'Controversies are the laziest form of PR'

It's been seen in films - kick up some controversy just before the release and gain mileage out of it. But when it comes to brands and companies, controversies can be a double-edged sword. PR industry experts discussed the pro and cons of controversies at the first ever India PR and Corporate Communication Summit, held in Delhi.

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: May 25, 2010 8:22 AM
'Controversies are the laziest form of PR'

The first ever India PR and Corporate Communication Summit saw a phenomenal response from the industry. Held in the national capital on May 21, 2010, the gathering comprised of who’s who of the media industry and experts in the field of PR and Corporate Communication.

An upbeat Anshul Chaturvedi, Editor, Delhi Times, moderated the second session of the day which was based on the theme – ‘Controversy – the best form of publicity?’Radhika Shapoorjee, President, IPAN Hill & Knowlton, Saurabh Swarup, Head Marketing, Barista, Abhinav Rahul, Vice President, Corporate Communications, Max New York Life Insurance, Yusuf Haria, General Manager & Senior Vice President,Flieshman-Hillard, India and Neeraj Sanan, Chief Marketing Officer, MCCS were the panelists. 5 minutes each were allocated for the speakers followed by a discussion and Q&A round with the audience.

Anshul Chaturvedi touched various points of controversy in his slide presentation that delighted a many. He mentioned some of the biggest names and common ways attached with the controversy business, not to forget the most obvious, Rakhi Sawant.

He paved way for Radhika Shapoorjee, who initiated her presentation with the basics. ‘What is a controversy? What is publicity?’ were few amongst the topics she discussed. She believed that a controversy is powerful when it creates a positive debate or an impact or awareness. Supporting her thought, she put forth an example of the Dove campaign wherein fat women were shown that contradicted the so-called belief that ‘skinny is beautiful’ and mentioned how the unconventional idea was conveyed that also was related to the DNA of the brand.

Abhinav Rahul joined in the discussion and asked, “Is controversy good? Sometimes yes but only for a short duration.” He further said that the shelf life of a particular controversy defines how good or bad it would be. “If a controversy is for a shorter period, it can be good but for brands if it lasts forever, it can’t be good”, said Rahul.

He backed his thought with a simple example. “A movie can afford to have controversies around them but Shah Rukh Khan can’t”. Rahul also asked the PR industry if they can count on controversies to build a brand, which according to him was not possible.

Yusuf Haria was the third one to join in and he very interesting stated that controversies are the laziest form of PR. “I think it is the laziest tool, why can’t they brainstorm instead. It becomes self-defeating and also, a fix”, said Haria.

Saurabh Swarup had similar notions. He was against the idea of creating or being in a controversy to gain mileage and publicity. “Can controversy be managed? I think it’s neither manageable nor sustainable”, said Swarup.

While Neeraj Sanan was completely in favour of controversies and their role in pushing the TRPs for a television channel. “ I think it works, I don’t know about other mediums but at least for Television it does.”

He informed that 25 to 30 per cent of the attention increase when there’s a controversy being talked about a news channel. “From a news channel’s perspective, I think they are good and they are here for everyone”, he added.

Since most of the speakers were more or less against controversies being used as a publicity tool, the session concluded with a thought that the industry needs to re-look at it and should work towards making it a powerful tool in a positive way.

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