Friday, November 4, 2011

NIRA RADIA TARNISHED THE REPUTATION OF PR

Dr. C.V. Narasimha Reddi
Editor, Public Relations Voice


Controversial Corporate Lobbyist, the owner of Vaishnavi Corporate Communications Pvt. Ltd., which handled public relations programmes of Tata Group of Companies who was questioned by CBI and Enforcement Directorate about her alleged involvement in the Rs 1.7 lakh crore Spectrum Scam in a surprise move announced “ to give precedence to my personal priorities of family and health, I have decided to exist the business of Communications Consulting”.

THREE IN ONE
She owns three companies Vaishnavi Corporate Communications Pvt. Ltd. that dealt with lobbying and public relations of Tata Group of companies, another subsidiary Neucom Consultancy to handle public relations of Reliance Industries and the third one Noesis Consultants which was set up with a number of bureaucrats including Pradip Baijal, Former Chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India as a Policy Advocacy Agency to look after government affairs.

An analysis of the performance of these three companies bears an eloquent proof to the fact that Nira Radia was not only just a public relations practitioner but also a lobbyist and a public affairs consultant.

Though she might have quit her business of corporate communications, her Three-In-One role as a lobbyist, public relations practitioner and public affairs consultant has not only tarnished the reputation of Indian public relations profession but also generated a significant decline in the media and people’s trust about public relations profession, which in fact with all limitations is in the take off stage. This incident may be regarded as if ‘adding fuel to the fire of the discipline’.

It is unfortunate that for no fault of public relations professionals, their image is now at stake. It is for this reason perhaps Tatas have appointed Re-diffusion as their new public relations agency, before she decided to quit. As such the survival of her company was in a dilemma and that there was no alternative except closing it down.

ALLEGED ALLEGATIONS
Among others, the alleged allegations against her include: ‘the 5800 tapes revealed how Nira Radio hobnobbed with politicians, bureaucrats and the media, besides influencing the government in getting A Raja appointed as Union Minister for Telecommunications. Therefore, it is proved beyond any doubt that she has exceeded her role as a public relations professional and acted as a lobbyist and public affairs consultant without any code of conduct and ethical considerations. If her soul consciousness is clear, she should not have closed her business leaving 250 employees in the lurch and to their fate.

PR is Distinguished from Lobbying
It is against this background Public Relations Voice as the only journal of Indian PR professionals not only disassociates with the activities of Nira Radia as a corporate lobbyist but also clarifies the distinction between public relations, public affairs and lobbying. In fact lobbying and public relations are two distinct disciplines from the point of view of academies as well as professional practice. These two areas adopt different approaches in strategy, tactics, objectives, target audience, media choice, message formulation, type of presentation and also in cost effectiveness.

If public relations is the management of a two – way communication process between an organization and its public to promote the corporate mission, services, products, reputation and gain public understanding, lobbying is a process in which a paid lobbyist or a pressure group seek to influence those in power. It is also influencing legislators, politicians or the government and persuade them to support or oppose a change in the law. Under the Lobbying Disclosure Act of US, the lobbyist should register and identify with the Congress and disclose his/her clients, the issue areas in which lobbying is being done and that roughly how much is being paid for it. However, the lobbyist’s have to influence those in power with legitimate means by making presentations with facts and figures. Violators in America face civil fines of up to $50,000 under the law.

Self-Imposed Lobbyist
In the case of Nira Radia, she became a self imposed lobbyist without any rules and regulations either formulated by the Government or industry and acted with her own methods to influence the Government in the cause of her clients. The need of the hour is to bring in a law as to regulate the process of lobbying in India as promised by the then Union Minister for Company Affairs so that such incidents may not be repeated as to mar the image of public relations profession. The PR professional bodies of our country must also come forward to make representations with the Government of India to regulate lobbying so that they could not encroach the public relations areas.

We seek your comments on this statement so as to evolve a comprehensive report to make a presentation to the Government of India.

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