Amith Prabhu: Has Public Relations lost its credibility?

16 Mar,2015

By Amith Prabhu


This week, in Mumbai I’m co-hosting the first gathering of senior communicators. The half-day conclave hopes to become an annual feature by bringing together business leaders who share their thoughts on reputation management. Public Relations over the years has been referred to by different folks with different strokes.


Some call it Public Engagement, some say it’s Public Communications, some call it Corporate Affairs or Corporate Communications, some others refer to it as Reputation Management or Strategic Communications. There are many other nomenclatures associated with the profession. But Public Relations, many think is no more as sexy as it used to be.


In a recent twitter conversation on a different tangent, the consulting editor of Money Life (Veeresh Malik) raised a question that Public Relations in India had lost its credibility. [His response was – if PR was about real content told with style then why did it lose credibility?}. There were four others including me tagged to this thread. One of them (Prema Sagar) responded with a question – “Did it? And Malik responded saying Yes.


My answer would be clearly NO. Public relations has not lost credibility. Just as a botched up surgery does not let surgeons lose their credibility. Public relations professionals who work with consultancies and in communications departments largely try and work within an ethical code that is unwritten but understood.


There are certain stakeholders and certain professionals in Public Relations who will cross the line that leads to an incorrect perception. Public Relations has certainly failed in building its own reputation but that is less a problem of the profession and more a problem of competitors not coming together. The mediocre has always been given an upper hand because few think of the long term, rather focusing on the short term.


I’m hoping the conclave aptly called ENGAGE gets professionals to engage with each other during and after the conclave to arrive at an outlook for the profession for the year ahead and the time to come. I hope senior folks both, who lead communications departments and lead PR firms evolve a system to make things better so people like Veeresh won’t live with a wrong perception that PR in India has lost its credibility.


Maybe we need to start early and it’s never too late. We need to train professionals’ right. We need to accredit new and existing professionals. We need to get senior folks to talk more often and do a service to the profession. Because if we do not focus on the publics and the relationships around the eco-system of Public Relations we would only be leaving a messed up reputation of the profession for future generations.


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