PR Parables: When the brightest star twinkled and then faded

A tale of contrasts. A  CEO and a PR trainee. Arrogance and ignorance. Power play and  vulnerability. All united briefly.  To face reality.       

There was nothing in the air when the PR agency team of this IT company introduced their newest and youngest member, the client needed more help on the ground and this resource was meant to fill that gap. To the communications leader it was a big relief. The new PR trainee was quick to learn and in a short time she did manage to win the confidence of the client, she was good at her work and worked hard as well. And as is the norm, gradually the PR trainee was included in a lot of activities that the client was rolling out.  And on the surface of it everything was hunky dory. Life as usual. Work as usual. At this point in time, there was no whiff whatsoever that something “unusual” was brewing.       

And then as per the planned PR program, it was decided that one evening in March, the CEO would have to travel to Delhi to meet and interact with a select group of media editors. Just an evening with them, no office talk, no power point, just down to earth conversations.   The agency put a team together and given the high level of confidence exuded by the young PR executive, she was given the lead responsibility to ensure that the entire plan is executed well and there is a good turnout from the media fraternity. 

That evening in March in Delhi was perfect from a weather standpoint; light breeze, slight nip in the air, perfect for an outdoor event. The corporate communications leader had reached the venue well in advance and so had a few of her other colleagues from the agency team.  The evening program was all set to be rolled out, the media guests started to trickle in, the PR teams were making their initial polite small conversations with their media invitees. The communications leader noticed, two people were missing. They were conspicuous by absence.  

Both their phones were switched off. While the comms leader was trying to track her CEO, the PR agency CEO was frantically trying to reach out to her employee who was entrusted with this task. 

No response was not helping. By now almost all the media invitees had reached.  It was up to the communications lead now to quickly figure out what was to be done, there was no time to waste. 

The venue of the media evening was the same as the hotel in which the CEO was staying. By now there was desperation tinged with a sense of worry as well, where could the CEO have gone and why would he switch off his mobile, how could he not be down with the media guests who had come to meet him? All these and much more were the prime concerns of the communications leader.

 And equally disturbed was the agency head, her lead staff for this evening was missing. 

A few things fell in place when the hotel front office staff informed the hapless comms leader that their guest had a “Do not disturb” request. 

The CEO did arrive, thirty minutes late for an evening party hosted by him and for him to meet the media. The PR executive didn’t turn up.   

Confidential and closed door investigation of emails exchanged between the CEO and the PR executive revealed that the two had been in regular conversations and the evening disappearing act was a much planned one. 

This shady affair was never brought up again. The CEO moved up the ladder in his organization . The bright young PR executive trainee left her work and not much was known as to where did she go.  The agency CEO resigned from the account. 

Moushumi Dutt is a senior corporate communications professional. PR Parables is her monthly column for PRmoment India on learnings from her PR life.

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