By VSR Naidu
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations professionals.”
The sagacious observation of an American historian Daniel Joseph Boorstin sums up the significance of Public Relations (PR). Having served PR and Corp Com industry for more than four decades, I am a witness to the ever-growing importance of PR in personal, public and professional life. In tune with the unbelievably dynamic technological advancements, the role of PR professionals is increasing with every passing day. The role of PR in the digital world is immense and immeasurable.
At a time ‘making viral’ is the buzz word and a FB post or a Tweet can bury the image of a person or a firm well under a minute or two, PR has become a must for everyone. The need of PR professionals is well understood by governments, NGOs and corporates following the sea of information, flood of misinformation and deluge of disinformation. With the attention span of news readers is dangerously plummeting and the traditional media is facing existential issues, a trained PR person is needed for every organisation to take care of stakeholder communications, media relations, fact-checking, social responsibility initiatives and crisis management.
A professional body that has been striving very hard for the last 65 years to understand the needs of the industry, find out the key issues that need immediate attention, provide solutions of the problems and prepare professional manpower to rise to the occasion is the Public Relations Society of India (PRSI). In a nutshell, PRSI has been striving to promote recognition and strengthen public relations profession for the betterment of businesses and society. As PRSI is all set to conduct a crucial meeting in New Delhi this month, I wish to discuss its journey from Information Dissemination (ID) to Public Service (PS) while being part of nation building at every stage. Spearheaded by a former Indian Oil PR honcho, Dr Ajit Pathak, the professional body is making invaluable contribution to India’s mission to become a super power. The positive contribution of another stalwart PR professional Dr CV Narasimha Reddy, who is valued as PR Guru for his contribution to academics, is also a matter of pride for us.
April 21st, 1968 was a red-letter day in the history of Indian Public Relations when the first All India Public Relations Conference was held in New Delhi with the theme “Professional Approach”. This day assumed great importance because the Code of Athens, internationally accepted code of professional ethics as presented by Dr. Albert Oeckal, the then President of International Public Relations Association was adopted. Keeping in view the significance of the day, the then PRSI National President Dr. CV Narasimha Reddy, who headed the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh’s I & PR department, gave a call in 1986 to observe National Public Relations Day on April, 21st every year to dedicate PR professionals to the cause of public relations and organisational excellence. Since then, the day is observed with one selected theme announced by the PRSI National President.
The PRSI chapters, under the leadership of Dr Ajit Pathak, undertook a series of campaigns like, Media Transparency drive, Unity India drive, Anti-Terrorism movement, Ethics in political communications, Right to Information, Sab ka Saath: Sab ka Vikas, Make in India, Swachh Bharat Mission, Cancer Awareness, Carona Awareness drive etc. The latest theme on “G-20 and Indian Values” struck a right chord with the India’s presidency of the international group. The PRSI had come in for a praise for the role it played to spread positive messages during Covid-19 crisis with all its chapters across the country were engaged in creating awareness posters and campaigns through social media, distribution of clothes, food packets and water bottles to the poor and workforce, distribution of supporting aids to the medical staff and police, and organising webinars to spread positive message amidst negativity, fear and uncertainty. The PRSI organised competitions for school children, Mass Communication teachers and students and the awards including the National Awards were given through virtual platform. As a relief measure from covid impact, Poetry and Cultural events were organised. The Corona warriors were honoured by the PRSI for with Pride of India Award in appreciation of their services.
Going a step ahead, the PRSI has been focussing on PR education and research for a robust information dissemination in the days to come. An innovative initiative, christened ‘Nalanda’, is meant for launching student wings in educational institutions across the country with a focus on enhancing the subject knowledge among the students of Public Relations and Corporate Communications and to create a forum for their professional development.
The significant and notable achievement of PRSI has been organising Forty-four All India Public Relations Conferences so far to discuss contemporary PR trends, to enrich knowledge and skills of PR practitioners, students besides in-depth deliberations on national, social and communication issues. Participation of the Hon’ble Vice-President of India, Prime Minister of India and State Chief Ministers in these conferences is the testimony of strength and credentials of PRSI. One of the salient features of the national conference is presentation of awards to encourage the talent and to promote PR and these awards are given during All India PR Conferences.
All said and done, it’s an established fact that PR pros are ‘eyes & ears’ of the managements. Governments, industry, business establishments, corporates and NGOs should strengthen the hands of the PRSI to collectively and effectively carry forward its noble mission, i.e. a better society and a strong nation.
[V.S.R. Naidu, General Manger (Retd), APSEB/APTRANSCO, Former COO of APSPCL and Ex Chairman of PRSI-Hyderabad chapter and founder Chairman of Amaravati chapter]