Friday, December 14, 2012

Let's Lobby

The subject of lobbying has been doing the rounds for a long time in our country. My students have been discussing about this and it has been a topic of discussion on PR forums and PR websites. But what is lobbying? Let us break down this technical term. It is important to understand as it is a vital function of public relations.

An explanation borrowed from The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed:-
"Lobbying practice and profession of influencing governmental decisions, carried out by agents who present the concerns of special interests to legislators and administrators. The term originated in the United States of the 1830s, when representatives of interest groups tended to congregate in the lobbies of Congress and state legislatures. It is now used in a broader sense to include attempts to influence any governmental actions". ("lobbying," 2012)

 See also V. O. Key, Politics, Parties and Pressure Groups (5th ed. 1964); A. M. Scott et al., Congress and Lobbies (1966); S. Farkas, Urban Lobbying (1971); G. Wooton, Interest Groups (1971); M. T. Hayes, Lobbyists and Legislators (1984); C. Barnes, The Politics of Policy-Making and Pressure Groups (1987); R. G. Kaiser, So Damn Much Money (2009). ("lobbying," 2012)
So in layman terms, if you want to get work done which is of interest to your organization or public at large you will try to locate all possible people in position of authority who are useful to you in influencing other people in position of authority, to get your work done.It could be social issues or environment issues or amending policies which affect public at large or for organisations to start with new projects and business both nationally and internationally.
Anyone can lobby and methods of lobbying vary which includes making presentations, sending letters, briefing people in authority and even organizing rallies to get your voice heard on issues of public interest or the organization's interest. Read on
If anyone can lobby why is this process illegal in many countries? The answer lies in the fact that there is not a legal act in place like in some countries. Here they call it the "Lobbying Disclosure Act" ref. Here is a checklist of some countries and the act of lobbying 
Lobbying is also tricky to regulate says this article on Holmes Report   Here they have extensivley discussed a guide to lobby legislation by Raj Chari (Trinity College
Dublin), John Hogan (Dublin Institute of Technology) and Gary Murphy (Dublin City University).Check
If you read the articles it again brings to our notice that the influence of culture of a country and the practices in turn is shaped by it.It is no doubt that lobbying should be regulated but how and how much is a questions which looms large.
Hope this article sheds some light on the issues related to lobbying. Your views are welcome to further understand this crucial subject.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Public Relations Guru

PR agencies and Public Relations departments in companies offer crucial image building services to their clients.Their role to improve, enhance the image of their clients is most important. There are various functions like publicity, media relations, lobbying, event management, internal and external communications etc. which are routine.
But the most important role would be that of a consultant, a guide who can see the potential of the client and make them improve or enhance their image. Here he helps the client to use his own talent and expertise to the benefit of the organisation and society at large.Now here I do not mean manipulation or any other such works which also aids in creation of pseudo events and thus pseudo images.
Sometimes it is seen that a client himself doesnt realise his true worth and is stuck in the cycle of publicity and pseudo events which usually does bring some press coverages but its value lasts for a short while.
It is the role of a PR advisor, consultant who helps manifest the potential of his client and helps him grow in his career or business.
The practitioner is therefore a mentor, a guide and a friend who stands by the client in all times and has the courage to speak up to his client when he is going wrong.
Maybe then the client-agency relationship or the PR department-company relationship will go beyond that of an executive or a manager. Maybe then PR relations practitioners will be seen as 'Gurus' and not mere publicists.
I am sure it is not simple and sometimes not realistic as it sounds.What could be the obstacles? What do you think?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Public Relations: A Career Choice

From my post on Indian PR forum blog

Public Relations as a career choice:

I was thinking about issues to write in PR education when this question struck me “How do people make the choice of pursuing a career in public relations?” Is it accidental or a well thought off option? If it is accidental then how was the experience of entering this profession? If it is by choice, do you regret it? Or you are happy and comfortable in this profession and would love to grow in this job.
These questions popped into my head, as this is something I ask a candidate planning to join this course. Sometimes I have been told by these candidates that we have had public relations as a subject and advertising as a specialisation while pursuing their graduation, so I would like to do this course. Or there will be some working professionals saying that it helps in promotion so they would like to do this course. Or yet others, simply decided to plunge into a new field. Like I have had candidates, who have done a graduation in Economics and who would like to join Public Relations at the Master level.
So these choices are tough. Either if you have simply come to into this profession either with a journalist, marketing, administration background without any academic knowledge in this subject or you are a student with or without previous knowledge of this subject in his/her graduation or post-graduation tenure.
But I am sure all of you would agree this is one subject which is still gaining recognition, at least in India, and it is definitely not something you dreamt of becoming, when you were a child. Cannot blame you, you didn’t know, that it existed or what it was.
So I am sure whatever the reason of the plunge into this profession it would be great to share your experience in this field whether as a student or as a practitioner as to how has your journey has been? Would you like to add your bit to make this journey for you and for others a better one? So that hopefully a child tomorrow may dream of becoming a public relations practitioner, the way h/she dreams of being in other professions.

Would love to know your views.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Measuring Sentiments

This piece is a continuation of my previous article on evaluation It focuses on the evaluation of the the social media. The evaluation of the 'mention' of your organisation, products, brands etc. To know how these evaluations can be done, one has to first understand what we are analysing on the web. 

On the web, more specifically on the social media, we are essentially analysing sentiments. Sentiments is "analysis of emotion in messages". Sentiments are not the same as feelings, and their use interchangeably has also become extinct in regular use or scientifically speaking  - ( 

Sentiment analysis helps understand impact of negative emotions online or it also helps, like in this article, where social and traditional media are compared on

Some of the links which I found are given below which help you to examine sentiments. These links will give a broad idea on what is being spoken about the client.

So we are not studying the complete message as a whole here but rather the emotion conveyed in them. To begin with, you can try Social Mention which gives a free detail analysis of the client on the cyberspace.

There are sites that also offer free softwares to analyze content about your client. This one is used extensively, Sentistrength as you will read about it on the link provided. It examines texts within contexts. This link searches for all views on twitter. Though Twitter also has its on tools.

The above links to begin with can help PRites both practitioners and students to understand emotions on the web better.

Do share your views and links to look more deeper into this area.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Media Evaluation or Stakeholder Evaluation

I was taking some lectures on how media evaluation is necessary and why PR practitioners should study what media (here print and television) publicizes about them.It struck me though that with effective media relations practices more or less a practitioner would know what the media would write about the client. Then why evaluate? One would only worry about no. of articles in coverage. Is it really so? What are your views?

On the other hand my stakeholders can write about my products or organisation and I have no stakeholder relations to control. Thus the medium in question the Internet is a place which allows this. Also word of mouth through other sources. So don't these mediums need evaluation more than others? This also brings to attention another point, isn't stakeholder relations an issue to worry about?

What are your views?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Looking for a job in PR?

I have observed that students who get ready to face the industry either while they are seeking internships or jobs,face a few hurdles.

The lack of knowledge of current affairs is one of the primary concerns.Second,no  basic knowledge of finance terms. I remember one student came back and told me that she was asked questions on shares and IPOs and she didn't have the answers.

You are now even required to possess basic knowledge of computers and some Microsoft office skills. And yes a mobile device where you can have your contacts stored in the in-built messenger.

These mind you are over and above the basic requirement of communication skills, both spoken and written.

With fast moving times and advancement in technology students have to remain in touch with latest developments or else they will be left behind.

One of my students told me how knowing a regional language was useful to her. So times have come where knowing an additional language is always useful. So you can no longer ignore reading writing other languages.

These are a list of some 'to do list' which every newbie practitioner in PR should know especially in Mumbai. But I am sure these are common elsewhere too.

As a teacher I try my best to help the freshers in imbibing these skills but are there any additions on these?

Can you suggest some more to-dos?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Building Credibility through Public Relations

A discussion on the Indian-PR forum gave an idea to this article of the credibility of public relations in increasing sales.So thought of discussing some other issues too.
Public Relations plays a very important role in informing and educating publics on issues that is important to them and the organisation. For example, if you were to represent your institution for seeking future candidates for jobs or admissions to a course in your organisation, wouldn't you do all the homework required before you could even start promoting it? Yes, it totally depends on what kind of awareness you are trying to create. For example, if it is only about driving down a point "Do not drink and drive" then it actually has to be put the way it is, as it is plain awareness.But campaigns are not always that simple. I am sure you will agree that even the do-not-drink and drive campaign is not longer simple considering the number of accidents increasing in our Mumbai city.

Sometimes it requires you to tell the publics on information on new products or stores, but again here education is still not the focus.It is a step beyond creating awareness. It could be informing them about a launch of a store or a product which could be useful to them.

There are other times when the publics sometimes need to be educated on subjects like new mobile phones or softwares releases in the market or new devices which would require extensive manuals with detailed instructions. It is said that Windows XP the operating software was sold merely on around 20,000 articles written on it across the globe.

 The more difficult and usually very time consuming campaigns are ones where one requires to help the publics change their beliefs on a certain issue and thus leading to attitude and later behaviour change. All health campaigns are like that. Campaigns leading to stopping of social evils like dowry, children education, female foeticide etc are some more examples. But this usually are the tough ones and time-consuming. We can put our drink and drive ones into this range now.

Public Relations plays an important role at every stage of the campaign. Organizations have to create messages and keep persistently following up the efforts to understand if their campaigns were effective or not and if not why not. The profession of public relations adds credibility to any other promotion effort as it takes pains to educate and inform people on issues and products. So public relations does play a role in increasing sales and reaching the masses through patient and consistent persuasion.

A lot of hard work goes behind creating a message and finally converting that into a sale or a change in the mindset for other issues. Sometimes it is diffcult to exactly measure if the conversion was due to public relations efforts as there are other promotion tools also avaliable which could be working simultaneously. Sometimes plain "Word of Mouth" plays a very important role too either for good or for bad. As a PR practitioner one has to understand the product or the issue at hand to decide the course of action.

A lot of research work ideally goes behind a subject being presented for it to appear credible. Public relations practitioners is like that backstage worker who cannot be seen but is working tirelessly away to make sure the client and the works are being well-represented to the publics, constantly adding credibility to the efforts. As a PR practitioner one has to decide if only PR efforts will work or there has to be a blend of other tools. But understanding the strengths and limitation of public relations efforts is a must.

For more knowledge on developing campaigns, this might help you to begin with, "Theoretical models of Public Relations Campaigns" by James K.VanLeuven and Types of PR campaigns means of raising sales by Dr. Flaviu Calin Rus.

Your views?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Technology and the Budding PR Practitioner

I remember sometime back when one of my students was refused a job at a PR agency because she did not possess a Blackberry phone. The reason given was, how could she then maintain contacts much needed in the PR profession? 

I  also noticed the increase of endorsement requests on LinkedIn from current and previous batch students to elaborate on their educational and communication skills. 

Thus Blackberry and LinkedIn have become important tools to show that you have arrived as a professional.
Facebook so far seems untouched by prospective employers as otherwise the young budding practitioners would be more alert before posting random status messages and pictures. Or worse be found playing games.

Twitter is still used as a medium to speak out on issues, if you go by the "trending" issues. Again, doesn't seem to be under the scrutiny list.

YouTube could be used for uploading fun videos by students. Are they checked?

These products of technology have quietly entered our lives and somehow have becomes an extension of ourselves which could be under scrutiny by future employers. How many of these tools or more such tools are being used by employers in India to study prospective employees? Do students need to be trained to use this sites more carefully in the future? What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Post at Indian PR forum blogsite: We are like this only!

I have been recently invited to author a PR blog on Indian PR Forum blogsite. Below is the copy of the post.
It is on the link: http://indianprforum.
We are like this only!
It has been established that in India we do public relations, using the personal influence model. This model states that public relations practitioners try to establish personal relationships, friendships, if possible with key individuals in the media, government or political and activist groups.These relationships with key people were known as contacts from whom favours could be taken.Krishnamurthy Sriramesh has done some extensive studies in the 1990s and has further developed this model. In 1991, he identified a technique which led to the further development of the personal influence model, it was called hospitality relations.The main idea behind hospitality relations was to build a strong bond with journalists or other individuals which could later help in important decision making situations.He added in his observations that a public relations practitioner working in India said that 60% of the reason a news release gets published is because it has its roots in personal influence and only 40% has news value. Thus personal influence model played an important role in practicing media relations, a function of public relations.

I did a research sometime back on the effect of the rise in regional journalism on regional public relations. The study was presented at an international conference organised by AMIC ( in Hyderabad in 2011. A significant finding was that most of the public relations practitioners felt that there was an increase in public relations practitioners servicing the regional media, though the trend for all organisations to hire more practitioners was only slowly rising. Respondents from all categories interviewed such as public relations practitioners, academicians and journalists gave their views on the education and skills, understanding of regional cultures, to name a few, required by current and future practitioners while practicing regional public relations.

A thought that arises from the above discussion is that is there any practice in public relations which is peculiar to a region in India which is clearly distinct from other regions? Have you observed this in media relations, event management, CSR or any other functions of public relations? So for example will a public relations activity conducted in Maharashtra, influenced by its regional culture, be different from say another state like Gujarat or Tamil Nadu? Do we have a 'regional public relations practice' which needs to be studied?

What has been your experience?

Friday, March 9, 2012

PR on the internet through Photos & Videos

The internet offers so many opportunities to project public relations works through photos and videos. Sites and software offering services to host photos and photos are plenty and have been extensively used to promote products and services of clients.  Sites such as Flicker, Picasa, Kodak, Ovi share are some to name in the photo share category. Youtube and Vimeo hold prominent place in sharing of videos. Video Blogging or vlogging is a phenomenon catching up slowly. There is a very new website called Pinterest that seeks to catch your attention in bringing both these channels of photos and videos together and this set me rolling in knowing a bit more on it and I thus self-invited (you have to be invited) myself to get on-board and learn a bit more on how a platform combining photos and videos can create a revolution and change the way public relations is always known for most of the times: "It is all about writing". This platform breaks away from the usual writing grind and helps us discover people and things through photos and videos hosted on their original site. Of course, the photos or videos may carry a writing on the original site, But the best part of this was giving full credit to the original author. So no cheating please! 

And I am not doing PR for any of the above mentioned names of sites or softwares :-)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Building customer relations through public relations on airlines websites: A study of airlines companies based in India

This paper was presented by me at the International Conference on Diversity & Plurality in Media - Reflections of Society, 27th and 28th December 2011 Organized by Makhanlal  Chaturvedi National University of Journalism and Communication, Bhopal.

Title of the paper: Building customer relations through public relations on airlines websites:  A study of airlines companies based in India.


It has been observed that the Internet has become an important tool of communication, which facilitates business-to-consumer and business-to-business electronic commerce.  It is essential to create loyal customers to increase your business. James Grunig has emphasized that the two-way symmetrical model of organizational public relations depends on an honest and open two-way communication. It comprises of a give-and-take is usually reciprocal, rather than a one-way persuasion. This he adds, should be the driving force, for all public relations practices. The Internet brings Grunig’s two-way symmetrical model and Habermas’ (1962) ideas of open, transparent and responsive ideal speech into its domain. Esrock and Leichty (1999) stressed that corporate websites allow companies to engage in multi-stakeholder dialogue. Cooley and others emphasise the strength of the Internet’s interactive capabilities to transform public relations practice by enabling symmetric relations with publics. Kent and Taylor have also highlighted the importance of this concept in their five criteria for a dialogic web site. Thus websites of organisations can play an integral role in building relationships with their audiences.

The researcher studied: -

  • What are the various information and interactive feature on the airline websites?
  • What are the various types of services offered to enhance dialogic processes?

This study examined the interactive and information and service features on the homepages of airlines companies in India thus checking for presence of public relations elements on their sites. The research method used was quantitative content analysis. It gave an idea of the various techniques that airlines companies adopted to attract audiences to their websites, and if helped in building relationships with audiences. This study is expected to be useful to teachers, researchers, the current and future public relations practitioners.

Keywords: public relations, airlines, gatekeeping, internet, website, promotion