PR winners and losers for 2015

As we enter the last quarter of 2015 (where has the year gone!), who had the best and worst PR this year? Is it Modi (obvious), Deepika (obvious too), Volkswagen, David Cameron or someone else? Did your favourite or not so favourite make the list? We speak to senior PR professionals for their top picks.

Subhash Pais, founder and business head - i9 Communications lists out his PR winners this year, kicking off, quite naturally with the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church:

PR Winners

Good PR
Pope Francis Modernizing a ‘brand’, creating new and relevant messages, separating religion from being human, over 7 million Twitter followers

Pope Francis
Bold, dynamic, going where no one has gone before. Turning the image of a dull dilapidated, stuck in the stone age Catholic Church with some seriously bold decisions and engaging one on one and humanizing the position of the Pope. 

Pope Francis meeting young Sophie Cruz

Angelina Jolie
Regardless of being called a drama queen and a brat in the Sony data leak, the actress-philanthropist-mother of 6 continues to be seen as an as someone who is doing it 'her way'. The current issue with the sexuality of one of her children again portrays her in a very humane manner. 

Kangana Ranaut
Perky, sassy, rebellious, in your face, self-made small town girl making it to the top of the heap in Bollywood. Kangana Ranaut and the manner in which she engages with her audience, being able to connect with a fan base spanning anything from 5-50 is an example of how one can be an outlier and yet thrive in the cauldron called Bollywood. Fairytale story that is being milked and told very well.

Bad PR

Bad PR
Salman Khan “Given his crazy fan following and super hit movies being in the news for the wrong reason is avoidable. However, “Bhai” is also critic proof in all sorts of ways.”

Salman Khan
The bad boy of Bollywood knows how to make news. The 2003 accident case will forever remain a blot on his copybook. From shooting black bucks to being involved in a drunk driving incident and the drama of the court case playing out like a predictable B grade Bollywood flick.

Chetan Bhagat
What do you do when you are the author of bestsellers that have been turned into multicore Bollywood blockbusters? How do you further add to your image of a thinking columnist writing on current issues? You become a judge on an eeky-deeky TV dance show. Chetan Bhagat is a mini-youth icon and I think he could do with a mini-PR fix

Subhash Pais's Honorable mentions, Bad PR:
Aamir Khan (What's with all the crying?) David Cameron (Pigs are certainly flying) Air India (Can't just allow your brand to be hijacked that easily) 

Jaideep Shergill, co-founder, Pitchfork Partners  feels that if the election last year brought to light how important it is to understand your audience and engage consistently with it, this year underscored it.

Says Shergill, “ To my mind, we had some master communicators show again why they’re considered so and we had some inexplicable disasters from corporations and people who should have known better.”

Here are the ones I think did a great job. And some who were simply blah:

The Aww factor

Amitabh Bachchan
The man continues to wow. This year, his Facebook following cruised past 20 million while on Twitter he’s breezed past 17 million. He blogs too. While none of this is new, it amazes me how Bachchan remains relevant even to those born well after his peak. This is in no small part due to his communication skills. I find this all the more amazing because in real life he’s not known to be very communicative.

Anand Mahindra
Here’s the template of the digitally savvy CEO. The man is interesting and is not afraid to engage with individual customers. He isn’t afraid of airing his views on the economy or other potentially controversial issues.

Raghuram Rajan
Already rated one of the best central bankers of the world, the Reserve Bank of India chief is a brilliant communicator even if he isn’t active on social media. His pronouncements on the economy and interest rates have been timely and effective. He’s demonstrated calmly that he’s his own man. One example of how good he is: the video of him answering a student who wondered when India’s economic policy would have a global impact the way the US does:

Eww Factor

Narendra Modi and his government:
Modi swept to power on the wings of a great communication campaign. He continued to do well individually, shining on social media and even on radio. But, the sheen is wearing off fast because of his government’s showing and pronouncements of his ministers. Serious setbacks on the Land Acquisition Bill (it had to be withdrawn) and no certainty about the Goods and Services Tax (there is no consensus on it) have dimmed the government’s reputation as reforms-friendly.

Allegations of repackaging old schemes and offering them as new abound, anti-minority campaigns and remarks by the Sangh Parivar as well as Modi ministers have created disquiet. It will take all of Modi’s communication skills to claw back from this, the recent star turn at Silicon Valley notwithstanding

The Maggi controversy was shocking not only for the findings of the tests on the noodles, but also the indifference with which the global food major approached the crisis. There was no communication or the seeking of expert counsel for the longest time. The crisis put many other food majors under the microscope.

The release Volkswagen issued was ineffective & a video message Winterport sent out was vague. Will this have an impact on its India business? In this age of the environment-conscious customer, you bet.

 While the crisis over rigged emission tests did not erupt in India, it is being watched closely here. It has already claimed the auto major’s CEO Martin Winterkorn and – alarmingly – is feared to impact the German economy too. “…Volkswagen has become a bigger downside risk for the German economy than the Greek debt crisis,” ING chief economist Carsten Brzeski told Reuters. Germany was the crutch on which Europe was only limping back from the Grecian implosion.

 Shravani Dang, vice president and head, corporate communications, Avantha Group list includes :

Deepika Padukone
In January this year, she admitted to the world that she was struggling with anxiety and depression at a time when she was establishing her credentials as one of Bollywood's most sought after actors. However she did not let this get to her.

She sought appropriate medical help and now working on an initiative to create awareness about anxiety and depression, and help people.

Sunny Leone
Has moved on from porn and established herself as a leading actress in Bollywood:
This hot sizzling Bollywood diva has put behind her image as a leading actress of the adult entertainment world and is a rarity in Bollywood, coming across as forthright articulate and professional, definitely a no nonsense woman.

Rahul Yadav – former CEO of
He’s been caught in controversial emails sent to investors and employees, has been fired for his juvenile attitude and heavily criticized.

His FB post on LSD while on holiday is immature and irresponsible as many youngsters consider him a role model and drugs is a definite no no:

Having LSD does not a Steve Jobs make!

Do you agree with the list above, who would mke your list of PR winners and losers in 2015?

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