PR is not about selling the brand, but building the brand: Gaurav Patra

If you wish to have a stellar career as a PR professional, you must understand that PR is not about selling a brand, it is about building the same writes Gaurav Patra, Founder, Value360 Communications.


“Paaji ye tussikikarraheyho?” (Paaji, what are you doing?)

“Am boryahuBhagta. Ikaamlayengetohlakkhonpayenge.” (I’m planting a Mango tree, Bhagat Singh. If we plant one Mango, we will get thousands.)

This scene beautifully culminated the movie ‘Rang De Basanti’, which today has a cult of its own amongst Indian movie buffs – especially the younger generation. But did you know there is an interesting story behind this climax?

The climax of Rang De Basanti was supposed to end differently. RakeyshOmprakashMehra, the director of the Bollywood blockbuster, test screened Rang De Basanti on a young audience a few days before its actual release. The movie was supposed to end with the shootout at AIR station and the subsequent funeral procession of Aamir and Sidharth’s characters (with over 2,000 students carrying their dead bodies). Despite tying up the idea brilliantly throughout, the young audience seemed unsettled and kept on asking why the boys had to die. Rakeysh was unable to understand the reason. Why was the audience not able to realize the ‘vision’ behind the climax?

One thing was clear, however. The climax didn’t strike the right chord with the audience. So, Rakeysh took media crew with him and went straight up to Bangalore Engineering College. There, he enacted the movie’s climax in real life and told collegegoers that a few students had taken over All India Radio (AIR) station and werenow surrounded by the commandos. This made him see the raw reactions of young students. It was there and then that he realized his mistake. In the words of Rakeysh, “I’d lit a fire but not allowed it to spread.”

Rakeyshtraveled across 8 cities to repeat the act and shot for about four to five days. The climax was ultimately replaced with all of the young martyrs jumping and frolicking before meeting the young Bhagat Singh, who asks his father what he was doing. The father replies that he was planting a mango tree and they will be enjoying thousands of mangoes because of it. It brilliantly connected the broader vision of the movie and eternalized all of the movie characters, much like the characters of Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ashfaqullah Khan, Bismil, and Rajguru. The idea was supposed to spread like fire… and so it did. Everything else is history.

Much like the act of planting a Mango tree, Public Relations is not about selling or, in other words, extracting value from a brand. It is about building the same. Where marketers often make a mistake is that they are too determined to bank on the accomplishments of a brand. Ultimately, failing to realize that they also have to anticipate and strategize value creation for the very same brand in the future. 

The vision, as it seems, is what leaves a lasting impact in the long haul. Public Relations is a part and parcel of a company’s vision and mission. The PR strategy needs to highlight and be synchronized with the core values of any given brand. It also needs to dynamically accommodate the needs of the constantly-changing market or, in other words, the target audience. After receiving the feedback from the ‘test screening’ (read: target audience), RakeyshOmprakashMehra – though confused – was convinced that something in the climax drew a tangent from his actual vision. He could’ve released the movie as is (especially considering its fast-approaching release date) and conveyed his vision over the TV interviews later to ‘sell’ the idea. But his artistry was not in selling the idea. It had to reflect on his work. So, he decided to take the tough grind, accept the associated risks, and go on the ground to understand where he was making a mistake. 

Perhaps, it was this hard toil that eventually made the movie a masterpiece – by perfectly connecting all dots in the climax to connect us with the larger picture. And this is the reason why the movie is celebrated even today by the Indian movie buffs. 

In the same way, if you wish to have a stellar career as a PR professional, you must understand that PR is not about selling a brand, it is about building the same (much like the act of planting a Mango tree)!

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