The public relations industry has unwillingly been brought to the forefront in recent times due to the controversy stirred up over lobbying. “There is a huge difference between PR and lobbying. We live in interesting times, where we as an industry need to introspect and ask ourselves whether we are hiring good talent and if there is a need for good talent,” observed Shivnath Thukral, Group President, Corporate Branding and Strategic Initiatives, Essar Group.
On the other hand, Veena Gidwani, Chief Executive Officer, Madison PR, contested the very real need for public relations, over and above advertising, to help in brand building. She pointed out the key differences in PR and lobbying and said, “There is a confusion between the two because both services are at times offered by the consultancy or agencies.” She also went on to say that public relations today was beyond placement of releases and had moved to a place where clients asked for strategic communication plans.
Roma Balwani, who heads communications for Mahindra & Mahindra, observed that due to the information overload, there was a need to form a strategic roadmap that was in sync with the client’s portfolio. She also expressed the need to demystify the tainted status that the industry had acquired and wondered, “Where should the line be drawn?” Ethical advocacy and a need to legalise lobbying was another call of the day. “This will give creditability to the profession and the industry should come together to draft a legislation,” she stressed.
“Corruption is corruption, anywhere in any form and, therefore, equating a profession with it is not valid,” emphasised Ashwani Singla, Managing Director and Chief Executive, South Asia, Penn Schoen Berland, while speaking about the creditability of PR today. He further said, “Today, audiences are sceptical. Public relations delivers a message to audiences with a preferential purpose, not a vested interest.” In terms or challenges and core issues faced by the industry, he remarked, “Transparency from the service provider and a need for disclosure of interest and a limitation on funding is required.”
The speakers were at the 11th CII Annual Marketing Summit, hosted in Mumbai on April 1, 2011, which was the second day of the Summit. This edition was chaired by Essar’s Shivnath Thukral.