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Public Relations:
The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions





The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

That’s no consolation. It makes it as dangerous and unacceptable as one charted with mischief and mal-intention.  

We’ve seen our well-meaning but ill-equipped representatives make a mess over and over again in their clumsy interactions with the media on our behalf. While we still await some mechanism, some institution, some process, to be put into place -- little has been done to date to ensure we don’t have another debacle the next time there is a crisis -- we now have another area of acute concern.

Public relations.

The very same culprits who were the authors of the recent media disasters have now turned to tackling public relations -- ostensibly, again, on our behalf.

Again, I have no reason to believe they don't mean well. But there’s something terribly, horribly wrong with everything they are doing -- yet again! -- starting with the very first step.

A number of valiant attempts have been made to date. Ever wondered why each, one by one, has floundered after the opening volley, and never heard of again?

Here are some things we need to look out for:

1  First and foremost, tackling public relations is not a public affair. Yes, it involves an element of publicity, but that doesn’t translate into: let’s publicize the fact that we are doing public relations.

Public relations is, if you’ll forgive me the analogy, a bit like sex. The more private it is, the better the results.

Also, to stretch the simile, one doesn’t announce to the world that one is going to have sex. Not when, not how, not what, not where, not who ... It’s a private affair. That is, if the world is watching you while you’re doing it -- sex, or public relations -- nothing happens.

Thus, if you’re planning a public relations campaign, you don’t start off by announcing to the world that you’re launching one. That’s a killer … your project is, as of that moment, dead in the water.

You look like a bunch of idiots.

And you give the constituency that you purport to be representing, a bad name.

That, let me remind you, is 180 degrees opposite of what you claim you set out to do. Which means, you would have done your community a big favour if you’d stayed at home and done nothing.

2   Public relations is not achieved by doing public relations.

What I mean is, you don’t do public relations.

PR is the end result that you hope to achieve.

And you achieve that result by doing things in your life -- at work, at home, at play, at the mall, on the street, at the gurdwara, at public fora -- in an exemplary way.

Not because it is good public relations, but because it is the right thing to do. Being your best at all times, nay, excelling in everything you attempt, is the Sikh thing to do. Not because it is good PR, but because we are Sikhs.

Again, to make it clear, if you set out to do something because it’ll bring about good public relations, then it won’t. And don’t.

But, if you set out to just do your best, and more, for the sake of doing the best, no matter what you’re doing, then, the rest follows automatically. 

3   That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get involved in campaigns to improve our public relations.

But, first things first.

The people who lead such projects -- apart from their needing to have the necessary skills, a subject I’ve covered ad nauseum in earlier posts -- can’t be in it for personal aggrandisement.

How do we ensure that?


The first and foremost requirement should be that the “leaders” of the project should not be promoting themselves through photo-ops. The moment you get into the realm of the photo-op, you’ve fallen off the bus.

If the press-releases begin and end with who’s the grand poobah of the organization, you’ve simply gone off on a tangent and left the project far behind. Especially, if in the grand scheme of things, he or she -- the poobah -- amounts to nothing.

If the project is to succeed, then it has to be manned by only those who have no desire to be in the forefront. Which will result in decisions being made, and things being done solely on the basis of what’s good for the constituency, not what’ll promote the “leaders” best.

4   If there is nepotism within the organization -- that is, if the officers, decision-making and purse-string-controlling roles are manned by spouses, children, relatives and close friends of the “leader”, the campaign is dead in the water from day one.

Public relations for a community involves addressing a variety of issues in the community, in a variety of ways, and that cannot be achieved if the organization has no mechanism for hearing dissenting voices or giving a voice to all segments, especially if they are different from the one you belong to.

5   Finally, the issue of hiring a public relations professional, or firm.

Great idea. In fact, a must, if we are to get anywhere.

But in order to go that route, a mere $5 million budget -- the figure proclaimed a thousand times over in the world’s media by a recent group, as their goal for fund-raising to pay for the exercise -- is going to get you nowhere in today’s world.

If that’s your goal, and not the amount you have in your pocket before you begin, then don’t waste your time. Go home.

Given that the project I am referring to claims to have on board scores of gurdwaras and organizations from around the world -- and I know how much these institutions and their members have in terms of wealth and resources -- if  they couldn’t come up with a far bigger fund at the end of the day they met for their “convention”, then all they’re doing is blowing hot air.

If the good souls gathered there were indeed serious, collectively the amount they need is bird-feed. But I know it ain’t gonna happen because I also know that some of these wonderful people are planning to take their bundles of wealth along with them when they die … so, they’re not going to let go of their money, except for a few thousands here, a few there.

But, as far as the community is concerned: Been There, Done That. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing impressive this time around.

All they’re doing is wasting our time and theirs, that’s it.

Great group photos, though. Great quotes by every President and chaudhry, ringing loud with great titles and great sounding names for their organizations. You’ve certainly managed to get a lot of publicity for yourselves, more than ever before, this time around.

Now the whole world knows you have not a clue … 

Congratulations! Now, go home.  

So far, you haven’t done anyone -- not the community, certainly -- a favour by putting the cart before the horse.

August 25, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Jasmine Kaur (Bethesda, Maryland, USA), August 25, 2014, 12:30 PM.

How did the very people who were only recently identified -- and condemned! -- as being disasters in the media, suddenly decide that they were PR experts and then got to appoint themselves "leaders" all over again? What's wrong with us that we let the same old buffoons mess around with us ... over and over again?

2: Harinder Singh (Bridgewater, New Jersey, USA), August 25, 2014, 12:43 PM.

Prof. Puran Singh in "Spirit Born People" states: "First, life. Then, its expression."

3: Kaala Singh (Punjab), August 25, 2014, 1:11 PM.

Having seen the PR and English language skills of many of our so-called representatives, I can only say, it leaves a lot to be desired!

4: Onkar Singh (Virginia, USA), August 25, 2014, 1:38 PM.

We need to give Rajwant Singh the "Clockwork Orange" treatment. If you remember the film, the rogues in the story were strapped down in their chairs, their eye-lids taped so that they couldn't shut their eyes, and they were made to watch certain clips on the TV screen hour after hour ... until they were cured. That's exactly what this chap needs ... we need to force him to watch his own media appearances and speeches and photo-op images, over and over again, until his ego has been pared down to manageable size, and his brain accepts the fact that he needs to stick to dentistry ... and nothing else! Sure, it's drastic, but drastic situations require drastic measures!

5: Kulvinder Jit Kaur (Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada), August 26, 2014, 4:42 AM.

How can Sikhs ensure that they are represented by the "right" people? This should be our mission. Time and again we are represented by people that are an embarrassment to the community at large. Perhaps the young generation has to be involved in this mission, well educated and concerned Sikh youth. In the meantime we can look to put a mechanism in place that self appointed "leaders" don't represent us. Not an easy task but something that needs to be done. Hiring professionals to do our work is the wisest step.

6: Amarpal Singh (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.), August 26, 2014, 12:07 PM.

To the ones that have sold their soul to the devil, hell is paradise. Let's not be fooled again. This exercise is no endeavor of a PR campaign but rather self promotion by a so-called leader to the up coming presidential election candidates at the cost of his naive community. With the help of Indian intelligence operatives, many gurdwaras have been taken over by this group to further the agenda of their masters. His brother-in-law, Navneet Chugh is the Mahant of Santa Ana Gurdwara, where they openly violate the Sikh tenets and traditions. On his office lawn, he proudly exhibits a life size bronze statue of Gandhi in return for lucrative contracts with Indian consulate and corporations. His father-in-law, the owner of India Journal has vociferously advanced the Indian agenda for decades to malign the Sikhs seeking liberty and justice. Another one of their counterparts in Malibu has engaged in fights and brawls for decades, so he does not have to relinquish control of the Vermont Gurdwara. A new breed of preachers are being raised at the "gurmatgyan" missionary school established in 1996 to create controversies. This group provides venues to these preachers to cause confusion and division. They are now in a race to divide the panth by forming a secretive group and taking over gurdwaras, which then deliberately defile the sanctity of the gurdwara, the traditions and tenets in the name of westernization and modernity, to turn them into social gathering places for gossip and free food. The intent is to contain the voices of the Sikhs, divide them and re-define Sikhism in acceptable terms of their masters.

7: Gurteg Singh (New York, USA), August 27, 2014, 12:05 PM.

We should not be taken for a ride by Indian government operatives masquerading as champions of Sikhs. In fact I was surprised that leaders from our civil rights organization who are supposed to be promoting Sikh awareness - like the Sikh Coalition, SALDEF and United Sikhs got conned and eagerly rushed to Washington to have a "photo op" with this great self-appointed leader of the Sikhs for his so called "national campaign" and who keeps beating the drums of self promotion under one pretext or the other, which the Indian press and establishment dutifully reports. Can this individual who is so desperate to promote the identity of Sikhs understand the core values of its meaning? The Sikh identity enjoins us to stand up and fight against tyranny and follow the path of truth and justice. During his many trips to India, did this gentleman EVER ask the Indian Government to stop interfering in the affairs of the Sikhs and stop infiltrating in the gurdwaras in the diaspora? Did this gentleman EVER ask India to fulfill the promises it made to the Sikhs at the time of the Partition, and share political power with Sikhs on Indian subcontinent? Did this gentleman EVER ask that the mass murders and well known criminals who have butchered tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs be brought to justice in international courts? Did this gentleman while "meeting" the US President and other leaders with whom he circulates his photos, EVER ask them to ban Modi from entering the USA because of his crimes against humanity and his anti-minority activities? But, of course, these are all very "trivial and mundane" issues for which we should not be so impertinent to ask our great fearless leader who is so busy "campaigning" for great causes.

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The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions"

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