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Public Relations Practices in India

An International Paper
Sheila Bishop & Shambu Sharan 11/26/2011

Background and orientation of India India is located in Southern Asia surrounded by the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal between Burma and Pakistan. Geographically, it is slightly more than one-third the size of the U.S. New Delhi is the capital and Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore are the largest cities in India. About 74% people live in villages. According to cia.gov, India has 80.5% Hindus, 13.4% Muslims, 1.9% Sikh and 1.9% others. Its total population is 1,189,172,906 as of July 2011. According to the Census of India 2011, India ranks second among the worlds populated countries with a growth rate of 1.41%. Most of the Hindus rely on a caste system and must adhere to it. The Hindus are divided into four major castes and many sub-castes. Castes are tiers of social ranking. The major castes are Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (warriors), Vaishyas (merchants), Shudras (laborers). Brahmins are considered as the highest and Shudras as the lowest caste. For example, a Brahmins son would get married with only a Brahmins daughter as they follow the caste. Brahmins children would be called Brahmin. Their children would not marry with any other people outside of their caste. Although Hindi is the national language of India, many people do not speak the language but, they speak their regional languages, which are about 44 in number. English is the link language of the country. Sanskrit is known as an ancient language and used by the Hindus in religious practice and educational institutions. According to the census 2001, the literacy rate of male is 73.4% and female is 47.8% (Cia.gov). Indias currency is Indian Rupees. One Rupee is equal to $0.2 USD. Indias main natural resources are coal, iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, natural gas and diamonds. According to the cia.gov Factbook, Indias legal system is based on the British model. Separate religious law

codes apply to Muslims, Christians, and Hindus. Indias political system is parliamentary democracy like the U.K. Pubic Relation Practices in India Public relations practices in India date back to Ancient Times when individuals would help communicate and win over others by using simple communication tools. Although many forms of communication have changed in India, one goal still remains and has been used for centuries: communication with the public. Businesses realized there was more of a need for public relations when India received its independence in 1947. Initial public relations practices were used to create a bridge between the public and the governments. The popularity of public relations practices in India increased in the early 1990s. Strategic advice and integrated communication were a few tools that were used in public relations to assist businesses. Today the media uses media kits, releases, advisories and pitch letters that are sent to editors and news directors via fax, e-mail or mail depending on personal preferences. (prsi.com, 2006) Although India uses social media to attain attetnion, television and newspapers are the most popular mass media. According to Rao (2009) India is currently the third largest cable TV viewing nation in the world. To make sure that every demographic is targeted a public relations professional makes sure that the message is translated into every language and that it fits every culture. Since newspapers are one of the most popular medium the information is translated into the various languages to fit the regions via press releases, media kits advisors and pitch letters. There are around 22 national and local newspapers that are in print as well as online. More journalists today are using various social media sites to produce the latest news. However that type of medium has not become popular for an individual in public relations because television and the media are still the most popular.

With using public relations practices there are certain rules that must be followed. The PIB also known as the Press Information Bureau is the nodal agency of the Central Government to disseminate information to the print and electronic media on government policies, programmer initiatives and achievements. (prsi.com, 2006) There are 48 PBI regional offices and Information Centers that disseminate information through press releases, press notes, feature articles, backgrounders, press Briefings, photographs, press conferences, interviews, database available on Bureaus website, and press tours. (prsi.com, 2006) The information is also translated into 13 different languages and is sent out to the 8400 newspaper throughout the country. With its headquarters in Delhi, the Bureau has officers who are exclusively attached to different Ministries and Departments to assist them in the distribution of information and giving the feedback on the peoples reaction, as reflected in the Media towards Government policies and programs. (prsi.com, 2006) Public Relations Professional A public relations professional has to be the communicator between the public and the government by translating material into different languages to target all markets. Specialization has become increasingly important and firms are demanding higher qualifications and skill sets from workers. (Gupta, 2007) In previous years a public relations professional only worked for the government arranging travel, boarding executives, taking care of hospitality arrangements and handling media relations. Later these professionals became a valuable asset to marketing campaigns and increasing global communication with other international companies. Public relations practices are becoming so popular in India many multinational companies are vying to expand their firm or hire a professional from India to attract global attention. Above all else public relations professionals are the best source for the media. The strength of public relations

professional and the media is how much of a relationship they have with one another. Some other public relations professional skills are: India-specific messaging: Communication should be relevant to the global launches, alliances, mergers and appointments in the local market. Region-specific messaging: each region should be varied with strengths in markets such as metro specific and international corporations that take regional appropriateness such as the major regional tiers of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore. Communicating commitment to India: with the different regions in India it is important for public relations professionals to target each market using strong messages using jargon that is relevant with that community. Leveraging industry bodies and partners: assisting in communicating messages to certain markets. Some of the largest industries in India NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies), CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), and ISA (The Instrumentation, Systems and Automation Society) work to make sure their messages have an influence with their audience this is an effective way of positioning and getting the message across to various audiences. Many public relations professionals believe that there will be growth to the industry within the next decade which will bring more business and more public relations individuals. Differences in India and U.S. public relations The aspect of public relations first started in the United States. These practices first started in the 1850s and continued for the next 200 years. During that time public relations became an important aspect with companies creating public relations departments and agencies to assist with communication tactics that still exist today. India has developed many of these western

strategies since the country established independence. Public Relations are highly misconstrued in the U.S. According to PRSSA.com (2011), A significant portion of American society views professionals as spin doctors or flaks, who will twist a story around to get their perspective a positive company viewpoint in the news. However, public relations practices in the U.S. are to help with companies communicate locally and globally from integrated marketing communication to crisis communication. The misconception of U.S. public relations is also an issue between PR professionals and journalists. Professionals on both sides of the public relations and journalism relationship sometimes describe their dealings as tense, pained and difficult. When dealing with journalists to pitch a story idea public relations professionals have to be cautious of time, cost and limitations from a newspaper organization. Professionals must be able to pitch a story quickly, with no cost and have all of the necessary material provided where the journalists needs no additional information. U.S. journalists and PR professionals must adhere to the ethical code of standards that were created by the Public Relations Society of America that was drafted in 1950. (Koontz, 2011) In India, public relations practices were established under similar principles from the U.S. but created tactics that would follow along the lines of the culture and traditions of the country. According to Gupta (2007) the standards of public relations that are of most importance in India are: strategic planning; roles and responsibilities of PR practitioner; importance of research; measurement and evaluation; gender equality; licensing; intuition; training and development; advocacy and social responsibility. Most of these standards apply to the practices in the U.S. however some aspects are different. Gender equality in India is a value that is welcomed in public relations. In a survey that was performed in 2007 Gupta concluded that there was an agreement that both men and women were paid equally as public relations professionals. In the

same survey, the salaries of the U.S. were studied where it was found that there was no inequity in salaries and promotions among gender. (Gupta, 2007) The U.S. abides by the ethical codes of standards in order to practice ethical public relations. However, this is the one main western public relations aspect that India did not adopt. Since decision making is an important aspect to the U.S., public relations professionals use the code of ethics in order to make sure that decisions are made using ethical standards. While decision making is an aspect for Indian public relations professionals, they do not use ethics in the process. In terms of how public relations should be represented India professionals believed that the profession should be licensed but the U.S. believes that public relations should take on the role as management serving such a role as a public relations manager. The differences and similarities are based on the same meaning of public relations and how each culture represents this profession in a way that fits with their society to achieve the same goal: better communication between companies and the public. How the Indian culture affects public relations practices India is more diverse socially, culturally, politically, economically, religiously and ethnically than the U.S. Overseas investors face various types of stakeholders and their relevant issues. Union Carbide Corporation established its Indian subsidiary, Union Carbide India Limited, in the 1920s to manufacture its chemicals. The Indian government approved UCILs plant design in Bhopal without computer systems in order to provide more employment. After the Bhopal gas leak disaster occurred, in which 4,000 people died immediately and 75,000 were hospitalized, there were communications problems between Indian and the U.S. managements. Employees in Bhopal could not communicate immediately with those in the U.S. because of language and technological difficulties. During the crisis, the Indian company did not have personnel trained in public relations and crisis management to minimize the deaths and injuries (Center, 333-6).

The majority of multinational corporations are located in the large cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai and they have to maintain good relations with the ruling political parties. India has a tradition of active trade unions, and management has to deal with union leaders, considering their religious background and political affiliations. The corporations have to use their own energy supplies to generate electricity when power cuts occur, which are frequent in India. The local administration officials threaten the companies to shut down due to noise and air pollution, which are withdrawn by bribery. Lobbying with the local and central governments plays an important role to influence for decision-making to benefit the corporations. This practice is widely accepted. Public relations are of moderate importance in India. Indian students studying public relations and business management in the U.S. and abroad are hired by the corporations as they try to implement professionalism in public relations. Those companies have started to move their offices to India to reduce the cost of production. India has to follow importexport controls. It has reduced taxes on foreign goods recently. India follows the international free-trade market system like the U.S. The public relations practices have to be implemented widely in the country for the growth of the economy. The business depends on trained media management, computer literacy and language skills. The diplomatic relations with the U.S. is now stronger after the breakup of the former Soviet Union. India has been in conflict with Pakistan over disputed Kashmir, as both countries claim it. India and Pakistan fought several wars. China and India had a war in 1962. (Time.com) Indian and Pakistani media are biased when they report news of each other. Indian media are mostly published in Hindi, some in English and regional languages. The regional languages have their own scripts, which is different than Devanagari script that is used for Hindi. The majority of corporate public relations agencies use Hindi, English and regional languages to communicate.

They use radios, televisions, newspapers, magazines, websites, banners, fliers, billboards, public service announcements and wall writing. Their target publics are mostly middle class people. Indian public relations departments have to become mature, rational and ethical to win the trust of the world. India does not have many laws related to public relations practices, which create ethical problems. Terrorists Attack media coverage in India One year ago, Pakistani militants attacked Mumbai and killed 180 people including 28 overseas from 10 countries. The media broadcast 60 hours of live attacking killing and raoming around the city. The Indian security forces couldnt stop them. Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Kasab was captured and nine terrorists were killed. According to The Guardian story published on November 26, the anniversary of 26/11, Kasab's trial began in May and has been a public relations triumph for India over its arch-rival Pakistan. He has provided a wealth of information about the operations of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a proscribed Islamist terrorist group, and how Pakistani-based handlers planned and orchestrated the attack, staying in constant telephone contact with the assailants throughout. Indian government had no initial research to handle the crisis. Media was not trained to broadcast the attack. The public relations approach of India was poorly managed. Shivraj Patil, who was the home minister of India, changed several times of his clothe before addressing the press conferences. Due to this media criticized him and he was forced to resigned. The Indian government blamed Pakistans involvement in the attack, which the government denied. India has corruption. India has the second large Muslim population. The political leaders try to please Hindus and Muslims by divide and rule policy. The public relations of Indian government has to learn from the U.S. and other countries.

Since 2001, the terrorist attacks media in India have taken the necessary journalist approaches when covering stories. With the latest attacks in Mumbai, there were mixed views on how the Indian media covered the news. Some citizens in India believed that coverage of the attacks was not factual and lacked knowledge of the incident. As the coverage continued, viewers began to express their dismay and anger on the Web. One of the first forums online was the Facebook group Can you please take Barkha off air, referring to reporter Barkha Dutt who covered the attacks for NDTV of India. The group's "wall" was filled with messages about irresponsible and insensitive journalism and reporters trying to be celebrities. (Sharma, 2009) Media outlets in India have angered many citizens by the graphic images they show of bodies of those that are dead or injured. According to Mitra (2011), The issue of how Indian news media covers death and tragic incidents is a deeply important ethical dilemma for journalists that, sadly, doesnt get discussed or debated enough our country. Since India does not abide by ethical standards there are more leniencies in what information can be delivered through the media. With the attacks, the media hits hard with hard and violent images. In previous years the Indian government had more of a control on the content of media than they do today. Now journalists feel that they have more of a voice for not just themselves but for the people of India. The mission of public relations is shared among the U.S. and Indian cultures. With common values and practices public relations is becoming a major focal point for businesses nationally and globally. As more U.S. companies seek to build relations with India public relations professionals will be an integral part to forming this bond. Public relations professionals in the U.S. and India will continue to provide information to the public through various mass media and represent this profession that has become so popular over the years.

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