Public Relation is a core, and an exceedingly important, factor of any organisation or industry. Given competitive times, exponential growth of the media industry and the increased clutter in every sector, PR is required to bring sanctity and perspective to a company’s position and viewpoint. In India, however, the PR industry still has a long way to go. I say this not because I am looking at domain developments. If I was, I may as well have called 2010 PR’s best year ever with international PR brands growing in India, the likes of acquisitions and expansions that have happened in the year or even the efforts made in digital media comprehension and getting more active on the multiple needs of the clients.
I say this because, we are still talking of an industry that believes in mailing press notes, calling people (on mobile phones, without texting or ensuring that the other person is not engaged) and then believing in a conversation which goes something like: ‘We sent you a press note. Can you please carry it?’ The drawback is the formation of a perception in a young reporter’s mind that you have not missed much if you have missed a PR person’s call. And from experience, I can tell you, you cannot be more wrong. PR people do have important information to share at times, important collaborations to speak of and today, not much of this is leveraged because the industry has failed to put in an efficient system in place.
Before I move forward, I must add that I have spoken so far from the agency side of the business. The corporate communication side is another game altogether. And at least in the media and advertising companies, I know professionals who have come from PR agency backgrounds, but operate very differently. They are my pillars of faith in the PR industry’s future.
Coming back to the core point, the PR industry in India is not living a rosy life.
In that, enter Niira Radia. Pretty much someone that any aspiring PR entrepreneur would want to be, but surprisingly not very popular, at least for industry outsiders or newcomers. But above all else, the single service provider who was controlling PR for both Tata and Mukesh Ambani - talk about conflict management!
The more I heard the ‘controversial’ Niira Radia tapes, the more I realised, so many of these conversations like the ones with The Economic Times’ Rahul Joshi are ‘normal’. Anyone could have had these conversations. At a much smaller level, in fact, it reminded me of conversations that even trade journalists have – PR person and journalist friendship, a ‘give me an exclusive-give me a breaking news’ kind of conversation is not so uncommon.
But the Niira Radia instance makes one wonder, would this impact, rather, should this impact the normal PR executive and reporter relation?
Surely, when the whole media fraternity is being lambasted for lack of credibility, even the not-sitting-on-the-high-chair journalist must be deliberating on what is happening around her/ him. Why are her/ his icons dragged into a controversy that she/ he best understands from what is told to her/ him by others? How does this affect her/ him as a journalist? How much is normal in her/ his conversations with a PR person? How much of indulging is alright?
We have had the chance to work with people in both Vaishnavi and Vitcom. Both have a very healthy share of intelligent and push press release kind of PR executives. Are their relations with the media now changed? I honestly don’t know. I don’t even know whether the clients of Vaishnavi, which by the way is largely TATA, but nonetheless there are others, and Vitcom worried with what is going on, or even bothered?
The Niira Radia tapes have further hurt media’s already questioned credibility, but at the same time, they surely have done a huge disservice to the PR industry as well – doesn’t matter if Niira Radia was only doing her job, according to some.