Amith Prabhu: Freedom of Speech and its implications

30 Mar,2015

By Amith Prabhu


This column is about two stories on Freedom of Speech and its implications on reputation. Since Section 66A of the Information Technology Act is hot news one could not resist writing on a related note. One is from a media perspective and the other from a brand outlook.


Last Monday, a senior business journalist vented out on Twitter by calling a PR firm by name and asking them to get its act together. I have always believed a service company is only as good as its people are. However good 99 out of 100 are, it takes one person to negate all the good the rest try and do.


In journalism too, however good 99 journalists are, it takes one journalist to slip up and bring a bad name to journalism. But rarely do PR professionals call out the name of the journalist in public. This could be because of the belief some have, that PR professionals need journalists more than journalists need PR people.


He also had some other advice few days prior to this angry outburst. While he is outspoken, many choose other ways to address the concern. While I have great regard for this senior journalist I think there are better ways to handle these situations.


If someone tweeted to you, then give it back on Twitter. But if someone called you, then call their office and ask for the head of the branch or the Indian operation and register a formal complaint. If there is no respite, then resorting to any other method is valid. I admit I have not checked with him to understand whether he did that.  Some may say that it is none of his business to do that and they may be right. However, I’m assuming that he did not do that before tweeting.


As per the advice he had on March 18 via tweets, he said, “PR juniors shouldn’t deal much with clients. Seniors should deal with client briefs & teach juniors how to deal with journos”. Well, may be a point to ponder on. He also tweeted “Why are PR consultancy seniors so lazy? Don’t/can’t they tell their junior staff who to deal with and how? Wondering whether to name consultancies” and “PR juniors often tend to be in 3 categories (1) Overzealous (2) Servile (3) Clueless.”


The second story is shorter and about my hunt for a product that I use, which I shall not name here. In the last two months, over a dozen shops I went to looking for this product by brand name have not had it in stock. I almost tweeted about my angst and then realized a friend (who is vocal about brands), works in a senior position for the company that markets the product, and I should check with her. It so happens that we communicate often on Twitter and I checked with her in a reply tweet as to why this product was unavailable. She immediately called to request me to delete the tweet lest questions get asked. I had no problem taking down the tweet to save her the trouble of handling the issue. But my questions are as follows:


Could the brand have not had better ways to communicate to the outlets about the stop of supply of this product, so customers are not hassled? Could the brand have not had a section on their website or on social media indicating that the product has been temporarily shelved? And lastly, because the executive knew me and saw the tweet mentioning the brand name, she could call me. How is the brand dealing with other customers who are questioning the product’s absence in shop shelves, given that people in a particular profession are still recommending the product?


With no offence meant to anyone, all I can say is we are a society which does not understand how to enjoy freedom of speech.


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