IABC Western India Chapter - Communication Lighthouse, looking at change and crisis through the PR lens.
3rd December 2011

The first in the series organized by the Western India chapter of International Association of Business Communicators (IABC). The speakers were highly experienced professionals who had come to share their ideas and time and that was highly appreciated by everyone. Normally these events are always a mix of high energy talks and some routine slideshow presentations and this was no different. One thing that stood out was that the topics were very relevant to the times.


The morning began with a opening remarks from Mr.Sujit Patil, PR Head, Tata Chemicals and Mr.Sudhakar, HR Head, Tata Chemicals. Among his remarks, Mr.Sudhakar mentioned, the need to connect PR with leadership and vice versa. According to him PR executives have as good a chance of becoming CEOs as executives from other functions like operations or finance. He also mentioned that since the average age of CEOs is coming down and so is the average tenure, it has become important that 'Leaders become good communicators and communicators become good leaders'. His message was well received by everyone attending.

The talks began with Mr.Chintamani Rao who spoke on 'Corporate Communication in the Age of Uncertainty'.

And this seemed to be the theme of the day ? uncertainty, crisis and change. That also made the topics discussed very relevant and interesting. Mr.Rao gave many examples of poor PR responses to crisis such as P&G Pampers Dry Max, the BP Mexico gulf oil spill and the RIM Blackberry email outage. He also highlighted good responses such as Toyotas Car recall and J&J Tylenol episode. Although the J&J Tylenol story is well documented and taught in business schools, Mr.Rao raised many interesting points and ideas from these examples. I did not know that the US govt. had objected to J&J pulling tylenol from the shelves, I guess the US government has'nt changed much from those days.

Mr.Rao also demontrated the interplay of communication messages between the various constituencies that PR proffessionals target and the deep linkages between them through some diagrams and charts. The ultimate goal being to improve the 'market value' of a brand.


An interesting and interactive session by Mark Hannant on 'Communicating Change'.

Mark led a very interesting and interactive discussion on the nature of change and how PR can respond to change. Mark began by demonstrating through audience participation that change is constant in everyone lives and now more than ever. An interesting point he brought up was about 'Planned change v/s Defensive change'. He gave the example of Shell v/s BP, citing that Shell has a better people oriented change model where they do a lot of scenario planning.

Mark posed 'Apple' as a great example of an organization that manages change through high engagement levels of people. Although he did point out that Apple would have to prove itself in 'defensive change' due to Steve Jobs death. He cited Steve Jobs as a person who planned well, even for death.

He concluded by encouraging organizations to better prepare for change through scenario planning and higher level of engagement with thier people.


Benefiting from Dr.Rajeev Kumar's vast experience in 'Engaging the media'.

Dr.Kumar who is the Head, Media Relations, for the Tata Group and is also one of the select PR persons to successful get IABC accredition which allows him to put the letters ABC (Accredited Business Communicator) along with his name. Dr.Kumar took us through a vast array of slides on media relations. It was almost like a mini-course in handling the media. Although some of it was basic information there were a lot of areas where Dr.Rao's personal insights made it an interesting lecture. It was especially interesting to learn about his PR stint in the army.

This was followed by lunch, good food followed with some really good ice cream. I was wondering if I could stay awake for the remaining talks after such a nice meal.


Kartik Sridhar on the 'Role of Insights in Public Relations'

Mr.Sridhar has a very articulate and direct way on talking as he took us through a whirlwind of slides depicting how he and his firm went about designing and then measuring insights for companies. His main point was 'Its not about counting how many people you reach but about reaching the people who count'. Mr. Sridhar further elaborated on how research and insight can affect the planning and eventual outcome of a PR campaign. He explained how insights help in the planning process and also can be used to measure the effectivness after the campaign is done.

An interesting aside was during the Q&A sessions when a student grilled Mr.Sridhar about ITC and ethics. It has to be said that he handled it quite well inspite of the inquisitorial nature of the complaint. Its always fun when the audience grills the speaker a bit.


Shael Sharma on 'Sheperding Client & Brand Reputations ? Crisi Management Employing Social Media'

Shael. who is also on the IABC organizing team, took us through a series of questions regarding the companies preparedness to handle online change especially from social media platforms. He categorized PR teams into three categories ? Boy Scouts ? Prepared with a plan in place, Tightrope Walkers ? Not completely prepared but capable of handling crisis somewhat, and the Ostrichs ? who don't have a clue, have'nt planned and don't intend to due to thier own reasons. He also showed us a few examples on Youtube of CEOs responding fast and immediately to crisis in a responsible and caring manner. He also showed an example where the companies own PR release can be used against it eg. BP.

Overall a thought provoking session with more questions than answers but interesting nevertheless.


Smooth talking Rajiv Dingra on 'Optimizing Social Media'.

Rajiv, who is very well known in the social media industry, with a string of top clients and a wealth of information, took us through the fundamentals of Socila Media strategy. Looking at him I realized that the new marketing mediums are truly the domain of the young and older professionals have a lot of catching up to do. The talk was interactive with Rajiv explaing the four C's of Social media ? Connect, Converse, Collaborate and Cocreate. He also took us through the 16 fundamental dos and don'ts of social media interspered with examples from his own experience. It was an interesting talk and as a reader of Watblog myself it was nice to meet him too. Judging from the reactions, the PR students enjoyed his talk as well.


Overall I have to thank the IABC Western Chapter team for inviting me and for putting on such a good event. I look forward to many more.

IABC is now actively looking to enroll new members so do visit their site at


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