“Success without PR is an Uphill Task,” says Dr Ajai Kumar Agarwal. Dr Ajai Kumar Agarwal is a veteran Public Relations person. Recently Public Relations Council of India in its global conclave held in Bangalore conferred on him its prestigious Dr KR Singh Memorial Life Time Achievement Award in the field of PR at the national level. It speaks a lot about the achievements of Dr Ajai Kumar Agarwal. Presently he is VP Corporate Relations of the CBSL group of companies and former national president of the Public Relations Council of India (PRCI). He was heading Corporate Communications of Central Bank of India before retirement. He is an advisor SME Chamber of India and was a keynote speaker at the international conference on Media held in Rome. He has delivered many Radio talks and participated in various discussions on TV. He is a visiting guest faculty to Osmania University, Rajasthan and Agra University besides the Rotary club, Lions Club, Jaycees, BHEL, Ministry of Information & Public Relations, SBI RD institute Hyderabad etc. He was a UP state Hockey player and is a qualified Hockey umpire. He is the recipient of the Indira Gandhi National Integration Award, Unity Award, Kamal Patra Award, Hall of Fame, National Award for Most Promising PR Person of the year, Outstanding LOM President Award by Jaycees to name a few. Forever spoke to him to know the finer points of PR.
Can you explain in brief why PR is one of the most maligned professions?
I don’t agree that the PR profession is in any way a maligned profession. In the changing time as such one just can’t get ahead in life as well as in his or her profession without indulging in PR practices. Surprisingly we are all into it – some are consciously doing it and a large number of people are into it subconsciously. But I don’t deny that our critics have always flayed us with criticism using terms like ‘PR stunt’; ‘PR ploy’; ‘PR exercise’; ‘Spin doctors’; ‘Public relations is organized lying’; and ‘Public relations ethics is an oxymoron.’ Some of the problems arise because public relations is an umbrella term. Most high-profile problems relating to the profession originate from non-members of public relations professional bodies. These people can legitimately engage in public relations as they see fit.
Our profession is vulnerable because many practitioners are merely technicians or implementers – messengers for the management of the organization or client. The PR persons in these situations have no authority over what they do; they are merely mouthpieces for other people who may or may not be ethical. However, the PR practitioners are held responsible by recipients for the messages they disseminate. As PR our job is to convince an audience. After all, we mostly promote an idea or try to convince people to purchase our product. Sometimes we are tasked to ‘create’ a favourable ambience so people or our probable clients support our position, or recognize the accomplishments of the company/ organization. This we do apply a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between our organizations and our clients. All this needs a technique.
Often we find the PR practices that were followed earlier are no more prevalent. Do you agree?
I fully agree with you. But times are changing. There are new platforms being created every other day. We must also never forget that there is a generational gap every after around 20 years in all fields, even at our home. So this gap was always there and will always be there. It’s natural. With the advent of technology, the way PR is being conducted has changed and changed for the better. The younger generation is more adept at using social media to build public relations professionally as well as personally. The modern ways include writing a blog for internal as well as external consumption, which can be put up on the organisation’s website and external sites respectively, social media promotions. Digital PR makes use of social media platforms, networks and tools to interact with people online. The social media part is the content and conversations on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube.
You have been conferred with the Life Time Achievement Award. How you feel after getting the ultimate award?
First I was amused because I’m not retired. I’m still practising my craft. But we all feel happy when our services are recognized so that way I’m thankful to the PRCI for choosing me. I have been associated with various organizations in a leadership position. PRCI is our parent which is established to enrich professional development and networking opportunities for higher standards by holding conventions both global and national, seminars at regular intervals through its chapters in India and abroad. So naturally, all PR professionals wish to be recognized by the body.
What is your advice to young professionals?
Our younger lot is very lucky. When we joined the industry there was only the traditional mode available. Now there is an enormous scope and different platforms. So one can plan and start a campaign. My sincere advice to young professionals is – first of all, ensure you bring ethics into your PR activities. Try to bring innovative ideas to the table which is practical as well as scalable. Don’t ignore the traditional media as it has its own impact in rural areas. In my case, I always did my work with a difference. Once I took any responsibility I did justice whatever the issues came. My point is why to compromise on the quality once the technology is with us with a plethora of platforms.