How crucial is corporate communication in PSUs?

Experts feel that brand visibility is indispensable in government bodies too

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Mar 2, 2020 5:02 PM

Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) is a state-owned enterprise in India. The roles include employment generation, balanced regional development, capital and public sector formation and research and development. These entities not only provide a huge advantage to the government to intrude in the economy but also enhance the lives of people who are directly or indirectly involved by their socio-economic objectives.

Here, the role of communication plays a key role. Corporate communication is quintessential in such bodies in order to ensure a proper flow of information.  Talking about the importance of communication for PSUs, Sumita Dutta, Executive Director (Corporate Affairs) at Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL) said that corporate communications in PSUs is different from that in other organisations. "Be it a government entity or a private organization, visibility is important. In the age of naked media and extravagant social media, branding has become immensely important.  At SAIL, we focus more on communication to bring a change in the rural areas of the country. Several schemes have been rolled out to improve the living standards and empower people of rural areas," she said.

Further explaining the significance, Vinod Agrahari, Senior Manager, Media & PR -GST Network said: “Communication needs of PSUs are different from other corporates. Government, being the majority shareholder of the PSUs, the communication is limited to the few stakeholders. On the other hand, they have to be accountable for their working and are mandated to provide the information sought by the citizens under the RTI Act. Since profit-making has never been the prime objective of the PSUs because of its social and national obligations, the aspect of brand recall has not been taken very seriously. However, things are changing now. With the Government’s disinvestment policy, the PSUs have started adopting new-age corporate practices in terms of communication and brand recall.”

PSUs too have brand recall significance. “A strong brand recall helps us in sustaining our brand image and enhance our brand identity by using various media tools available including social and traditional”, explained K.M. Prashanth- Corp Comm Head at NTPC.

Crisis management is another important area to consider when talking about PSUs. The most crucial part of crisis management is reacting with the right response quickly. “As a PSU, credibility and transparency in disseminating information, are the two principals that govern our working principles as we are Government-owned companies. So, at the time of crisis, we remain extremely cautious about the facts that reach our stakeholders. A crisis is always sudden and it affects the image of the company immensely. As a responsible corporate, at the time of crisis, we scrutinise and analyse the situation and frame the plan of action accordingly to avert any outflow of misinformation. We also ensure that during the crisis period, senior management is involved in reaching the desired solutions for relief”, explained Prashanth.

In the digital era, where social media is full of rumours, fake news can hamper the organization’s reputation to a large extent. It is always better that we also keep social media handles as a source for authentic info for all stakeholders

“We have received appreciation from media houses for proactive crisis handling and release of authentic information. SAIL has taken initiatives like Crisis Management Protocol (CMP) for structured communication and time-bound action for a crisis if any”, added Sumita Dutta.

PSUs have been a major contributor to social development and employment generation. Unlike private companies, PSUs follow the Government’s reservation policies ensuring social justice and development of all parts of the society. Besides this, PSUs have been a prime employer and attract job seekers as they provide better job security and growth to the employees.  

Prashanth threw light on the fact that at NTPC, they engage to develop sustainable communities in and around our operational areas. We operate in a manner which is safe for our people and sustainable for the environment as well. We are driven by the principle that an organisation should play a significant and beneficial role for the holistic development of the communities around its power stations. 

Last but not the least, CSR activities are the most impactful activities executed by PSUs in the country. Vinod Agrahari believes that CSR helps in brand building. It also has an impact on business execution in the area.

ED at SAIL informed that SAIL has laid out various CSR activities like establishing schools, hospitals, old-age homes, self-help groups and more to make a change near our plant locations.

To conclude, Prashanth said, “CSR has been an integral part of NTPC’s business of power generation and has brightened up the lives of millions of Indians.  NTPC has provided access to quality education to more than one lakh underprivileged and disadvantaged students. The programmes cover 450 schools across NTPC power stations around the country and through healthcare initiative, NTPC benefits about 275 villages and more than 2,40,000 individuals every year”. 

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