“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”– John F. Kennedy
The adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that came into force on December 10, 1948, is indubitably a trailblazing episode in the account of human rights. The UN General Assembly declaration proclaims that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a common standard of achievement for all people and all nations. According to Article 1 of UDHR:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Further, Article 2 of UDHR states as follows:
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
In a nutshell, human rights are inherent in nature — can be freely enjoyed by all human beings without any sort of discrimination, for the mere reason of their birth as a human.
On the other hand, diversity is a new phenomenon across the world — the applied meaning behindhand is more than just publicity for equality and social movement. When speaking about diversity and inclusion, the most probable and common understanding for many is such movements as #MeToo, whose main objective was women’s rights and gender equality.
However, when it comes to Public Relations, diversity is not only about having diversified team members in an organization but also about how we synergize with various stakeholders of a PR agency and address issues of common interest.
Diversity in Public Relations
Our basic understanding of Public Relations (PR) can have it that PR is the practice of managing and sharing information from an individual or an organization with the public, to affect the latter’s awareness. Hence, forward-looking in communications, as well as diversity, is critical to the PR industry. And any PR industry that does not prioritize diversity is likely to lose its clients and treasured affiliations. For this binding reason, diversity needs to be part of any business model.
However, beyond doubt, the overall consensus is – diversity is missing in public relations. To defend this argument, a specific study carried out by the author on Banks in India could be cited as the best example.
A Study on Banks in India: After India attained independence on August 15, 1947, the government of India planned the systematic economic development of the country. As part of this line-up, on July 19, 1969, a decisive pronouncement was made to the extent of the nationalization of 14 major commercial banks by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. It was the consequence of many years of long-drawn-out and assiduous efforts.
In real fact, the main demand for the nationalization of banks came predominantly to prevent the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few private people i.e. more precisely to achieve diversity. Since the nationalization of banks, the public sector banks have been instrumental in the implementation of almost all welfare schemes designed, developed and implemented by the government of India. In this manner, the PSBs work as an intermediary between the people and the government — the organized PR units.
The specific study on banks in India has many operational differences when taking Public Sector Banks and Private Banks as two different entities. For understanding our area of interest i.e. diversity in the backdrop of Articles 1 and 2 of UDHR, banks in India have extended their services to all, irrespective of any sort of discrimination — achieving the very spirit of Human Rights. For example, when the author visited a PSB branch in Hyderabad, he met two assorted customers of the branch — the first being the Managing Director of a Construction Company and the other being a Beggarwoman (the woman in the picture).
Out of curiosity, when interviewing Venkamma, the accentuated beggarwoman, it was comprehended by the author that the illiterate woman has been very much satisfied with the services rendered by the branch that she has been banking for years. When taking the reference to some private banks, the author asked why doesn’t she prefer banking with banks of that sort, the lady wondered who would allow her to get into those banks by looking at her outwardly hideous looks. Astonishingly, the lady turns out to be a moderate net worth customer of the branch with deposits of a few lakh rupees.
Palpably, the above discussion is clear evidence of the practicing of diversity in Public Relations by two sets of banks in India — the Public Sector and the Private. Going back to the history of the nationalization of banks in India, achieving diversity in the backdrop of human rights is one of its significant objectives. However, on the other hand, this case study reveals the failure of private banks in managing and sharing information from them with the common public like Venkamma, to affect the latter’s awareness that even their services are meant for all. This case establishes the fact that forward-looking in communications is vital to the PR industry.
(Venkamma, the beggarwoman banking with a PSB)
Affirmative! PR firms (in our case banks) will indeed lose stakeholders (customers) due to a lack of diversity. In PR units like banks, a lack of diversity creates an echo chamber where ideas become uninspired and lead to alternate trials like the case appended below.
In March 2015, a piece of news made rounds that a group of beggars in Gaya (a place in Bihar) has opened a bank of their own, which they run and manage to provide financial security in times of crisis. As many as 40 beggars surviving on the alms from Hindu devotees visiting Maa Manglagauri Mandir in Gaya town for years have established the eccentric bank — Mangala Bank. The bank is managed by an illiterate by name of Raj Kumar Manjhi and the bank has its own rules — outlined by those 40 members.
The Significance of Diversity in PR
The aforementioned case establishes the very fact that for any public Relations industry where public opinion matters much, understanding and valuing all stakeholders is a precondition to any successful and widespread campaign. Diversity plays a significant role in such campaigns. Having diverse stakeholders not only increases the vision of any organisation but also helps to establish a more varied client base; and cater for campaigns for more clients without being categorically obtuse.
Public Relations is not unidirectional but multi-directional. When the whole world is looking in the same direction, no one will look at other ways. By doing so, they can overlook or compromise on circumventing meagre problems that have the potential to intensify into a catastrophe in the future. But by having diversified views, Public Relations (PR) units can be confident that they’re looking at the problem from various angles to come up with a sustainable solution for every client.
In concluding words…UDHR has become a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations insofar as equality and diversity are concerned. And by the same token, operational PR is a tool that envisages fundamental human rights to be universally protected by addressing diversity. Thus, the significance of diversity needs to be agreed upon by PR agencies for effectual implementation of the same in both letter and spirit.
-Dr. Suman Kumar Kasturi PhD (Communication)