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PRWatch Credibility is the foundation on which the entire PR industry works: Dr Sanjaya Baru

Credibility is the foundation on which the entire PR industry works: Dr Sanjaya Baru

Author | Souvik Mitra | Saturday, May 22,2010 8:45 AM

Credibility is the foundation on which the entire PR industry works: Dr Sanjaya Baru

The first ever India PR & Corporate Communications Summit, organised by the exchange4media Group in association with Adfactors Public Relations, saw the stalwarts and the very best brains of the public relations and corporate communications industry converge at The Oberoi Hotel, New Delhi.

The Summit commenced with a welcome address by Anurag Batra, Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, exchange4media Group, where he highlighted the need of such events in the future. The discussions of the day started with an Address by Chief Guest Dr Sanjaya Baru, Editor, Business Standard, and former Press Advisor to the Prime Minister of India.

Highlighting the importance of credibility in PR, Dr Baru said, “Credibility is the foundation on which the entire PR industry works.” Quoting from the Mahabharata, he suggested that even if one was telling the half truth, one had to say it convincingly enough and one should never forget to keep an exit door open in the process. Speaking on the need for a professional to manage one’s public relations, Dr Baru presented the case of Shashi Tharoor, former Minister of State for External Affairs. Tharoor was a PR professional in his capacity at the United Nations and a professional good enough for Kofi Anan, the then UN Secretary General, to see him as his probable successor. However, Dr Baru pointed out, even such a great PR professional couldn’t manage his own PR very well, referring to the Minister having to quit over the IPL fracas.

Stressing on the credibility factor, Dr Baru further said, “Conveying your client’s credibility and ensuring your own credibility is the first step.” He added, “The differentiating factor between PR and corporate communications is the existence of a more pro-active touch in the former. Corporate communications essentially has a more subtle approach.”

Dr Baru suggested four key pointers or binaries in the PR industry:

• Is the PR professional a facilitator of information or an obstructor who stops the information from reaching the concerned person?
• Is the PR professional a gatekeeper, filtering the required information and passing it on or a roadblock in the way of desired information?
• Are the people with whom a PR professional is dealing with, friends or are they adversaries?
• What should one chose between information and disinformation?

He observed that for a successful PR professional, a healthy mix of all the opposites was essential. According to him, “A successful PR professional should always know which role to assume and when. It is also important to play fair, and more importantly, to be seen playing fair.”

Dr Baru concluded his address by stressing on the need for a superior product for publicity. He admitted that he was extremely uncomfortable when he was assigned with the responsibility of Press Advisor to the Prime Minister of India. But the key to his survival was some clever lines that he put in the media. He compared the Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, as a BMW car and himself as a salesman selling it. So, when the product and the brand itself were so good, there was not much he had to do to sell it.

Dr Baru’s address was followed by a Q&A session with Anurag Batra. On being asked if there had been a change in the credibility index over the years, he said that contrary to popular beliefs, the professional responsibility index had actually gone up. He attributed the reason to the immensely fierce competition in the market. Dr Baru emphasised that there was no evidence to suggest an increase in dishonesty despite the levels of competition today.

When asked about his views on legalising the PR industry, Dr Baru observed that India, as a country, was obsessed with legislations and rights. “However, nobody pays any attention to the implementation,” he lamented.

The session concluded with Dr Baru suggesting that the most important corrective mechanism was competition itself. He expressed his apprehensions on trends that threatened competition.

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