Strategic communication management in the non–profit adult literacy sector
Wiggill, Magrita Nicolene
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In 2007 more than a quarter (26%) of the South African adult population was functionally illiterate. As a result many non-profit organisations (NPOs) in South Africa strive to raise adult literacy levels. Adult illiteracy leads to problems such as, amongst others, high levels of unemployment, poverty and crime. Most NPOs do not practice strategic communication management to build strong, lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with stakeholders. It is therefore difficult for many NPOs to achieve its mission and goals, because communication and stakeholder relationship management are not planned strategically, and clear relationship objectives for particular stakeholders are not set. A lack of funds as well as a lack of knowledge about the benefits of strategic communication management contributes to this debilitating situation. Steyn and Puth (2000) developed a model for strategic communication management, informed by the Excellence theory and relationship management theory. It was this study's aim to analyse South African NPOs in the adult literacy sector's current communication practices against the normative, theoretical Steyn and Puth model (2000) for strategic communication management. The purpose was to understand the participating NPOs' operational and strategic communication management context, since little research in this regard has been conducted. Against this background, the following general research question was asked: How can NPOs in the adult literacy sector in South Africa best practice strategic communication management within their specific context? In this qualitative study, in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with communication practitioners or personnel responsible for communication and/or the chief executive officer (CEO) of five NPO's focussing on the upliftment of adult illiteracy over a period of six months (May to October 2007). The aim was to understand the operational and strategic context of the NPO and to determine its approach to and implementation of communication management. Furthermore, a literature study of the participating NPOs' annual reports, other official documents and web sites was conducted in order to obtain comprehensive background information on each organisation and its communication practices. The study found that participating NPOs did not manage communication strategically, mainly because of a lack of knowledge on what strategic communication management entails and how it can contribute to organisational performance. This situation was made worse by the NPOs' lack of funding and specialised staff to implement strategic communication management. However, the NPOs did apply some of the principles of strategic communication management intuitively, and in most cases displayed a symmetrical organisational worldview. The main contribution of the study was to simplify the Steyn and Puth model, by taking the NPOs' current communication practices, as well as their constraints, into consideration. The simplified model would assist NPOs, with training, in the transition towards applying strategic communication management. NPOs would also understand the process of strategic communication management better, 'without changing or weakening the core of strategic communication management. It is recommended furthermore that NPOs should be trained to practice strategic communication and relationship management, in order to attain organisational goals more effectively. Specific recommendations regarding training, considering especially NPOs' funding constraint, is presented. A simplified strategic communication model and training would enable NPOs in the adult literacy sector in South Africa to fulfil their developmental role more effectively.
- Humanities