- Public Interest Litigations and PR
We have recently seen the effect of PIL in India. The Supreme Court ordered the abolishment of the ADF (Airport development fee) charged by the private operators of Delhi and Mumbai airports. Of course the fee was an unpopular one and it was caused an increase in ticket prices. If we look closely though, customers have always been charged taxes and fees for continued access to better facilities. Civic amenities and welfare initiatives almost always make use of funds exclusively charged from the public and they are made aware of this, so it is never questioned. Why then, did the ADF,
meant for developing the airports and providing services at international standards, come under the line of fire? Why was there a general dissatisfaction amidst passengers who are already paying a large sum of money to avail these services? Why wasn’t anything done to build a public opinion in favour of the fee and make it more acceptable? It is understood that this fee was not approved under a statute but was validated by the Ministry of Aviation. There are many similar instances of fees being levied by educational institutions, entertainment services and transport corporations for some reason or other. The key is to increase awareness about the need to charge a fee. There lies the opportunity for PR. Proper communication of the various factors leading to the hike requires a good PR strategy. When the image of an organisation and its activities are not properly communicated, it leads to an undesirable image in public eye. Good PR creates awareness and brings out the importance of the actions undertaken by organisations. In this case, no explanation was given at the required time, leading to public dissatisfaction. People saw the operators as money mongering organisations and hence felt the need to file a PIL. This could have been avoided; if only the image of the initiative was managed properly through PR and people were educated about the utilisation of funds through a consistent message. Most times, it is better to prevent the damage in the first place- PR should not be used only as a tool to manage reputation in a crisis situation, but rather taken as an ongoing image management to build up long term credibility.