Public Relations in a Crisis

It is a special privilege for any practitioner of public relations to have been involved in a situation of crisis. A crisis, is an exciting time of danger and stimulus, which force organisations to truly think strategically as so much depends on success or failure. This means that instead of having to address oneself to a large number of relatively minor tactical PR issues, there is a virtual “state of war”. Here one has to study all aspects of the corporate and political environment and identify all one’s friends and enemies in order to formulate a strategic or tactical plan. From such an analysis comes a course for aggressive action because action is the key element in public relations. What you say mainly depends on what you do.

Public relations is all about action. News stories can only flow from noteworthy action. No newspaper of influence will otherwise take it seriously. It is things that are done that make news stories. One of the finest exponents of public relations in action was Mahatma Gandhi, whose actions jolted the Congress party out of being a virtual debating society, that only made war with words, into a mass movement with a commitment for positive action. Satyagraha was exactly what it meant action for truth and it is action and truth, which are the very foundations of public relations.
Truth, like beauty, is unfortunately to be found in the eyes of the beholder. It is the task of the public relations practitioner, therefore, to remove the blinkers from the eyes of those who do not see the truth by building an irrefutable body of facts, which makes the truth unassailable. The true definition of opinion is the absence of facts. If there are facts, there is no need for opinion. The collection of significant facts and their proper presentation is the foundation for destroying ignorance and other obstructions to the path of progress, which one seeks to achieve.

Another important element in successful public relations is the importance of imagery. Of being able to reduce the facts to a few simple ideas which can graphically illustrate the issues which are sought to be promoted. In this dimension also, there are few practitioners, who can better Mahatma Gandhi, who made a handful of common salt into a symbol of colonial tyranny and with the symbolic burning of imported cloth was able to focus on the problems of India’s textile industry and handicrafts.

After many years of involvement with the marketing of tractors and my earlier exposure to market research and advertising, I found myself thrust suddenly into the middle of the greatest corporate war ever to have hit the Indian business scene. It was a long drawn out, three year campaign, vigorously contested between Swraj Paul, a well-known non-resident raider and two Indian companies, The Delhi Cloth Mills (DCM) and Escorts, although it was eventually left to Escorts to bear the brunt of the battle.

In early 1983, Swraj Paul started quietly purchasing shares first in DCM and then in Escorts that went totally unnoticed till the 11th of April when his quiet raid on the two companies was discovered. The matter was taken up immediately with the government and with a large number of industrial associations like FICCI, ASSOCHAM and PHDCCI. Then there was an immediate hue and cry in the press concerning the injustice being done by a non-resident with almost unlimited borrowing power available in a foreign country who was trying to take over and destabilize the well-run Indian companies.

My department had a great deal of work to do, organizing the press meetings and conferences, arranging that the press was provided with background notes of available material, public statements, copies of journalistic opinion, etc. There was at that time no clear strategy and all the issues were rather muddled. There was a lot of speculation and wild gossip but no building blocks for an effective counter attack.
Building a Defense

It was clear that we had a very insufficient knowledge of our adversary and of his associations with the A.P.J. group in India as well as with the Caparo Group in the U.K. So our market research department embarked immediately on a massive hunt for material. The first part of this search was for material on parliamentary debates in the library of Parliament, where I vaguely remembered some debates in the 60′s concerning steel scandals. We almost immediately struck gold. We found that there were over 700 pages of acrimonious documentation concerning a large number of misdeeds of the A.P.J. Group involving black marketing, under-invoicing, cheating and a variety of other crimes or misdemeanors which had led to their being black-listed on nearly a dozen occasions.

Simultaneously, material started coming in from Calcutta and London concerning the A.P.J. and Caparo companies and it was soon evident that both worked on a generally similar pattern. In both countries, they had, by quiet acquisitions, taken over a large number of companies and other properties and worked on the principle of taking over limping companies with good saleable assets and stripping and selling them. We were able to put together evidence that their companies generally produced very little except for money that they certainly did know how to produce. Their trading activities also were mainly in areas which were highly restricted or where there was a great premium on the licenses, i.e., where there was scope for considerable black market margins.

Within two weeks of the battle commencing, we were able to prepare an abstract of some of the key facts and ensure that this was quietly circulated in many key quarters. It had a devastating effect because firstly, it enabled us to regain some initiative and confidence and secondly the supporters of Swraj Paul became embarrassed and cautious for they never knew what additional data we had as this abstract could well be only the tip of a dangerous iceberg. This document became something in the nature of an “ultimate deterrent” because it created a fear in the enemy camp that we may be able to explode embarrassing bombshells.

There had been speculation that Swraj Paul was using the Prime Minister’s alleged funds to mount this raid. We did not believe this to be the case either then or afterwards. A small group close to the P.M., with strong links in the ministry of Finance had, we believed, been behind a purely opportunist take-over bid. The same group had encouraged domestic take-overs of Kamani Engineering, Standard Batteries, CEAT Tyres etc. and had nearly taken over Premier Automobiles. We, therefore, were convinced that despite the influence of Swraj’s friends, it was them that we were fighting and not the government.

Swraj Paul, in the meantime, entered the fray with an aggressive broad-side against Indian industrialists in general and the managements of Escorts and DCM in particular. In all fairness it must be stated that Swraj Paul was an excellent natural PR practitioner himself. He had enormous vigour and presence.

He made the public aware for the first time that India’s industrialists owned quite small percentages in the shares of their companies. He alleged that the promoters had sold out their shares to the financial institutions and used the proceeds to live like Maharajas. He then went on to abusively label them as corporate pirates.

Swraj Paul not only had a great deal of dynamism and force in his public utterances, he also maintained a close personal follow-up with many key journalists, who were often very surprised to receive phone calls commenting on their newspaper coverage. He also had a way with catch phrases that caught media attention and made him out to be the saviour of the shareholders who were being taken for a ride by Indian managements. Swraj Paul was no mean adversary.
Reaching Key Audiences

Escorts had a fairly good general image in Delhi where its main plants and activities are located and Mr. H.P. Nanda, the Chairman, was a man with enormous charm and style. The company, therefore, was well known to all publics, including journalists in the capital.

India’s financial capital was, however, in Bombay, which controlled the financial press and was also the main centre for investors in the stock market. The stock exchanges of Bombay and Ahmedabad were estimated to control over 50% of India’s share purchasing. It was, therefore, vitally important that Mr. Nanda as also the Vice Chairman, Mr. Rajan Nanda, and other top corporate executives, be seen and personally known to this vital audience.

Having complete confidence in the charm and sincerity of Mr. H.P. Nanda, I arranged for a group discussion with about 20 of Bombay’s key financial journalists, which was followed by a series of smaller meetings with selected individuals and groups. Although the discussions were often acrimonious and critical, they succeeded admirably because the journalists were now able to add flesh and personality to mere names they had previously heard of.

It was the growing personal liking and respect for the individuals as also the transparent fact that Mr. Nanda had with his own sweat, blood and tears had created Escorts in his life time from the tiny initial Rs.5000/- that he had brought in at the time of partition. This rose to Rs.300 Crore industry that Escorts had become by 1983. Journalist were also able to get an insight into the personalities of some other key executives and see that Escorts had a very satisfactory track record and a team of capable professional managers. And that the company and its shareholders would not benefit from a takeover.

Journalists have an influence on all publics and they soon decide in their minds who are the ‘good guys’ and who the ‘bad guys’ on every issue. If any PR practitioner can establish a firm public image that his or her company, is on the side of the angels, it becomes a factor very difficult to fight against.
Direct Action

In June 1983, when Parliament was in recess, Swraj Paul, again returned to India and started on a round of speeches to large packed gatherings in Calcutta, Bombay and Delhi. I missed his first set of speeches in Calcutta but these were extensively reported in the Indian press. Knowing that his next destination was Bombay, I rushed there with all the newspaper cuttings I could get hold of and analyzed his speeches in the light of facts which I, by then, knew. While sitting in the plane to Bombay, I prepared a short 3-page note of some questions Swraj Paul needed to answer and ensured that these were immediately typed out on plain paper, cyclostyled and distributed to a large number of influential people who were likely to hear Swraj Paul. Some of the questions were:

Swraj Paul had criticised Indian companies whose 10 years performance is available through audited balance sheets. Could Swraj Paul provide similar data on the Caparo or A.P.J. companies, to show that he was in any position to criticise or to allege that “Sleeping Indian managements need to wake-up”.

Swraj Paul alleged that Indian industrialists lived like Maharajas but could he deny that as Chairman or Director of various Caparo companies, he gets emoluments ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 pounds a year from many of these companies and their subsidiaries? Also, were these emoluments going to charity or did he also live in style?

The Caparo companies were controlled by Caparo Investments Jersey, (a tax haven in the Jersey islands). None of the 605,630 shares were purchased for cash. The entire capital was listed as “for considerations other than cash”.

Swraj Paul proclaimed that Indian companies do not consider the interest of their shareholders. If so, how was it that many of the shares held by him in his companies were 10p. deferred ordinary shares that earn the same dividends as pound 1 share owned by ordinary shareholders.

How could 13 Caparo companies, mostly with the capital base of less than 25,000 Pounds each, invest an average of 700,00 Pounds each and where are these funds coming from?

Several legal issues were spelt out, especially the sanctity of FERA laws and the basic necessity that all foreign investments into any Indian company must have the prior permission from RBI, etc.

I personally arranged for these notes to be widely distributed and as an after-thought sent one to Mr. Swraj Paul at his suite in Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay. This note, I believe, infuriated Swraj because it was a major spanner in his works. From that moment onwards, he carefully avoided all these and other listed issues and went on to talk in broad generalities and became more and more abusive and less and less factual.
Influencing the Influencers

One of the important influencers was the body of India’s economists. I, along with several other journalists, was invited to several seminars to debate the whole NRI issue. At these seminars organized by the Delhi School of Economics, South Delhi, Campus, etc. I was able to establish a few fundamental points, which were well received by this community of economists.

As a result of India’s policies, Indian industrialists had been forced to pay taxes, (i.e. wealth tax, and income tax, which in combination exceeded their incomes. It is for this reason that industrialists had been reluctantly forced to sell their shares to pay taxes and not with an objective of gaining wealth so that they could live like Maharajas as claimed by Swraj.

The financial institutions, especially LIC and Unit Trust, were the biggest shareholders in every good Indian company. As there was a shortage of good scrips, the financial institutions had gradually increased their purchases of shares in well-run Indian companies. As their participation on the Boards of these companies had been generally constructive, there was no desire to refuse these shares, even if it were legally possible.

The financial institutions had actually got extremely good returns. In the case of LIC, which had purchased all its Escorts shares before 1965. As a result of bonus shares it had bought its entire block of 30% of Escorts equity (its maximum permissible limit) at an average cost of Rs.2.25 per share which were worth over Rs.60/- on the market,. So they had got a return on their investment of nearly 30 times without counting the value of dividends they had received in that period. In fact, the annual dividend of 1982 was 80% of their total investment of Rs.1.02 Crores. It could not, therefore, be argued that the Indian industrialists were using, (i.e. misusing) government money as alleged by Swraj.

The fundamental injustice lay in the fact that the take-over bid represented an unequal battle between the almost unlimited borrowing power of a foreign investor, under the terms of foreign banking laws being pitted against the declining personal wealth of the Indian industrialists, who were, by Indian law debarred from borrowing money from banks to buy shares in their own companies. It was literally a case of bows and arrows against machine guns.
Support of Shareholders

The next part of the unfolding drama was to promote the confidence of the shareholders. The hundreds of shareholders who came to the packed AGM in June 1983 wee delighted to read a story in the Statesman about a Swraj Paul scandal which caused great jubilation. The strong support of Delhi shareholders for Escorts management was quite clear to several journalists who attended meetings in which dozens of shareholders spoke at great (often embarrassing) length in favour of the company and its management.

Again Bombay was the crucial area. In Bombay a new association, the Investors Association, had been started which had invited Swraj Paul to be its first speaker. I immediately approached this group and requested them to make Mr. H.P. Nanda their second speaker. There was some protest from our colleague industrialists who advised against our association with this group who they alleged were in Swraj’s pay. I, however, managed to convince my management; the promoters were all respected in the investing community and it would be a forum where we could reach a large number of people who were still doubtful. We had a very good story to tell and why not tell it at a good available forum?

I attended Swraj’s speech made to a packed house of over 700. However, when Mr. Nanda spoke at the same forum in September, the crowd was even bigger and we had to provide microphones and TV monitors for those who had to sit outside. Although there were initially some hostile questions, the meeting was a great success and a large number of speakers eventually came forward to praise Mr. Nanda for his courage in standing up to the pressure which he was facing. The journalists covering the meeting did not miss the mood of the house.

The day after this meeting of the Investors Association, we had organized another big meeting where we had invited a large number of Escorts shareholders to an informal meeting. We gave an audio-visual presentation of the company that few of them had actually seen. Many shareholders who had never seen or heard Mr. H.P. Nanda were impressed by his charm, sincerity and good humour, despite the enormous pressures that they knew he was under. What also came as a surprise to them was the forceful and impressive presentation by Mr. Rajan Nanda about whom they had heard very little. It was now clear to many journalists and other special invitees that Escorts shareholders has considered their investment to be one of their best investment decisions. They were quite satisfied with the company and its management and were deeply hostile to any move that would destabilise the working of the company.
Legal Battles

September 1983, however, turned out to be a traumatic month when the company was embroiled into a long string of legal battles that had to be explained to the Press and the public. The investments of Swraj Paul in Escorts and DCM had been rejected by the companies because they were in violation to the published policy of the RBI.

In the case of Swraj Paul, there were many legal problems:

First he started with a secret investment of about Rs. 1 cores which was, in fact, borrowed rupee funds forms his Indian companies and therefore, could not possible have qualified as an NRI investment.

Secondly, his large second block of investments of Rs. 9 cores came from a single company, and therefore, could not be the individual investments of 13 Caparo companies as claimed.

Thirdly, although the brokers of Swraj Paul had claimed to purchase 9,75,000 shares, i.e. 75,000 shares each by the 13 Caparo companies, the actual shares put up for registration accounted for only 4,62,000 shares (3% of the company’s equity).
Fourthly, despite the repeated queries to the brokers and banker, there had been complete silence as to whether RBI had accorded sanction to these alleged purchases.

The two Indian companies had, thereof, maintained a consistent position that in the absence of clarification on these and other fundamental matters, the registration of the shares would be violations of the FERA laws by the Indian companies, making them liable to severe penalties up to 5 times the value of the illegal investments. This view was supported by considerable correspondence which we knew also existed between RBI, Caparo and their bankers and therefore, without clear clarifications on these many legal issues, the companies could not risk registering the shares even if it had been their desire to do so.

On 17 September, 1983 we received a severe blow in a press release from the RBI which sought to legitimise the Caparo investments, followed by an RBI notification two days later which was clearly slanted to benefit only one investor, i.e. Caparo.
Rajiv Gandhi had made a statement in Parliament, in late May, that NRI investments should not exceed 5%. Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance Minister, then translated this into revised rules the following week, which had specified that no individual NRI firm, company or society could hold shares in excess of 1% of a company’s equity, subject to a maximum ceiling of 5% for all NRI investments.

We had earlier discovered that all the 13 Caparo companies were subsidiaries of one holding company, Caparo Investments Jersey Limited. Thus, it had been our lawyer’s view that each foreign corporation was, in the eyes of law, a foreign national and not an NRI investor. Furthermore, even if Swraj Paul was the single owner of the holding company, he could not seek to evade the 1% or 5% ceiling, by infiltrating his investments through a multiplicity of subsidiaries. The RBI’s new notice clarified that overseas bodies were eligible to invest up to 1% irrespective of the fact whether the ultimate ownership was in the hands of the non-resident individuals provided NRI holdings accounted for at least 60% of its equity. Even more alarming was the fact that this notification was to be applied with retrospective effect.

The legal opinion, later supported by the judgement of the Bombay High Court, found many lacunae in this directive and there was a hectic stream of letters exchange to seek clarification. Many of these doubts and ambiguities were also shared by journalists who also vigorously took up the obvious inequity of this notification and the pressure tactics being applied to force the companies to regularise what clearly seemed to be illegal and irregular.
Case to High Court

The stalemate therefore continued until late December when we received some rather alarming intelligence that the government was considering an ordinance to compel the companies to register the shares. At this point Escorts decided to move the Bombay High Court with a writ petition to settle the legal issues through courts of law as it seemed that India’s executive was not going to act impartially.

The Bombay High Court listed the case for hearing on 15 February. Four days before this, the Life Insurance Corporation, the company’s largest shareholder, served a notice to the company to summarily dismiss nine directors from the Board, and to replace them with their own nominees. The Company was privately told that if it did not withdraw the Bombay High Court case, the government would, though the reconstituted Board of Directors, force the company to do so in any case. Raids by 700 Excise officers followed to all offices factories and residences of senior officials adding to the intimidation.

It was a time of great depression within the company, as it was feeling increasingly isolated, and the pressures were even effecting a large number of other colleague industrialists, who were unwilling to lend their support for fear of attracting executive wrath of vindictiveness.

Some even told Mr. Nanda that he was being selfish and jeopardizing the interests of the entire industry by his obstinacy. Mr. Nanda, however, stated to several colleagues that as he had personally built up this company in his own lifetime, he was not going to just gift it away on a platter. He stated that he did not need the company for his own gain because his own fairly modest needs could be easily met with his other savings. What was at issue was his self-respect and if he caved in to pressure, he would never be able to hold up his head in the corporate world.
Despite all the pressures, all of us in the small group around Mr. Nanda somehow could not believe that in a country like India, justice would not prevail in the end. Even though most of our professional colleagues considered us quite mad. We had this unwavering feeling.

The hearing in the Bombay High Court took a full month and represented a mini trial in itself. Justice S. K. Desai’s incisive questions and sharp remarks made excellent journalistic copy. After each day’s proceedings, the journalists covering the trial would gravitate to the pressroom, where those with a legal background accredited to the courts, were soon outnumbered by financial journalists who had difficulty in covering legalese into journalese. During these sessions I was able to contribute quite a lot by being able to explain the significance of each day’s legal issues discussed.

I had to be extremely careful to ensure that my interpretations of the proceedings were absolutely fair otherwise I would not have been able to maintain the confidence of the many new journalist friends whom I met in that hot and humid room. My sharp little team of assistants had to be also be quick in getting Photostat copies of relevant documents and papers for the press. In this process, we were able to make our services useful and to highlight the vital points which needed to be emphasized and to ensure that press could give good coverage to the unfolding drama.
Offensive by L.I.C.

In the meantime, the LIC was pressing ahead by demanding the removal of nine directors and an Extraordinary General Meeting on the 9 of June was demanded. It was held in the Siri Fort Auditorium as we expected a large turn out of the shareholders. The proceedings of this EGM came as a surprise to us and a shock to the government because the assembly of shareholders savagely attacked the government for agreeing to vacate the chairmanship in favour of a government nominee for the purpose of moving a motion in which the chairman had an interest. Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, one of the directors facing ouster, made a brilliant speech which was widely reported and highlighted the iniquity of this mess that LIC had been forced into.

The shareholders, to everyone’s surprise, came up with a large number of legal and other points of procedure which forced the government to postpone the balloting that it had demanded. On a large number of technical and legal issues, these minority shareholders again and again forced LIC to go through eight successive meetings until they were with great difficulty able to force their will on 28 June. The vigorous and frequently brilliant efforts of these many unknown ordinary shareholders was an eye opener to all and the sheer drama of the proceedings began to attract a large number of journalists, very much to the embarrassment of the government.

In the final analysis, however, 41 shareholders and their proxies representing 0.2% shareholders who commanded 54.5% of the shares, overwhelmed the votes and proxies of 7600 shareholders who, though they commanded 46% of the shareholders, commanded only 29% of the shares. The LIC victory, far from being the walkover they had expected, thus proved to be a juicy press story and a great embarrassment to the government.
Changing Gear

On the 9 November 1984, the Bombay High Court delivered the historic judgement, which vindicated all the points the company had fought for. In the meantime, a tragic event had taken place with the assassination of the Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi then took over as Prime Minister. Although he soon cleansed the government of many powerful influence brokers supporting Swraj, the government had embarked upon a course from which they could not suddenly retract. Thus legal proceedings continued as LIC felt that it could not accept the verdict of the Bombay High Court and had to pursue the matter by appealing to the Supreme Court.

The company’s public relations posture now had to change completely because it was no longer in an endangered defensive position in which it had to fight aggressively for survival. With the changed situation, a path towards a compromise was being sought and this now required a low profile to keep such matters away from the hungry eyes and ears of the press, as premature disclosure or speculation could imbalance the delicately balance negotiations.

The matter came up for hearing in the Supreme Court that eventually gave its judgement on 19th December 1985. Although the judgement gave Swraj Paul and his broker a severe rap on their knuckles they also upheld the executive power of the government to act without restraint through their voting strength on the board of any company. Although it was a somewhat confusing judgement, it basically laid the foundations for an out-of-court settlement that was completed a few months later. Swraj Paul received back from Escorts all the money he had invested with an interest of 15% as well. Swraj Paul did not receive payment for a small part of his investments in some shares which had not been put up for registration as they were tied up in a legal wrangle between himself, his principal broker and another broker in Calcutta. That, however, was of no concern to Escorts.
Key factors in P.R.

Throughout these many ups and downs I traveled constantly and kept the journalists and others continuously informed of the enfolding developments. Even when developments were going against one’s interest, I would make sure that information was given fully and fairly because it is only for this reason that I was able to get the full confidence of the journalist.

On many occasions, when there was bad news, I would deliberately seek out and give a scoop to a journalist who could otherwise be expected to be a savage critic, because by being able to provide this small favour, I was quite often able to moderate the damage, and even persuade them to highlight a sensitive point which was important for our cause. I saw no harm in disclosing facts that would eventually come out in any case. What was important, was to retain the initiative over what was being written. One had to move from being driven by news to driving it.

I also found that big papers were very conservative in handling any controversial story and would often begin such a story in one of the more hungry second line papers. A fuller story could then be developed very easily which the big papers would usually be happy to run. There was also the factor of “critical mass”. As in a nuclear device there is a multiplier effect which can be created by running a series of news stories.

Journalists are highly individualistic and seldom write the way you want, but the key ingredient to some measure of success was to be able to get their confidence that you were not merely seen as giving a slanted view as a biased spokesman of the company but a fair and balanced analysis of the evolving events. Journalists are a sensitive, even touchy group and have to be handled with great care. They are allergic to any approaches from advertising agencies or even their own advertising departments. They are also highly cynical about the claims of any organization. Their confidence takes a long time to earn and can be lost with one careless word.
The key journalists are the concerned correspondents as they actually write the stories. Editors, chiefs of bureau, etc. should only be involved if there is a really big story. Another important personage in the news editor who usually clips the copy and gives the headline. He can be a useful friend.

Many organisations in public relations have been criticised for what is sometimes described as “suit length public relations”, referring to the practice among some textile companies of distributing suit lengths or other textiles to journalists attending their press conferences. Through out this epic battle, Escorts gave few presents and had no lavish cocktail parties. In fact, very little entertainment except for business like lunches or drinks with discussions.

There were also no presents distributed except for the standard corporate presents every year at Diwali like relatively low cost China Jars containing nuts. Never any items, which were of value sufficient to obtain the services of any pen for, hire, as alleged by Chhotu Karadia in his “Swraj Paul Affair” (a rather scurrilous book promoted by Swraj Paul). I believe gifts should not be anything more than mere tokens of personal regard. The real essence was again rapid dissemination of information and interpretation along with a lot of personal follow up contract on basis of a carefully established confidence and credibility.

In times of crisis, the PR practitioner often faces strong opposition from the corporate lawyers, who are generally opposed to any utterance which they feel might irritate the feelings of judges and the courts. I, therefore, frequently faced the annoyance of these cautious, learned gentlemen. However, I do believe that if a corporate was is left only to lawyers, P.R. initiatives get sandpapered to death and the company sacrifices other important arenas of the corporate war to make itself totally dependent on just one line of defense.

The low level of PR activity by the Shaw Wallace Group that also faced a takeover bid was because of the influence of its lawyers on the chairman Mr. Acharya and its management. The result was that very few people were clear about the issues at stake and there was no clear image of the company, its track record, in fact concerning the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in this whole issue. They were not been able to generate a positive ground-swell of public sympathy, as I believed we were able to do.

The vital factor in our success was the unfailing support that my little team received from our management especially from our Chairman, Mr. H.P. Nanda, who had a wonderful PR instinct himself. Mr. Nanda’s courage and unfailing humour, humility and optimism, even in the moments of deep depression was also a gear inspiration to all of us who worked with him. His enthusiasm and tact while handling many critical high level contacts, and his guidance was an example for us all.

There were, however, times when one had to take courageous initiatives, for a particular moment would not allow for delay. Hostile actions by government or corporate enemies, I believe, must be immediately reacted to. A new development only has the life-span of a few days public interest, and if there is no immediate response to a false allegation, the allegation sticks. You are assumed to be guilty. A later disclaimer is stale. A quick but mature response firstly signals a determination to challenge any inequity and, secondly, enables the public to see your side of the story. Delays for corporate approvals or legal opinions often result in organisations losing the value of a golden moment. Timing is vital in PR.

These initiatives did sometimes attract corporate irritation and wrath but I firmly believed that a long as one worked with commitment and sincerity, one could face the prospect of an occasional firing without worrying about being fired. Quick responses and reactions were vital and this can only be possible when there is confidence concerning overall corporate support. In a situation of crisis, PR cannot operate in a passive mode and I have always been a firm believer in the power of friendly aggression.

I consider that I have been greatly privileged to have had an opportunity of being drawn into a corporate battle of this national even international magnitude. It is very rarely in one’s life that one has such an opportunity of being fully stretched in intellect, effort, imagination and courage and this can only happen in a time of real crisis.