Everything you need to know about public relations.Public Relation (PR) is another tool of promotional mix designed to improve, maintain or project a company or product image.
Public Relations is referred to everything that is conducted to improve mutual understanding between an organization and target groups and all those with whom it comes into contact both within and outside the organization with the aim of building goodwill and good image.
Communication is the root of PR. It is a two-way communication between the organization and the target group to establish understanding based on truth, knowledge and complete information. PR in content is educative, and mainly it does so by informing us things in a correct perspective.
1. Introduction to Public Relations 2. Definitions of Public Relations 3. Importance 4. Evaluation 5. Crisis Marketing 6. Corporate Image
7. Corporate Identity 8. Media Coverage 9. Interviews 10. Sponsorship 11. Marketing 12. In-House Public Relations
13. Public Relations and Marketing 14. Public Relations and Politics 15. Public Relations and Community Relations 16. Crisis Management.
Public Relations: Definitions, Importance, Evaluation, Crisis Marketing, Corporate Image, Media Coverage, Interviews, Sponsorship
- Introduction to Public Relations
- Definitions of Public Relations
- Importance of Public Relations
- Evaluation of Public Relations
- Crisis Marketing of Public Relations
- Corporate Image of Public Relations
- Corporate Identity of Public Relations
- Media Coverage of Public Relations
- Interviews of Public Relations
- Sponsorship of Public Relations
- Marketing of Public Relations
- In-House Public Relations
- Public Relations and Marketing
- Public Relations and Politics
- Public Relations and Community Relations
- Crisis Management in Public Relations
Public Relations – Introduction
The evolution of PR can be traced back to 1802 when US President Thomas Jefferson first used the term in his State of the Union address to Congress. Later Ivy Lee made PR a corporate strategy. The term ‘corporate communications’ was made popular by US business magazine Fortune during its first annual corporate communications seminar in 1972.
Since then it has gained importance and is used interchangeably with PR. In the present context, we come across corporate communications and media relations (CCMR) function.
Softer skills like receiving an important customer or arranging a social get- together or do ticket-booking are part of PR. PR is a broader term and not restricted to ‘corporate sector’ as implied by the term ‘corporate communications’. PR becomes a strategic management function when it incorporates the elements of research, advisory role, planning and social responsibility.
Public relations are popularly known as PR. As a profession, it means as Frank Jefkins says, creation of understanding or better still, mutual understanding. It is not so simple to create understanding because in essence, it is a process of effecting a change.
PR in content is educative, and mainly it does so by informing us things in a correct perspective. It is different from advertising, in the sense that advertising is persuasive in content and its basic objective is to achieve marketing and sales goals.
PR is a continuous process, and is not restricted to periods of crisis. PR is present informally in all organisations as communications of human relations. PR is comprehensive in scope, unlike advertising which is restricted to target audiences.
PR addresses itself to different publics starting from employees, shareholders, distributors, customers, government, local bodies, pressure groups, media, etc. Many complex business problems arise as a result of lack of understanding with the publics.
Business faces hostility from belligerent employees because of poor industrial relations, dissatisfied customers, haughty government servants, rival business houses, different social groups, local community and authorities. The hostility may be due to some irrational reasons.
At times, success and hugeness extracts its own price. Many a times, Reliance Industries has faced hostility for its rapid spectacular growth. Problems of pollution and environmental degradation may make the public hostile.
There may be a perceived fear of big projects, dams and nuclear plants and power generation plants. Hostility affects a business adversely and calls for PR.
At times, we see a prejudice against business. We find a lot of prejudice against foreign multinationals like McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken in India. It is difficult to combat prejudice; yet it must be fought. There is an inherent resistance to change. People do not accept new things so easily.
There is a prejudice against foreign things. There is this fear of the unknown. We have to use PR to make people know unknown things through things they already know. PR becomes an exercise in familiarising.
People may be apathetic to certain business activities. PR can kindle interest in people. Private LPG suppliers like Century may just be ignored by people. They can use PR to break this apathy.
People must be convinced that they will get a regular refill if they become the customers of these private LPG companies. Advertising is an expensive way to get people interested. In such situations, PR is very suitable.
Our environment is full of complex products and services. People just do not understand how to go about losing extra flab, or installing Internet connection or cruising the unchartered seas. PR people write features, radio talks, or prepare video presentations to simplify these complex things. PR’s educational role dispels ignorance.
Either one single factor or a combination of them may be working against a business at any given point of time, and PR is invaluable in such situations.
PR is an intangible plus. Unlike advertising which you can touch, read and measure, PR is only partially represented in press coverage.
In the book, The Call of Advertising and the Rise of PR, Laura and AI Ries argue that advertising will soon approach its death and public relations will increasingly be used to build brands.
Public Relations – Definition Given by Jayanti Ghosh, Atual Ahluwalia and UK Institute of Public Relations
Public Relation (PR) is another tool of promotional mix designed to improve, maintain or project a company or product image. Public Relations is referred to everything that is conducted to improve mutual understanding between an organization and target groups and all those with whom it comes into contact both within and outside the organization with the aim of building goodwill and good image. Communication is the root of PR. It is a two-way communication between the organization and the target group to establish understanding based on truth, knowledge and complete information.
The UK institute of public relations has given the following definition:
Public Relations is the deliberately, planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain mutual understanding between an organization and its public.
The publics of PR refer to those groups of people with whom the organization wants to communicate specifically. Thy include customers, trade, media, workforce and other target audiences to whom messages need to be communicated.
PR involves number of activities like press relations, publicity, corporate communication, lobbying, counseling etc.
PR is needed to deal with negative situations consisting of hostility prejudice, apathy and ignorance. According to Jayanti Ghosh, Ogilvy PR Worldwide, “Public relations has moved beyond the realm of media relations into areas such as reputation management, corporate image building, stakeholder outreach, KOL (Key Opinion Lender) management, mergers and acquisitions, and crisis communications”.
As Atual Ahluwalia, vice-president at Corporate Voice Shandwick puts it, “Public relations is most effective in converting hostile perceptions to neutral and neutral perceptions to receptive by generating awareness about a product or service”.
Public Relations – Importance
PR is powerful tool for creating image, building awareness and consumer preference, and establishing useful liaisons with influential groups.
It contributes in the following ways:
1. It helps in creating a good and favourable image of company products in the eyes of consumers
2. It helps in the introduction of new products by providing information about them to news media by press releases or in any other way
3. It helps in improving the sagging image or an existing product and in repositioning it in the market
4. It helps in influencing the national and local government on decisions affecting the organizations.
5. It helps in influencing specific groups and establishing relationships with them which may be favourable to organization
6. Above all, it helps in keeping good and healthy relations with various agencies like the government, trade unions, customers, community and other agencies, which is crucial for the success of the company.
Public Relations – Evaluation
It is very difficult to measure the effectiveness of the PR function. Mostly, the number of newspaper clippings indicating the coverage received by the company is accepted as a measure of PR effectiveness. But this is arbitrary. Just one single mention of the company’s name cannot be called coverage.
Some organisations have developed a software to quantify and analyse media reports. These days there is a shift to do content analysis. Ads, by comparison, are easier to evaluate since the communication is controlled. PR’s effectiveness in terms of media coverage is not controlled.
Content analysis, therefore, is useful. Here, information in the media is classified and analysed. Quantitative values are assigned to such information. The quality of the message can be measured on a 1-10 scale to see how positive or negative it is.
The attribute that the client prefers to promote is identified as a key attribute, e.g., Pepsi and refreshment. Quantitative methods are used to lead to qualitative conclusions. Computers are used to do content analysis.
Some agencies evaluate a change in perception. But such services are extremely expensive (about Rs.5-8 lakh per evaluation); and this has to be done twice, once before the PR exercise and once after it. Mostly an agency’s effectiveness is judged on the number of column centimetres of coverage.
There are other criteria such as the value of the coverage as opposed to what an advertisement of similar space would have cost the company and its ability to reach the target audience. PR is about the right messaging and not column centimetres.
Public Relations – Crisis Marketing
Joe Marconi has authored some six marketing texts, of which Image Marketing, Shock Marketing and Crisis Marketing merit to mention. Marconi defines crisis marketing as, ‘The strategy and technique to carry on a successful marketing programme before, during, or after public or business sentiment has turned against you’.
PR has a valuable role to play in crisis marketing. It can anticipate and pre-empt crises. It should not remain restricted to just fire-fighting when the crisis occurs.
A negative corporate image can ruin the brand building done over the years. Actions of the company while managing the crisis presumes innocence. If a company errs, all it can really do is offer restitution and try to make amends (rather than shifting the blame). Exxon first shifted the blame for oil-spill of Alaska to the captain of the ship, alleging he was a drunkard. Then it tried to play down the incident as having just ‘killed some birds’.
Crisis management tests the mettle of your PR. Many companies try to hush up the matter by advising its employees not to wash the dirty linen in public. Mostly when the news leaks, the no-comment approach stonewalls all the discussion and debate.
Ultimately, when the truth is out of the bag like the proverbial cat, the company’s image is tarnished beyond repair. In case of a leak, it is more sensible to admit that something has gone wrong, and that you have taken some logical steps to set the matter right. This is a positive approach.
When there is bad publicity about a product, it is not wise to be legal minded. That worsens the relations in future. The press would not give favourable coverage to our products in future. It is also necessary to avoid threats like withdrawal of ads. It is a sure way to attract bad publicity.
Our approach should be to provide more information to the journalists. Their doubts must be clarified. We can write a letter explaining our side of the story. We should stick to the facts. We should not pass judgement on journalistic integrity.
In the globalised competitive economy of today, PR no longer remains ‘just doing good’, but becomes a crucial component in delivering targeted flow of information. PR is a constant activity, building relationships. In India, PR is mostly media-oriented with some tactical insights involving reputation management and strategic thinking.
We can anticipate a crisis and plan for it. When we are prepared for the crisis, we guard the firm’s reputation. Corporate reputation is a serious issue, which affects its financials and the existence of an industry. Reputation management is integral to PR.
Internet has emerged as a new source of information, but it has the problem of accuracy, since there is no accountability. Media convergence is becoming common worldwide and PR will have to look into the new media like internet, and convergence of media.
Crisis triggers a surprise and a shock, leading to denial and later in the absence of information, the panic mounts and the pressure from both the internal and external sources build-up. Then comes the damage control team which handles the situation.
Organisations must understand the need for crisis anticipation and management. A company’s real strength is judged during crises. Information travels very fast these days and the company’s response is reflected in its financials.
Some organisations go overboard during a crisis and communicate everything which may be good or bad for the company. It is a dicey decision. One wishes to open up and deny nothing during a crisis. It may have repercussions on the reputation of the organisation.
Sometimes, people tend to under communicate for fear of marring the reputation. However, one will have to analyse the situation well before preparing the communication and PR plays an important role here.
A crisis is both a threat and an opportunity. It has both the positive and negative aspects. Crisis management brings out the best in people, and also enhances the image of the business. Image enhancement is the positive side. Another positive aspect is team-play that it encourages.
Managing the crisis is more significant than the crisis itself. Airlines must be prompt in their response to the survivors and victims’ families after a crash. A company can prepare a crisis manual by anticipating crisis.
According to AI Ries, investment banks in the US received a lot of negative publicity in the recent past. The biggest PR problem for them is the high salaries paid to their top employees. It destroys the goodwill that average consumers have for the free enterprise systems. There is no real use for these high salaries. They normally end up giving the money away in charity.
They do not want to leave the money as legacy for their sons and daughters because it could spoil them, as it inevitably does. It is just an ego factor. They have their insecurities and lack of self-confidence. They pay them astronomical salaries to demonstrate their abilities.
It is a formal public relations (PR) campaign which seeks to create the impression of being a spontaneous, grassroots behaviour.
Brandshield is a PR-led crisis management programme. Crisis management is a short-term and legalistic approach. Brandshield is broader. It is preventive as far as crisis is concerned. It tells how best to avoid it.
It guides the organisation in rebuilding the trust. BS controls the flow of information both internally and externally. Confusion, speculation and incorrect reporting aggravate a crisis.
When a brand is threatened, we have to uphold its core values. Brand equity is monitored strong points are emphasised and weaknesses are addressed. Technology can be used to disseminate information, e.g., Websites and consumer hotlines.
Public Relations – Corporate Image
A business has to build a favourable corporate image. We feel tempted to apply for a job in any Tata firm, though we do not know their financial position, all the details about their management structure, all the details of their product range, etc. Our decision to deal with them is solely on the basis of their image.
Citi Bank in India has an image of efficiency and customer-friendliness. At times, this sheen is lost when some collecting agents try to recover dues of loan defaulters or credit card delinquents by unscrupulous methods. It is a time to restore the corporate image. PR comes handy at such times.
Corporate image is earned over a period of time. It is based on our experience of dealing with an organization. It is also based on our knowledge about that organisation. We may project a good, or bad or an indifferent image. It is the job of PR to communicate what we stand for. We have to behave responsibly as a corporate citizen.
Most of the images are acquired by accident. Our experience of dealing with an organization also gives rise to an image. Shoppers’ Stop is a pleasant shopping experience. Everyone may not know what we are doing as a business. The recent ad series on SAIL – Steel Authority of India, made us realise that there is a little bit of SAIL in every one of us.
Images are based on our product and service quality, the after-sales service we provide, the advertising we do, our industrial relations record, our trade relations, our stock market position, our physical infrastructure, our external communications and correspondence and our packaging.
These are the things which can satisfy or dissatisfy people. These have to be in order. Otherwise, a favourable image remains elusive. All these things are not the concerns of only the top management.
People at all levels must contribute to PR especially people who interact with the outside public. A corporate image is the summation of several expressions of good-will or ill-will towards any organisation.
Corporate image is the outcome of our experience, impression, belief, perception and knowledge of the company. Corporate image is thus a mosaic. Corporate milestones do help in building a corporate image.
Anupam Kher’s Media Entertainment service has the celebrity Management Division to manage the image of the stars. Mehr Jessia manages the career images of the upcoming models. Alyque Padamsee’s AP Communications has a client base of individuals and corporations, all of whom want to project the right image. We say “Rome was not built in a day”. Similarly, corporate images are not built in a day.
Rein, Kotler and Stolter has authored a book “High Visibility” (NTC Business Books) with a main premise that celebrities are made, not born. Formerly, only the actors / actresses needed image projection. These days even politicians, sportspersons and businessmen feel the need of image building. Mere talent is not enough. A person must stand out in the clutter.
The target market must be identified and then identify its needs / wants. The celebrity must cater to this market. It is interesting to know how Madonna has kept reinventing herself. While being market led, however, the celeb should not lose leadership qualities.
Public Relations – Corporate Identity: With Basic Elements and Essentials
The concept of corporate image leads us to the concept of corporate identity. Image is mostly a matter of perception amongst the different audiences of the corporation. Identity is, however, more of a physical nature – it is the audible or the visible part of the corporate image.
Corporate identity makes the Bata Shoe branch recognisable easily because most of them look alike. We have distinct identities for airlines, railways, DD, BEST, taxi-cabs, etc. Companies prefer to have planned corporate identity programmes.
We have to practise PR is such a way that the company’s basic strengths are kept in mind while planning corporate identity. There should be a consistency in the approach of different functionaries as far as the specified identity is concerned.
A weak and diffused identity may result if there is no standardisation in printing, production and education. Print, package, product, premises, vehicles, advertising, dress code — all this must manifest one common identity.
1. The name of the organisation.
2. Communicative name, if different.
3. Names of divisions, subsidiaries and products, if any.
4. The corporate mark, e.g., logotype with its special design and which becomes the badge of the corporation.
5. The corporate signature.
6. Graphic representation of mark and signature.
7. Slogan, phrase, etc., e.g., The Citi never sleeps.
8. Typography, curly letter of Coca-Cola.
9. Corporate colours, e.g., the yellow Kodak box.
A consumer durable company is pushing a vision which rubs off on to the brands. The primary focus is to establish faith in the company, which is a function of corporate PR. In a durable consumer product’s company, the person who needs the company pushes his ‘vision’ and the ‘vision’ itself may be touted as USP.
Corporate identity must make the corporation easily recognisable, must be memorable, distinctive and characteristic. The elements of corporate identity provide components which can be repeated in advertising campaign to strengthen it.
A company’s logo represents the personality of the company and its product.
We must examine all items of stationery, catalogues, brochures, house magazines, annual reports, sales literature, bills- invoices, receipts, etc. We should examine our premises and products. We should have a look at our advertising.
We should consider the giveaway gifts. We should take notice of the staff dress. We might be surprised to see a wide variation in colours, design, size, type on account of individual idiosyncrasies. It is a chaotic situation.
We must prepare a manual as a reference material spelling our standards. The manual must set out our logo, its colour scheme, typography and agencies, etc. The company’s logo is its corporate signature. It reposes in itself the collective pride of the company.
A company’s logo represents the personality of the company and its product. Corporate image and identity form one part of corporate PR.
Public Relations – Media Coverage
Image consultants occupy an important place in society today. A company expects its PR to maintain media relations so as to get media coverage for its products, policies and programmes.
Media is also a business and it has its own audience. It favours only those stories regarding the company which will be of interest to its audience and they will value them as such.
PR practitioners write press releases or news releases. These should be written like a piece of professional journalism, and not like a piece of copywriting in advertising. The opening paragraph of the release should state the subject and the first para should summarize the whole thing.
Editors do not publish lengthy stories and so the gist of the thing should be incorporated in the first para itself. News release headline should tell what the release is all about. The whole release should be factual and objective and must be short of self-adulation.
Media accepts those releases that suit their needs, style and timing. Our release should go beyond informing – it should have an element of entertainment too. A new coinage is infotainment-oriented news releases.
No editor worth his salt would like to act as your advertiser ex gratis. It must be remembered that a release may be edited, and so errors are likely to creep in. In our own interest, we should use short sentences and paragraphs so that the chances of fallacious impressions are minimised even while editing the piece or paraphrasing it. PR practitioners are a good source for material for many media houses.
Still there may not always be a symbiosis between them as both of them have different objectives. News release is the commonest form of media relations. There are other forms too – interviews on TV, meetings with the press, feature articles, press receptions, etc.
Advertising as we have already observed is any paid form of non-personal communications. Public relations, by contrast, use media without paying for it. Kotler calls this ‘planting of commercially significant news’ in media. It creates a favourable image of the corporation as a whole, or any of its products and services. Such media coverage is called publicity.
An organisation may bear the indirect cost of press relations. But a news release of feature is not directly paid for. Advertising campaign is a regular activity. Publicity, however, is not so regular.
Media coverage to a large extent depends upon the matters being publishable. Publicity presents a point of view, rather than a specific brand message justifying the use of a brand. Publicity, however, of late has come to be used for brand launches and innovations too.
In a consumer product company, product promotions is the main function of PR and is done through sports, civic events and all manner of promotions. Corporate PR is limited in such companies. For a consumer product company, the purchasers/buyers are interested in a brand and not in the person who heads such a company.
Al Ries and Laura Ries in their latest book, “22 Immutable Laws of Branding”, recommend publicity to build new brands. According to them, advertising is used generally to maintain existing brands.
For new brands, concepts are thrown into the environment. Press coverage and media coverage is improved. Publicity helps in creating perceptions. In the past, advertising might have worked in the new brand-building.
Today, it is not true. There is the element of clutter in our over communicated society. Without favourable publicity in the media, the brand cannot be a winner. Publicity, according to Ries, is best generated by being the first brand in the new category.
For instance, Band-Aid is the first adhesive strip, CNN, the first news channel and Zee TV, the first Indian satellite channel. Being the pioneer or new or better has its own publicity potential.
A new category has more potential of making news than a new product version in an existing category. Publicity is what others tell about our brand. It is much more credible than advertising which is what we say about our brand. Public relations thus, are very important in building brands.
Public Relations – Interviews with Tips on Media Management
We have to know the media scene well. There are several different kinds of media-newspapers, magazines, electronic media, speciality media and niche media. Each media has a certain geographical spread and demographic spread.
Thus, Savvy is a woman’s magazine being read mostly by upwardly mobile urban women. Media are rated on the basis of their circulation and editorial environment. The periodicity of the publication calls for a unique set of deadlines.
As a person who receives a request for an interview, one has to be aware about the media scene, and their special characteristics. A request for an interview is to be handled positively. One has to anticipate the kind of questioning one will be subjected to and the kind of responses one will offer.
All strengths and weaknesses of the subject might be touched upon in the interview. It is a good idea to be forthright, rather than speaking off-the-record provocative statements which are denied later.
Each interview session should be preceded by some homework. One has to know one’s facts well. A journalist should be received with due courtesy. One should exercise caution while answering sensitive topics.
For a press interview, it is a good idea to educate the journalist by taking him around the plant and organisation. In a TV interview, the person is in a studio environment. The interviewer may be hostile. Perhaps he is hard pressed for time.
It requires tact to answer rapid fire questions. The articulation should be appropriate. Each of us cannot have a deep stentorian voice like Amitabh Bachchan. But we must practise to sound well. In a TV interview, we have to face the light. Besides, sometimes we have to wear make-up.
It is an art to have a good screen presence. In close-ups, our annoyed mannerisms come to the surface. We have to be careful about this. Our dress should be formal but not flamboyant. The audience should remember a well-dressed person rather than the dress itself.
In a documentary type of programme, various persons are interviewed. It is important to know the whole theme, and the others interviewed beforehand. An edited version in such a programme may not fully convey what you intended to convey.
In any interview, the answers should be audience-centred. We should not allow ourselves to be a soft-target for interviewers who assault us on TV for their own career. We have to learn to say, ‘no’, to such requests.
TV of course, is a good medium which gives an opportunity to convey our viewpoint across to a vast section of audience. Regional TV can be exploited fully to show our plant, products, opening ceremony, export orders, etc.
1. Insist to run the story without any change including the headline.
2. Label the story as ‘exclusive’ though all the media organisations are likely to receive the same story.
3. Point out that the story is ‘cover-story’ material.
4. When something is spoken which you shouldn’t, tell them this is ‘off-the-record’. They should not realise when again you switch over ‘on-the-record’.
5. Though media is a bit unfair, they are being given a chance to handle the story.
6. Claim secrecy regarding data to avoid unnecessary facts.
7. Enquire repeatedly about the status of the story.
8. Ask them for a copy of the story after it is run.
9. Point out your advertising and marketing clout.
10. Claim ‘out of context’ reporting when one has spoken something stupid. Claim that you have been misquoted. ,
11. It is not necessary to show your gratitude for a great story. It is their job.
Public Relations – Sponsorship: Range of Sponsored Events, Sponsorship Cost, Organisation and a Few Others with Merits
Gone are the days when the royalty used to sponsor wrestlers, intellectuals, musicians and artisans in their courts. Akbar the Great had the renowned nine gems in his court such as Birbal, the wit, Tansen, the musician. The patronage in those days brought glory to the Maharaja. They were connoisseurs of art and culture and their philanthropic motives were beyond doubt.
These days, philanthropic motives have been replaced by mundane considerations. Sponsorships have become a business deal which must give adequate returns. They are a good PR tactic.
Let us first study the business consideration of a sponsorship, ranging from an award of a trophy to the sponsorship of a sports tournament.
1. It gives tremendous media coverage to the company and its product. It thus, facilitates PR. The company becomes known internationally. The goodwill generated goes a long way in building a favourable corporate image. The company creates awareness about its name. It also allows a company to enter a new market segment.
2. Sponsorship gives an opportunity to the company to extend hospitality to the valuable guests. Standard Chartered arranged Jagjit Singh’s ghazal concert for its Gold cardholders in India, by giving them complimentary passes. Pharmaceutical companies provide breakfasts, luncheons or dinners during the annual pharmaceutical conference.
3. Coverage on TV of a sponsored event is an added advantages. A sponsored event may be more effective than advertising in certain situations.
Most widely used sponsorships are in the field of sports. Generally, sports have an element of competition. So we shall consider even a beauty pageant as a sports event. Sponsorship of either a single party or multiple parties are common.
A sponsor of a whole tournament can declare several official vendors of various product categories, e.g., Wills World Cup’s official card was Visa and official drink, Coke. Thus, the supplies can be sub-sponsored.
Another major field for sponsorship is art and culture-musical concerts, dramas, orchestras, historical sites, etc. Educational material and books can also be sponsored. Companies can choose to give awards to outstanding journalists, photographers, etc. Similarly, there can be academic sponsorship, e.g., a chair-professor sponsored by SBI at IIM.
We have to consider the cost given to the organising body of the event and other additional costs like arena boards at the stadium, hospitality costs and software production costs for PR use in future. It is necessary to do careful financial planning of the whole sponsored event.
It is the job of in-house PR people and the outside consultants to organise the whole event.
Firms of repute who have arrived generally get sponsorship. Who likes to receive a trophy from a lesser known organisation?
Inspired by the success of Femina’s beauty pageants, many companies now make use of event marketing, e.g.,
(i) The Adonis Graviera contest.
(ii) Mahindra and Mahindra squash tournament.
(iii) Screen Panasonic awards.
(iv) Sister’s Worldcom Young Business Achiever award.
(v) Femina Miss India Pageant.
(a) Sunsilk Beautiful Hair.
(b) Lakme Beautiful Skin.
(c) Bausch and Loumb Beautiful Eyes…et. al.,
(i) The brand message is taken a long way.
(ii) Media and market clutter is bypassed.
(iii) It builds a long-term corporate image.
(iv) These are cost-effective.
(v) This is below the-line advertising activity. Some companies use these as a surrogate.
(vi) Advertising, e.g., liquor and cigarette companies used award ceremonies to gain legitimate exposure.
(vii) Awards build long-term brand equity. Besides, in popular categories like films and cricket, they ensure a mass contact.
(viii) Awards focus the brand’s essence in people’s psyche in a subliminal, psychological manner in as many ways as possible. This ensures brand attention and recall.
(ix) Media coverage of the event is an added advantage.
Media itself uses event marketing for building its image. The sponsored events have a direct rub-off on the brand itself. Mass appeal brands tie-up with an event. Sometimes, companies sponsor already instituted awards.
The benefits depend upon how well the event is handled and the synergy it holds with the brand’s personality and target audience. Timing is the essence in the awards business.
The event should link to the brand’s image, the values and usage, e.g., HLL’s Sunsilk puts forward a brand proposition of beautiful hair and has a glamorous image. This makes sense while sponsoring Miss Sunsilk Beautiful Hair. It gets ingrained in the people’s mind.
An award ceremony should be conducted professionally and competently. The award should have high credibility. To institutionalise an award, it should be conducted time after time. Pre-event and post- event publicity should be well managed. The events should not overshadow the brand.
Public Relations – Marketing: Adventure, Event, Sports and Ambush Marketing
Adventures like skating, mountaineering and swimming which are risky sports / expeditions are being sponsored by corporate organisations to get publicity. Adventure marketing proves cost-effective too since the event gets televised, and the sponsor’s logo gets flashed on the screen without paying the prohibitive ad tariff rates of TV commercials.
Yes, there is a possibility that media might ignore the event and that does not work in favour of the sponsor.
Even a failed mission hardly adds anything to a corporate image. Besides, as the expeditions are risky, something can go disastrously wrong. But despite these risks, marketers adopt a ‘so-what’ attitude to adventure marketing.
In 1996, several events have been marketed, e.g., Wills World Cup, Michael Jackson’s, (MJ) Show, Miss World 1996, Channel V Music Awards, Supermodel of the World, etc. Some many new products had been launched by both the Indian and multinational companies.
It is estimated that event marketing touched a business of Rs.250 crore. Ad agencies have created event management divisions. Some specialist organisations have also appeared on the scene.
Event marketing started in India in 1993 with Baskin Robbins launch, followed by Smirnoff International Fashion Awards in 1994, and Windows in 1995. Events are focussed and so build-up brand personality and identity. There are pre-event tasks like the concept development, theme to be chosen and publicity. Event management logistics have many imponderable factors in India — possibility of agitations, electricity failure, government clearances, etc.
Wizcraft provided technical know-how of lasers and show illumination at the time MJ Show and Lata Mangeshkar Show (1997). In India, there are many film-based events. In 1997, we had Yanni music concert at the Taj Mahal and Bryan Adams event.
At the Barcelona Olympic Games, Michael Jordan draped himself with a US team flag on the victory stand. The entire US team had to wear Reebok track suits. Jordan is a Nike man.
Corporate organisations build an image for them and their products through communication. Event management is used to build brands and a corporate image. Event management in India is still used to create hype, though their value lies in conveying a serious corporate message.
Cigarette companies have traditionally used events like ‘Made for Each Other’ balls for Wills and Polo matches for Classic. Event management has strategic intents.
Events are managed with certain objectives in mind. These objectives must be realised by their proper communication. Events are to be marketed. Just organising them is only half the job. Events have objectives and timing to coincide with the marketing plan, significant venue and a specific target audience.
Can we think of the use of technology to make everything memorable? Lasers, technomagic to create illusions, special effects, pyrotechnics and exotic sets are all used for this purpose. Apart from corporate image building, events are used for launching and relaunching products.
Retailers like Shoppers’ Stop use events like Parikrama which bring ethic element into the shopping for retailing in a conducive environment. Events are used to build teams, to solve HRD issues and product promos. Event agency must be carefully chosen. The agency must understand what the marketer seeks from the event. The agency should facilitate our marketing efforts, rather than supplying just razzmatazz gatherings.
There is a website called 73 coffees(dot)com which offers hotels / conference venues at the click of a button to corporates and event planners.
Formerly, horse racing was being sponsored by only the tobacco and liquor companies who did not have the normal advertising channels like radio, TV or press available to them. Since the target consumers of both tobacco and liquors are those who flock to rages, sponsorship is quite a sensible proposition to strengthen their brands.
Over the years, such sponsorship has created greater awareness of this sport and today, races are not only for gamblers but are enjoyed by a wide cross-section of society – rich company heads, industrialists, company chairmen, the upper middle class, the middle-class and the lower-class too. This of course, has led to sponsorship from many other organisations like Hong-Kong Bank, Kwality Frozen Foods and Onida. Horse racing and glamour go together.
The game has an elitist image. Cricket gives exposure, but cricket is everybody’s game. Besides, cricket sponsorship is a costly proposition suitable for firms with a national presence.
Motor racing is a strong contender for sponsorship in terms of glamour and exposure. Still it is not as popular in India as horse racing. Horse racing is more accessible. For a car rally, though the starting point is a metro, the rally passes through smaller towns and villages.
Therefore, ads are restricted to automobile related products. In future, the turf has the potential to attract more and more sponsors as it is a cost-effective medium. The coverage by the electronic media like star TV and the DD will give it a further boost.
The McDowell Indian Derby is run on the First Sunday of February every year. Glamour, glitz and fashion parades mark the running of the event. It is a sporting-cum-social event. The Derby is traced to 18th century England. Horse racing is a colonial legacy. The races are named after the races in England – the Derby, the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks, the 2000 Guineas, etc.
The turf clubs in India have preferred to call the most prestigious classic race the Derby. Lord Derby, in 1779, had won the toss with Sir Charles Bunbury so as to name the race after him.
McDowell stepped in as the first corporate sponsor in 1985 of India’s Blue Riband. Revelation, a filly, won the inaugural running. She was the first filly since 1969 to win the Derby. Royal Western Turf Club presents a picture of glamour on the Derby Day in Mumbai.
The Indian Derby was launched in 1943. It became The McDowell Indian Derby from 1985.
Nothing sells like sports. Once relegated to the ghetto of cigarette, beer and auto companies, sports marketing have taken a firm hold on the corporate world. Tennis, for one, has become a business that can fetch a fortune. Even school going players are making as much money in a year as their parents made in a decade.
The big three in the business of sports are the International Management Groups (IMG), Preserve and Advantage International. They are the premier firms in the representation of sports celebrities.
IMG has the largest clientele besides being the world’s largest independent source of televised sports. With 25 offices in 16 countries and over 500 employees, IMG ‘controls’ the cream of tennis players and tournaments. This prize, of course, is Wimbledon.
Professional Marketing Group (PMG) is India’s first sports management agency set up by Gavaskar in 1985. Madison World and Selvel Outdoor acquired a dominant state in PMG in June 2007. Precept D’Mark has been selling the business of cricket for a dozen years. In May 2007, it started a separate division called PDM sports to exclusively market cricket.
O&M has floated Ogilvy Sports, a new outfit for marketing sports. Some prominent sports marketing companies are Procam, Globo Sports, 21st Century Media, Tiger Spots, Leisure Sports Relay Worldwide, Collage Sports, Infinity, Hawas, ESP, Nimbus Sports, Media Centre Sports, Score India and Sports India.
Most of the sports are being packed for the tube, sometimes at the cost of spectators. The periods of inactivity in sports is filled up by action replays and computerized information. The tie-breaker was originally the idea of American television producers. TV as a media cannot be blamed however. The sponsors should be more responsible.
Prize money, exhibition matches, interview, sponsorship endorsement, TV talks and celebrity evenings chase the winner. Resorts, ranches, luxury and sports cars, villas, diamonds, furs, personal executive jets, city hotels, apartments, oil wells, Swiss chattels, luxury yachts form the part of their fabulous investments, properties, and interests.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament of 20 overs was held for the first time in India in 2008, and second time in South Africa in 2009. The third IPL season starts in 2010. The revenues are largely generated through media rights and sponsorships. The average TRP rating of IPL I was 4.8, whereas it was 4.04 for IPL II.
The total number of people who watched IPL II, however, was 109.7 million, compared to 85.6 million for IPL I. The ad rates went up at least 35 per cent in 2009 compared to what they were in 2008. The IPL teams are owned by franchisees and have primarily five sources of income.
1. Central broadcasting revenue where an agreed amount is paid to BCCI by Media Company annually. The franchisees share with BCCI this revenue at an agreed percentage, which is higher at the beginning, but tapers off later.
2. Central sponsorship revenue to be shared between the BCCI and the franchisee.
3. Local sponsors which keep on increasing. The sponsor’s brand ride on the IPL brand. There are either barter deals or fixed amount deals with the franchises.
4. Ticket sales which account for 15-20 per cent of total revenues internationally.
5. Licensing and merchandising which brings insignificant amount so far.
6. Broadcast deal where spots of 10 seconds are sold by the media, who pays an agreed amount to the BCCI in lump sum.
In Pretty Woman, a corporate polo match was shown. Tag Huer sponsors golf tournaments. LVMH is signing a sponsorship deal in cricket in India. Omega and Rolex sponsor polo in India. Cartier SA too promotes polo internationally. DLF and Emmar promote golf. In Mumbai, luxury brands associate themselves with a boat show.
Internationally, Oscars and Cannes lend themselves to associations with luxury brands. As in India such sponsorship opportunities are less, most of the promotion of luxury brands is directed to advertising in fashion magazines and in-store events.
Sponsorships provide a tool to bring the truly memorable experience of the luxury brand to the consumer. Here the consumers get a participatory experience. Women’s golf has received a boost on account of sponsorships. Luxury brands are going beyond traditional events to art and architecture.
It is a kind of parasite marketing. We are aware of the sports sponsorships. The companies carry-out a marketing blitz for the event. There are marketers who seek to associate with the event and access the audience.
They try to capitalise on the accompanying goodwill without the approval of the official body or payment of the requisite sponsorship fee. This could be done without breaking the law. Jerry Welsh coined the term ‘ambush marketing’ in early 1990s to describe such activities.
American Express looks it as an act of subversion against expensive and ill-conceived sponsorships. It is a risk to the genuine advertisers. The best example of ambush marketing in India was the Pepsi ad saying ‘there is nothing official about it’ to counter the official drink Coke at the time of World Cup, 1996.
There is also a question of the conflict between the official sponsorship of products and the individual endorsement contracts of the players.
The ambush marketer tries to create a nexus between the event and his brand. AmEx bought substantial ad time to counter the Visa’s status as the official card at the 1992 Olympic Games. One ad of AmEx said, ‘Remember, to visit Spain, you don’t need a Visa’.
One classic ambush strategy is to buy up billboards during the event. Several sports events countries try to legislate to protect the official sponsors before the event. They cease once the event is over.
Mark Mascaren has realised the potential of cricket the world over, and he became the first significant promoter of the game and its players in the post-Packer era. He managed the best deals for the players. Originally from Bangalore, he settled down in Connecticut with his wife Karen and their four children.
Jean, his sister ran his Indian operations. He set up Worldtel in the US in 1989. In early days, his first success was getting the telecast rights for Alpine Ski World Championship.
In 1993, he felt that Sachin and Kambli are not being marketed properly. He signed a multimillion dollar contract with Tendulkar. He held television rights in Sharjah, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and the US, specializing in offshore cricket targeted at the vast Asian community worldwide.
Mascaren has operated Worldtel with a small, tightly knit team. Worldtel put together a team of commentators including Shashtri, Chappel, Tony Greig and sometimes Barry Richards.
He had a special relationship with Jagmohan Dalmiya, the BCCI President. In 1996, during the World Cup in the subcontinent, he tied up with DD to market the television rights of the tournament. He expired in an accident in January 2002.
Public Relations – In-House PR: Qualities Required by a Person In-Charge of PR Functions
PR being an important function, in large organisations, it is delegated to an independent PR department.
A PR department has to set some objectives before it, e.g. to improve community relations, to ensure media coverage, to communicate internally so as to develop good employer-employee relationships to educate the outside public to create favourable environment prior to a share issue and to participate in trade fairs and exhibitions.
PR department is responsible for the total communications with inside as well as outside public.
If any organisation can sustain a PR department independently by budgeting for it, then it should be given equal importance and should be kept on par with other departments like marketing, production, personnel and finance.
Mostly, it is made a part of the marketing function or advertising department. But it should evolve further to acquire an independent status and should be answerable to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
A person in charge of PR function must have:
1. As much knowledge about the organisation as possible.
2. Good qualifications like management training, PR diploma, advertising, journalism or mass communication diploma.
3. Good experience.
4. Personal traits suitable to work as a PR executive.
5. Managerial skills of planning, organising and controlling.
6. Imagination and innovativeness.
7. Computer literacy.
8. Personal integrity.
There is no gender bias in a PR function. A man or woman can be equally good or bad PR functionaries. Whether our PR is to be handled by a man or woman depends to a large extent on the type of business activity the firm has undertaken. Much depends upon individual merits.
A PR man has to interface with people from all other areas of business. As an internal communicator, he has to interact with the personnel and HRD people. As a media coverage person, he has to interact with the marketing and advertising professionals. As a corporate communicator, he has to interact with financial institutions and merchant bankers.
In short, a PR man has to integrate his knowledge about the organisation to the communication skills he possesses.
A company may use the services of PR consultants for certain specialised activities like event management, media coverage, etc. Even those firms which have no in-house PR department might use PR consultants. In India, several advertising agencies have PR division which offer PR consultancy.
PR consultants take an objective and dispassionate view of an outsider. PR consultancy is a matter of training and experience. PR consultancy is not a cushy cushy affair, involving wining and dining. It, however, does not mean that a PR consultancy is calculated on hourly basis or daily basis.
While costing, a consultant recovers all his costs and puts a mark-up on that to earn his profit. We get the quality on consultancy services, depending upon what we pay for. A PR consultant is unaware of social etiquettes. PR spends on materials and items of expenditure like travelling and hospitality. His major cost factor is the time devoted.
A consultant does not give advice ex gratis. A consultant works within a given budget. Consultancy fees are paid only for the time, and the rest of the items of expenditure are just reimbursed with no intention of making profit on them.
Sometimes, consultants are paid retainer fees, whereby a consultant is retained for a company exclusively. However, his consultancy fees are paid separately as and when an assignment is given.
A PR consultant is expected to carry-out PR research to assess the problems of communication, so as to design a planned PR programme. There are specialised consultants to do corporate advertising and pre-issue publicity.
PR consultancy may be needed to prepare annual reports, arranging AGMs, managing a takeover bid or a merger. There are specialised consultants for parliamentary liaison and lobbying. Sometimes, consultants are employed to create corporate identity and to do editing of house journals. A PR consultant touches upon every aspect of marketing and corporate communication.
The effectiveness of PR consultancy can be easily evaluated. Though consultancy fees may look prohibitive, the consultant takes into account the time given to non-consultancy administration.
Public relations consultancies deal with three distinct areas – corporate, government and individual. The corporate division forms the largest part in India. Specialisations that have emerged in this field include those in technology, pharmaceutical, health care and finance sectors.
Corporate and finance clients include banks, insurance companies, initial public offers (IPOs) and image-building. Consumer PR includes product launches, sponsorships and innovative concepts. Government public relations are of relatively recent origin.
Recently, the major PR agencies formed an association called the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI). It will set standards for the PR industry. It is a meeting ground for PR professionals. It proposes to start its own awards in near future. It has launched a site on Internet, www(dot)prcai(dot)org.
Public Relations – Public Relations and Marketing: Product, Packaging, Price, Channels of Distribution, Advertising, Sales Promotion of the Product and a Few More
PR and Marketing have a symbiotic relationship. To begin with, PR is considered just a part of marketing. It is open to the firm to have PR or not. It just supports advertising and thus, is a part of promotion. Advertising is paid for, and PR is free publicity.
Later, when the firm awakens to the full blown communications functions of PR, along with its image building and customer relations role, PR is accorded importance that it deserves and is considered as a full-fledged management function.
PR has, however, strong linkage with marketing. The marketing operation of any business is guided by its marketing plan, which has the best possible mix of four variables, namely – the nature of the product, the price of the product, the channels of distribution which take the product from the producer to the consumer and the promotional activities. Let us see how PR is related to these four elements of the marketing mix.
A company marketing products and services has a name. The name of the company itself stands for its entire identity and image. It should enable others to identify a company and create an understanding about it. The company name must be easy to remember. Explicit names are preferable.
A company’s name has PR connotations. The changes in name is called for when the nature of business or mission of the company changes. The change should be well-communicated. It should not confuse the public.
A company’s products are branded. Branding adds value to the product. A brand name is also necessary for identification and communication purposes. It facilitates marketing communication.
Whether it is the name of a company or its brands, the name should be distinctive, suggestive, appropriate and memorable. Besides in these days of globalisation, the name must be internationally acceptable.
It is rare to have founder’s name attached to either companies or brands these days. Geographical names or national names are good so long as they do not inhibit the international marketing of the product.
Acronyms are very much in fashion, for example CRY. Names which are difficult, have tongue twisting pronunciations are better avoided. Similarly, a name prone to be misspelt is better avoided, e.g., Hoechst (Hext). Initials also give good names, e.g., IBM, BMW, ITC, etc.
Names evoke feelings. They may have strong emotional content, e.g., Mumbai is dear to Maharashtrians. A name may stand for national pride.
The package of the products also has communicative functions. A package may generate goodwill or may create ill feelings. Packages are made for the convenience of the customers. Imagine a pathologist giving blood examination report on a thin piece of paper which is difficult to preserve.
Labeling and pack-inserts should not leave behind a communication gap. Cardboard boxes of grinder-mixers and popup toasters have a convenient plastic or cardboard handle to carry them with ease. Crockery and breakables should be suitably packed.
Shoppers’ Stop gives wide carry bags to take the garments and outfits selected in an un-crumpled form. Lakme contours the bottles to resemble the shoulder curves of women, thus announcing that it sells cosmetics for women.
Sometimes, what is convenient for the final consumer may not be convenient for trade, e.g., a carton packed bulb is convenient for the consumer but is inconvenient to trade which finds easier to test a sleeve-packaged bulb on the board. A slight change in packaging can create problems of acceptance.
Coke has learnt that consumers have a liking for its green contoured bottle. It is trying to shape even its cans in such a mould. Packaging is another name for care being shown to the customer.
Price is charged to cover all costs and leave some surplus. Price, however, has a psychological dimension. It indicates what people can afford to pay and what they would like to pay. Price paid should provide value for money spent. Money can be put to alternative uses.
We have to consider the options forgone to have the product. Price also indicates premiumness or quality. It may be a status symbol. It may indicate a bargain. An organisation stakes its goodwill on price.
Price has a great role to play in the overall satisfaction of the customers and the feeling they have towards the organisation. Price has, therefore, PR implications. Change in price must be brought to the notice of all concerned.
There should be some communication between the trade channels and PR. While selecting a channel, we have to consider the other 3 Ps — product, price and promotion. Channels must be educated about the company’s product. There are dealer conferences, training sessions and dealer magazines.
There are cases of untruthful, unfair and unethical ads. Even a mere referral to ASCI (Advertising Standards Council of India) may earn a bad name for a company. PR and advertising are two distinct but supportive activities.
PR, unlike advertising is personal. PR is less expensive than advertising. PR cannot replace advertising. PR can help advertising by changing the way consumers perceive a company and hence, the product.
While starting a new plant, PR is more relevant than advertising. However, what is achieved by PR must be sustained by advertising and good production. In case of physical products, advertising plays a greater role. In case of services, PR plays a vital role. PR has greater credibility since it is not paid for.
However, a brand personality is built only by advertising. PR has slowly evolved into an integrated approach called corporate communications. When we speak about us, it is said that we advertise. When others speak about us, it is said PR has come into play.
Though advertising and PR are closely related, still each has its own distinct identity.
How advertising and PR are different from each other is given below:
1. Control – Advertising process is under the control of management.
2. Evaluation – Evaluations methods of recall and tracking are well established. Media readership or viewership can be measured.
3. Compensation – 15% of die media billing is die norm.
4. Client Relationships – Long-term relationship
5. Organisation – Associations like Advertising, Agencies Associations of India (AAAI), INS-Indian Newspaper Society.
6. International tie-ups – Tie-ups with foreign agencies are common.
1. Control – PR could be favourable or unfavourable. It is difficult to control it.
2. Evaluation – Evaluation methods are not so well established, except corporate image studies and collection of coverage clippings.
3. Compensation – Retainer basis work. Wide variations in fees from agency-to-agency.
4. Client Relationships – Project basis relationship.
5. Organisation – No strong organisational body to represent PR. IPAN – a modest attempt in professionalisation.
vi. Sales Promotion of the Product:
SP – Sales Promotion brings us closer to the customers. It has PR implications since both have the ultimate aim of consumer satisfaction. SP scheme affects the goodwill of a company in the long run and the bottom line of the company in the short run. SP should be considered in relation to the trade convenience.
Sometimes, it may have a nuisance value for the retailer. Certain money-off coupons are not redeemed against purchases of the product but are encashed. In other words, we are throwing off money without having increased the sales of our product.
Opinion leaders articulate their opinions which carry weightage. They influence those who listen to them one way or the other. They can be leaders in their respective fields, experts on any subject, authors, media people, etc. Even our parents, teachers and priests who influence our opinions, are opinion leaders for us.
Opinions expressed by opinion leaders may be helpful for an organisation, e.g., concern for environment expressed by environmentalists may help those firms which sell an anti-pollution equipment. However, there are times when opinions expressed by the opinion leaders prove a hindrance to the organisation.
The role of PR is to create a favourable opinion climate for the organisation. The opinion leaders must be identified. Their opinions must be known. We have to study the repercussions of their opinion on our organisation.
We have to see that the opinion they have formed is based on the facts. While studying an opinion climate, if we find there is some negative trend, we must meet the opinion leaders and put across our side of the story.
These leaders must be invited to see things for themselves. The subject must be discussed with them. Most of the times, the negative opinion may be due to plain ignorance or wrong facts. When opinion leaders are far too many and widely spread, personal methods may not be practical. We must deal with them through mass media, house journals, audio-visual presentations, seminars, conferences, etc.
Some typical opinion leaders who affect business are senior bureaucrats, politicians, public figures and celebrities.
An opinion survey can be conducted to know the opinion climate. Reader’s letters come handy to assess the opinion. If an organisation monitors press, these letters come to its notice. They may be answered by the PRO.
Media themselves may turn critical about a business or product. Journalists who write about us must be contacted and we must tell them our side of the story.
Opinion leaders are thus dealt with either individually and en masse through a PR campaign consisting of media relations, journals, literature, exhibitions, etc.
Public Relations – Public Relations and Politics
State intervention in business is now an accepted fact. Even otherwise, business and environment are affected by government’s policies and programmes. The government and business interact with each other to understand the viewpoints of each other.
PR supports a pressure group that represents the business interest to the government. PR also cultivates MPs and keep them informed about the activities of business. PR communicates with senior bureaucrats.
MPs or bureaucrats are better inclined to amend the proposals which run contrary to business interest if they are briefed. PR has to interact with political parties also and PR informs them with which policies related to business they do not agree.
As governments have to trade-off between several conflicting interests, it is no guarantee that mere funding a political party will take care of our interests. We have to articulate our own objectives to the government and political parties.
If political action harms business, it must have a PR plan to deal with it. We can have direct access to politicians and an indirect access through the media. People in government, political parties, local MPs and MLAs can be invited to visit our plants.
An industry can send a delegation to submit memorandum to the government. PR has to take care of business interest as the primary interest of a politician is to seek power and stay with it. He on his own, may not further our interests. We can call this political PR.
Public Relations – Public Relations and Community Relations
Some firms are indifferent to the local community in their neighbourhood. Just like charily, PR begins at home. Our approach towards our visitors does matter a lot. Are we sensitive to local aspirations? In what way do we contribute to further the interests of the local community? Have we got an image to attract the best talents locally available?
Are we providing jobs to the sons of the soil? Do we maintain cordial relations with the local media? Do people know what business are you in and where are you located? Sometimes, community may be adversely affected by our operations. What steps do we take to minimise the harm? We had in India, the Bhopal gas tragedy.
Such tragedies occur because sufficient safely measures are not taken. PR starts with community relations. Good community relations generate a feeling of working for a worthy employer in the employees. We must have a programme to maintain media relations. Our house journal should take notice of community events. The organisation can participate in local events.
We should encourage factory visits of the local groups. We can arrange exhibitions. Our executives can be guest speakers at various programmes. These speakers are our ambassadors. They can make use of audio-visual aids. PR departments must plan the community relations programme imaginatively. We can call this community PR.
Public Relations – Crisis Management
This is an important aspect of modern PR. The best thing is to prevent the occurrence of a crisis. However, crises do occur, e.g., strikes, fire, product failures, pollutions problem, court strictures, riots, boycott by trade channels, enhancement in raw material prices, fall in stock prices, etc.
A company has to speculate on more things which can go wrong and should have alternate plans if such a thing happens. Some crises have a high probability of occurrence, whereas some have a low probability. We can classify them into likely and unlikely crises.
Once the crisis occurs, a crisis management team is put together. It takes care of logistical and rehabilitation problems. The true story is put before the media people concerned. There should be a consistency of approach. The media treats the crisis is its own way. We can provide them the right inputs. Someone responsible should handle the crisis on the spot it occurred.
For a major crisis, we have to be ready to face a barrage of questions from the media. The problem must be sorted out. The restoration normally provides a good opportunity to have some PR. We can ask the media to come and see the restorative steps taken by us.
Sometimes, there are cases of faulty products affecting the community. We have to take steps to withdraw the stocks. Such a withdrawal needs careful handling. An honest admission in the press and the sincerity shown in taking corrective steps help. We can insert safely warnings in the media.
Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker, had to withdraw several million cars as there was unintentional acceleration due to faulty pedal and floor mat in early 2010. Honda had to withdraw cars for a faulty pedal switch in power windows that led to fire in a few cases. Even our own Maruti Suzuki called back their star models to fix the leakage in petrol pump the faulty rubber gasket.