To Keep Running is to Keep Winning

In our Public Relations (PR) Diploma, we are asked to choose a topic to work on for our dissertation research. All of us faced the same issue— we weren’t able to determine what was the communications’-specific problem. We all prescribed solutions to each problem but most of the solutions would not fit into the purview of our job as PR professionals. All we needed to do was ascertain how communications could help resolve the issue. But as novices, we failed to distinguish our role from that of the executors. The role of communications ceases before the red tape of ‘communications only’. Beyond this, we don’t seem to have clearance.

Our role as PR is to nudge, to create awareness and conversation, and let the execution follow. But dare we dabble beyond this sacred line between communication and legislation? One would say yes in the face of a growing crisis. The Devil’s advocate might argue that blurring this boundary borders on anarchy. But, history isn’t made by those who did nothing.

Climate change activism for a Gen-Z like me instantly sparks the name — Greta Thunberg. 

As the ‘Greta Effect’ swept across nations, it called out every lousy legislator/government body for climate change regulations. The Swedish teenager who had a sweetie-pie look burnt on the inside knowing that the planet was moving towards destruction progressively. Her speech How Dare you?sent shivers down my spine. And that’s when it hit me—we had the crème de la crème: the Ivy Leaguers at the top of global governance. People, who were more capable than most of us to do the job better. Unfortunately, it took them a teenager with a cardboard sign, having to bunk school and call them out! Greta’s initiative cemented my belief in Communications as a force to change the world. 

Watching Don’t Look Up made me gasp, scowl, scorn, and flinch in horror, disgust, and shame, at the condition we find ourselves in. It accurately depicted how climate concerns were relegated to a secondary stature. The US President (played by Meryl Streep), the leader of the free world couldn’t care less about a comet threatening apocalypse. The system can be overwhelming and such agendas might be forced to take a backseat. After all the coverage climate change has garnered it becomes nothing but a stale piece of writing. An annoying alarm that cannot stop going off no matter how many times you push over its head, cursingly. One can emphatically say that communication is the annoying snooze button. It is a reminder that there is no ‘Planet B’.

Conversations around climate change can make some evade/ change the issue or opt for obliviousness as if it were a conspiracy theory. People in jobs like mining are forced to ignore its impact due to occupational hazards. They might have to meet their family needs as opposed to us who can choose to think of the planet 20-40 years from now. One doesn’t get to have a stand on whether climate change exists or not. Truth be told, the communications fraternity is the strongest defense available to climate change advocates. Our role is more than to just incite reaction but motivate action. Through us, large-scale behavior change campaigns can see the light of the day. 

PR and communications can impact climate change in both ways. On 15th Sept, the House of Representatives Committee in the US met to discuss the negative impact of PR and communication concerning climate change. Several prominent PR agencies were accused of greenwashing their clients’ (especially fossil fuel clients)and of pathetic attempts to dismiss a global crisis, presenting a falsely positive view of the situation to pursue/further their vested interests. So far, 13 lawsuits have been filed against the US fossil fuel industry. Corporate image promotion, 3rd-party mobilization to stimulate false positivity, and delegitimization of the opposition are ways in which such companies have tried to better their agenda. It is known that several PR firms have cheated and obstructed action about climate change, only to flatly deny any wrongdoing.

With purpose-led businesses becoming essential in these times, it is essential to understand that customers may want to associate with businesses that believe and put their weight behind a worthy cause. However, such organizations must learn to coexist peacefully in an environment that does not wholeheartedly concur with them. There must be a safe space to express one’s opinions without being held up. There will always be groups of people having opposing points of view. 

Here’s when PR has to play a crucial role. Bringing conflicting opinions to a conclusion can only be achieved with communication. Here, we must not merely highlight facts but tell a story. Present information in a manner that compels the toughest critics of our ideology to listen. All this can be achieved through strong and consistent messaging. The role of PR is like the gunshot at the start of the race, except that to keep running is winning. 

Author: Digital Onca

Digital Onca is a blog that documents the concepts of Digital Marketing and Public Relations. Digital Onca is the effort to stay with the times, understand more deeply, more closely the working of a digital space that is steadfastly emerging around us.

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