Amith Prabhu: Beggars are not choosers but in Chicago they also know how not to be losers

07 Oct,2013

By Amith Prabhu


There is some element of Public Relations in every walk of life. As an avid practitioner and a true blue professional, I try and look for traces of PR in everything purely for academic reasons. Having spent two years in Chicago I have no doubt that this city is indeed a pioneer for the profession and has given the world several brands that took birth in the area over the last 150 years.


But one aspect of the city that has caught my fancy is the few beggars that straddle the high footfall locations. Despite all the greatness of this city, it has its share of homeless and hungry. Every evening when one walks home in downtown or heads to one of the train stations in the west loop from the city centre, paths do cross with these men and women who are hoping against hope to earn a few dollars.


But what sets them apart is the way they approach a potential benefactor. And to me this is public relations in its simplest yet most powerful form. I was not convinced whether an entire column should be devoted to this observation but the bottomline is about how packaging goes a long way in building reputation and this is at the heart of Public Relations.


These men and women are generally well-dressed. They have a pleasant demeanor and most importantly have a script that is succinct and impressive. Most of them greet passersby by saying Happy Monday or Enjoy your Weekend. Importantly, despite the hardship written on their face, they always wear a smile. Best of all, even if they did not receive a cent from the one they solicited, they do not curse or abuse because they know the same person will pass by again on that same route.


We think of big public relations but here’s an example of how one can learn basic public relations tactics from a street beggar. A column on this theme may seem out of place but the idea is to share anecdotes and learn from every possible situation. India has plenty of beggars and the general public is largely indifferent to them. It is a menace that adds to the already existing problems of urbanism. But if these beggars learnt to behave politely they would do themselves a favour because beggars are not choosers but they can choose not to be losers.


Amith Prabhu is founder of The PRomise Foundation which organises Praxis, the annual summit for PR & Corp Comm professionals in India. During the day he is a full time employee at a leading PR firm’s Chicago office. Views expressed here are the author’s own and don’t represent those of his past, present, future employer or of MxMIndia. You can connect with him on Twitter @amithpr


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2 responses to “Amith Prabhu: Beggars are not choosers but in Chicago they also know how not to be losers”

  1. Himanshu Agarwal says:

    Did you ever come across someone singing ‘Pardesi Pardesi Jaana Nahi…’ on the music produced by two stones in their tiny fingers…in a phenomenon called Mumbai Local? Or how someone is able to hold the attention of an entire bogie and make a sale in a time which spans the short distance between two sub-urban stations…Mumbai Locals will sure be a fertile ground to focus your sharp eyes…it holds too many a lesson for a keen observer…