Amith Prabhu: Public Relations learnings from the week that was

19 Oct,2015

By Amith Prabhu


Two stories that have a direct connection to Public Relations. Both from Mumbai and both from last week. It goes to show that Public Relations is about common sense, clear purpose and creating stories.


No one would have missed online images and the same being displayed on news television and newspapers the next day of a man in black. Sudheendra Kulkarni was smeared with black paint by protesting Shiv Sena activists before the book launch he was organising of the former Pakistan foreign minister. He used the incident to his advantage by calling a press conference and remaining in the same way without cleaning the muck on his face.


He knew that there was merit in going in front of cameras and making a point. The book may not have sold more copies but people who did not know Sudheendra Kulkarni and Kasuri’s book were aware of both. The Shiv Sena helped the book get undue publicity.


Talking of books, I was in Mumbai for the book launch of Pandeymonium which has Anant Rangaswami as its curator. The book was released by Amitabh Bachchan in the presence of over a thousand guests including Sachin Tendulkar. I watched in admiration as the hour-long programme progressed.


Admiration for how an ordinary man called Piyush Pandey became an institution over the last 30 years and has used it to the advantage of the profession of advertising. The Public Relations machinery that has created a demi-God status of this Advertising Guru is certainly well thought out. There is so much to learn from Piyush and the book is a great read for those in Public Relations because ultimately both crafts tell stories and build brands.


Both these gentlemen who are subject of my column can teach Public Relations professionals a lot of lessons. Three that stand out are:

a) Timing is everything – if Piyush wrote the book five years ago or five years later, it may not have made as big an impact as it is doing a year after he helped in the marketing of Narendra Modi. Similarly, had Sudheendra cleaned himself up there would have been no media output of the magnitude we saw?


b) Storytelling is key – Pandey’s book is full of stories told in a simple and interesting way. Kulkarni also told a story through the image, a story of intolerance that is gripping the country.


c) Building an image and then using it to stand up for something – in Piyush Pandey’s case he has brought greater respect to the profession. In Sudheendra Kulkarni’s case he gave free speech a new meaning by going ahead with the launch.


Amith Prabhu is a PR practitioner-turned-trainer based in Gurgaon.  He also heads a recently set up school for PR and corporate communications education and skill development. PR, etc appears every Monday on MxMIndia. The views expressed here are his own.


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