The Rise Of Public Relations In India And Its Effect On Society Over Time


Promotion means a set of activities devised to increase the reach of the product, brand or service to the general public. The main aim of promotional activities is to attract people and to persuade them to buy the product by making them aware about its existence in different ways. There are several types of promotions like Advertising, Press Releases, Consumer Promotions, Sales Promotions, Lobbying and Public Relations. Public Relations is a type of persuasive communication to promote a product, person or service where a PR Practitioner analyses the organisation or company, finds out all the positive points about a product and converts it into positive stories which connect with the targeted audience influencing them in buying the product. PR roles involve social media promotions and crisis management when something negative about the product surfaces. I agree with Professor Aeron Davis that it is a promotionally saturated world but it gets more and more saturated with every passing second with the increase in opportunities in this sector. We don’t really know the upper limit of promotional excess in today’s world. So, it will not be wrong to say that promotions will be continuously increasing with growing technology and passing time and new methods will keep being introduced in this field making it ubiquitous. Words like Advertising, Public Relations, and Lobbying did not exist 200 years back but promotion did where it had an all total different meaning and people had different ways to promote their product. Similarly, we don’t really know how the technology is going to shape up in the upcoming 200 years. But one thing is very sure that the technology is going to grow unabatedly over the years acting as the major reason for the change in promotional strategies. It is very definite that just like finance, globalisation, digital technologies and wars shape the future of our world, and promotions are the key to the general public forming a certain opinion about all the fields mentioned above. In this paper, I will be forming an opinion about the rise of Public Relations in the second most populous country in the world, i. e. India and how this promotional media industry has influenced and affected the society and people living in it over time. We will be having a deep look into some major industries like The Indian Film Industry, The broadcasting television Industry, The Print Media Industry and the B2B business companies which thrive on PR to promote their brand. We will be making a deep analysis on how these promotions reach a population of 1. 3 billion people influencing them and making the country promotionally saturated.


In India, the origin of Public Relations goes back to the mythological period. Ramayana and Mahabharata which were the two great Sanskrit epics of ancient India provided many instances of communication techniques used by the famous characters to control people’s perception about their rulers. One such character which was common in both the epics was sage Narad who used to get acquainted with the positive and negative thoughts going on inside the common public’s mind and communicate it to the ruler influencing him to change his ways for the public welfare and vice versa promoting the ruler to the ruled. Employing professional bards to sing the glory of the king was an ancient custom in India. Great philosophers like Gautama Buddha and Sankaracharya were incredible communicators who used to promote their preaching in an idiomatic language which would connect with the people more making them easier to follow. Another great ruler emperor Ashok sent his children to Sri Lanka to spread the message of Buddhism. This was how people across the borders started following Buddhism. Indian Railways also had a big hand in developing public relations in modern India. They started with carrying out campaigns to promote tourism in India. The first such campaign was carried out in England in the 20s. The Publicity Bureau of the Great Indian Peninsular Railways introduced a new concept of travelling cinema by conducting fairs, festivals and exhibitions abroad to promote tourism in India, especially by rail.

The impact of these promotional activities was so staggering that it became the fourth largest railway network in the whole world providing employment to around 1. 4 million people. The government of India established the Central Publicity Board during the First World War which was later renamed twice as Central Bureau of Information and Bureau of Public Information respectively. The government though used the term Public Relations for the first time in the history, in 1945, House of TATA established a Public Relations division in their Bombay Head Office, the first PR Department in the private sector. After India got its independence in 1947, the multinational companies which existed even before the independence, had to change their ways to communicate with the Indian people to build up an interpersonal relationship with them which was of considerable importance in Indian culture to promote their brand in India which was very dissimilar to the British culture during their rule. And finally, the Public Relations Society of India (PRSI) was established in 1958 which exists till date giving young PR practitioners a platform to practice PR.

Influence and Effects with Case Studies

The different media industries in India have flourished since independence. More than 5000 daily newspapers are published in more than a hundred different languages across the country apart from Hindi and English being the first and second most common language. An example is The Hindi Daily Press, which distributes more than 23 million copies daily. Moreover, new newspapers, magazines and cable news channels are constantly being added to the mix. There is one particular tradition in India where people discuss politics and other issues over a cup of tea in their neighbourhood tea shops every morning with a newspaper in their hands. This is the reason why newspapers and magazines have eventually become the first and most common preferences of companies to promote their brands offering public relations practitioners an excellent opportunity to convey their message and stories by covering the newspapers and magazine pages which are sure to catch the attention of a major chunk of India’s adult’s population. This has become so much of a trend that the front pages of these newspapers and magazines are covered with promotional stories and ads on most of the days. Another such deeply valued tradition which traces back centuries in India is Arranged Marriages. The spread of Internet access has given rise to various online matrimonial apps and sites like ‘Shaadi. com’ which allow people who want to have an arranged marriage to make a very long descriptive profile about them and put it on the site in order to arrange for the right person to marry. In order for their profiles to look good in every way, they also charge a certain amount of fees to provide every person with a PR agent who makes sure the person’s biodata looks good online in a way promoting the individual. It has touched over 35 million lives and 5 million people have tied the knot using Shaadi. com in the past decade.

On the other hand, the youth population of India are mostly very active on social media making it a place where news can spread like fire within seconds. For example, during the general elections in India in 2014, the PR team of Mr Narendra Modi launched the campaign with the hashtag ‘Ab ki baar Modi Sarkar’ which meant ‘This time it should be Modi Government’ across all social media platforms targeting the youth population of India. It was the first time in India when the PR team of a politician had planned something like this on social media platforms. The campaign was an instant success and went viral establishing Narendra Modi as Brand ‘NaMo’. The campaign has such an effect on people that videos of young kids chanting the hashtag started surfacing YouTube though they had no knowledge about politics and elections. Eventually, Narendra Modi’s political party BJP (Bhartiya Janta Party) won the elections making him the Prime Minister. This had such an effect on the other political parties like Congress that they started investing more on their PR teams which then came up with the idea of making a movie on the life of their leader to reach a wider audience just before the 2019 general elections.

Any discussion about the Indian public relation industry cannot be complete without the mention of the Indian Film Industry also known as Bollywood. Bollywood produces twice the number of films produced by Hollywood or any other film industry in the whole world. Watching movies is not just a two to three hour distraction to pass time in India, but a subconscious lifestyle of every Indian. Movies are an important part of every Indian’s life. Around 14 million people in India go to watch movies in over 13000 theatres on a daily basis. Such scenario has resulted in producers investing almost same amount of money as the film’s budget to market the film by hiring the top PR firms in order to plan various innovative promotional campaigns and strategies to reach the public. According to popular film marketer Tarun Tripathi, a movie has to make an impact on its first day of release and its fortune depends on the first three to four days. This is because, after the first day, everything depends on the word of mouth of people who went to watch the movie on the first day. In order to make the maximum number of people go and watch the movie on the first day, PR officials plan promotional campaigns which run on all forms of media creating a huge buzz around the movie. Making the movie ads and trailers appear on all the channels on the television at certain specific times when the maximum number of people turn their television on for entertainment; planning the appearance of the lead stars of the movie on all the popular reality show platforms and daily soaps which gain the maximum TRP; devising video games related to the movie’s story; manufacturing goods like toothbrushes, toys, stationaries using the movie’s name to collaborate with famous brands; conducting prize winning tasks which urges the public to participate in the task to win the prize or to get a chance to meet their favourite celebrity; making hashtags related to the movie trend all over the country are some very popular tricks used by the PR officials in the past. For example, UTV motion pictures promoted their film ‘Ghanchakkar’ by announcing a nationwide treasure hunt that gave fans a chance to win Rs 1 Lakh. In 2013, superstar Shah Rukh Khan launched a promotional campaign where he launched special designer sarees worn by the female protagonist in the movie ‘Chennai Express’, introduced mobile and computer games to promote his movie Chennai Express. In fact, the actors have such influence on people’s lives that their selection of a brand mildly depends on the quality, uniqueness, design, customer service, but majorly depends on the celebrity promoting it.

Mou Mukherjee-Das in 2013 said that the actors turn into cult figures, the hero is applauded, the virtuous are worshipped and the villain is condemned. There is no escape from the glaring omnipresence of cinema in India today as everybody from the hapless roadside vendor to the most eminent and powerful politician is drawn towards the larger than life presence of the big screen personalities, and thus yields to the magic wand of the medium that showcases it to them. Actor Sanjay Dutt was accused to be involved in 1993 Bombay Blast and was sentenced to 5 years in jail. All his reputation among his fans was lost because of this. In order to overcome this situation of crisis after he was released from the jail at the end of his serving time, his PR firm made a strategy to invest in making a movie on promoting his life which would show his life in good light giving fitting reasons to why he was wrongly accused. The budget of the movie was 1 Billion and it turned out to make over 2 billion after it was released. The actor not only gained more fans than he ever had before but also made a huge profit out of the movie; such was the effect it had on the public. There are reality TV shows like ‘Big Boss’ and ‘Roadies’ which are immensely popular in India and are going on for more than a decade. The reason behind their success is their incredible PR teams which devise new methods by scripting certain episodes of the show to create bad publicity or controversy around their contestants in order to gain news time and public’s attention whenever the amount of viewers of their show or TRP starts dropping.


Professor Aeron Davis’s theory appears to be totally accurate and the future of promotional industries depends on how the technological fields carve up. Promotions have become so saturated in India today that some companies and corporations use Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in a way to promote their brands. This makes people develop a liking towards the brand sub-consciously. For example establishing operations that create job opportunities in job-deprived areas, supporting community development programs in areas such as health and nutrition, engaging in projects related to conservation of the environment and collaborating with NGO’s, all contribute towards maintaining CSR and building a business-community relationship upon which a working relationship can be built cementing the customer loyalty. This in a way is both negative and positive because even if a company truly and wholeheartedly involves itself in charity activities, not with the intention to promote their brand, people will still believe that it is just for promotion. Promoting something has become so easy in today’s world that anyone could be sitting in any corner of the world and placing write-ups in newspapers. The PR world will soon go wireless. As more and more people realize the cost-effectiveness of PR campaigns, their attention will shift from the expensive ad campaigns to PR strategies and placements which will keep on saturating the Public Relations Promotional Industry over time.

10 December 2020
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