Monday, December 13, 2010

Why is not anyone speaking of the PR people after the Niira Radia episode?

In all the talk about the nefarious connections between politicians, corporate houses and the new middlemen/women -- journalists -- in the wake of the Niira Radia tapes, no one has uttered a word about the role of the PR (public relations), and their role in the degeneration of the codes of conduct among businesses and media. The PR people have existed for a long time, but their role became dominant and aggressive since the 1990s. The PR people became liaison officers of sorts of celebrities, of industrialists. They were hired to push their clients' stories in the media. They spread their wings and tentacles far and wide. They were hired by the NGOs, culture organisations and film producers. PR soon became another word for publicists. It was a legitimate activity even if was a distasteful one when journalists had to deal with them because the only story they would accept was the fawning one about their client. Even after being told that a fawning piece would lack credibility, they would persist with the demand. Niira Radia personifies all the evil that has crept into the PR business.
Instead of just connecting the media with their principal, they took upon the role of manipulating the media on behalf of their principal. What Radia said on the taps of blacklisting the news agency -- subject to verification -- does not come as a surprise at all. That is indeed the arrogance of the PR. They began to operate through the marketing section of the newspapers when marketing began to call the shots. And they had the ear of the editors as well.
Even if Niira Radia did not violate a single law of the country and even if she is a non-entity in the game of political fixing, she personifies all that is bad and black about PR in this country. The PR have no intelligence, no sophistication. They are salespeople in another guise. They push themselves and their clients so hard even at the cost of undermining their own credibility as well as that of their client.
The advertisement agencies have their standards and they have their association which monitors these standards. Can we have something for PR, where they are told the rules of the game and where they will be blacklisted when they cross the lines? Perhaps every big organisation needs its PR but they have to find acceptable ways of going about their job.

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