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'If used correctly, PR can add human touch to any field'

Waving, meandering and shifting synthesizer tones should be main ingredients of a Public Relations professional, says national president, International Chambers of Public Relations

Dr Ajai Kumar Agarwal, national president,
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Dr Ajai Kumar Agarwal, national president,

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Basically Public Relations (PR) refers to managing how others see and feel about a person, brand, or a company and PR personnel are responsible for crafting and maintaining that perception. That is the standard definition we find in text books, but in practice a PR person has to deal with many other responsibilities also while working for an organization.

Since there is no single solution that can be applied to all the issues a PR person has to be imaginative. "Waving, meandering and shifting synthesizer tones should be his main ingredients," says Dr Ajai Kumar Agarwal, national president, International Chambers of Public Relations & Advisor SME Chambers of India for AP and Telangana States, in an exclusive interview with Bizz Buzz. His book, 'Public Relations: A Tool For Success' was released last month.

Normally, PR is seen as a second fiddle to journalism, your comments?

I have never thought about this. But I feel journalism has an acquired audience. A media house or a journalist doesn't focus specifically on a particular target. The news and information they publish are direct of interest to the public. On the other hand, we as public relations professionals have a specific target audience to build support and relay a message for an idea, product, or brand. So the main difference is the journalist is known to serve the public, while the public relations person is said to serve a client or an organization. That is the reason Public Relations is now called as corporate communications but the function remains same.

PR and journalism are two sides of the same bar. How?

This claim is rubbish. The two are very different domain. Unlike news gathering, PR has emerged as one of the most important tool not just for information dissemination, image building and managing reputation but as a key management function. PR is inclusive and can bring a human touch to any field of activity if it is used correctly, carefully and efficiently. It can be a powerful factor of success in all spheres, public, private, commercial and non-profit. PR is all about credibility, confidence, reputation, harmony and mutual understanding based on full information and truth. Journalism is altogether a different ballgame.

How do you see Public Relations (PR) as a profession?

If you enjoy meeting people, you are an extrovert and willing to work in a fast-paced, ever-changing landscape, and learn new things every day, PR could be an exciting industry to work in. It won't be easy, but there will be no shortage of opportunities for you to experiment. However, if you are those brooding kind of person or an introvert then don't plan to join the PR community. Basically Public relations refers to managing how others see and feel about a person, brand, or company and PR personnel are responsible for crafting and maintaining that perception. That is the standard definition we find in text books, but in practice a PR person has to deal with many other responsibilities also while working for an organisation. Since there is no single solution that can be applied to all the issues a PR person has to be imaginative. Waving, meandering and shifting synthesizer tones should be his main ingredients. And this I can say with firm conviction because I was a PR person all through my working life.

In a number of cases, journos turn up as a PR at the fag-end of their career, your comments?

Just because some unsuccessful journalists on the lookout for greener pastures join the PR community that doesn't mean it's the same like journalism. As I said earlier, the function is different. The objective is different. Their work areas are different. But since the interaction happen quiet often journalists do turn up into PR. I have no further comment to make because we are independent to join any profession at any point in time of our life.

PR persons often act as spin doctors, your view?

Our critics have always flayed us with criticism using terms like 'PR stunt', 'PR ploy', 'PR exercise', 'Spin doctors' and 'Public relations is organized lying.' Most high-profile problems relating to the profession originate from non-members of public relations professional bodies. These people can legitimately engage in public relations as they see fit. Our profession is vulnerable because many practitioners are merely technicians or implementers – messengers for the management of the organization or client. The PR persons in these situations have no authority over what they do; they are merely mouthpieces for other people who may or may not be ethical. However, the PR practitioners are held responsible by recipients for the messages they disseminate. But in these changing times the situation is getting better.

You have worked as a PR official for a PSU bank for a long term. Kindly share some interesting facts of the profession.

Public relation is not a cup of tea for everyone as it is very challenging, but I could be successful because I always wanted to be different from others. One has to be adamant and dedicated with a strong desire to succeed. I feel I was lucky right from beginning to receive motivational suggestions and big support that enabled me to perform as a PR professional in true sense. I never compromised in my work which gave me lot of good and bad experiences in my journey as a PR professional. To know more, advise your readers to read my book and I assure them that they will definitely be benefited as theory is totally different from real life experiences.

Often, it is blamed that PR hide or play with truth. Is it true?

A public relations specialist is an image shaper. Their job is to generate positive publicity for their client and enhance their reputation. They keep the public informed about the activities of the organisation; explain policy, and all about its execution and the same in case of companies and individuals. However, for too long, PR has been associated with spin. But PR is not always employed to make a negative sound like a positive. If a negative is really a negative, then the best Public Relations' advice is to face it, own it with care and respect, learn from it, address it, and then put it behind you and move on. My experience shows that with good planning and some luck, a Public Relations professional may succeed in turning a negative into a positive in time.

Kindly tell us what does your book say on PR?

My book 'PR: A Tool for Success' has two Sections. In the first section I have dealt with - defining public relations and its scope, PR fundamentals and objectives, PR in history, responsibilities and qualities of a PR person, communication as a system, new age tools, barriers in communication and the difference between feedback and grapevine. Also I've dealt in detail about Public Relations and media, cultivating the press, press conferences, developing public relations strategies and how to measure public relations. Crisis management also gets an importance as there are chapters on delivering the bad news, crisis communications, dealing with the media, and information leak. Lastly comes the ethics and lobbying, libel and slander, copyright act and ethical codes for PR professionals. I've also given examples of its practices during Covid-19. In the second section I've provided some useful tips on success is what you really want, unless a lot of other people want, loving and convincing difficult people, direct your own evolution, command some power, what drives people to you, The art of public speaking, and new challenges newer strategies.

How will the book be useful for readers?

In my book, I've tried to put together all the important elements of public relations in action. Keeping pace with the change is a must for PR professionals to be successful and social media has emerged as a big powerful tool. I've had a very rich 37 years long experience in PR work while I was with Central Bank of India. In the book I've tried to put together all the important elements of PR which I practiced. While being National president of Public Relations Council of India, I had the privilege to bring lots of changes about the perception of public relations.

I've always considered that PR is the most important ingredient in achieving success. We must know that we are all unique. But when it comes to for achieving success in whatsoever field you plan remember the ladder is same for all. And to succeed, we all need same ingredients in a proper proportion. Two of the main ingredients are: how you communicate and present yourself. As an individual we have to understand that interaction between two people or amongst thousands of people is vulnerable. We need to have the patience, the humility and an urge to keep forgetting the bad experiences, although, that's a practice hard to come by. We may struggle at times but we should never get bogged down. So to achieve success we have to master the art of Public Relations. And my book is all about this.

Kumud Das
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