On occasion of 43rd National Public Relations Day

Importance of Public Relation Studies In India

Madhusmita Bordoloi

If we trace the history of Public Relations (PR), we will find its traces even in the mythological time period of Mahabharata and Ramayana. We see characters like Narada Muni trying to establish harmony between the rulers and the ruled through their adept communication techniques. We also see PR’s presence in the communication skills of the great religious teachers ranging from Gautam Buddha to Sankardev, where they communicated in a manner that was easy for the mass to digest.

The practice of Public Relations evolved over time and is far more professional, systematic and organized today. As per the definition given by the International Public Relations Association (IPRA), ‘Public Relations is a decision-making management practice tasked with building relationships and interests between organizations and their publics based on the delivery of information through trusted and ethical communication methods.’ In simpler words, today PR is primarily seen as a branch of management which attempts at getting things done without inconvenience.

In the era of globalization, Public Relations should be viewed by India as an essential tool for development. The professionals of this field are trained to take up responsibilities and decisions, taking into consideration a region’s special needs. It focuses on developing, understanding and building good relationship with its various publics ranging from the employers, employees, shareholders; to the suppliers, distributors, customers, the government, opinion leaders, media, and general community.

In a country like India where the economic, political and cultural scenario of one place completely differs from another, no classroom taught universal theory or principle can teach anyone to adapt to regional problems. PR professionals with their skilled ability to easily adjust to the changes of the outside world, make their organization fit for this. Thus, on 21st April every year, India observes its Public Relations Day, to bring into limelight the increasing importance of public relations as a function and public relations professionals in the development of the country.

One of PR’s most essential roles, is its systematized effort to build the image and reputation of the organization; and esteem is definitely an asset in today’s world. To understand the importance of image building let us take the instance of how the Indian public perceives its Police force. Citizens of India generally fear the humans in Khaki; although they were meant to be viewed as helpers of the society. This predominant feeling of distrust which has built over a period of time towards them is not without reasons to a large extent. However, the perception of the police force as an unapproachable unit would only make crimes go unreported. Of recent, many police department all over the nation can be seen attempting to strengthen their public relations with the general mass in various innovative ways.

Recently, as the long awaited and most loved festival of Assam, Bihu, knocked on their doors in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the Assam police had to be in high alert to stop people from mass gatherings. They made a praiseworthy attempt to reach out to the public by uploading a video in all their social media platforms, of them performing Bihu dance or ‘husori’. This interesting Bihu video requesting the mass to continue the lockdown and maintain social distancing was an excellent PR strategy. Attempts like these destigmatize their scary image and builds mutual understanding.

Often misunderstandings and conflicts arise in an organization due to unimproved communication within or outside the organization. Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” The PR professionals of an organization through their strategic planning, execution and evaluation maintain the goodwill of the organization’s various publics, to the best interest of the organization. Absence of public relations activities eventually lead to conflict, rivalry and bad feelings between an organization with the host communities, and leads to dissatisfaction or chaos.

A recent report published by Oxfam titled ‘Reward Work, not Wealth’, highlights how the gap of income equality in India is widening further. As per this report, India’s top 1% of the population now holds 73% of the wealth. On the other hand, 67 crore citizen which comprise of the country’s poorest half, witnessed their wealth rise by only 1%.

In a country like this, the responsibility of strengthening the society for the common good lies on every shoulder. Private corporations should commit to their responsibility of welfare of the society in which they operate their business and industry. Business corporations should not consider their job done just by mere fulfillment of CSR activities, but go on to check that they in no way are violating human rights.

It is true that in a highly competitive world, every organizations primary motive is profit. However, the trouble arises from the fact that evading ethics in every possible manner, profit has becomes the sole motive of these organizations. Here, the answer to the question on how we plan to solve these evolving problems in our capitalist driven society might lie in PR itself.

The profession of Public Relations has been lacking the credit it deserves in India. Many even argue of its contribution in the development of a society stating that it’s not a real job. However, the role of Public Relations professionals stands essential as they act as the bridge between all the publics of an organization. The importance that different corporations of India give to the practice of PR is highly variable. In many organizations, the education and communication skills of PR professionals do not find the scope to flourish since they are entrusted with duties like that of arranging some function. Wonders shall happen once they are given the confidence of stating the good or bad consequences of managerial action on the publics of the organization. PR professionals in India require having this power to advise the top management of organizations on ethical matters. PR, in India, thus requires to be viewed by everyone not simply as a management tool but also as a social function, as pointed by Bernays.

However, this will never be possible unless PR is given due recognition and status in the organizations. Empowering this useful profession in India is essential, since this might be the only way towards making business tycoons of this country realize, that even their healthy businesses cannot thrive long in a sick society that is crippled by poverty.

Madhusmita Bordoloi, Tezpur University, Mass Communication and Journalism

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Apr 25, 2020

Madhusmita Bordoloi

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