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Paytm, boAt, Vistara: April Showers of Bad PR?

With the soaring temperature, good PR campaigns seem to be hiding in the shade indoors while Bad PR hyenas prowl freely in the jungles. There aren't any indications of respite showers in the offing.

Bad PR:


Pop quiz, folks. Your hotshot fintech startup has had its payments bank wing shut down by the RBI due to gross negligence to compliance. Its share price is at an all-time low, and Motilal Oswal just published a dire Q4 revenue and profit loss prediction for your company. Which of the following messages will you likely see on your CEO's social media feed?

  1. Silence - just let some of the heat pass, keep a low profile
  2. Sincere apologies and updates about remedial action
  3. Reiterate their commitment to shareholders, customers and employees in these challenging times or
  4. A ChatGPT dialogue explaining to readers why eating food cooked in reheated oil is unhealthy - in response to a popular X fitness influencer.

Related Stories: Why the Poonam Pandey affair proves that PR not digital agencies are the best guardians of brand reputation

The answer, sadly, dear reader, is (4). Don't act so surprised. Some of you fanboys/girls were quick to prop these ninja founders (see also: Byju) as the next best thing since sliced bread. To the Paytm communications team, here is some unsolicited advice. <whispers it> Change his password and lock him out of social media for a few weeks. <ends whisper>.

Good PR:

Bajaj Group

April began so poorly with good PR examples that we returned to March and realized this one slipped under the radar. The Bajaj Group has committed 5,000 crores towards its various CSR initiatives over the next five years. They estimate that 20,000 youth will receive skill development training to enhance their career prospects. Cookie-cutter PR announcement, right? However, something differentiates a few enterprises - the sense of genuine purpose behind the move. The Bajaj Group leadership was featured in our column earlier (remember Sanjiv Bajaj's rant on telecallers?), but as a Group, they value their legacy with spirit. Here's the Humara Bajaj Spirit we all know about. The group stated that they have spent about 4,000 crore on CSR initiatives in the last decade should have been communicated more clearly with evidence of impact. 

Related Stories: Good PR: Urban Company soars with Chhoti Soch 

  Bad PR:


Iceberg, right ahead! Do you know what made Aman Gupta slightly more tolerable on Shark Tank Season 1 (no, not because he sat next to Ashneer)? BoAt was among the few profitable startups from the show's ensemble of founders. It helps to give Gyaan only when you walk the talk for your company. Alas, their run of 8 profitable years went kaput this year despite record revenues. We're told that roughly 129 crore loss is attributed to business development and... wait for it... advertising! Then, they take on the kingpin, Apple, in an incredible campaign targeting Apple fanboys. As Bane remarked in TDKR - you fight like a younger man, with nothing held back. Admirable but mistaken.

Let's take a step back. Have you ever been picked last by a team on your local playground? It is not a pleasant feeling—your more accomplished peers see you as a bit of a raw lemon, there to make up the numbers. Let's use a music example because that may sound more relevant to team boAt. When you're Pritam, don't take on Taylor Swift. 

Bad PR:

Vistara-Air India

The Indian Aviation Circus is like the gift that keeps giving for this column. Just in January, pilots were getting punched up by irate passengers, and Indigo was serving the world's first runway buffet. In this week's episode of Indian aviation taking hassled customers for a ride, Vistara was forced to cancel numerous flights, adding pressure on key routes and making airline tickets too expensive for many passengers. Disgruntled pilots penned a letter to the Tata Group Chairman (bypassing the Vistara CEO), giving a more coherent account of their challenges. It makes you wonder how brands cannot stay ahead of the narrative with all the resources and teams at their disposal when the pilots can articulate solutions better.

I don't know about you guys, but I prefer happy pilots flying me around. We can understand that businesses sometimes have to take tough calls, but how/why do you take a chance with that employee profile who keeps your business running? I'm not saying we should disrespect accountants or maintenance staff, but you get the point, right? Let's hope Vistara does, too. Poor Indigo must be starting to feel a lot like Virat Kohli in the RCB batting line-up.

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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