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DISRUPTION HITS PR, TOO!
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DISRUPTION HITS PR, TOO!

B-N-KumarBe creative and proactive,else you are dead!
B N Kumar

It’s much more than the Big Bang which supposed to have led to the creation of the world!
Disruption has been sweeping our lives, all across. Be it journalism, politics, businesses and now the currency markets, disruption has become the way of life.
Arnab Goswami takes pride in declaring that he has disrupted journalism and, in a way, he has shattered the way debates are conducted. Other television channels had no choice but to go his way to get their TRPs. And, this trend has crept into print medium as well.

Suddenly, everyone seems to be seen to think, act and communicate differently. Narendra Modi disrupted the way political campaigns are done. Apart from just deploying technology, he redefined the way political communication and messaging is done, making other political parties look like little toddlers still sucking their thumbs. Some leaders like Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Mamata Bannerjee may have found ways to get photoops but they are still miles and miles away from matching Modi’s style, thanks to their inability to sustain with powerful communication.

Business communication, on the other hand, has been undergoing disruption from early 1980s and the legendary Dhirubhai Ambani should be credited for it. He disrupted the stock markets, brought in thousands of new investors into the exchanges, and communicated differently.

Having started my PR career under Dhirubhai in mid-80s, I have no hesitation to say that he disrupted business communication and giving rise to plenty of controversies in the bargain. Dhirubhai was himself a PR man, directly communicating with journalists and more so with senior editors. Think Big was his constant message and he stuck to it with whatever he did – be it the setting up of world’s largest refinery at Jamnagar that could withstand strong earthquakes or the launch of mobile telephony with a revolutionary tariff to match the price of a post-card!

About the author: B N Kumar, better known as BNK24x7, is a veteran media professional with about four decades of experience as a journalist and PR professional. He worked with media houses such as Business India, United News of India, The Indian Express, Free Press Group, Mid-Day and contributed to several magazines. He started his PR career with Reliance Industries Ltd, and moved on to be part of the team that set up O&M PR.
He is currently an Executive Director of Concept PR. He is also the national president of Public relations Council of India (PRCI).

I sound like a pre-historic man when I tell my students that we worked on manual typewriters and went round media offices with press releases or invites to hand deliver them! Mobile and the Internet have disrupted the way we PR professionals communicated to media as it has disrupted the way journalists themselves function. Today, a journalist tweets his story before filing it for his channel or newspaper.

I remember G V Nageswara Rao, former MD and CEO of IDBI Federal Life Insurance, telling his corpcom teams to think like journalists to cope up with media requirements. Today, R M Vishakha, MD and CEO of IndiaFirst Life Insurance, tells her communication teams: Track Your Own Task. Aren’t they right?

Some say disruption is impacting brands. The fact is reputation that has painstakingly been built over years gets destroyed in seconds or even less than 140-charater messages. That is on the negative side. On the positive, quick and dramatically effective communication causes enough ripples in the system. Reliance’s JIO launch is a case in point. Even the public sector BSNL, which earlier had the reputation of being slow-to-react, quickly matched JIO’s tariff and data plans.

So, what does this rapid change envisage for PR professionals? It means a lot. We have to go beyond thinking big. Gone are the days when one could enjoy cosy life as a PR professional, enjoy week-end partying and wait for boss’ orders to issue press releases or organize media meets. We have to communicate proactively, keep updating the managements and above all act speedier than thought!

I am not at all suggesting that PR professionals are not gearing up for the change. As an old adage goes, the only thing that is constant is change. But now it appears that disruption is constant since the change is happening rapidly. Rivers may not be perennial, but disruptive communication is! This brings us back to the age-old practice of creative communication with the difference being the need for creative disruption.

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