Home PR PR Interviews Looking up from lockdown - Interview with B N Kumar

Looking up from lockdown – Interview with B N Kumar

Media and communication veteran B N Kumar (BNK to friends) appears to be making the best of the lockdown period. After launching two websites http://businessjournalist.in/ and http://natconnectfoundation.com/ he is also busy revamping http://natconnectfoundation.com/. For an active media professional who has always been on the move meeting people and exploring places, it must be quite challenging to be stuck to home. Vikypedia.in catches up with BNK an online fireside chat as he spends the longest time at home braving the lockdown and continues with his strong communication for nature, his first love.

Q: Congrats on launching imageinfleuncer.in. Aren’t there quite a few websites catering to communicators? Why did you launch this venture?

BNK: Yes. Our community is huge and there is room for everyone. Every website or publication has its own role to play in strengthening the bonds among communicators. I think imageinfluencer.in is one more means of communication for the community to convey news and express views. Print industry is facing its own problems. So, we thought of trying it out online.

Q: What is the idea behind the name – Image Influencer?

BNK: This needs some explanation which I did in my column. Yet for the benefit of your readers, let me sum it up. PR has come a long way since Adam-and-Eve. The profession has begun to assert itself. We have grown much beyond the pink-shirt, party happy culture, that we have been accused of, to emerge as effective bridges of communication. Whether we are corpcom professionals or agency practitioners, we have begun to play a meaningful role in building and maintaining relationships through our messaging internally as well as externally, with the senior management and with the TGs.

Some corporates, in their hunt for value-for-money propositions, tend to overlook the difference between the paid medium advertising and unpaid PR or for that matter between advertorials and the rest. Do we need to educate them? PR professionals do not seem to command the price as advertising professionals do. Even the low fee that is paid to consultants does not flow regularly in some cases.

Does a PR professional command the same respect or value as the other consultants such as a Lawyer or a Doctor or for that matter a Creative Professional? There are other professionals as well, for instance management, who command respect or value.

Can PR not be the custodian of reputation? At the end of the day, do we not take care of the reputation of our companies or clients?

It is time for serious introspection among PR practitioners. Aren’t we communicators influencers? Advertising professionals take pride in calling themselves brand custodians. Aren’t we PR or corpcom practitioners also custodians or guardians of reputation, image. Let’s hope Image Influencer will be able to provide a platform to bring forth this point, strongly.

As regards, businessjournalist.in and natconnectfoundation.com, the names are self-explanatory.

Q: You seem to be collecting lot of information on coronavirus as well.

BNK: Since all eyes are on the virus and its deadly impact, we thought of focusing on the issue, too. Also, it is our endeavour to give space for the good work being done by corporates and NGOs. Our basic job is to communicate. Even on our business journalist site, we have the Coronacare page updating the developments and news that interest our readers. The graphics and information reinforce the point that we all ought to take care and communicate.

Q: You have some interesting thought provoking opinion pieces. Some big names at that!

BNK: That’s the idea. It is our responsibility as well, to break the monotony. We are happy that former adviser to Prime Ministers, S Narendra, has done a piece on the Challenges on Communication front in these crisis times. Similarly, aviation expert and ex Executive Director of Air India, Mr Jitender Bhargava, has written for our readers. Our opening Opinion piece is by M B Jayaram, a veteran communication professional and former adviser of ex-Karnataka CM S M Krishna. He virtually redefines social responsibility when he says it starts with an individual. In other words, My Social Responsibility or MSR. Not just CSR.  

Q: You bring in your passion, Nature, in your writings. You also touch upon the impending water crisis? Is it so serious?

BNK: Yes, that’s a major issue about which we feel nothing much is being done. The crisis becomes worse now during this corona care when one is supposed to wash at least four times a day and the consumption is bound to rise. What about the thousands and thousands of people such migrant labour and slum dwellers? Half of Mumbai lives in slums. I think as a community we have the responsibility to communicate on this issue. Since we talk about CSR and MSR, we thought of highlighting this issue not just to overcome the current crisis, but to be prepared for the future. We need at least ten crore litres of extra water in Mumbai alone to meet COVID-19 exigency.

Q: Isn’t it important to suggest solutions while we point out the policy execution lacuna?

BNK: Right. Water conservation and communication for it are important. Wash-your-hands-regularly is meaningless when you face drinking water crisis. We have another opinion column on the opportunities that the corona challenge offers. We took real estate as a case study and discussed how this sector can help rejuvenate the economy.

Q: Nature, close to your heart. Your communication campaigns have also won quite a few awards. What’s in store now?

BNK: Time For Nature. That’s the World Environment Day theme and we have adopted it for our needs: #Time4NatureIndia. During this lockdown leisure time, our communication to people is to spare a thought for Nature and think of the ways to save the environment. Most of us have been happily tweeting and re-tweeting bits of information on how the nature is healing itself from the damage done to by our so-called civilisation. This is a huge reminder message from Nature to us.

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