When Gods Fall, PR Steps In

By Mayur Milan, Director

Religion is in a dire need of PR in India today.

Agreed that the same is true globally, but India has a unique case at hand. Not only are the two largest religions in the country currently facing tough times on sticky wickets, but the one common religion of India has found itself in midst of unnecessary controversy.

Cricket is the undeclared religion that binds India. Much like another religion, it has multiple gods, depending on which generation you come from. It can divide a family, create barriers between friends from different states and still drive the nation into a state of euphoric delirium.

Close on the heels of a scintillating performance that should have heralded the arrival of an all-conquering demigod, came the tragedy that was Koffee With Karan. Separated by some 10000 KM, Indian cricket saw two very different performances. One was a vintage straight drive for a six, while the other was a stumping of a wide ball.

What is unique about this situation is that, possibly for the first time, cricketers have been universally criticized. Almost everyone in their sane mind looked at the incident and called it out. Instantly. And that is the question that bothers us.

How on earth did three PR teams miss the warning signs? Two of them, the host and the broadcaster, are in the business of entertainment and can be forgiven for chasing TRPs. But the third is an upcoming superstar. A Youth Icon who commands a staggering 11 crore price tag in the domestic T20 league. Surely, someone must have seen the footage before it went on air. More likely, someone would have been present during the shoot as well. How did they miss the red flags? One could have been excused if there was an isolated incident. But in this case, it was like a flag march, they just kept coming. And yet, no one noticed it.

The swift action taken by BCCI following the incident and the statement issued by a man who would have surely hurled choicest of words at his teammates, much the way he does on the field, suggests that the other PR team has been forced into damage control mode.

One of the basic principles of PR is to know the target audience and their interest. This is closely followed by knowing your purpose and the desired result. It is ironic that this season of KWC started with a reference to the #MeToo campaign with an aim to cater to the audience and their sentiments. Somewhere along the line, that purpose seems to have been misplaced.

On the cricketer’s side though, the question of knowing the audience, the purpose of the interview and the desired result seems to have not been evaluated at all. In business terminology, it is a spray and pray approach that has been taken. Unfortunately, not only did the spray not hit the target, but it came right back on their face.

This is a good lesson for communication professionals. It is important to have in-depth knowledge/insights about your clients and the audience. Know what are they good at and what can be improved. Being authentic is key, but at the cost of antagonizing a large section of the audience is not prudent. Basis, evaluate the media opportunity at hand, and what the possible return on investment.

But most of all – know the purpose of your effort