With rumours of Niira Radia’s departure and Vaishnavi’s impending closure, doing fast laps around the PR fraternity circuit, it was ironic that her final announcement came on Race Day. Here’s a quick look at how PR’s changed with her departure.
It’s become a public affair.
Clients have become far more wary at this stage. Companies are careful and so are PR agencies with a large public affairs business. The latter are the first to agree that lobbying has had a temporary setback. Such is the gulf that the industry is in, that people are not even comfortable speaking on the phone. And, while the media has appeared to shy away following the leaking of the tapes, meeting people in the government to discuss situations, has become close to impossible.
PR practitioners say lobbying was earlier limited to low-profile individuals and no one knew which clients they were handling. Or, companies had senior managers handling corporate affairs, which dealt with the government. While most of the PR agencies that went into the business found it difficult to be paid in a percentage when the work was done, rather than a fixed fee, the grey-area segment within the industry is a far more organised place today. Niira Radia’s efforts to institutionalise the business and get the backing and the freedom to operate for large clients have been lauded, as the concept of ‘lobbying’ has become more transparent.
The opportunity to paint a different picture.
“The impact is there. It is not uncommon to be painted with the same brush for the actions of a few individuals,” said Roger Pereira, a veteran PR professional.
The scandalous situation has brought a sudden need for transparency and honesty, in the PR industry. Agencies can use their credible pasts to lure new business.
Who takes Tata and Reliance?
It started of as an agency merely roped in to foster brand association. Vashnavi was soon handling 14 of the Group’s companies. Eventually, all 90 Tata Group subsidiaries, signed on, as a part of Vashnavi’s portfolio. With some of the Group’s companies paying as high as Rs. 45 lakh a month, taking on the Tata’s would have been a plus for any PR agency with enough band with. Rediffusion was quick to react.
Some other high profile clients up for grabs were – ITC Foods, Hindustan Construction Company, Punj Lloyd, Ascendas, Haldia Petrochemicals, JK Tyre, NeUcom Consulting and Noesis Strategic Consulting (set up with Pradip Baijal, the recently retired Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India).
Written by Suhail Bhandari for Image Management.