Public Relations is about Behaviour

Public Relations is most often glorifying good behaviour and trying to erase bad behaviour from public memory. But most importantly it is how an organisation, institution, brand or person behaves with others that has a future impact. The better the behaviour, the higher the chances of being admired and worse the behaviour, higher the chances of being chastised.

Public Relations is born out of clarity, creativity, collaboration, culture and citizenship. The simple rule to follow is to do no harm. I learnt something as a teenager at a talk I attended that remains until this day my personal and professional rule on behaviour. This is a great test to apply when in doubt about an intended action. The four questions to ask are – Is the act I’m about to perform unethical, anti-social, harmful or illegal. If the answer is yes or not sure to any of the four, then caution is advised. Most organisations that end up on the wrong side of law are those that went ahead despite the warning signs being clear.

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The recent examples of Maggi, Volkswagen, Facebook or Vijay Mallya are all disasters that were waiting to happen because of a behavioural pattern that went ahead unquestioned. We often hear people refer to something as a Public Relations disaster. More often than not these disasters are human-made and can be averted by choosing right behaviour. When the earthquake struck Nepal in April 2015 Lenskart behaved rashly by using the earthquake as a reason to offer discounts. The online backlash brought it to its knees in a matter of hours and better behaviour followed.

As the central government completes two years in power there is a mixed feeling among citizens. But overall good behaviour with the absence of big ticket corruption or major communal riots ensures that the government has got its Public Relations act in its place on the premise of good behaviour. In fact, the Prime Minister is the master of good behaviour. His entire persona and public relations campaign is built around good behaviour. The Godhra episode was the turning point and thereafter there has never been an opportunity for anyone within his party and outside to question him with any substantial evidence.

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The writing on the wall is clear. There is a simple lesson for all public relations professionals. And that is to advocate good behaviour at all times. Reputation will follow. Good behaviour is not difficult to possess but it does not appear overnight. It is a function of repetition and intent.

Take the growth stories of India’s leading modern enterprises. Be it Infosys, Wipro, Biocon, Bharti or Sun Pharma. They were all built painstakingly by founders who came with a high degree of calibre and character to take their organisations to a level that no calamity could strike them. The bottom-line is that Public Relations is mostly about good behaviour. We say that day in and day out in our personal and professional lives as well.

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Amith Prabhu
Amith Prabhu is the Founder of the PRomise Foundation which organises PRAXIS, India’s annual summit of reputation management professionals.

He is also the Dean of the School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe).

He can be reached at @amithpr on twitter.

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