The Public Relations Council Of India (PRCI) hosted a PR Conclave on 13 February, 2012, in Mumbai, where the theme was "PR - Interface or Interference".
In the panel discussion were TC Ajit, managing partner of Reliance Staffing Services and former chief executive officer of OgilvyPR in India, Kumar Ketkar, chief editor, Divya Marathi, and veteran journalist Ayaz Memon who played moderator.
Starting off the discussion, Ketkar said that both professions, journalism and public relations, are over-rated and under-rated by the other. He said, "There is more interface and overlap today. Stories may unintentionally become 'PR' for a company or brand, even though they don't outrightly support it. So let media not pretend to be 'holier-than-thou' and let PR not feel guilty."
Memon then posed a question on whether it's as tough to sell a story these days, and whether journalists are displaying enough curiosity. Ajit commented that because of the overload of information today, it is the PR professional's responsibility to sift right from wrong. "We used to encourage journalists to get the correct picture from other sources as well," he recalled.
Ketkar said, "Lazy journalism is one problem. Cynical journalism, where the given copy is entirely destroyed because it is believed that no company can do anything good, is quite another. Even a journalist who takes a byline is a brand - he is selling himself and is trying to expand his market by being cynical. Sometimes, laziness is preferable of the two."
Ajit said, "We used to give the press release the way the particular newspaper accepts it, and are responsible to some extent for the laziness as well."
Ketkar added, "Laziness of PR is also there. They don't know about the industry, only the company they represent. They also fudge the figures (for example, adopting percentage figures to show growth, when the actual numbers aren't impressive). The more the information today, the more the ignorance that has crept into media."
He stated that according to him, PR is still more of an interface today, rather than interference.
Memon concluded from the discussion, "With the amount of information going around, the interface is imperative. But it must be taken with expertise on both sides."
Earlier in the day, PRCI also handed out Chanakya Awards for Achievers.
Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief, Times Now, was among those honoured at the function. On the theme, "Interface or Interference", he said, "The worst thing a PR professional can do is put pressure on a journalist not to run a story. The suspicions of a good journalist or editor will instantly be aroused and they will just follow the story more. Respect the reporter who challenges you. Similarly, a journalist must never take what is given at face value."
Strongly disapproving of the "paid news" phenomenon, HK Dua, member of Parliament and former editor-in-chief of The Times Of India, The Indian Express, Hindustan Times and The Tribune, who was the chief guest, said in his keynote, "The best of PR and journalism is when the practitioners enjoy credibility."