Siddhartha Mukherjee: PR is your Brand’s Immunity Pin from Intolerance

19 Nov,2015

By Siddhartha Mukherjee


Honestly, during the last four decades of my existence as an earthling, nothing has made me ponder over the twin topics of ‘Tolerance’ & ‘Intolerance’ more,  as much as what happened over the last couple of months – terrorism, returning of awards, international perspective about India etc. In fact, thanks to our News Industry’s exhaustive campaign on this subject, it made me think about a topic much closer to our home turf – where we are directly responsible for (our/client’s) brand creation and safeguarding it from any damage from unexpected corners. It is about safe guarding our brands from intolerance.


“What do these all add up to?” – was a discussion I was having with a client. After all the brand communication efforts and investments across Corp Comm and Marcomm, do these really create sound immunity for our brands? India is a market that is known for one of the highest number and types of crisis brands go through – thanks to the political, social, economic dynamics that surround us. Despite all that we do, how can we create tolerance for our brands within its ecosystem?


As brand creators, when we build a plan, how many times do we start (working backwards) with a basic question of: How to make my brand immune from intolerance? How to make sure that we minimise, as much as possible, the various reasons stakeholders (Government, employees, distributors, investors, suppliers, social observers, consumers, etc.) may have for intolerance towards my brand. That, in other words, people show their keenness to buy, they buy and keep on buying my brand – despite various reasons for crisis and resistance.


Does a noodle, automobile or a chocolate brand (or even a political brand for that matter) have the immunity (pin) from intolerance…intolerance from consumers, government, activists etc. Does it have the spring to bounce back amidst the Indian ecosystem infested by crisis creators or catalysts? Wherever the answer is unclear, a diagnosis that will be evident is that the brand in discussion (and its management) never used Public Relations in its true sense.


Public Relations, in its truest sense, by definition, has all the wherewithal to create a robust Immunity Pin for a Brand. It has the potential to immune (crisis proof) every single function and sub-function across the organisation and also partner you towards crisis preparedness. Of course, the precondition being that this function is included and involved in all on-going business planning and operations – HR, Finance, Manufacturing, Suppliers, Government, Social etc.


Below are some reasons:

  1. 1. PR is flexible to address every Stakeholder: That makes it our truest and holistic Brand Reputation custodian
  2. 2. It has a wonderful agility to synergise Business (Corporate & Marketing) objectives with a holistic Communication objective. Here is where, if given the freedom, it will involve ATL initiatives and synergise it with Corporate Communications initiatives.
  3. 3. Known as the storyteller, Public Relations has the ability to create empathy for a brand.
  4. 4. Being an earned media tool, it has the ability to insulate the brand, through the year, even during the absence of ATL.
  5. 5. It strategically synergises Internal and External communications
  6. 6. It has the ability to read and understand the pulse of (changing) public(s) behaviour
  7. 7. It has the ability to partner Business and Departmental heads in creating crisis proof Business and Operation touchpoints for across stakeholders
  8. 8. PR is the only tool that can influence and synergise the responses of Primary (Stakeholders) and Secondary (Media) audiences. This is a very significant aspect that makes it the Communication and Reputation Management tool of the future.
  9. 9. While ATL is largely aimed at taking care of business revenues, PR function ensures that ATL works well on the consumers and the other stakeholders.
  10. 10. During damage control, Public Relations is the only tool that lends credibility, empathy and reconsideration to the client brand and creates a platform for it to bounce back.


Notwithstanding whether the brand represents an FMCG, Automobile, Country, Financial or a Political product, amidst growing intolerance, the only way to secure or immune your brand from intolerance is to deploy Public Relations into the central mainframe of the Organization’s behaviour and function. Our brand planning needs to work backwards, assuming that there will be more of Business Not As Usual (BNAU) months. How does our brand withstand the onslaught from various and unexpected corners?


We can only hope that the future is not about growing intolerance. If otherwise, Public Relations is the actual ally for your brand immunity in the future.


Siddhartha Mukherjee is a senior PR industry professional and currently Senior Vice President, Eikona – Earned Media Planning, Audit and Advisory. The views expressed here are his own.



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