At the Annual PR Summit 2012, organized by PRCAI, an eminent panel of PR Agency heads, policy makers, and brand marketers got together to discuss how important nimble-footedness, responsiveness, and credibility is for PR and communications professionals.
Speaking under the discussion title ‘Gone in 60 Seconds,’ the panel consisted of Dilip Cherian (Co-Founder and Consulting Partner of Perfect Relations), Dr. Sanjaya Baru (Director for Geo-Economics and Strategy, IISS), Prema Sagar (Principal and Founder of Genesis Burson-Marstellar), Atul Ahluwalia (President-India of Corporate Voice Weber Shandwick) and Ranjivjit Singh (CMO of PSG Group HP), and was moderated by Sharif Rangnekar (President of PRCAI).
The Challenge of Re-Building Credibility
One of the pertinent points that the panel discussed was how re-building credibility, especially after a crisis, is very challenging.
Referring to the work his firm, Perfect Relations, had done with Citibank after a crisis they faced, Dilip Cherian said “Citibank needed to rebuild credibility after the crisis,” adding that it was much easier to build credibility the first time around. With a blank slate in terms of reputation, one can build credibility quickly and efficiently – once that good work is undone by a crisis, however, the process of rebuilding trust and image can be a long and painstaking one.
As Dr. Sanjaya Baru put it: “The essence of effective communication is credibility. Credibility is lost very quickly, but rebuilding it is an extremely difficult challenge.”
Be Ready, Be Vigilant
In an age of interconnectedness and technology driven communication, it is vital that communicators are responsive and agile. As Ranjivjit Singh put it “people today have the power in their own hands to affect brands. You have to be in a state of readiness to communicate effectively.”
Atul Ahluwalia agreed, adding that “speed is important, but credibility is key.” A quick response and strategy which lacks credibility will, ultimately, not be effective in a crisis situation.
No One Believes the Government
If there was one thing that the panel almost unanimously agreed on, it was that the current central government was in serious need of some communications consulting. In fact, the discussion also stretched to the larger political landscape and how most Indian politicians need to evolve as communicators.
As Prema Sagar put it, “the government doesn’t have its act together in terms of communications” – and Ms. Sagar and the panel’s amusing anecdotes about the functioning of the government’s communications left few doubters in the audience
Dilip Cherian felt that the main problem with the government in terms of credibility is that “the boss ain’t the boss.” – mentioning that despite the fact three ministers meet every day to discuss media strategy, Mr. Cherian echoed the panel’s thoughts that the government’s communications strategy was severely lacking.
Dr. Baru felt that “every policy maker should know about expectations management” – signaling how a good communications strategy can not only help politicians get elected, but also empower them to govern more efficiently. Dr. Baru also conducted a quick crowd survey to see who in the audience believed the Finance Minister when he said that S&P’s lowering of India’s rating would not negatively affect the country’s economic outlook. Not a single person in attendance raised their hand – demonstrating clear proof of how the current administration has an intense credibility problem.
Peppered with thought-provoking questions by the moderator, Sharif Rangnekar, the session was an invigorating, robust debate on the state of the PR industry – and how changing trends and perspectives are affecting the way PR agencies need to react, proactively.