Celebrating the PR professional

Saul Kaplan, a well-known innovation expert, hit the nail on the head when he said, “The 21st century organization challenge is being both a lab and a factory at the same time.”

How does one “experiment” with digital when the daily battle is to get the coverage report out and the holding statement right and the evening event done and the mails and the media calls…we know how it is, right?

But the truth is, if as an organization and an individual you are not “doing digital” consciously and consistently, you are being left behind.

A prospect client recently told my firm, “Our PR firm does not cover digital PR. So we are talking to you.” We put together a detailed plan and next month on, a social media team will be creating and curating content, counseling their leadership, managing outreach, building thought leadership…sounds familiar?

Last year at PRAXIS, the keynote speaker had an inspiring take on the need for PR professionals to be T-shaped Hybrid individuals. A year has gone by and I’m sure digital and the need to go beyond traditional PR will continue to be discussed this year too.

Here are my key learnings and suggestions for PR/Communications professionals:

Don’t “add digital” to every PR proposal and pitch just for the glam quotient.
Choose your battles. PR teams need to work on clients over time so focus on the one or few for whom it can make the most visible difference or who have the budgets and are open to digital.
Same if one is a client side Communications professional: look for the one program where the management will best appreciate a digital approach and impact. And work with the PR firm to sell it internally and make it happen.

Don’t leave it to the digital team alone. And involve them early on.
PR teams know their account/client organization the best. Focus on the narrative, and what could spark off the right conversation. Digital /social is an approach rather than about the platform or technology.

PR is now participatory, at an individual level.
Make the time for Twitter. Call me biased, but both for your personal brand and for your client/employer, it’s where the action is.
Follow the journalists who cover your space, discover the subject matter experts, share interesting
content, connect with people, build your own credibility.
And be genuine: Twitter and social is the best bullshit detector.

Listening: you need more than Google Alerts.
Today, online monitoring through a paid tool is a best practice, but in case your client/management has not yet come around to the view, you need to monitor on your mobile 24×7. Sign up for a twitter /social alert on your brand name + key words that matter. It’ll keep you abreast of key conversations or a crisis about to happen.

Deepen your understanding of digital tools, programs and measures.
Have a working knowledge of tools. In KPIs, go beyond reach and twitter trends. Break down successful case studies to what made it work and see how you would apply it to your account or employer. And look at measures beyond one campaign. It’s a series of conversations that build relationships and trust.

Influence has to be evolved not purchased.
Just because you bring a group of bloggers into a room, it doesn’t translate to credible content , conversation or perception change. Read the blogs in your space, leave comments, share the good links, build your credibility and relationship over time. You need to build your network before you need it.

Influence is not the same as popularity.
Influence and influencer are probably the most misused terms today. It has to be relevant to your brand category and the value is in what the influencer/advocate shares. The key as always is great content.

Content is king, so make it rich and remarkable.
Be creative and persistent. The biggest challenge in telling a brand story is often that there’s no great story to tell. Or it’s not easy to suss out from customers and internal experts. If it’s not inside the client organization, look for it outside–turn to the crowd.

Lastly, build bridges with the Marketing guys
The only way social and digital can deliver more value is if it’s integrated into overall Marketing and PR. So where you do have a social or PR mandate, connect with Marketing, learn to speak their language, see how you can seed your ideas into the mix. P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard recently declared “Digital Marketing is dead. It’s all brand building…” So clients don’t care where the good ideas come from. Make sure they are yours.

As Amith Prabhu said in his recent column in MxM India, “PR has the most at stake in Social”. So does every PR professional’s future. Look forward to more discussions at PRAXIS2013!

Vijay Sankaran is currently Director-Digital Strategy & Planning at Social Wavelength.  His background spans two decades of Advertising, Digital Marketing, Digital PR and client side social media for a global firm. At heart, he is still a copywriter questioning and redefining the brief.

I’m often questioned by my peers in marketing on whether P.R. is essentially a function or a branch of marketing. Many marketers would like to believe so, in fact while they may not say it explicitly but PR is viewed by some as the poorer cousin of marketing. In contrast, most PR practitioners consider the profession to be a management function whereby PR rolls up to the CEO/ MD or to the Head of Corporate Affairs. This line of thinking, in essence, suggests that PR runs as a parallel stream to marketing, connected yet independent. The irony is that many organizations agree to the latter argument in letter but not in spirit. The resultant ambiguity gives rise to a tussle on ownership of brand campaigns, communication platforms (particularly social media) and sharing of resources between marketing and PR teams within an organization.

The debate needs to be seen in a broader context. At a fundamental level, every organization needs to be clear about the core purpose that PR is expected to serve. Is the role of PR merely to support marketing campaigns i.e. marketing communications? Or is PR aimed at corporate brand building and issues management? While the significance of PR may vary depending on where the organization stands in its lifecycle and the external issues it faces, it is primarily up to the CEO/MD to define the purpose of PR. The reporting structure is secondary. In absence of a clear purpose, PR teams usually grapple with hierarchy and ownership issues.

If the role of PR is marketing communications then it is fair for the PR team to work very closely with marketing and may even report to the Head of Marketing. But if PR is expected to play a more strategic role, then it needs an independent reporting structure. In line with this thought, several leading global companies have a separate reporting structure for PR with the Head of corporate communications having a seat on the company’s senior leadership team alongside the Head of Marketing.

However, there is another line of thought that believes that the PR team must be flexible enough to manage both corporate and marketing communications depending on where the need arises. In such cases, in-country PR teams have a dotted line reporting to in-country marketing. Such a reporting structure requires the PR team to support the priorities of corporate communications/ corporate affairs along with those of in-country marketing, both of which can be very different. So, PR teams need to invest in understanding the marketing approach, yet deliver on corporate messaging in order to be able to maintain the fine balance.

With the conventional ROI-driven approach to marketing, PR is essentially measured by the number of impressions, placement, tonality and readership, in essence, breadth of coverage. The depth aspect, based on corporate messaging, third-party endorsement and advocacy, tends to become secondary. Many marketers take a cookie cutter approach that primarily looks at output (essentially coverage) as opposed to outcome (which could be influencer relationships). This is owing to the fact that conventional marketing tends to veer towards a more transactional and easily measurable approach to communications.

On the other hand, the PR approach is more focused on driving conversations with or without a transactional engagement with audiences. Owing to this difference of approach, the yardstick used by conventional marketing often fails to measure the results of PR in its entirety. While the ROI approach for PR may not be completely out of place since PR does deliver a far better ROI than advertising, events etc. but aspects such as message delivery and advocacy must be key components of any PR measurement tool. In essence, for marketing and PR to share a healthy relationship, it is essential that both streams graduate to a more outcome-based measurement approach without subjecting one another to their specific output metrics.

Advertising fell into the trap of being categorized as a demand generation activity. PR must be careful not to be led onto the same path.

With a growing understanding of PR’s deeper role in corporate brand building, its stature has gradually risen in the corporate hierarchy. That said, PR will have to earn its position and respect within the corporate set-up by aligning itself to strategic management goals. This is the key to the PR profession gaining its rightful place as a management function.

I would be keen to hear from senior marketing professionals about their views on this subject during the Marketing panel discussion at PRAXIS 2013.

The author of this post, Tarun Nagrani works at a leading Public Relations firm in Gurgaon, India. The views expressed here are the author’s independent views and do not reflect his organisation’s viewpoint.

The Communications business is witnessing it all – the best and worst of times. Best in terms of emergence of technology that has led to easy access to information coupled with diverse platforms for outreach. However, positives give birth to the negatives too– brand clutter, information overload, crisis – that is also a click away – to name a few. In the age of social media, it is a matter of a few clicks, RTs and shares that a slip-up, typo or goof up will lead to more negative visibility; effectively negating the positive impact created by strategic brand announcements over a period of time.

Crisis communication cell
Gone are the days, when brands had the luxury of responding to issues, crisis situations in a few hours or days. Newspapers would only go for print by night, TV channels had more pressing issues to cover in limited slots, internet was a bunch of codes. Today, rumours and bad news travel faster than the bullet train, all thanks to the onslaught of online and social media. Once upon a time, there used to be crisis communication cells/experts in PR firms and corporates. The current scenario demands every communications consultant to be adept in handling crisis situations since you never know when you are caught unaware.

Are you ready?
However, most brands and consultants still live in a time warp, where protocols precede prompt action/reaction. Let’s consider a situation which has become commonplace nowadays – customer cribs, rants and blogs against a brand’s product/service. In most of the cases, by the time the brand notices, takes action, responds and tries to make amends, the damage is done, some good reputation is eroded, brand gets rebuked and then in due course of time everything settles down. However, the damage caused lingers on in the minds of people and when something small also happens in the future it gets blown out of proportion as people remember the previous crisis.

In most cases, a prompt response from the brand would salvage the situation. But what most people/consumers do not understand is the reason behind the delay. The corporate hierarchy can be a little complex at times to manage such crisis issues. Approvals, protocols can act as tough barriers in such situations. However, today’s quick fix generation is not ready to give you the extra time to prep. So, is your brand ready to face the unrest?

And the perfect approach is…
Well, there is no perfect solution. Every issue is different from the other in terms of complexities and gravity but there can be a few common ground rules.

  • First and foremost, as a brand manager, communications consultant, it is your responsibility to keep a track of any triggers on social and online media. A number of tracking tools can help you do the same.
  • Elevate, delegate and do everything possible to check on the facts versus the claims. In the meanwhile, do get in touch with the aggrieved party, pacify and assure about corrective action.
  • Fault finding can be a tedious and lengthy job but at this moment that’s not really the requirement. The need of the hour is to make amends to a dissatisfied, disgruntled customer. Understand this and look for solutions rather than faults.
  • After the dust settles down and you have got the situation under control, look for the rest of the answers. How? Why? A system or human slip up or a misunderstanding – all need to be acknowledged and explained. That is how you can win back the lost trust.
  • In case, it was a hoax and an attempt to blackmail using social media muscle, handle it maturely. Mudslinging has never elevated any one party’s position. There are mature ways of handling issues. Take a high ground and avoid prolonging the situation.
  • At the end, it is all about open and transparent communication. That is all it takes to salvage any situation and win back the respect. The standard ‘No comments’ approach may be passé in today’s age.

We often hear about cases where people tried to play nasty using their social media muscle but a lot of genuine cases get labeled the same way due to lack of open communication. In all of this, the brand loses its reputation along with some loyal and potential customers. It is a two way process – customers need to understand that mistakes, slip-ups happen and brands need to understand they have to be on top of such situations, accept and take prompt actions. More importantly, everyone else needs to get a bit less judgemental. Most of the times, we don’t know the true story and even if we do, it just might be a one-sided perspective. Tomorrow it could be you or your brand. A little sensitivity and patience can go a long way.

Most of us would recall that one of the most buzz-worthy ads of this year was a tweet from Oreo during the blackout at Super Bowl. Oreo seized on the opportunity, and tweeted a simple, relevant and brilliant message during the thirty-four minute hiatus. Apparently, the graphic released during the blackout was designed, captioned and approved within minutes. The power of real time marketing enabled the brand to gain more eyeballs and conversations than its TV ad could ever generate. Now, imagine what happens if we can apply even a fraction of this effort in real time crisis management. The possibilities are endless.

The author of this post, Liza Saha works at a leading Public Relations firm in Delhi, India. The views expressed here are the author’s independent views and do not reflect her organisation’s viewpoint.

Have you had an opportunity to look through a telescope sometime? The memory of the first view of the outer space stays with us forever, doesn’t it? Suddenly a vast universe comes within your grasp…well almost. An internship at a PR firm is like reliving that moment when a distant world suddenly opens up to you. You have read and passionately tracked famous brands and marvelled at what made them the stars that they are, their dynamic CEOs, the stories of their rise and fall, stuff that legends are made of. An internship at a PR firm gives you the opportunity to see some such brands up close. It represents a wonderful opportunity to begin your journey towards becoming a trusted communications advisor to businesses, governments and individuals in the future.

We all know how critical that first building block in our professional life is, so what can we do to leverage this experience effectively and make it a wonderful learning for ourselves? Here are a few guidelines which I hope will stand you in good stead.

Finding out which aspect of PR gets your blood rushing!
In the first few days during your internship you will hear words like social media, crisis, public affairs, internal communication, investor relations etc. floating around. It is a good idea to see how much you could know about some of these. It will help you decide what aspects of PR you may like to eventually cultivate as your forte. You will begin as a generalist but developing certain strength areas will differentiate you and set you apart in the future!

Content, content and some more content
We have all laboured over school and college essays, hated some, liked some and managed the rest. When you plan to take on the role of a communications advisor in your future you need to sharpen your skills of articulating certain kind of crisp and relevant business communication, sometimes even quasi legal stuff! Tough life, did I hear you say? Well not really if you begin to learn the basic tenets of business and professional writing and communication during your internship. Reach out to the Bonds among your seniors who churn out immaculate documents…get some tricks of their magic from them.

Client? What about them?
A client stands at the center of all the work that a PR firm does-as an intern you may get an opportunity to support one mandate or perhaps two. Make it your business to know all you can about the client; what gets them going? What they expect out of the PR function? How tough is the industry they are operating in? What is their worst nightmare and more. It is the beginning of a learning which you will need to make a constant in your life. There is nothing like predictable businesses out there. Businesses are dynamic given the uniquely challenging world we live in. Get your antenna’s up, push your perceptive quotient to its highest and consign your blinkers to the nearest dust bin-you will need to become a whiz at sometimes understanding the unspoken word! Try and be part of one or two client facing sessions during your internship, take on the role of taking minutes if that’s possible and when you get back try and get feedback from your manager on what the implications of the meeting were.

The circus is not the only place where you can learn the art of juggling!
Your manager will have regular cadence meetings with you to help you prioritise your work for the day and week-make the most of this exercise. Try and understand why some issues are more important than the others. This discipline will last you a lifetime in a profession where you will be regularly called upon to juggle various requirements of several clients. You will be called upon to do so without losing your shirt or dropping a ball.

You love the entertainment industry!
Great! You are not alone; most of us have preferences when it comes to industries. Some industries make us feel like we are aligned to the key responsibilities of our nation-healthcare, education etc. some like entertainment and media could be fun and challenging too and the list can go on. The internship is a good time to familiarise yourself with various industry verticals which your firm may be handling. Explore what really resonates with you, for your unique reasons. Look at strengthening that as a core industry of competency in the future.

The hygiene factors
Reporting on coverage generated on client, news updates, key industry developments, media movements, feature tracking and several more make the basic structure on which the rest of the engagement with a client is based. Make sure you learn about the basics of most of these during your internship. Once done treat them as a sacrosanct paradigm against which you will measure your work every day, in the future.

There is still a significant world which I haven’t covered here. It includes an understanding of the media and knowledge of the journalist fraternity with whom you will be working closely, also the art of storytelling, which lies at the heart of a great PR campaign. We shall pick these up sometime in the future. For now make peace with the knowledge that PR is not a quiet, gentle ride on a gondola, it is more like stepping onto a roller coaster which threatens never to stop but rest assured, once on board, it is a journey you will enjoy!

Seema Siddiqui, the author of this post, is Manager, Public Relations and Communications-India, Dassault Systemes. The views expressed here are her own and do not reflect her organisation’s viewpoint.

Nice to meet you…

You’re invited to a party where you don’t know anyone except the host. So, what do you do?

  • Think of a seemingly genuine reason to skip, like you have to finish that dossier you’ve been sitting on since last week or you have to clip your Pomeranian’s  nails
  • Drag along a friend (who doesn’t even know the host) to give you company… everyone has a friend who is always interested in free booze!
  • Attend the party but spend most of the time looking into your phone (BBM, Twitter, Facebook, Angry Birds, Pinterest, Fruit Ninja, Whatsapp, Match.com… the possibilities are endless)
  • Stand near the bar or on the side nursing a drink, never in the middle of the room; act as if you’re enjoying the music (head nod – check, foot tapping – check)
  • Introduce yourself to new people and strike a conversation

If you chose the last option then you may not relate to what I have to say. But if you chose any of the others, you my friend are in the same boat of “awkwardness” like many of us.

In 2006, I met Harold Burson, whom PRWeek described as “the century’s most influential PR figure”, for the first time.  I asked him a question about the most important skill for a Public Relations professional. His answer was, “networking”. In 2012, I had the good fortune of meeting the man again in New York and at 92-years young, I saw him living by what he said earlier. In a short span of three-months I worked there, I got to attend four industry networking events and he was part of two.  At these events, I got to meet new people, create new connections and even bag a client assignment back home in India! As I observed people and how they used these events to mingle and proactively “sell” themselves, I realised how little attention we pay to this important skill. Our colleagues in the western world seem a lot more comfortable and willing to network. So, why are we so shy? I don’t know the answer but I am trying to change. Partly, because I see a lot more value in making an effort and partly because I have no choice as I work in a different country now.

It is not that easy for me to walk up to strangers, exchange cards and get talking. While Myers Briggs test tells me that I am an extrovert, this doesn’t fit in! More than a personality issue, I think it’s in our culture. We spend way too much time and effort on the people we know, and don’t see the need to get out of our comfort zone. Even in a profession like Public Relations, how many times do we find ourselves attending any networking events or activities involving complete strangers (let’s not count press conferences here)? Not much, as there is always something important to close at work or attend to at home. We’d rather have lunch with our team or friends than make the effort to go out of office and eat with a new person we have a chance to know.

We think of a hundred and one “thought-leadership” and “bridge-building” ideas for our company/client spokespeople but when it comes to our own networking, it’s limited to media and other people we meet in the natural course of our lives.  There has been a start with events like PRAXIS and the PRONTO nights that received great response and overwhelming participation across cities. Events like the Indian SABRE Awards, organised by The Holmes Report are also providing an opportunity.  I attended two PRONTO events in the NCR and it was great to meet new and old people in the profession. However, I still saw groups of people from the same company hanging out together and I am not sure how many took the conversations forward after the event. I can only see benefits from paying more attention to building our connections and a wider professional network. From landing a new client or finding/offering a job to just getting to know new and interesting people, a little more effort to network should help us and the profession.

This post was not meant to be gyan on the benefits of networking but an observation that I wanted to share. If you agree or disagree, please feel free to share your views. Maybe, we’ll network here 😉

You can find me on LinkedIn here and my Twitter handle is @shreykhetarpal

The author of this post, Shrey Khetarpal has worked in the Indian Public Relations domain for over a decade and is now based in Shanghai, China. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect his organisation’s viewpoint.

In my early PR years, I was fortunate to work with some of the biggest brands in the high – tech industry, as part of my stints with leading PR consultancies in the country. The work we delivered for those brands and the interaction with client stakeholders gave me a good understanding of the technology industry. It also gave me great insights and knowledge of the PR approach and processes adopted by leaders in the business and I’m positive, that valuable learning will play a big part in defining my career and eventually my professional success.

Another equally important learning curve for me was the ‘client servicing’ process. This seemingly mundane, yet crucial part of a PR firm – client relationship, helped provide a solid understanding of the complex nature of corporate life and client (customer) relationship management. There are several practices in client servicing which, if applied to corporate scenarios, could prove very useful across a variety of situations, through one’s corporate career.

Your success is tied to your clients’ success…
This is one mantra Public Relations firms swear by and this holds true even within corporate organisations. Typical to such corporates, PR and marketing teams act as support functions to the sales organisation and the no. 1 organisational goal is always to increase the sale of products or services or perhaps increase market share. It’s extremely important to keep this important dynamic in mind, while developing an approach to manage PR in your organisation.

Mapping your internal clients and their priorities…
Identifying your key stakeholders and their communication priorities is one of the first steps in the PR process and this should be done with the objective of getting insights to your client’s stated and implied needs. Here, I’d like to emphasise on the latter which, often plays a bigger part in determining a successful professional relationship with that client. Helping your internal clients grow their careers can often be an important factor in how effective you are perceived to be, in your role as a PR practitioner for your organisation.

Going beyond the brief…
Closely tied to the previous point is the need for a practitioner to be flexible in the way she/he engages with her/his stakeholders. When your client comes to you with a need, it is important to factor in their broader needs, both stated and otherwise, while offering them a workable solution. Even in situations where the need may go outside the realm of public relations, such as when a business stakeholder needs content support on another company project, stepping in to help out can go a long way in building rapport and gaining respect. Thus, demonstrating sensitivity to your stakeholders’ needs can help build strong professional relationships based on mutual consideration and respect.

Be the consultant you were trained to be…
Often, clients will come to you with a need that, in certain situations, could cause a conflict of priorities for your role or function. In such cases, it’s extremely important for a PR practitioner to adopt a broader view of the situation and offer the client a workable alternative where one is available, or offer valid justification for being unable to accommodate the request. Offering an alternative should be the preferred approach, since it provides opportunity to showcase one’s creativity and resourcefulness and conveys sensitivity to your client’s needs. However, unreasonable requests need to be handled tactfully. Here, setting your client’s expectations is a critical aspect of the relationship and this can be managed by simply placing your company’s ‘uber’ priorities over those specific to certain individuals or teams. Again, professional relationships are based on transparency and respect and one should work towards being the person your stakeholders turn to, for all things PR.

Another key facet of relationship management is maintaining healthy relationships with all stakeholders – both internal and external. Often, one’s professional growth depends on reputation and nurturing healthy mutually respectful professional relationships can serve as a solid foundation to strengthen one’s reputation.

To wrap up… a key requirement of corporate life is the need to constantly navigate a maze of protocol, relationships and expectations. The ability to manage these elements of corporate life may take one farther than subject matter knowledge.

Vishak Gopinath, the author of this post, is Marketing Manager, Cisco Capital India. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect his organisation’s viewpoint.

We live in exciting times. The history of Public Relations (PR) can be traced back to the 18th Century when lobbying and campaigning backed by celebrities was the norm. In the last 250 years, the art of PR has evolved. It has matured to become a strategic tool for governments, leaders, industry, businesses, social organizations, trade guilds, educational institutions, customers and individuals.

PR has become an exciting social science combining psychology, sociology, statistics, communication and, in small measure, technology. Today, it uses tools such as mobile communication, blogs, social media, video, podcasts, wikis, polls, widgets, RSS feeds, etc combining them with traditional tools such as press releases, photographs, events, endorsements, brand champions and ambassadors. As a consequence, the role and purpose of PR have become more sharply defined. Today, if anything, there is a better understanding of how PR practitioners can shape and impact public thinking and help bring private and public policies closer to create harmonious societies.

PR has become deeply embedded into practically every activity. It is central to any marketing, communication and advocacy plan as it is to managing corporate reputations and brand identities.  PR is no more on the periphery of social or business action. No government leader, no company CEO, no public figure, no product or brand can afford to ignore the value of PR. And that really is also the central problem of PR today: can it rise to meet growing expectations in the modern world?

Over the years, PR has become quite a misunderstood activity — a fact that is fortunately starting to see serious reversal. In the minds of many, PR became a surrogate for advertising, marketing and sales promotions. But more recently, with several global crises hounding society, the role of PR is being clarified, understood and appreciated.

Therefore, has the role of PR itself changed in the modern world? Actually, one should think not. It has only expanded in scope to encompass an increasingly global world.  PR must continue to create a mutual understanding within a pluralistic society.  The difference is that today pluralistic society is global. You could perhaps try to think of it a little differently: the role of PR has acquired a global gravity.

In many ways, PR is in the process of making a giant, never-before transition. Communication today is more of a two-way dialogue and this has been aided by the rise of social media and the explosion of information-sharing online. The economic meltdown has put social media on steroids, with the centre of control shifting from institutions to communities of individuals.

The cornerstone of PR used to be the creation of word-of-mouth, endorsements by celebrities to create credibility, authentic user statements and so on. Fundamentally, you can see that the emphasis was on control (some may call it propaganda) of the message. If the message could be shaped before being delivered, PR had achieved its goals.  Today, the scenario is somewhat different. PR professionals and plans must give up control. Instead, the focus must shift to creating trust. PR is quickly moving towards building relationships. It is focusing on two-way communication and motivating target audiences into desired action.

If the role of PR must be examined in the modern world, it must be in the context of how it is moving from control to trust.

The manifestation of creating “trust” ranges from the obvious to the subtle. It is obvious when the PR machinery of an organization begins to influence media, bloggers, and community leaders with data and facts. A case in point is the incident around Cadbury when consumers found worms in the company’s product. Sales volumes dropped, employee morale was hit and retailers refused to display the product. Then they roped in superstar Amitabh Bachchan as a brand ambassador. Sales returned to pre-incident levels within 8 weeks and festival sales returned to near normal.

The emerging challenges have shaped a new understanding of what “public relations” means and the issues it needs to address. Some of them can be clearly listed. PR must, today:

·         Work closely with marketing (but not be marketing) to create awareness, communicate differentiators and create visibility through events and tie-ups.

·         Develop and nurture employee goodwill, uphold and strengthen an organizations reputation, keep employees, consumers, shareholders, media etc informed by creating communication programs and channels for interaction.

·         Create improved financial communication for organizations and thereby counter negative perceptions, influence investors and raise stock values.

·         Create goodwill for organizations within communities so that organizations continue to have a moral license to operate by supporting local community programs in the areas of art, education, urban renewal, sports etc.

·         Ensure that government and political interests are maintained by communicating organizational beliefs and postures through open debates, seminars, events, etc.

·         Ensure that the impact of natural disasters is minimized on organizations and communities through timely and relevant communication.

How has modern PR addressed these challenges in an increasingly complex and fast-paced global society? The jury is still out on the question — and is likely to be confused while passing judgment. This is because the role of modern PR is expanding, embracing larger societies, encompassing global institutions and values, rapidly changing policies and postures. It is difficult to anticipate the future course that the art and science of PR will take. But so much is certain: its future remains exciting because of its ability to shape the world.

Varghese Thomas, the author of this post, is Director- Corporate Communications, India & Greater China Region, BlackBerry. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect his organisation’s viewpoint.

In the past few weeks, I’ve met many young P.R. professionals who have made two or more job switches in the early years of their career. When I asked them about it, the usual answer is in search of a better opportunity. So, my obvious next question is what they want to achieve from this opportunity and from the career. And that’s where the hollowness of the decision begins to show.

The real problem is that most of them don’t know what they want to achieve in their careers. So money and designation become the obvious baits to lure them into a new job. The new employer, in most cases, has already guessed this weakness and couldn’t care less about their growth. They are thrown into the sea – if they learn to swim, they move ahead else they are left to drown. As a result, the persons find themselves in the same old state a few months down the line in the new job – frustrated, stressed out and vindictive. In the end, the once promising practitioner feels disillusioned barely 2-3 years into the profession.

The ways to avoid such an early setback to one’s career are to ask the following questions before deciding to switch:

  • Will I learn any new skills or will I just be doing the same things but for a new set of clients/ stakeholders? The plausible reason to switch a job in the first two years of one’s career is if a significant learning opportunity awaits you at the other end. A candidate with one year’s experience once told me during the interview that she didn’t really have a reason to move and was just exploring any new opportunities with my firm. My response was that if she wasn’t clear about what she wanted to learn in her new role, I saw no reason to hire her. Be very clear about why you need to switch your job. Learning should be the foremost reason.
  • Could there be a problem with my attitude? At college, I asked my professors what they sought in candidates during the entrance interview. The unambiguous response was attitude. Skills can be taught, attitude comes from within. For instance, if one is not able to get along with most teammates in the earlier firm and that is the reason for a change, there is a very high probability of the scenario being repeated in the new firm. It’s better to introspect than to be shown the mirror and thereafter, the door. In such a well-knit industry as public relations, it’s almost impossible to hide one’s behavioral attributes. Many of us have been through situations where a new employee’s attitude is known to teammates even before the person joins the firm. Always keep in mind, wherever you may go, your reputation is likely to precede you.
  • Am I prepared to start from scratch? In most firms, persons with less than three years of work experience are expected to prove their competence at press office reporting before being assigned client-facing work. I remember having done press office work in addition to other responsibilities even at a manager level. If you switched jobs thinking you’ll be free from reporting tasks, prepare for a rude shock (no matter what you have been promised during the job interview).
  • Am I ready for the role that I’m getting into? This is primarily for those who are moving into corporates at a very early stage in their careers. Corporate culture can be ruthless. So, unlike P.R. firms where seniors are ready to mentor/train employees, in corporates the difference in experience between the senior and subordinate is usually so large (7- 10 years or more) and the corporate communications team is so small, that the senior hardly has the time or the inclination to spend on bringing someone upto speed. Also, P.R. is a support function in a corporate so they would not be too keen to invest in training the PR team. So the subordinate either uses his/her experience gathered at a P.R. firm or learns the tricks on his/her own. If neither of these work, a pink slip is on its way, particularly if the company is not doing well.

The apt testament is to analyze the career path of most successful P.R. and corporate communications professionals wherein it becomes clear that staying power is a common attribute. For most senior-level positions particularly in corporates, a job hopper is likely to lose out to candidates whose career graph shows stability. So, short-sightedness may seem to be working in the short-term but it is bound to wreck long-term career prospects for any aspiring public relations professional.

The author of this post, Tarun Nagrani works at a leading Public Relations firm in Gurgaon, India. The views expressed here are the author’s independent views and do not reflect his organisation’s viewpoint.

If you have not had a chance to see the event website do so now and see the programme overview. We are a little over 4 months away from the second edition and a lot of work is underway. We have blocked 120 rooms in a hotel that should be able to accommodate 150 people. In addition we expect another 100 delegates who will make their own arrangements to stay at one of the three other hotels in the area Watershaw, Fortune, Ekaant. The earlier you register be assured of a place at the official hotel – Mercure. The summit will take place at the LICC.

We are lining up a great array of speakers – both for keynotes and for panels. We have a panel each on Marketing which will have CMOs (awaiting confirmations) of Indian grown companies (behemoths such as Reliance, AV Birla Group, Infosys and one more) discussing relevance and interdependence of Marketing and Branding in Public Relations. We will have senior women corporate communications leaders of Asian grown companies (Mahindra, Avantha, Biocon, Samsung – awaiting confirmations) discussing Leaning In and beyond. We have confirmations from four leading Editors (of a business daily, a business magazine, a general daily and a general magazine – all confirmed) sharing how they see the changing scenario in the world of Public Relations in relation with equations that professionals from both sides share. We are still working on another panel and couple of workshops and will have updates next month.

The highlight will be 2-3 excellent keynotes by the best in the business – from UK and from India (both global names). We also have a live performance from an upcoming performer. We have three media partners – MxMIndia, The Holmes Report and PR Moment whose Editors will be in attendance. We have six confirmed sponsors and hoping to sign up four more. All in all the second edition of PRAXIS seems to be action packed and power packed.

As we prepare for PRAXIS 2013 a few questions pertaining to how we will organize this edition based on what we learnt from the previous one will crop up. Three things that will certainly not happen –

Speakers – We will never repeat 99% of our panelists or speakers. The only exception will be Editors from the organizations that were media partners.

Sponsors – We will never sell a speaking opportunity to a sponsor. However, it is possible that a company that sponsors may have one of its executives invited to speak or vice versa where a confirmed speaker is approached to seek a possible event support.

Exclusivity – The main purpose of the summit is offering a platform to the professional community and bringing fellow professionals together. Commercial profit is not an aim and in fact organisers shelled 20% of the investment from their pocket for the first edition. Hence we will not encourage an exclusive sponsorship from PR firms and allied enterprises including measurement, content, translation, distribution companies unless they choose to underwrite the cost of the entire event. For those who wish to have an exclusive partnership we always have Pronto.