Public relations in India
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Public Relations is a management function and is an art and science of managing communication strategically and effectively for a desired outcome. Public Relations is not a subset to any other knowledge vertical as often construed as a subset to marketing, advertising, or corporate communication. PR encompasses every aspect of communication for an organisation to achieve a particular goal or result through a very humane holistic approach to understand various groups of people.
Public Relations or PR is not everyone's domain though each and everyone within an organisation is repsonsible to protect the organisational reputation, by maintaining rapport and building understanding with diverse groups of people, who are called 'publics' who are directly or indirectly engaged with the organisation. The term 'public' in public relations is also often equated with general public, whereas it stands for the groups of people, both internal and external, who interact with the organisation.
The practice also helps individuals, celebrities, authors, and other professionals, to streamling and deploy various communication tactics to build their reputation in their chosen niche.
As a strategic management function, public relations strength rests on the body of communication theories and knowledge, specialised skill sets, supported and reviewed by peer groups organised under various professional bodies, and with its own set of ethics and high level of professional integrity.
Though PR as a profession is believed to have evolved in the 1920s in US, India has a rich tradition of its practice from the hoary past. The first manual of public relations practice for a king delineating strategies for governance of state by a king, was written by Chanakya in 375BC in the form of 'Arthshastra', There are numerous other historical examples and records of effective communication strategies that various people used over the centuries in one form or the other.
History of Public Relations in India
Public Relations, despite being over a century old across the world, began in India in the 1950s, when a group of public relations practitioners formed the PR Society of India in 1956 in Bombay under the leadership of Kali H. Mody. He led the body till 1960, followed by S. Mandietta who was President in 1961 till 1965, with F.S. Mulla who became the President from 1966-69. It was under Mr Farruk S. Mulla, this informal body was registered under the Indian Societies Act XXVI of 1961, in 1966, and he became the founder President of Public Relations Society of India.
At the same time, around 1965, another body, the Public Relations Circle had been founded and registered in Calcutta. It was the first-ever association of professional PR practitioners in Eastern India.
In 1968, the first All India Public Relations Conference was held in Mumbai in 1968, where the members of the Calcutta Public Relations Council decided to disband the regional body, and merged with the Public Relations Society of India to strengthen the national body. Another significant contribution of this conference was adoption of the International Code of Ethics (also called Code of Athens) on 21 April 1968.
The founder President Farrok S. Mulla was able to extend the reach of the PR body by establishing Regional Chapters at Delhi, Madras, and Calcutta.
One of the landmark achievement of this professional body of PR practitioners was to bring together leading international PR experts to India when Bombay hosted the 9th Public Relations World Congress from 19–23 January 1982 with active participation of International Public Relations Association (IPRA). At that time, the PRSI was headed by Mr K.S. Neelakandan, Director Public Relations with Pfizer Limited, who was also the Executive Chairman of the World Congress.
Though there were several individuals and small companies which started even before that, they offered PR with the limited scope of media relations only. It was only natural that the entrepreneurs who began these services came from a background of journalism, seen as a natural hunting ground for the nascent PR industry.
Growth of Public Relations in India
According to the report by PRCAI titled ‘State of the Industry Survey 2019’ , PR industry in India grew 12% to reach Rs 1,600 cr in 2019. Though conventional Media Relations continues to be the key revenue source for agencies, the revenue share of digital and social media services increased from 12 per cent in FY18 to 16 per cent in FY19. According to the report, among sectors, Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), Information Technology (IT), Travel and Government (both central and state) have driven the industry’s growth, with a 44% contribution to the revenue.
Public Relations as a practice has grown over the years with many advertising agencies including PR services in their portfolio besides mushrooming of independent PR consultants to full-fledged PR agencies.
However, the growth can be attributed to several professional bodies who in their own right had been engaging communicators by conducting conferences, seminars, workshops and upgrading their skills.
Some of these professional bodies include Public Relations Society of India, Public Relations Council of India, Association of Business Communicators of India, Public Relations Consultants Association of India, Global Forum for Public Relations, etc.
Professionals like Dr CV Narasimha Reddy had been instrumental in starting a magazine, 'Public Relations Voice' which he continued to publish and edit single handedly till his demise in March 2020.
Today, there are a number of public relations periodicals, journals, blogs, and online magazines catering to the PR practice.
Since 2006, Public Relations Council of India had been organising Global PR Conclave where veteran PR practitioners are inducted into the Hall of Fame and Chanakya Awards are also conferred to various individuals and organisations for their PR campaigns under diverse categories. In 2010, The Holmes Report, an international report that rates PR agencies across the globe awarded Blue Lotus Communications the Indian Consultancy of the year for 2010.
ABCI at its annual convention also recognises the contribution of business communicators in India.
The Holmes Report also awarded the consultancy of the year award for 2011 to Corporate Voice | Weber Shandwick. Corporate Voice Weber Shandwick's campaign for Gillette India won India's first PR Lion at Cannes in 2010.
In 2011, IPRCCA, India Public Relations and Corporate Communications Awards (IPRCCA), instituted an award for PR agencies.
In 2016, IPRCA awarded S.P.A.G for ‘Time to Un'burden' - Commitment to reduce the NCD burden in India through a multi-sectoral approach’ for Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases, ARM Digital Media Pvt. Ltd. for “A hilarious attempt by TE-A-ME to "Purify" Donald Trump" for TE-A-ME, 20:20 MSL for Saffolalife's “Saffolalife Walk together to #protectherheart”, Value360 Communications for Paytm's “Building a National Leader - Vijay Shekhar Sharma”, Golinopinion for Lifebuoy's "Help a Child Reach 5" and Text 100 for Telenor's Webwise Programme.
In 2017, Marketing Interactive awarded "Most Creative PR Stunt - South East Asia" in PR Awards 2017 to an emerging Indian origin digital and communication consulting firm, #ARM Worldwide for executing "Tea for Trump" campaign.
In 2018, Adfactors PR became the first Indian firm to have a revenue upwards of Rs 150 crore per annum and stood at 70th rank in The Holmes Report's Top 250 Global PR Agency RankingThe largest competitor to Adfactors PR is PRNews Journal, as of 2018.
PR Controversies in India
On January 7, 2009, Ramalinga Raju, the erstwhile chairman of Satyam Ltd., India's leading IT firm, made an admission of conscious fraud & misreporting perpetrated by him over several years. The media who had eulogized him till then, suddenly turned on him with a vengeance, conscious that they had also failed in their duty as watchdogs of businesses. This crisis, coincided with the peak of the global crisis and held the potential to snowball into a credibility & trust issue for brand India and its IT firms, where several billion dollars worth of services were being outsourced every year. The crisis also impacted several companies associated with Satyam including EMRI (Emergency Medical Response Institute), a not-for-profit endeavour (for running free ambulance services) in which Satyam had committed 5% of running costs with the balance 95% coming from various state governments.
However, the Indian government took quick action and set up an interim board consisting of industry stalwarts for the company to assess the true worth of Satyam and to seek a suitable investor & management. The swiftly conducted and fiercely contested bid was won by Mahindra & Mahindra and Satyam was merged with a group IT company.
After the global slowdown that hit Indian Public relation agencies in 2008, it took a further hit in November 2010 due to what has come to be known as the 'Radiagate' scam. Open Magazine in an exposé, covered the story of Niira Radia's nefarious power-dealings. An Income Tax phone tap collected more than 5000 tapes and hundreds of these tapes were leaked and found their way into Outlook magazine's website. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) interrogated Radia several times and as a fallout of the tapes, the Telecom minister, A. Raja, with whom Radia had close links was also forced to resign. Several prominent journalists like Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi were also in the middle of the quagmire, caught in power-lobbying conversations with Radia.
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