Amith Prabhu: Why PR is never going to get its due for a long time?

20 Apr,2015

By Amith Prabhu

 

I posted a tweet last week in the backdrop of the Net Neutrality discussion gripping urban India, stating “Good advice to the management by the new PR head. @Flipkart pulls out of Airtel Zero Rating. Now we can go back to shopping on Flipkart.”

 

There were two objectives to posting this tweet. First, I was in the know of a new hire Flipkart had made and I knew the person was of a stature who could play the role of a counselor with the Bansal Boys to let better sense prevail. I also had read the news that Flipkart was relenting and supporting Net Neutrality (an issue that had led to lakhs of voices lending support to the issue). And I got to know from two people familiar with what transpired that the person indeed played a key role of advisor in a decision the promoters and investors had taken. Second, I am big believer that PR should get its due and we rarely give credit to this management function because of the crab mentality in the system. Hence, I was just saying what I did based on factual knowledge.

 

Seconds after I posted the above tweet, two ‘veteran’ communications professionals who have been connected in the past with the company and the executive respectively, responded to the question. The first asked a question about how I knew that the person advised the management and the second said that I was dabbling in guess work. Well, this background is important for those who missed the twitter conversation. Because the larger points that were being missed was that – the PR function certainly had a role to play, something I was aware of and I was calling it out based on conversations I had with people familiar with the internal decision. In the midst of this, a senior journalist who neither knows who the executive is nor knows the promoters of the company personally decides to throw in his two bits and take the conversation to a different tangent taking away the credit being given to the new PR executive.

 

Well, the two ‘veteran’ professionals have every right to say what they want to but in the process they were missing the opportunity to give PR its due. This is a regular feature where we do not go out of the way to participate in giving credit to a function that plays a strategic role in business. Why does this happen? That is a million rupee question. When will PR professionals learn to praise an achievement so that the profession gets the recognition it ought to get? This does not amount to mutual admiration. But peer recognition and there is a difference.

 

Well, the same maybe the case with lawyers, advertising folks and management consultants but the PR consulting business is such a small world that everyone seems to know everyone. Yet, we do not see the bigger picture of giving fellow professionals the due. This maybe old school and a new generation of professionals is emerging which may change the outlook to each other. As an observer of the rapid changes taking place around and creating some of them myself, I’m positive that someday PR will get its due.

 

I wanted to share this thought in today’s column because the background to all this is that in the past couple of weeks we have seen one of the biggest Public Relations campaigns which may never be referred to as a PR campaign. This is a campaign planned, executed and managed by ordinary citizens like you and me. The campaign has led to several business decisions of large corporates being impacted. It may not be like the Arab Rising event but has certainly had all the ingredients of a good campaign. People have put a lot at stake to take on large corporates in the fight for Net Neutrality. The battle is ongoing and on the look of it Public Relations is winning. But it will be referred to as citizen activism. Same thing by a different name.

 

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  • As the first ‘veteran’ communication professional sly-referenced in this article, could I take the liberty of adding some context, from your and our tweets?

    I *merely* asked, in response to your tweet: “How do you know it was him?”. Your response: “when you come to Gurgaon next I will tell you over coffee”

    Comment, to you, from Deepa Dey, Head Communications at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare: “good guess work :)”

    Comment, to you, from Anant Rangaswami, Senior Editor, FirstPost: “doubt it. Would imagine that three Bansals and investors took a call.”

    Your consolidated response, upon asking the same question again: “are you not reading my response? Or just impatient? Will tell you when we meet. :)”

    I’d have loved to see you using your own advice in giving PR its due, while you were tweeting this news. Instead of using the benefit of updated information that you may have gathered after that chat on Twitter to insinuate that our – mine, Deepa’s and Anand Rangaswami’s – questioning was to do with ‘crab mentality’. I assume you had every opportunity to say that you knew it was him and for that you’re glad that the PR function is indeed getting its long overdue recogntion in the management, in India.

    If you were not sure at that point when we were having the conversation on Twitter, but you know now surely, then this post is in poor taste, in my opinion.

    For context – here’s the original tweet, and all the responses from Amith Prabhu, on Twitter: http://bit.ly/1E6KuXW

    Karthik Srinivasan
    http://www.beastoftraal.com
    http://in.linkedin.com/in/karts

    • Amith Prabhu

      Thanks for setting the context Karthik. Appreciate it. Coffee is still pending.

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