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Good and Bad PR: Narayana Murthy, Tony Fernandes get some bad PR, looking like a Wow goes viral

Happy to helm a PR zeitgeist series with PRmoment India, capturing the best and worst of brand PR examples from an Indian context. We don't use the adage - there is no bad PR - anymore, and for a good reason. Hopefully, you, the reader, understand the consequences of communication through these examples.

Good PR

Astral Pipes

Always start with a dollop of positivity. First up is Astral Pipes (infrastructure company), putting their might behind a good cause. Through the Astral Foundation, they have built a 13-kilometre irrigation pipeline for the good folk of Piplantri village in Rajasthan.

The campaign is told through an emotional video that recognises the efforts of Padma Shri Awardee Shyam Sunder Paliwal. Mr Paliwal and the villagers have planted more than 5,000 trees to commemorate the birth of each girl child in the village. The forest stands as a testament to the progressive stance of the village concerning the scourge of female infanticide.

A fantastic use case as far as sustainability/CSR efforts go in this country - aligning with a use case that showcases your product vision and mission and then using the power of storytelling to draw positive sentiment towards the brand. Well done!

Bad PR

Narayana Murthy (Infosys)

Ex-Infosys CEO Narayan Murthy  ( also , father-in-law to UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak) created a nationwide debate with his comments on right-winger Mohandas Pai's blog calling for the nation's youth to work 70 hours per week. He suggested that a single-minded focus on work will help catapult India to its rightful place globally: a noble thought, questionable timing, platform and poor articulation.

India faces decade-high unemployment levels, and IT industry salary growth has stalled. Add to that the thousands of layoffs from large tech companies in the last 12 months. Not exactly reading the room well, is it?

His wife Sudha Murthy did not help by saying Narayan Murthy used to work 90 hours a week. She has , of course, had her own challenges with PR following her remarks on carrying vegetarian food during her global travels.

If you must make a controversy-soaked statement, having the leaders of brands like Mahindra, Jindal and Ola backing you helps. However, many smart and media-savvy industry leaders used the topic to make patronizing statements about work-life balance, evolving cultures and mental health. We even had medical practitioners dive in with the health implications of workplace stress. The gender pay gap debate made an appearance, and we are still clueless about what valuation to give to the efforts of the homemaker (gender-neutral). Messages are open to interpretation by the reality of the recipient.

Hence, you get hyperbolic sarcasm like this:

Let us analyze QUANTITATIVELY what Mr. Narayana Murty said about 70hr per week of work to build India

How much percentage do you need to get DISTINCTION in college? 70%

What about FIRST CLASS? 60%


— peeleraja (@peeleraja) October 29, 2023

Bad PR

Tony Fernandes (Air Asia CEO)

I'm only labelling this bad PR because I cannot label the column the 'Worst' PR. Serial entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia's parent company, saw sense in posting a shirtless picture of himself getting a massage whilst seated in a conference room chair during a live management meeting. That is one sentence I never knew I would frame.

There is no brand upside. Eternal meme-fication is your only reward, and Google displays your (unflattering) topless picture on any search with your name. An open challenge maybe for a savvy digital marketer on how to undo that much SEO damage. But jokes aside, it remains a sad reminder of how disjointed the leadership communications apparatus can be at the biggest firms in the world. The diabolical failure of multiple chains of command for that to go public surely deserves scrutiny.

Comms professionals should use that graphic (I don't know what else to call it) to caution their leadership about how not to Chernobyl your LinkedIn profile.

Because we saw it, you must see it too.

Bad PR 

Kangana Ranaut 

When filmstars must reverse directions

Kangana Ranaut, who spends her time bashing Bollywood, the very industry she works with and bashing the world in general, has just discovered that being an “influencer” doesn’t necessarily sell tickets. Even when you have the Chief Minister of one of our largest states of India attend a screening with you. Surprise, surprise, the buying audience just wanted to see a good film in a hall.

Ranaut had to climb down and plead on Twitter to go see her movie, unfortunately the audience is still saying Talk to the hand! And was quick to point out that other films were more than succeeding.

Good PR: Looking Like a WOW!

You know you have made it when your catchphrase is made into a viral song by none other than Yashraj MukhateThe backdrop to this song goes like this; Jasmeen Kaur enthusiastically promoted her clothing store using the catchphrase ,Looking Like a WOW" and "Ladoo Peela" to describe the bright yellow cloth colour.

It caught the fancy of the net and with the swish of a drape, she is viral.

Check out the song here.

Looking like a WOW no doubt!

Shoeb is the director of brand content at Ideosphere Consulting. He loves helping brands and business leaders articulate their value better.

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