Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Is the Internet really free?

Internet is a public sphere where one can speak out without intervention. At least that is what various platforms on the Internet are being  used as. But as public relations practitioners and students we have to understand that "gatekeeping" may not always come from the press.

Let us understand the term public sphere. "By the 'public sphere' we mean first of all the realm of our social life in which something approaching public opinion can be formed... Citizens behave as a public body when they confer in an unrestricted fashion - that is, with the guarantee of freedom of assembly and association and the freedom to express and publish their opinions - about matters of general interest... The expression 'public opinion' refers to the tasks of criticism and control which a public body of citizens informally practices... vis-a-vis a ruling class." (Habermas, 1964 quoted in Pusey, 1987: 89)

Habermas' ideal type of the public sphere is described as an ideal speech situation. Robert Alexy states rules for the ideal speech discourse based upon Habermas' work, of which the following below is the third one:-
3.1 Every subject capable of speech and action may take part in discourses
3.2 (a) Everyone may challenge any assertion
3.2 (b) Everyone may introduce any assertion into the discourse
3.2 (c) Everyone may express his/her attitudes, wishes and needs
3.3 No speaker may be prevented, by internal or external coercion, from exercising his/her rights under 3.1 and 3.2
(Diskursethik, 1983: 99, quoted from

But is the media really free to use as one would want it? History has something different to say. The radio, invented by Marconi in 1895, is an apt example. Had it not been for the Sound Broadcasting Act of 1972 in Britain, anyone would be broadcasting a signal. The spectrum was soon licensed to commercial bodies such as the BBC, and any breach by any other entity was considered a criminal offense. But then these spectrums are not infinite and so restriction on radio and TV must have been seen coming. If we look at the other medium such as print it is not possible for each of us to start a newspaper or a magazine where one freely expresses one's opinion.

Such restrictions naturally leave the only option to be used - the Internet.

One cannot forget to mention Uses and Gratification theory when discussing the use of a medium. This theory states why people use a particular media rather than content. There have been plenty of studies on why people choose Internet over other mediums when given a choice.

But again,

"...The claim that the Internet can lead to a greater democratization of society is founded on tenets of unlimited access to information and equal participation in cultural discourse. But will this inundation of texts and voices lead to anarchic, rather than democratic, forms of communication?..." (2002, search google.groups for 'Internet Habermas public sphere')

Does the Internet encourage "Herd Behaviour" or the "Bandwagon Effect"? 

What do you think?

Bibilography and References:-

"A Social Cognitive Explanation of Internet Uses and Gratifications: Toward a New Theory of Media Attendance", LaRose, Robert PhD, Department of Telecommunication, Michigan State University. 

Calhoum, Craig ed. (1992) Habermas and the Public Sphere, Cambridge (US): MIT Press 

Web References:-

Monday, November 14, 2011

Role of Photos in Boosting Public Relations Activities

I had recently conducted a study on how public relations practitioners use photos to enhance their public relations activities.I received quite interesting responses, on the use and this term evolved from their replies "PR photos" The respondents have given elaborate replies where ever necessary.
This paper "Role of Photos in boosting public relations activities" was presented at the National Seminar, November 11-13, 2011 Media, Literature and Language jointly organized by Department of Communication and Journalism, University of Mumbai & Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Communication & Journalism, Bhopal.

The abstract is as below:-

Public Relations practitioners use photos other than written material about the client/organisation to be given to journalists for publication. This exploratory study seeks to find the use of photos in increasing public relations and its publication intricacies in the media; it will also examine the parameters of selecting photos, before they are sent off for publication over the Internet. The study used questionnaire-survey method and the respondents were PR practitioners from various capacities in PR agencies and companies in India.

Keywords: Public Relations, Photos, photographs, image, Ronald Barthes’ theory of the photographic message, Daniel Boorstein, Agenda Building. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Building confidence in online shopping: My shopping experience in the U.S.A

It has been now almost 3 weeks since I have come to Seattle in the U.S.A, I observed an interesting way they shop here.If it is groceries they have fantastic malls here, well organized, where people are seen shopping for their daily needs.They have Indian malls too which cater to Indian spices,grains and vegetables etc.Though of course the Indian malls do not hold the same grandeur as the ones that are local to the place.By grandeur I mean, organization, branding to food items, category-wise and the clutter is missing.

But when it comes to shopping for clothes, electronic goods, books, medicines and many such items. the people shop here online.If you check out their online shopping malls and marts you will realize it has been so well marketed that you would want to shop online.The goods bought online are delivered to your home by the UPS or FedEx service.So when I wanted to check for a laptop bag or coat or a skirt or any accessories I was told Google it!

Even if you want to go shopping offline, the culture here is to first check the product online, in case you need to see categories or varieties.The shops therefore are not crowded, More people are buying things online (well that is my hypothesis).

What caught my attention, is that in India we are so suspicious of online shopping, we want to touch and feel the product before buying it, so we all run to the shops to buy, wasting time traveling and crowding shops, but here the reassurance of online shopping is amazing, which shows a lot of hard work must have been done on the part of marketing and public relations departments.

Is this just a cultural thing or a trend that can be changed in India?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Use of Photos to Build Client Image in Public Relations

I m doing a research to know the use of photos to build client image in public relations.This research is a borne out of curiosity of photos as means of visual communication, to check how much importance they hold when promoting your organisation or client's work.

Please fill in the following questionnaire to share your views:-

Do come back on this space to know I learn and share.

Thank you!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

National Seminar on Media, Literature and Language

 Department of Communication & Journalism, University of  Mumbai and Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University of Communication & Journalism  are organizing a national level seminar on Media, Literature and Language on November 11th -13th, 2011 at the University of Mumbai, Kalina Campus.

Is news writing literature? Is it literature in a hurry? Is it the responsibility of the media to upgrade language? Can media shoulder this responsibility? What is the interface between media, literature and language? These are the questions that the seminar will aim to address.

Proposed Themes

Ø  Cinema, Literature and Language
Ø  New media, Literature and Language
Ø  Globalised media and Language
Ø  Media and the emerging diasporic cultures
Ø  Multiculturism, Literature and Language in Media

Submission of abstracts and full papers

Send the abstract and full papers to Prof. Meenakshi Upadhyay on the following email address:

All abstracts are peer reviewed by an expert committee in the respective fields. Only abstracts accepted for presentation will be notified for submitting the final and full papers.

Abstract Submission
September 15, 2011
Abstract acceptance notification
September 18, 2011
Paper Submission
October 10, 2011
Paper acceptance
October 15, 2011

Delegates (Outstation) Boarding and Lodging
Rs. 3000/-
Delegates (Local)
Rs. 1000/-
Students (Outstation)
Boarding and Lodging
Rs. 1500/-
Students (Local)
Rs. 500/-

  • Demand Drafts for registration to be made in the name of ‘The Finance and Accounts Officer, University of Mumbai’.
  • Please send the draft on the following address:
Department of Communication and Journalism,
2nd Floor, Health Centre Building,
Vidyanagari Campus, Kalina,
Mumbai 400 098.

Receipts of those registered will be given at the time of the conference.

Please note:-
  • Accommodation is on a sharing basis
  • The accommodation will be provided between 10th evening to 13th afternoon
  • Accommodation is on a first come first serve basis. Seats limited.

For any query on registration of the programme contact:

Ms. Archana Ramesh

Conference Secretary
Ms. Meenakshi Upadhyay
Assistant Professor
Contact: 022-26526068

Friday, August 5, 2011

Media Analysis and Evaluation

In a 1966 lecture at the Kaufman Art Gallery in New York City, McLuhan said, “The medium is the massage, not the message. It really works us over; it really takes hold and massages the population in a savage way.”
Media evaluation and analysis is the first key step of PR measurement. It involves thorough research of media coverage given to your client and its impact on the publics thorough various methods.

In India, we do the study of media coverages by looking at the clip count of media found about your client, recording of your client news on broadcasting and searching for mentions of your client on the internet.The second part, i.e. studying the impact of the these coverages on the publics is an area which is not touched upon yet.I have been told by many that it is an expensive proposition.

So what about evaluating media coverage, lets for example take the print media.The ideal media coverage study would consist of the following parameters:- tone of the articles, bylines, headlines, length date of the appearance of articles, placement, graphs, photographs, financial figures and other art work.If need be if one has to get into the detail of analyzing an article in depth on how the content was written one can check for thematic analysis of the news report and recurrence, repetition and timeliness. 

AVE (Advertising Value Equivalent) and tone are the two parameters which are constantly only checked when analysing reports or mention of client names, it has been seen.

According to the Barcelona Principles for PR measurement says two very important things among many others:-

Media measurment requires quantity and quality and that AVE are not the value of public relations.

So we undertsand that if media coverage is studied for all the above in detail one would know how the media is writing and percieving us.The beginners in the profession of public relations can get a cue about studying coverage of media from the above.

The idea is that if our works which results out of so much of hard work of pitching the media, if measured will result in understanding the value of our public relations work Was this really what you wanted the media to write? After all in case somebody is reading it, they better be reading what 'you' wanted them to read.

What do you think?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

You need Public Relations

We have observed that public relations agencies help in media relations activity for an organisation.Many are also seen managing events for a company or a celebrity.Some are crisis management experts and yet others are financial public relations consultants.The many functions of public relations can be observed here.

I have heard of my friends being hired for managing the public relations function in companies, which was otherwise initially only concentrating on the marketing or advertising function. So which is that defining moment which buffers the move for an organisation to hire a public relations firm or shape up their own public relations department?

What are those reasons which inspire or motivate this move? If you are a public relations consultant when would you advise a company that they need public relations? 

What would you advise?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Rise in Regional Public Relations

I had recently presented a paper at AMIC 2011: Taking Stock of Media and Communication Studies, ( an international conference held at Hyderabad, between June 24th-27th on the following topic.The Rise in Regional Public Relations: A study of the public relations scenario with rapidly growing regional journalism in India.


Public Relations in India advanced only in the 1980s and 1990s when businesses felt the need to compete and address their audiences. Public relations agencies started growing in this environment the late 1980s.These agencies would work in association with the in-house public relations departments in companies which is still the norm even today. Some even mushroomed into larger firms with associations internationally.During the same time advertising agencies also added public relations divisions in their businesses.Since then public relations agencies in India have only grown and have been known to conduct media relations with the print and the broadcasting media personnel. With the regional press showing rapid growth in terms of readership and circulation, and at the same time the English language press in India showing a decline, it has been observed that investors are keen on investing in the regional language publication houses.With a rapidly growing neo-literate population, most of it in the vernacular medium, the number of people who would be reading vernacular language newspapers will only rise. Robin Jeffery states that vernacular medium newspaper readers not only become better informed, but also tend to actively participate in the political and democratic process. The researcher intended to study:-

Ø R1. Will the rise in regional journalism lead to rise in regional public relations?
Ø R2. What kind of communication skills and personality traits will have to be acquired by future practitioners keen on joining regional public relations?

Synopsis of Conclusion: Regional Public Relations in India is growing so mastery over regional language, reading, writing and speaking it fluently.Adaptation to culture of each region including rituals, habits, lifestyle or anything symbiotic of a culture of a place will be crucial.The above points are most important when dealing with regional audience and regional media.Regional public relations and global public relations are similar as both have to adjust to regional differences before executing a programme.

It has become necessary for a PR practitioner working for an agency or company to know as many languages as possible, as one doesn't know when there would be a requirement to communicate with external audiences. One should not be dependent only on a person specifically knowing the language and culture of a region.A combination of knowledge of the subject of public relations and proficiency in regional languages can become an important tool in the hands of a PR practitioner practicing regional public relations in India.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Do we know our publics?

Public Relations practitioners are constantly looking for different media to publish their press releases, articles, interviews, features, analysis etc.It is done so that as much as coverage is obtained.It is also done hoping that as many people to whom the news is related to are reading or watching it.

But what are these different types of publics to whom our news concerns? Does it matter to all in a similar manner or are there 'situational' publics?

James Grunig proposed the 'Situational Theory' (Grunig & Hunt, 1984). He explained that publics can be identified and classified according to how much they are aware of a problem and to what extent they could do something about it. The theory studies the formation of publics and how organisations should keep a watch and segment them accordingly so that communication is done to that specificity.The theory identifies the following four categories: 

  • Non-publicNo problem is identified or exists
  • Latent publicProblem exists, but public does not see it
  • Aware publicGroup identifies that a problem exists
  • Active publicGroup is aware of the problem and co-ordinates to take an action    
If we notice the different kinds of campaigns that have happened in our country, whether it was the Jessica lal case, fight for the Bhopal gas victims, the latest anti-corruption campaigns etc, you will see that there will always be some who will sit up and notice and act upon it.It all depends on how much it affects them and what they feel they can do about it.The rest of us will only discuss it casually over tea or on social media sites etc.

Knowledge of our publics is necessary so that behavioral change can be expected, to change people from being latent to aware to active publics as explained above. So what motivates us to react uniformly on an issue? Is some other motivation needed? Or can we act uniformly on an issue?

Do let me know your views.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Magic called Social Media!

There is enough material written on the social media.So I will not add some more gyan but I have decided to share my experience of being on social media as a consumer or simply an internet user.

I recently bought a blackberry and was still struggling to use this device when I encountered some issue regarding some function.I was looking for help when I decided to write to @BlackBerryHelp on twitter.I was anticipating that the reply may come in some few days when to my pleasant surprise their solution was sent through direct message in some few hours! Quite prompt considering that I must have been some zillionth customer who must have asked for help.Mind you I have asked more questions after that at different times and the timeliness of their reply has always been the same.Prompt.

Another incident I encountered was with @TeasAtGirnar, I was having tea at The Tea Centre at Chruchgate, Mumbai and I happen to tweet this, within minutes I get a mention and I find Girnar Tea tweeting me and asking me the tea I was sipping and my favorite flavor. They also sent me a tweet encouraging me to visit their e-store.Perfect consumer engagement without irritating the consumer off with some personal selling talk! and to think of it I could have chosen not to reply.

The above were examples of companies approaching and helping their consumers.

I have also experienced the beauty of social media when a complete stranger replied to my tweets on a simple inquiry.I was travelling on the highway from Santa Cruz when I saw ahead a massive traffic jam.I tweeted the same wondering the reason for the jam, within seconds I get a reply from some stranger that there was some vehicle problem and so the jam!

Even now and then I receive mentions on topics I tweet about or re-tweet where some person has shared some more knowledge or a page on the same issue.

This kind of interaction only says that given an opportunity you can get in touch with the consumers and the target audience without being pushy and give that space to the consumer to take a call on whether they want to interact with you or not.

Consumers are watching your interaction with them, whether you are solving their problems, offering tips, or inviting their contribution on a topic etc.They observe you and decide a lot about you whether you are worth being given a second look or not!

If it is not promotion or public relations from a company or an individual; it is simply a good human helping on the digital space,but magic of the social media still remains.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Times of Strategizing

The recent Niira Radia case brings to attention the evolving role of public relations in India.Till now known only as media relations or more as a publicist function, lobbying has changed the face the face of this profession.Strategizing has now been pronounced as an important element of lobbying which in turn is a very important function of public relations.

Lobbying (also Lobby) is the intention of influencing decisions made by legislators and officials in the government by individuals, other legislators, constituents, or advocacy groups. A lobbyist is a person who tries to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest or a member of a lobby.(source: Wikipedia)

So as we see it is now become necessary for a public relations practitioner to become 'worldly wise' .You are no longer handling just the media coverages of your client you will now place  your client strategically in the eyes of their stakeholders.So what does this mean?

Lets look at the word strategy.Strategy, a word of military origin, refers to a plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal.(source: Wikipedia)

Johnson and Scholes (Exploring Corporate Strategy) define strategy as follows:

"Strategy is the direction and scope of an organisation over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organisation through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfil stakeholder expectations".

In other words, strategy is about:

* Where is the business trying to get to in the long-term (direction)
* Which markets should a business compete in and what kind of activities are involved in such markets? (markets; scope)
* How can the business perform better than the competition in those markets? (advantage)?
* What resources (skills, assets, finance, relationships, technical competence, facilities) are required in order to be able to compete? (resources)?
* What external, environmental factors affect the businesses' ability to compete? (environment)?
* What are the values and expectations of those who have power in and around the business? (stakeholders) (source:

If this is going to be the new role of public relations then what will be the orientation necessary for one to think strategically?

Knowledge of public relations, politics, economics, finance, management studies,organisational behaviour, pschology etc could be some few subjects to begin with.So to be 'worldly-wise' these will help and yes ofcourse keeping your eyes and ears open to information.Being boundary spanners as we public relations academicians would like to call it.

To change the way public relations is looked at today in India, the practitioners need to update themselves with changing times.We still have a very long way to go.