CASE – 1 MEDIA RELATIONS
Indefinite Strike by Employees—Role of PR: The VSNL Experience
VSNIL—the erstwhile Overseas Communication Service (OCS), and Navratna Central Public Enterprise—had always had a very cordial employee-employer relationship. The problem started when the Government of India decided to allot PSU employees shares of the company they worked in. while other Navratna companies allotted shares to their employees, VSNL did not do so. The reason for the delay VSNL was going for a GDR (global depository receipt) issue at that time, and the ministry of communications wanted to complete the issue before allotting the shares to the employees.
But after the GDR issue, a technical problem about the price at which the shares were to be issued to employees arose. The VSNL employees demanded a share price that was in accordance with the first disinvestments to the institutional investors in 1992—Rs 216 per share or Rs 10 each. But the ministry maintained that since the shares were not allotted to employees at that time for whatever reason, they could be allotted now only according to market rates, with a 15 per cent discount as per finance ministry rules.
The market value of the shares at that time was in the range of Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,100. For the employees, buying their quota of shares at those prices was a very costly proposition. They demanded that they should not be penalized for the government’s inability to issue the shares to them at the time of the first disinvestments. This was not acceptable to the government. Hence the employees decided to go on indefinite strike to compel the government to allot shares to them at Rs 216 each, instead of market rates with a 15 per cent discount as suggested by the government.
Stakeholders and the public
Obviously, the prime target group, in this situation was the employees and their leaders. However, at the same time there were other target groups who had to be reached and communicated with, and who would directly or indirectly help in resolving the problem, and maintaining the good image of the company, internally and externally. These other target groups were:
- Non-striking employees who did not participate in the strike call.
- Government and legal/labour authorities.
- Trade, customers and suppliers.
- Media, especially the national and international press.
- Industry leaders and industry associates.
- Last but not the least, subscribers of the corporation’s services.
- The company’s objectives for this industrial relations and image problem were to instill discipline, and achieve the required productivity level.
- To put across the issue in its right perspective to the various target publics.
- To help in resolving the issue by communicating to the employees the management’s stand, and its fairness to both parties.
- To keep the morale of other employees high, and gain support through appropriate communications to them via various internal media.
- The company, in the true spirit of its past harmonious relationship with employees, took a fair and just stand in all respects. Despite determined efforts by union activitists to paralyse the working of the corporation, the management of the corporation on many occasions met union representatives to break the deadlock. But the union was adamant as it considered its demand legitimate.
- The PR department organised press relations meetings and briefings, supported by information and facts on the situation at different times.
Eventually the government decided to accept the employees’ demand as a very special consideration, keeping in view the importance of the international telecommunications facility to customers. Besides, VSNL was going in for a second GDR issue, and the government did not want to give a wrong impression to international investors about the unhealthy industrial relations in VSNL. However, the government decided on a three-year lock-in period during which employees could not sell the allotted shares. This was to ensure that employees, being shareholders, took all possible steps to ensure the progress and achievements of VSNL, especially its high profit-earning position.
1. What measures would you take if you were the PR of BSNL
2. What according to you was the outcome of the solution taken by PR of BSNL?
CASE – 2 MEDIA RELATIONS
NEEPCO Ltd: Accidental Death of a Woman Worker—Role of PR
The corporate office of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation Ltd (NEEPCO) is located in Shillong (Meghalaya). The company had a major hydroelectric project at Kopili, in the Jayantia district of Meghalaya, 90 km from Shillong. The main project building was under construction when big marble tiles on its walls began falling. Realising the consequences of these tiles falling on anybody, NEEPCO project officials put rope barriers around the building to keep people away from danger.
Unfortunately however, a big piece of marble fell on a woman worker’s head when she wandered into the roped-off area. A huge crowd soon started gathering at the place, and they soon turned against the corporation, accusing it of carelessness. The victim was rushed to the nearby civil hospital by the project management, where she was declared dead.
Stakeholders and public
First, people gathered at the place of accident. Subsequently, the relatives of the victim arrived at the accident spot, followed by journalists who wanted to know the exact nature of the accident resulting in the death of the woman.
The NEEPCO management became very concerned about criticism resulting from the accident. They called the PR chief and asked for his advice. Initially, the management wanted to hush up the incident; they wanted to discuss the matter only with the relatives of the victims, and defuse the situation by paying compensation. They felt that if the incident was publicised, it could have serious repercussions. So they thought it better to put an end to the matter at that point.
But the PR chief did not agree with this suggestion. He felt it was dangerous to hide the information from the press, and that it would be better to issue a press release giving details of the incident. This way, they could explain the company’s viewpoint and clarify the corporation’s role in getting medical aid to the victim promptly, and its willingness to help the victim’s family in suitable manner—either through monetary compensation or giving a job to the victim’s next of kin.
The NEEPCO PR chief pointed out to the management that if the matter was not explained then, the press would come to know of the incident from other sources. They could then form a different opinion about the motives of the NEEPCO management, conclude that the corporate wanted to hide the matter deliberately, and criticise it for inefficiently handling the matter.
Ultimately, the NEEPCO management agreed to the PR chief’s suggestion. It issued a press release, and also called some journalists for a meeting, where the PR chief explained the company’s viewpoint. Two company directors and the PR chief went to the residence of the victim, met her relatives, and assured them of all possible assistance.
The next day, the press coverage of the incident was very mild, with opinion going in the company’s favour.
1. Explain in detail the management’s point of view and PR’s point of view on the accidental death of woman worker?
2. What would have been the situation if neepco didn’t face the press?
1. What is public relations? How is it a two-way communications process?
2. “Style has many meanings in journalism.” Discuss.
3. Discuss the duties and responsibilities of a reporter.
4. Discuss the various features of pictorial journalism.
5. Discuss Media Relation. Explain why it is so important for public relations.
6. Discuss the role of new information technology media in public relations.