Public relations (PR), though primarily, a management function, involves participation of every employee in an organization. The main thrust of PR is to ‘identify, establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the various publics on whom its success or future depends’. However, in the Indian context, we often come across situations where a few employees and/ or managers do something contrary to the interests of public relations, wittingly or unwittingly. In the succeeding paragraphs are quoted a few typical instances or lapses which could contribute to unfavourable PR image of an organization caused by its own employees / managerial personnel.
Once I went to an ISO 9002 company to impart training to a batch of its employees. I stayed at their official guesthouse for two days. On the first night, I requested the caretaker of the guesthouse in the evening to give me a wakeup call at 5 A.M. the next day to enable me to revise my notes for the training programme, but I was surprised to be told by him that as the breakfast at the guesthouse was generally served to guests at 8 A.M., the caretaker and his staff woke up usually at 6 A.M. and that the telephone operator who works during night shift was the right person to help me in the matter. Accordingly, I rang up to the telephone operator and sought his help. He came to know that I was a newcomer to the guesthouse, and assured me to give me a wakeup call at 5 A.M. the next day. However, he resented the attitude of the caretaker and commented:’ Sir, this is, in fact, the duty of the guesthouse staff and not of me. They are an irresponsible lot. Why don’t you bring this to the notice of the Personnel Manager tomorrow so that he could mend their behaviour?’ True, the telephone operator was right, but was it not wrong on his part to bring to the notice of a guest the deficiencies in service of his own company? After all, was he not unconsciously denting the image of his company which believes in PR as a mechanism to promote goodwill and mutual understanding between the organization and the public?
In one more instance, when I went to a government office to meet the chief officer at 11 A.M., I was informed by an attender that the boss had gone out and that he was not available for some time. Then I thought of meeting his deputy to seek information as to when his boss would be available. The deputy said: “Sir, I don’t know where he has gone. He never keeps me informed when he goes out.’ This, sadly, reflects the state of unsatisfactory human relations prevailing in that office, besides indicating a lack of public relations efforts on the part of a responsible person in that office.
Incidents of the above nature which have a bearing on the public image of the organizations (or the nature of public relations practised by them) could be kept at bay by adopting the following measures:
Training in PR should be imparted to different levels of employees in an organization, on a continuous basis, who come face to face with customers.
A short course on Image-building should be conducted for the benefit of all employees in an organization by the management, as there is a misconception on the part of most employees that image-building exercise is the exclusive function of CEO of the company and has got nothing to do with the individual employees.
Strengthening of employee communication is the need of the hour. The basics of communication -- what to speak and what not to speak in specific contexts -- in relation to the organization or its leaders, that would run counter to the interests and the PR policy of the company should be explained to all the employees in the workshops on communication to be organized for them.
Each employee is an integral part of the organization and its culture. Hence workshops on Ethics and Organisational Culture also need to be organized for the employees, which could contribute t