chicken kiev(, 2013). Sainsbury's acted promptly on this case, issuing an apology and compensation to the customer, as well as informing other stakeholders, with a spokeswomen informing the local media that an investigation into the case would take place, and recalls on the products if deemed necessary. It is clear from Sainsbury's reaction that they understand the damage poor press and weak communication can have, emphasizing to the media relations that this was a mistake and not the usual high standards of the supermarket, this could link back to Dowling (1994) emphasising the importance of Sainsbury's keeping a strong reputation management with its stakeholders, proving in this case Sainsbury's stick to having quick open and straight forward communication links. Overall it is apparent that Sainsbury's are outstanding in their communication with media relations, Sainsbury's have a number of media channels in which continue to promote community relations and themes, the main being their Sainsbury's PR twitter account with continual updates of community fundraising and issues, as well as their media toolkit which provides journalists and anyone with interests links to stories majority specific to community relations. For instance the recent stunt using their social media sights helps show this success, with 'little story'

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502

YouTube videos, using employees to promote current achievements and improvements being made to the business, to do with their 20/20 sustainably vision (,2013). The promotion of these videos through media sources, bloggers, their website and social media sites has helped enable key stakeholders with a better understanding of their community overall visions, whilst promoting the business' strong corporate social responsibility to consumers and employees. In conclusion it has been shown that Sainsbury's understand the importance of strong communication, they are currently trying to promote their community relations fairly equally to all stakeholders, however it can be seen that media relations is highly targeted compared to investor relations and public affairs. Sainsbury's base themselves on their strong heritage and values making it a strong importance to them to promote their successful ethics and corporate social responsibility schemes too all their stakeholders, it is clear the importance of clear communication is important, due to their vast amount of tools to send messages, including their annual and CSR reports, social media and their plc website in general. This wide variety of channels used by Sainsbury's means that there is a reduced chance of stakeholders having confusion with what messages and information they are receiving. Sainsbury's strong links with media relations can be argued to have many benefits, with strong communication leading to benefits such as strong stakeholder reputation as well as a better overall performance and motivation which was earlier argued by Grunig (2006). The evidence given of Sainsbury's, with continual efforts to admit when mistakes are made, apologising to stakeholders and in turn promoting their developments within the community helps show the commitment Sainsbury's put into their corporate communications. In reflection Sainsbury's in future scenarios should ensure stakeholders such as public affairs and financial investors are getting the same amount of information and interaction as others, helping them to understand the shared goals set out by the company, as well as how they are achieving them. Although it is clear Sainsbury's aim to meet all stakeholders needs and gain their trust, the quantity is still unbalanced, if this continues it has been argued to have negative consequences on the business. Continual poor communication to stakeholders may have wider implications in the long term, it has been argued that weak communication can lead to a lack of trust from stakeholders, as Roper (2012) argued without continual consistent messaging a company may suffer from confusion and misunderstanding and even weaken relationships within the organisation. This would damage a supermarket in particular as Sainsbury's emphasize the importance of their CSR, basing themselves of what they give back to the communities. Although Sainsbury's have an overall strong corporate communication process making improvements to certain areas could not only help highlight the performance of the company but also will help communicate the

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502

brand value and reputation to its customers, stakeholders and the target audience and consequently help conduct the business effectively.

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502

Reference List 2013. PR dictionary | CIPR. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 4 Dec 2013]. 2013. Talk about a sharp taste! Mum discovers metal blade inside daughter's chicken kiev. [online] Available at: Dowling, G. 1994. Corporate reputations. Melbourne: Longman Professional. Dudovskiy, J. 2012. Sainsbury’s Communications Strategy. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 29 Nov 2013]. Fitzpatrick, K. and Bronstein, C. 2006. Ethics in public relations - responsible advocacy. London: Sage publications. Freeman, R., Freeman, R., Harrison, J., Wicks, A., Parmar, B. and De Colle, S. 2010. Stakeholder Theory. Cambridge University Press. 2013. J Sainsbury plc / Little Stories. [online] Available at: 2013. J Sainsbury plc / Home. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 1 Dec 2013]. Roper, S. and Roper, S. 2012. Corporate reputation. Harlow, England: Pearson. Small Business - 2013. The Effects of Bad Communication in Business. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 26 Nov 2013]. Theaker, A. 2013. the public relations handbook. 4th ed. Oxon: Routledge. 2013. Sainsbury's PR (Sainsbury's PR) on Twitter. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 1 Dec 2013]. working relationships with colleagues and stakeholders. 2013. Untitled. [online] Available at:[Acc essed: 29 Nov 2013].

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502

Appendix Debate one- All publicity is good publicity Sainsbury's would be against this motion, they believe that publicity good or bad will impact the business and it is not a risk worth taking. Sainsbury's plc base themselves on their values and strong CSR, although bad publicity may bring visibility and brand awareness at what cost is this happening? At Sainsbury's poor brand reputation means going against everything that they stand for and offer to our stakeholders, with our main message 'to be the most trusted retailer where people love to work and shop' if the company was thought to be dishonest then everything Sainsbury's have built would be lost, and with such large competition customers may even change brands. An example of this could be the recent horse meat scandal, although this was not directly linked to Sainsbury's it is just a prime example of the devastating effects bad press can have on a supermarket, with Tesco's falling 30% in market share. If the customers feel a trust is broken, especially with food related produce it is very hard to gain back that trust and loyalty. The public worldwide have high expectations when purchasing there food nowadays there have been a number of examples with bad press at Sainsbury's and even with an apology and compensation the trust that is lost is never won back. Public opinion is never easily swayed, and now more than ever publicity can be so damaging to a business, the social media increase as well has meant that it is easier for a business to be slated and for messages to go global, they won't just disappear. CSR and strong ethics is no longer a nice thing to have and is now a norm for companies, bad press will give stakeholders the impression that we are not trustworthy and are not sticking to our promises.

Debate two- What the public think doesn't always matter Sainsbury's would again be against this statement, the consumers are everything to a supermarket and all decisions are based on their views and opinions. It can be argued that the public's opinion can be swayed and decisions should be made to maximise profits worrying about the public's after. This is against what Sainsbury's believe as they put a lot of time and money to ensure that their decision are all ethically done and no one is harmed, they have even set aims to form a 20/20 sustainability plan to meet 20 ethical requirements by 2020. If decision were made that would have negative consequences onto the public's, trust and the strong brand reputation that has been build would be lost. It is not in Sainsbury's interest to make a little bit of extra profit and risking losing loyal customers rather than doing things ethically and making less. It can also be argued that Sainsbury's choosing to take a ethical route, putting its customers first will lead to them not only keeping their loyal customers but also gaining customers that want to work with a organisation that is not thinking about the quickest way to make money. There is no strong evidence of Sainsbury's going against the consumers, however there are numerous amounts of where they admit there wrong doings, for instance the recent apology that was issued to a customer after an employee refused service until a mobile

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502 phone call was ended. This is proof that Sainsbury's stick by the customer always comes first, even going against its own workforce. It is clear this has helped establish Sainsbury's as the third current supermarket in the company, as it was even seen a slight increase in twitter followers following the incident, proving the trust the company provides is leading to a stronger loyal customer base.

Debate three- Shareholders are more important than customers Sainsbury's would be against this statement that shareholders hold more importance than customers. As a PLC business Sainsbury's have a vast amount of stakeholders all with different interests and expectations in the business, it is of importance to them to ensure that all stakeholders needs are met. Not one particular group is more important and specifically not shareholders just down to the investment in the organisation. This is not a small organisation and as a supermarket the customers are of key importance because their views and values of the company can have strong impact on the success and performance, if Sainsbury's were to value shareholders more they would probably not be in the position they are today. It is clear from Sainsbury's annual reports and CSR reports that there is a strong focus on keeping customers and communities happy, making sure the businesses success does not harm those around. Sainsbury's feel that their success should be turned around and used to help in any way possible, this can be seen from their 20/20 sustainability vision as they give back to the environment and their consumers.

Debate four- You don't always have to tell the truth to the press Sainsbury's would be against this motion, that the press should not be always be informed, this is because Sainsbury's have very strong links with their Media relations stakeholders. Sainsbury's have a number of communication channels with the media including blogs, stories, and the use of a number of social media sites, all with recent updates and stories both good and bad. Although Sainsbury's are not proud of some of the mistakes they have made, it is clear they take a very honest route, holding their hands up and dealing with the consequences. There are a number of examples of this, there was an e-coli outbreak that left 18 people seriously ill in hospital due to Sainsbury's own brand cress, as well as a blade being found in Sainsbury's own brand chicken kievs. Sainsbury's took immediate reaction to this issues, sending out formal apologies, compensation to the victims as well as looking deeper into the issues. Although this had negative impacts on the company, overall it can be viewed as a positive, showing the strong trust Sainsbury's gives to its customers. If Sainsbury's were to be found to have lied to the press, their brand would be viewed in a negative manner and a stigma of an untrustworthy brand planted not only in customers minds but of all stakeholders as Sainsbury's promote honesty and a sense of openness with everyone. It is less of a risk for Sainsbury's to tell the truth and deal with the repercussions than be found to be lying or hiding information from the media and customers and risk losing their strong brand image.

Stephanie Harris/ Corporate Communications/Individual Essay/ CCA502 Key Messages Current performance and results of the year  Sainsbury's main strategy to reach targets - 5 values  forecast of upcoming year and events

Institutional investors Brokers

Private Investors

Investor Relations Regulators


Local, National & International Relations

Key Messages commitments to the community and ethical trade  current success and progress  2020 vision and progress

New mediaBlogs


Financial media

Public Affairs


Media Relations


Government Departments


Local/National Press

Trade Press

Local Councils Local Government


Community Relations

Staff & Employees Investors

Services Suppliers

Planning Authorities Transport

Trade Associations

Local Media Relations

Customer Relations

Special Interest Groups

Transport & Logistics

Charities & Sponsorships

Waste Brand Image


Trade Press Promotions

Complaint Handling

Key Messages The five main values and Sainsbury's approach  20x20 Sustainability Plan  Ethical Trading policies and commitments  Overall Goal - to make all our customers' lives easier every day by offering great quality and service at fair prices

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