The funny thing about public relations is that it works even better in the time of crisis. The more dismal the times, the higher the need to emerge from it trumps. To sound like the hero and not the perpetuator or even the partner in crime.
We have seen the superb way in which the Indian government has orchestrated their PR for Covid. Today, every NRI based in the US is comparing their ‘blonde’ President to the ‘visionary’ Indian Prime Minister. Indian NGOs are swamped with support. Even fence sitters are full of admiration and the left wingers having to sift to find faults. Mind you, here I am not talking for or against either wing, but simply complimenting a PR activity well done.
Be it manmade, inflicted by God, rendered by a confused leadership or simply brought upon self because of stupid decisions…..The one thing a global crisis surely leads to is a loud cacophony of opinions, rumours, blame games . As the ghazal by Kafeel Aazar goes: “Baat niklegi toh dur talak jayegi” (When a stormy conversation flags off, it travels far and wide. And it travels real fast.)
And when the voices go loud, and out of control, the army called in always are the PR professionals. The spin doctors who will pull out all their weapons: Impressing upon opinions, stating ‘your’ end of the facts, giving exclusives to pals in media and ensuring you sound convincing at all times.
Coronavirus is many, many things…. but above all it is a bloody CRISIS. A PR nightmare of sorts. A global pandemic that professionals like us, as we twiddle our little thumb, are witnessing from the aisle. In my 35 years of working, first as a journalist and then as a PR consultant, I have not had an opportunity to see such a churning of news, so many expert opinions, such a galaxy of voices being put out there. So here is my line up of the heroes, the zeroes and the total crack jobs in the news nowadays.
Hero number one: PM Modi
I can’t stop but recalling the story of the proverbial Pied Piper every time I see him speak and have a nation of 1.3 billion clap, beat drums, light diyas as per his advice. And, this time round I do feel he has shown foresight. The early lock down, the closing of international flights, the care taken that the essential services don’t fail is commendable.
The hero’s coterie – The official voices
Lav Aggarwal, the home ministry spokesperson, the Health Minister, Dr. Guleria from AIIMS… they all speak and the frayed nerves calm down. At least for the moment. PIB for once is doing a good job too. Even the back drop at the press briefing is well designed.
News anchor of the moment
Wion’s Palki Sharma. I know her anti-China rant does sound a bit much sometimes, but the way she thrashes the news thread bare and explains it is very helpful. Specially in today’s time when the enemy you are dealing with is new, inexplicable and confusing.
Sanest voice on TV
Dr Prannoy Roy. Thank God for his Town Halls. The choice of people he speaks to, the information he elicits and the conclusions make each one of us understand the situation like quasi experts.
The opium of the masses
Netflix, Amazon, hotstar and all the other video on demand platforms are keeping us modern day inmates alive. Thank god for small (screen) mercies.
I am missing them most. The crisp feel of a paper falling with a thud at our door, the leisurely leafing through news, views and interviews. Yes they are available online and through PDFs shared by caring friends each day but it is NOT THE SAME.
Villain of this piece: The Chinese
From conspiracy theories, to calling it the Wuhan virus to cursing their eating habits, China will remain the villain of this pandemic. And rightfully so. Once all this is over, I doubt any one of us will ever want to buy anything ‘Made in China’. The virus they made was the one best seller that destroyed them.
The saviour of creative professionals: Insta lives
They entertain us. Get the creative juices going. Keep our idle minds busy…..Trust me they are even better than Ramayana that is actually keeping the nation inside each evening.
The Covidiots: Capitalist heads of states
People like Trump who are seeing a crisis in its face and putting the dollar above all. His little brother from UK is no better. Don’t they know that health is the real wealth and the only place they can live in is not ‘Trump towers’ of this world but their body!!!!
The author is a fashion commentator, publicist and the founder of
Royal Fables, a platform that promotes art and design created in palaces of India