Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Aligning to relationships

The key role of any association is to inform. An association of enterprises or people works towards a common goal that benefits its members and the society as a whole. Advocating issues before policy makers & regulators, influencing public opinion, educating and creating awareness are among the core roles of any association. Successful associations critically depend on the relationships they build with their internal and external audiences.

Shaping public opinion and persuading people to act is no easy task. The art of persuasion requires appealing to intellect and to the interest of the audiences. For some, like industry associations, this may mean lobbying to effect policy changes and for others, like healthcare associations it may mean creating a more conducive health environment the citizenry. Public relations, or the relationships that these associations cultivate with its publics becomes an intrinsic part of any Association life-cycle.

In late 2002, the Association of Hospitals, a group of 40 of Mumbai’s largest and oldest trust hospitals launched an impressive public relations campaign called ‘Health for All’, a project aimed at creating a healthier citizenry to Mumbai’s urban and rural surrounds. The campaign involved a series of 12 monthly disease awareness camps, lectures and awareness crusades in the urban areas. In the rural areas, ‘Health for All’ involved ‘Village Adoption Programs’ and volunteer campaigns.

In a crowded market place, where everything and everyone is struggling for mindspace and market place, it is extremely important for campaigns to be innovative to be able to stand out. At the same time public relations for Associations needs to be consensual to ensure a blending in with the views of the different stakeholders. Practicing the art of PR in Associations requires a depth of knowledge in the field that Association is focused on and a creative approach to applying PR tools to meeting the end objectives of the Association and its members.

The Mahratta Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA), the leading Chamber of Commerce in Western Maharashtra re-launched its public relations initiative in mid-2003. Repositioning a 60 year old Chamber which was more of geographical landmark was achieved over a period of the next 18 months by creative campaigns like the launch of the ‘Pune Unlimited’ theme to repackage Pune as a vibrant and ‘happening’ city. Other moves were initiated to focus on the core objectives of MCCIA to bring focus on the Power situation in Pune. Liaisons with other national Chambers like FICCI were also initiated to make combined approaches to the State Ministry of Power.

Understanding the inherent complexities of Associations and their unique way of functioning is decisive in a successful PR campaign. Once the campaigner has these ingredients right, success is guaranteed.