In the world of media, journalism appears on stage, but it is the backstage people who are the real movers and shakers — the advertisers and marketing professionals, the PR people and lobbyists. Journalism, Advertising, and Public Relations have traditionally been seen as an integrated discipline in Indian academia. Till the boom in 24X7 news channels of the mid-2000s, all three were seen as equal. Since then, however, the last two seem to have receded in public perception, with journalism attracting more students, thanks to its glamorous image projected by sting operations, and sensationalism. Such erasure of integrated disciplines leads to uneven growth of the industry as a whole.

Practitioners ignore interdisciplinarity at their peril, as is now evident in the widespread ignorance of PR and lobbying as legitimate professions that need to be understood and accommodated within the media ecology. The problem of lack of students and faculty is compounded by the lack of good textbooks written by Indian authors from, and for, an Indian context.

Basics

This one under review joins the few textbooks that seek to plug this gap, and its currency is commendable. The author, Narasimha Reddi, verily qualifies for the appellation ‘Guru' of public relations education in India. From basic definitions to nuanced understanding of the difference between public relations and corporate communications — through the processes of understanding the media as well as organisational circumstances wherein PR operates — this book has it all. The writing is lucid, simple, and accessible.

The book is divided into six sections, the last two — ‘Historical perspective of Public Relations' and ‘Action Speak' — going beyond the classroom context.

Reading through the book, one is struck by the author's apt use of examples which underline the pervasive presence of public relations; they range from the corporate world through public sector undertakings onto the NGOs, who use PR for awareness-building and advocacy.

Given the current crisis of credibility in the Indian media after what has come to be known as ‘Radiagate', this reviewer would like to make a pitch for making the study of public relations mandatory for all journalism students. The book will be useful to professionals as well. Reporters could learn a few things and beware of many others — specially from the chapter on media strategy with sub-sections, beginning with how to write a good press release to organising a successful press conference.

The lack of awareness of the role and function of a PR professional often leads journalists to make egregious errors of judgment in the crucial function of evaluating sources and information. The more professional and thorough the PR job, the less suspecting/sceptical a journalist is of the information purveyed, essentially because he/she is unaware of what goes on to produce the seemingly comprehensive and perfect ‘handout'.

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