afaqs!

Public relations in public interest

By Neha Kalra , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Advertising | October 30, 2008
Adfactors Public Relations has put out a public interest ad in print, exhorting companies to keep communication channels open with consumers during the economic slowdown

Most & #BANNER1 & # segments of the Indian economy have been hit by the slowdown, but so far, only banks and financial institutions have taken on the onus of communicating their stance to consumers. Now, for the first time, here's a public relations agency taking up the communication challenge.

Adfactors Public Relations, an 11 year old company, has issued a print ad in the public interest, stressing on the need for companies to communicate when the going is tough. The black and white ad is all copy: "In times like these, please communicate." This is followed by a few paragraphs on why companies need to keep communication channels open with consumers.

The top of the ad has a black box signifying rough times, which carries four words: "In times like these". The latter part of the sentence, "please communicate", appears on a white background in the lower half of the ad.

Adfactors claims to be among the top three PR consultancies in India. It specialises in corporate reputation management, financial communications, and crisis and issue management.

The ad was prepared by the company's advertising agency, Adfactors Advertising. O Ramesh, the agency's creative director, created the ad concept.

"We thought of various options like depicting a storm. At the end of it, we realised that a black box, which is simple and direct, would work best in terms of denoting confusion, dark days - basically the kind of situation in which the Indian economy is right now."

The agency first released the ad on October 27 in business newspapers such as Mint and Business Standard. Adfactors plans to take the communication further in more newspapers and also on its website, www.adfactorspr.com; it does not intend to use the electronic media.

Madan Bahal, managing director, AdfActors PR, talks to afaqs! about the initiative, "Everybody, from employees to stakeholders, seems to be affected by the slowdown the country is witnessing, but things aren't as bad as they look. And not everyone is affected in the same manner."

Why has Adfactors taken up this initiative? Is it that in its role as a PR agency and connector between client companies and querying consumers, Adfactors is facing problems in terms of alleviating consumer fears?

Bahal denies this outright: "It is more a personal experience within Adfactors that led us to release this ad in the public interest. We have communicated extensively on various issues both within the organisation and outside, and we can see the rewards. We are only trying to get other firms to do so as well."

The ad, which is targeted at the business community, aims to make business leaders and owners communicate.

"Open communication goes a long way in allaying undue fears and anxiety. Companies must realise that they can't change the environment, but they can definitely make the choice to communicate. It is like the role of a hospital during an epidemic, where the dos and dont's are indicated clearly to create awareness. The purpose is to make company owners aware that internal members of the company, stakeholders and everyone connected to the company needs to be comforted," explains Bahal.

By and large, India is an under-communicated market, says Bahal. "Companies give little importance to communication. It is surprising that the top 5,000 companies of the country do not have effective PR agencies. Companies hardly communicate in normal circumstances, and it becomes even worse when times become tough."

What about a change in the mentality of the organisations as a result of the effort to communicate? "It is more about a behaviour pattern that evolves over a period of time. As the scenario in each category becomes more competitive, communication is slowly gaining relevance."

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