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Sunday 13 March 2005

Media-PR-Corporate Interface - Roundtable discussion


A roundtable was held on Saturday the 12th March 2005 at Asian College of Journalism, Chennai to discuss the issues relating to Media-PR-Corporate relationship. Dr U Srinivasa Raghavan, Member, Postal Board, Government of India moderated the proceedings. Mr Sashi Kumar Menon, Chairman, Media Development Foundatation initiated the discussions.  
L to R: Mr T Theethan,Mr Sashi Kumar, Dr U Srinivasa Raghavan and K. Srinivasan

L to R: Mr T Theethan,Mr Sashi Kumar, Dr U Srinivasa Raghavan and K. Srinivasan

Representatives from Media, PR Agencies, Corporates were present in large numbers. Mr K Srinivasan, Chairman, Prime Point Foundation welcomed the  audience and presented the background for discussion (click for background note).  Mr Sashi Kumar Menon while initiating the discussions said that Media was in cross roads and needed to be insulated from politics and market.  He further said that Media and PR play an adversarial role, not withstanding their personal relationship.  He defended a 'healthy tension' between these two groups and not an 'adversary tension'.
A section of the audience
A section of the audience

With the tone set up by Mr Sashi Kumar, the media persons blamed the PR professionals being not transparent, ignoring sections of the media with a selective approach and discrimination, etc.

They argued that since the media persons were fully aware of the nature of news and since they had enough contacts with corporate executives, they did not need any 'intermediary' like PR agencies, who did not add any value to the system. 

They also argued that nothing would go wrong, if the corporates were transparent, since no media would like to destroy the reputation of any organisation and on the other hand, being transparent would help the organisations to come out of the crisis

They also said that PR persons should stop with providing information to the media and should not interfere or push the stories, which is a professional 'interference' to the media role.


Senior executives from Corporates were of the view that on many occassions media misrepresented  the facts and disown the information they publish.  In developing economies, Corporates did not have enough skills to handle the communication and hence they resort to outsourcing of professional PR Agencies.
Participants discussing with Mr Sashikumar Menon

Participants discussing with Mr Sashikumar Menon

They argued that Corporates had certain limitations in providing all information transparently in the competitive environment and they defended PR persons filtering the information.

One of the important suggestion forwarded by the Corporate representatives was the need for 'accreditation' of pr professionals by any professional Institute. 
Mr P A Narrendiran proposing vote of thanks and summing up the proceedings

Mr P A Narrendiran proposing vote of thanks and summing up the proceedings


PR professionals who were present were 'diplomatically silent' for many of the allegations made.  However, few of them pointed out that media houses had the political motivation and they were biased.

Many times, media misinformed the people causing embarrassment.  They also defended that PR agencies represented certain clients and they needed to look after the interest of the clients. 

At this stage K. Srinivasan, Prime Point Foundation viewed that due to lack of PR education, the people who joined the PR profession needed proper skills.  He also felt that PR agencies needed to improve their skills in handling crisis management.  Inspite of this, he added, PR professionals did not show much interest in developing the skills.

Srinivasan further requested Asian College of Jounrlism, Chennai to introduce a paper in their college on 'PR and Corporate Communication' to their journalism students from the next academic year.  Shri Sashi Kumar Menon had agreed to consider this request.

While concluding  the  roundtable Dr U Srinivasa Raghavan stressed the need for both two Institutions viz PR and Media to play an united role in providing information to the general public.  He told that both had a complimentary role and not contradictory role.  If they worked together, the results would be far better than their working in adversarial role

Mr P A Narrendiran, Associate, Blue Lotus Communication summarised the discussions and proposed vote of thanks.

Background material

Last month, there was an enriching debate titled media pitching in the New Media Forum and Image Management groups (Yahoo discussion groups) on the various aspects of Media-PR-Corporate relationship, based on an article in prdomain website.

Some of the views expressed by the media persons are:

  • Corporates are not transparent and they approach media only when they want
  • Some of the Public Relations professionals interfere with the functioning of the media professionals.
  • There is no requirement of PR professionals and the media can contact the Corporates directly for any information.
  • Some PR professionals indulge in whitewashing of the negative aspects of Corporates.
  • Some PR professionals are rude and arrogant and they want all the contacts are to be routed through them.
  • Even though the story is not worth, they indulge in pushing the story.
  • Some PR professionals instead of functioning like facilitators, they function like irritators.

Corporate communicators and Public Relations professionals expressed some of the views :
  • There is a limit for transparency.  There are many things, which cannot be disclosed for strategic reasons in the competitive environment.
  • PR profession has come to stay globally and the Corporates engage PR professionals only because they find it useful
  • A single person (reporter) decides whether the story is worth or otherwise according his own parameters; when appeal is made to higher up, it is misunderstood as pushing the story
  • PR professionals are misunderstood when they insist on the publication of stories and they view it as an interference
  • Many times, Corporate CEOs dont want to talk to media without PR professionals directly.  PR professionals are sandwiched between media and the client.

In view of the divergent views expressed by various groups, the Foundation has today organized a Roundtable to enable all the groups to exchange the views and to understand and respect each others role and responsibilities.  

During the course of roundtable, all participants may give their views in brief (say one or two minutes).  Please dont mention any names of media or organization.  But describe the situation and comments without names.  

The Roundtable would ensure to remove the misunderstandings on both sides and to work shoulder to shoulder to provide information to the general public. 


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Prime Point Foundation

Prime Point Foundation is a non-profit Trust incepted in December 1999, to create Communication awareness among all the people.

K Srinivasan (Communication Strategist ) is the Founder and Chairman the Trust.
  • The Foundation offers Training, workshop on all Communication related subjects, including Image (Perception)  Audit.
  • The Foundation publishes a monthly eMagazine PreSense since March 2006.
  • The eMagazine PreSense has five initiatives. viz (1) Education Loan Task Force (ELTF), (2) Sansad Ratna Awards, (3) Next Gen Political Leaders (NGPL), (4) Digital Security Association of India (DiSAI) and (5) Digital Journalists Association of India (DiJAI).
  • Every year, the Foundation honours the outstanding Parliamentarians with Sansad Ratna Awards
Profile of K. Srinivasan may be downloaded from http://www.prpoint.com/profile/srinivasan.pdf

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K. Srinivasan
Chairman and Mg. Trustee

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