Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Arts

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr Dennis Wood

Second Advisor

Dr Danielle Brady

Abstract

In a competitive environment in Taiwan, not-for-profit organisations (NPOs) seek to differentiate themselves from other NPOs. ‘Brand’ improves the internal functions and competitiveness of these NPOs; attracts funding to them by making use of public relations (PR) strategies and techniques and expanding the access to public resources; and also conveys a slick corporate image to the public. This research project has adopted a PR perception of leading marketing concepts to look at charity brand strategy. This approach has been taken instead of the more common marketing-oriented perspective. NPOs exist because of their public service or social welfare missions. The best way to increase income is to raise accountability and interactions with the public or corporations through ethical relationship management as part of NPO PR practice. This thesis takes as its subject the Eden Social Welfare Foundation, which was established in 1985 and is one of Taiwan’s top five NPOs. The challenges faced by Eden in presenting itself as a caring, non-partisan organisation in an age of branding, competition and a public sensitive to the ethos of charity is investigated. The purpose of this study is to: (1) explore the role of branding within PR; (2) discuss how media represents NPOs to their stakeholders; (3) investigate co-branding issues in cooperative relationships involving differential power relations; (4) investigate the ethical risk of mission drift, where NPOs charged with a public mission can lose their way by becoming corporatised. In a comprehensive overview of the complexity of NPO PR, branding and power relations in Taiwan, relationship management has been shown to be at the heart of NPO PR. Trust is the critical element that ensures the organisation stays on the right path. This research has found, on one hand, that higher brand value facilitates better communication and involves shifts of power through brand power, media access, social networking and know-how. Co-branding and media coverage are assistant contributors, through framing, in building the charity brand. On the other hand, the study suggests ways to rethink the negotiation of power relations and the social perspectives between the public interest and commerce. Consideration should be given to a monitoring system for NPOs to ensure accountability and visibility that guarantees the public interest. The results also suggest that investment in training and upgrading skills in communication with outsiders is important in Taiwan, as part of NPO PR practice.

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