Tuesday, November 15, 2011

ABCI challenges Communicators to be the Leaders in Innovation

Dr,C.V.Narasimha Reddi
Editor, Public Relations Voice

(Thanks to our regular contributor - a noted public relations professional of India, Dr. C.V.Narasimha Reddi, we have another brilliant round up of the recently concluded ComFest-11
Two major communication events of national importance ‘ ComFest-11 Winds of Change” and ABCI 51st Awards – For Excellence in Business Communication” organized by the Association of Business Communicators of India in Mumbai on11 & 12th November were not only a cynosure of all business communicators and public relations practitioners but also galvanized them to be change agents and leaders in innovation to transform India as a global economic player.

Dr. J J Irani former Managing Director, TATA Steel whose acumen and technological innovation has made TATA Steel the lowest cost steel producing company in the world has set the tone of the conference with his inaugural address on “ Tomorrow’s Corporations” and said the future companies must be licensed by the community for their survival. Anti-Kudankalam Nuclear Power Project agitation was quoted as an example to emphasize the need for community approval. He suggested that the most significant contribution, that an industry could make was by identifying itself with the life and problems of the people to which it belonged and by applying its resources, skills and talents to the extent that it can, reasonably spare them to serve and help the poor: “Employees will choose corporations which care for them, investors and customer will prefer to buy from ethical, socially responsible corporations, Islands of prosperity cannot survive in a sea of poverty, if markets must expand the poor must also become customers’ were the other highlights of J. J Iran’s keynote address.

M.S.Swaminathan, pioneer of Green Revolution who was the Chief Guest at Awards function complimented the ABCI for its excellent record in unfolding the hidden talents of business communicators by presenting prestigious awards and told the audience that he had an inspiring evening in his life in the midst of national change makers and lifetime achievers. He pointed out that with the growth of Indian economy there was also a phenomenal growth of business communication. However, he cautioned the communicators that their commercial message should be integrated with social, ethical values and integrity to ameliorate the 121 crore people of India .

Earlier Yogesh Joshi, President, ABCI welcoming the guests said that the Com-Fest a festival with a difference when national change makers interacted with business communicators to convert them as change agents. As many as 952 nominations were received in the 32 categories of awards. ABCI President observed such a number of nominations was a national record and also indicative of growing competitive talent in the field of business communication.

Sylvester da’ Cunha the creator of the Amul Brand was proud to say that a country like India which was starving for milk became world’s largest milk producer. The catchy slogan ‘ Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread with Amul Butter” caught the imagination of the Indians, he added.

M. V. Nair, Chairman, Union Bank of India in his keynote presentation informed that the bank was inaugurated 93 years ago by Mahatma Gandhi as a bank of Swadeshi Promoters. In a world of constant change, the Chairman Union Bank felt that employees’ mind set should also change to implement the vision, mission and core values of the bank. Communication he said was an important input in change management that should be handled by public relations practitioners with utmost personal communication skills.

In a thought provoking presentation “Maveric in Motion”, the advertising legend Alyque Padamsee said that 50 per cent of Indian population whose age is below 25, the third largest young group in the world paradoxically was ruled by another 50 per cent of the population who are above 60. This dichotomy is a challenge. If we look to the future, he said we must involve youth as our target audience.

Neelima Mishra, Ramon Magsaysay awardee who spoke on the transformation of rural women through self-help groups said the communicators must understand the needs of the audience and communicate with them through the media accessible to them. Being a village girl, she could transform women by identifying their aspirations towards better life which earned her an award of the type of Asian Nobel Prize.

Among others, who interacted with delegates include: Roger Pereira, world renowned PR Consultant, Hudson Samarasinghe, Chairman, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and Jayant Pendharkar, former Global Head, Marketing & Communications TCS Ltd.

10- POINT GOLDEN RULES
A 10- Point Golden Rules could be drawn from this ComFest as a follow up by the Public Communication Professionals

1. Public Relations and Business Communication professionals must act as change agents by identifying the changing socio-economic scenario

2. Communicate both with internal and external publics as to make them partners in reaching the corporate goals

3. Counsel the management to adopt corporate ethics with social responsibility as good ethics leads to good business

4. Adopt public relations ethics in tune with corporate ethics to gain credibility for public relations messages

5. Public relations, advertising and marketing must work in unison coupled with information technology in building and positioning the brand of global relevance and also to occupy a unique place for the brand in the minds of the target audience

6. Public relations and business communication professionals must become leaders in innovation to professionalize the discipline

7. Break the tradition and ageold customs to change for the better future

8. Reward success, reward failure also, but also punish ‘ inaction’

9. “Occupy Wall Street Campaign” a division between the one per cent rich and 99 per cent poor is blooming all over the world. Communicators must understand this movement and advise managements to share their profits with the poor.

10. The last but the most important lesson that one should learn from ABCI Awards is “ compilation of best public relations case studies”. As many as 129 awards were given in 32 categories whose achievements could be converted atleast in 10 best case studies for the benefit of both practitioners and academics.

ABCI Leader in Innovation
India today needs a strong public relations professional body and leaders of national repute to advance the profession in the service of the society. Yogesh Joshi, a thoughtful, committed, self-effacing and inspiring man who now heads ABCI proved beyond doubt that any professional body if moved with a good leader and team spirit can do wonders for the growth of the profession. The successful conduct of ComFest and 51st ABCI Awards with about 1000 nominations along with National Change Makers like M S Swaminathan and international standards bears an eloquent proof to the fact that ABCI has now become a model and trendsetter for other professional bodies in the country. An award winner in the category of house journals commented ‘Yogesh is now ABCI Leader in Innovation’ which I think he richly deserves.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Nira Radia tarnished the reputation of PR


Dr. C.V. Narasimha Reddi
Editor, Public Relations Voice

Controversial Corporate Lobbyist, the owner of Vaishnavi Corporate Communications Pvt. Ltd., which handled public relations programmes of Tata Group of Companies who was questioned by CBI and Enforcement Directorate about her alleged involvement in the Rs 1.7 lakh crore Spectrum Scam in a surprise move announced “ to give precedence to my personal priorities of family and health, I have decided to exist the business of Communications Consulting”.

THREE IN ONE
She owns three companies Vaishnavi Corporate Communications Pvt. Ltd. that dealt with lobbying and public relations of Tata Group of companies, another subsidiary Neucom Consultancy to handle public relations of Reliance Industries and the third one Noesis Consultants which was set up with a number of bureaucrats including Pradip Baijal, Former Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India as a Policy Advocacy Agency to look after government affairs.
An analysis of the performance of these three companies bears an eloquent proof to the fact that Nira Radia was not only just a public relations practitioner but also a lobbyist and a public affairs consultant.
Though she might have quit her business of corporate communications, her Three-In-One role as a lobbyist, public relations practitioner and public affairs consultant has not only tarnished the reputation of Indian public relations profession but also generated a significant decline in the media and people’s trust about public relations profession, which in fact with all limitations is in the take off stage. This incident may be regarded as if ‘adding fuel to the fire of the discipline’.
It is unfortunate that for no fault of public relations professionals, their image is now at stake. It is for this reason perhaps Tatas have appointed Re-diffusion as their new public relations agency, before she decided to quit. As such the survival of her company was in a dilemma and that there was no alternative except closing it down.

ALLEGED ALLEGATIONS
Among others, the alleged allegations against her include: ‘the 5800 tapes revealed how Nira Radio hobnobbed with politicians, bureaucrats and the media, besides influencing the government in getting A Raja appointed as Union Minister for Telecommunications. Therefore, it is proved beyond any doubt that she has exceeded her role as a public relations professional and acted as a lobbyist and public affairs consultant without any code of conduct and ethical considerations. If her soul consciousness is clear, she should not have closed her business leaving 250 employees in the lurch and to their fate.

PR is Distinguished from Lobbying
It is against this background Public Relations Voice as the only journal of Indian PR professionals not only disassociates with the activities of Nira Radia as a corporate lobbyist but also clarifies the distinction between public relations, public affairs and lobbying. In fact lobbying and public relations are two distinct disciplines from the point of view of academies as well as professional practice. These two areas adopt different approaches in strategy, tactics, objectives, target audience, media choice, message formulation, type of presentation and also in cost effectiveness.

If public relations is the management of a two – way communication process between an organization and its public to promote the corporate mission, services, products, reputation and gain public understanding, lobbying is a process in which a paid lobbyist or a pressure group seek to influence those in power. It is also influencing legislators, politicians or the government and persuade them to support or oppose a change in the law. Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of US, the lobbyist should register and identify with the Congress and disclose his/her clients, the issue areas in which lobbying is being done and that roughly how much is being paid for it. However, the lobbyist’s have to influence those in power with legitimate means by making presentations with facts and figures. Violators in America face civil fines of up to $50,000 under the law.

Self-Imposed Lobbyist
In the case of Nira Radia, she became a self imposed lobbyist without any rules and regulations either formulated by the Government or industry and acted with her own methods to influence the Government in the cause of her clients. The need of the hour is to bring in a law as to regulate the process of lobbying in India as promised by the then Union Minister for Company Affairs so that such incidents may not be repeated as to mar the image of public relations profession. The PR professional bodies of our country must also come forward to make representations with the Government of India to regulate lobbying so that they could not encroach the public relations areas.

We seek your comments on this statement so as to evolve a comprehensive report to make a presentation to the Government of India