Celebrating the PR professional

PRonto1 NCR

Welcome to the blog for more information on PRonto1. As we go forward we will number each of the PRonto evenings just to eliminate confusion and help people connect on Twitter better using the hashtag. The next PRonto in Mumbai and Bangalore to be held in March and April respectively will be Pronto2 and Pronto3. The PRonto4 will take place in New Delhi in May since Pronto1 is taking place in Gurgaon unless the unanimous choice is to continue with the same venue.

#PRonto1

We are excited about having the PRonto1 on the third thursday of this month which is the 21st of February between 7 pm and 10 pm at a venue dedicated to the world of media. The Media Cafe is located on the 3rd Floor at South Point Mall on the Golf Course Road, next to Genpact in Gurgaon.

We have two options to register at the venue by cash: RS 600/- for two drinks and a snack or Rs 900/- for unlimited drinks (between 7 and 10 – no sharing) and a snack. If you pay by card this price will vary with the addition of taxes.

Things to remember –

Carry cash and business cards as the mall does not have an ATM

Until 11 am on Feb 21st you may register at a price point of Rs 400/- online (which includes a snack, a drink and a Rs 500/- discount when you sign up as an individual to PRAXIS2013. This discount is not available for registrations done at the venue).

For those who have registered online already you are free to let Liza Saha at the venue at the time of check in that you would like to upgrade to the unlimited drinks option by paying Rs 500 extra by cash.

Sab Miller is giving the first 50 to arrive at the venue and pay up a complimentary pint of Indus Pride. Make sure you get yours as long as you are the first 50 and have a happy hour.

The Media Cafe is offering the first 30 who register online an extra drink coupon. So for Rs 400/- you can actually get a drink, a snack, a pint of beer, a discount to PRAXIS 2013 and an additional drink for registering early.

PR Moment India is offering one lucky winner a free training programme. LEave your business card with Liza to be eligible to win.

A team of three professionals co ordinates the PRonto evening. PRonto1 is led by Liza Saha, Text 100 and supported by Tarun Nagrani of Edelman India and Shrey Khetarpal of Genesis BM

For any query send us a mail at prontoevenings@gmail.com from your official email address .

PRonto is an initiative born out of the after hours conversations at PRAXIS 2012 in Pondicherry and brings to life the theme of the first summit – OUR TIME IS NOW. PRonto is an evening of cocktails and conversations, held once a quarter in each of the metros. The designated date is the third Thursday unless specified otherwise and the exact venue will be announced two weeks before each PRonto evening.

At the core is being at an event with no agenda where the corporate communications and Public Relations community gathers together and has a good time. We are working on two models – one where walk ins are recommended and the other where one pre-registers for a nominal cost that entitles the individual to a drink and a snack. Additional drinks and snacks maybe purchased at the venue on actuals.

The first set of dates are – Feb 21st – NCR; Mar 21st  – Bangalore; Apr 19th – Mumbai; May 16th – NCR; Jun 20th – Bangalore; Jul 18th – Mumbai; Aug 22nd – Chennai. Mark your calendars and gear up PRonto – because that’s what it means to gear up quickly and wrap up when its still safe to go home. 7 pm then – in a city of your choice.

The debate on women’s rights, at home and at work, has made headlines in the past month in India. Public Relations (PR) is among those businesses where women comprise around 70% of the workforce (if not more) and women are part of the top management in most PR firms in India. Although there is no study to substantiate this aspect, if we were to look around in any PR firm, it would seem the norm. Appointment of women CEOs makes headlines in other industries but for us in the PR business, it is business as usual. Of the various disciplines of mass communication, PR is where women entrepreneurs and leaders have helped build the business from scratch. So, I felt that it is only fair that public relations should be seen as the model for a gender neutral environment that corporate India needs to cultivate.

For most corporates, two key issues that need attention are the acceptance of women as bosses and the need to understand a woman’s concerns in balancing her personal and professional life.

Truth be told, many modern and ‘civilized’ Indian men would find taking orders from a woman a tad demeaning. A highly qualified and successful friend (in the real estate sector) once mentioned to me that he turned down a job offer because the company had too many women employees and he was not keen to adjust to their working style. Another friend was thinking of tendering his resignation because his boss, who happens to be a woman, was quite hot-tempered and he couldn’t possibly imagine being chided by her in front of other colleagues.

The fact of the matter is that while women as subordinates are fine (and sometimes desirable especially to accompany male bosses for meetings) but having women bosses isn’t welcome at various levels in the corporate hierarchy. In order to shroud these chauvinist feelings, the most widely used (and abused) argument is that women are more emotional and so may not be able to take unbiased decisions. Well, human emotions have played a major role in our upbringing. Even bearing a child is an emotional decision. If emotions were taken away from human lives, not sure how many of us would see the light of this world.

Discussions on these chauvinist topics are at their peak during appraisal season. If women colleagues with lesser years of experience than their male counterparts are promoted, issues are raised about either the lack of meritocracy in the organization or favoritism towards women by the boss. The same male colleagues wouldn’t think about meritocracy when women are forced to take a career break either for the sake of their children or to accompany their husbands when they need to relocate. And how is it that there is hardly any talk of meritocracy when girls are either denied higher education by families or advised to opt for less time-consuming career options such as teaching or secretarial jobs so that they can devote more time to the chores at home after marriage.

Despite braving the odds, many Indian women happily sacrifice their careers for their children. My mother was one of them. It is a pity when the sons grow up and question the right of other women to greater opportunities at the workplace to make up for the lost years. Surely, we owe it to our mothers to help other women succeed.

On discussing the subject with women colleagues, some of them mentioned that while male colleagues were supportive, it was women colleagues who were not so forthcoming. It was surprising to know of instances of women trying to impede the growth of other women within the same organization. A woman employee once mentioned to me that she was more apprehensive of how other women colleagues would react to the news of her promotion. The patriarchal mindset truly runs very deep irrespective of gender.

Calling it a societal problem or blaming corporate culture is not going to help. We need to look ahead. Board room discussions or televised panel discussions on the subject of women emancipation are not enough. Some people are tempted to recommend reservations for women in jobs. The experience with reservations in jobs in the case of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India has proved that they are primarily enforceable only in government departments or public sector and have restricted the persons of these communities to getting less-skilled and primarily non-managerial jobs. Extending the same reservations to women may get them more jobs but not necessarily more respect. This fight is fundamentally of respect for women.

The issue is clearly that of change of mindset. Therefore it requires stronger internal debates within corporate India on how more opportunities can be extended to women at every level. There are cases where men genuinely do not understand the situations that women face on a daily basis. Gender sensitization sessions to help discuss women’s perspectives and pressures among male colleagues at all levels may help in building better working relationships and addressing prejudices against women that have been part of the patriarchal mindset.

It is accepted for men to let their family lives take a backseat while they devote more time to their careers. Most married women do not have that option. So, the point on flexibility for women needs to be better understood.

In conclusion, corporate India needs to give more to women to correct the skewed distribution of opportunities. Companies need to be open about the steps being taken to address it, particularly in the case of women who have taken career breaks for the sake of their family. Some companies have made a good beginning by stating measurable goals such as having at least 40-50 percent management positions held by women within a set time frame  PR owes a lot to women leaders. If women can help build and succeed in a highly challenging and demanding profession as public relations, it is a matter of time before the success story is repeated in other disciplines, provided they are given the opportunities they deserve.

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. He has just launched a blog dedicated to PR and can be found here.

A PRAXIS experience well told

The scenic drive down the East Coast Road, the beautiful white facade of the building against the backdrop of the blue ocean and the sound of waves as they lapped up to the beach. Welcome to PRAXIS2012. The first ever conference organised for and by the PR community and convened by The PRomise Foundation at Pondicherry was, to say the least, a resounding success. As I landed in Chennai I was looking forward to not just receiving my scholarship but also the chance to interact with some of the biggest names in the public relations business. We boarded the bus at the Chennai airport and started recalling how I got this amazing opportunity. There are dozens of competitions for MBA students to participate in, but few that would appeal to the journalist in me. Between making PowerPoint Presentations and using marketing jargon, I seldom got a chance to write. To write the way I wanted to; express myself in any many words as I wanted. The PRomise Foundation gave me that opportunity; to write an essay on the changing role of PR and corporate communications in India. And to win the scholarship was the cherry on the cake.

This was also my first time in Pondicherry, and it was love at first sight. The quaint little French colony just takes your heart away. This is a love affair that is going to last very long. The two-day conference was organised at Le Pondy, a beautiful resort, a little outside the city. The resort literally takes you back in time, with its French architecture and mud thatched roofs.

Hats off to the organising committee as the management of the event was impeccable. I got to meet and interact with so many distinguished people. For someone who is standing at the brink of her career this was a huge experience to learn. I met people from the top PR firms in India: Madison PR, Edelman PR, APCO Worldwide, Burson Marsteller and Adfactors among others. I also got a chance to hear some of the communications experts  like Deirdre Breakenridge and J.V. Vil’anilam; and renowned authors like Ashwin Sanghi and Anita Nair.

To receive my scholarship cheque in front of such a celebrated people was more than a honour for me. And it’s no fun to receive an award when there is no one to cheer for you who has journeyed with you?. My father had joined me for this event from Chennai and it was just incredible to have him in the audience. As the distinguished jury awarded me the cheque, I could see the pride in his eyes and that was probably the happiest moment of my life. I felt proud and humbled at the same moment to represent my family and my college, MICA, as I stood on the stage.

I believe, the feat that the summit accomplished was to get all the wonderful and talented people on the same platform to interact and mutually learn. Day 1 ended in a gala dinner and cocktails, which was just what all the guests needed to end their tired yet fruitful day. And the summit was not all work; the performance by Swarathma got everyone in the mood for some fun. I had other commitments on Day 2 as leave from college is a precious commodity and hard to come by.

If I had to sum it up, I would just say, that more than receiving the prize, the experience of being there was what I loved and will always remember. Cheers to PRAXIS.

Aishwarya Padmanabhan, the author of this post, is a student at MICA. She is the recipient of the first PRomise scholarship for PR. The views expressed here are her own and do not reflect here organisation’s viewpoint.

PRACCASA – Our Time Is Now

One of the key outcomes of PRAXIS2012 was to take the spirit of ‘meeting’ forward and adding a purpose to it. In light of that we have created PRACCASA which is an acronym for the PUBLIC RELATIONS AND CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATION OF SOUTH ASIA. While the formal launch is slated for February by way of physical gatherings, we are piloting the concept on 12/12/12 by matching mentors to mentees.

Our first set of Mentors are based in 3 Indian cities and three other countries currently. Each of them represents a different organisation and almost all of them except those who are currently overseas were at PRAXIS 2012. And each of them is present on Twitter to help make private and public connections as easy as they can be.

The plan is to connect a minimum of one and a maximum of four mentees to these mentors. In order to be mentors or mentees one needs to be a member of PRACCASA by paying for enrollment and an annual subscription. The annual subscription will work as a partial cover charge for the annual summit for those who attend. Draft details of the same are available at http://promisefoundation.com/hoping-to-unite.php

The first set of mentors are listed below –

Nitin Mantri, NCR
Amrita Pai, Mumbai
Vikram Kharvi, Mumbai
Tarunjeet Rattan, Bangalore
Shrey Khetarpal, Delhi/New York
Aakriti Kaushik, London
Shane Jacob, Bangalore
Tarun Nagrani, NCR
Arnab Roy Choudhury, Singapore
Melissa Arulappan, Bangalore
Pooja Trehan, Mumbai
Deepa Dey, NCR

We are receiving requests for mentorship on Twitter and on email this week to enable our pilot. Once we have paired the first set we will help you make the connection with an introductory email.

Some ground rules to keep in mind for better engagement are as follows – 12 for now

  1. The period of engagement is for one year. After which the pairing will be reviewed.
  2. The mentee may reach out to the mentor via email  after the introductory email from PRACCASA with questions, request for guidance on professional matters and career advice. Ideally these exchanges to be restricted to once in two months unless mentor and mentee mutually agree upon a different frequency.
  3. This is not a intended to be a virtual job fair or a testimonial seeking forum. Kindly refrain from seeking references  or testimonials and soliciting jobs from each other.
  4. The list of mentees will not be publicised other than being found on Twitter because of public requests during pilot period. However, the list of mentors will be made available
  5. Mentees and Mentors cannot choose each other. Mentees will be assigned to Mentors by the PRACCASA secretariat. We will try to ensure cross functional and most certainly cross organisational pairings
  6. It is upto the mentor and mentee to decide whether they would like to engage on phone or in-person during the course of this professional engagement.
  7. PRACCASA”s role is to enable a forum, match mentors to mentees and help create one or two informal gatherings chapter wise.
  8. Those who do not wish to be mentors or be mentored are welcome to join PRACCASA and enjoy the benefit of being part of the chapter wise gatherings and being on the mailing list
  9. There will be no remuneration involved and mentors are not expected to solicit any kind of payment in cash, kind or any other favours. Mentees are also not obligated to offer any kind of gift to mentors
  10. The purpose of this initiative is to strengthen the profession and take learning to the next level.
  11. For any concern that arises from this initiative please email praccasa at outlook dot com with a copy of the mail marked to promisefoundationforpr at gmail dot com
  12. If you would like to be a mentor or mentee or both email us at the above address with MENTORSHIP in the subject line and the mail containing your intent to be MENTOR or MENTEE with Name, Number of Years of Experience, Current Organisation, Link to your Twitter profile and link to your updated LinkedIn page

The two-day Public Relations summit evoked some profound questions in the minds of many attendees. The most significant one being on the reasons behind public relations not being able to earn the respect that it deserves even after almost two decades of existence in India. Clearly there’s more to this question than what meets the eye.

Some voices pointed towards issues such as ethical conduct and lack of measurement. Ethics is not an issue with PR alone but with any discipline, be it management or even journalism. While measurement is relevant, it is primarily client-facing and therefore addresses only one side of the equation. At the other end are consumers who form the core target group of any communication exercise. So the obvious next question is what it takes to win the respect of the consumers at large.

Today’s consumers are very socially conscious and highly influenced by social communities. It is these social communities that PR should be talking to. As PR professionals, we can use our influence on clients on one hand and various forms of media (traditional and now digital) on the other to make a difference to the lives of these communities. Professor J. V. Vil’anilam alluded to this point during his inaugural address at PRAXIS.

In order to appeal to communities, PR needs to be able to understand the issues that matter to them and help foster a mutually beneficial partnership between clients and communities. In essence, it means moving away from the media-only approach and connecting clients with social influencers such as NGOs, community leaders, academia and social groups at large. But it must also be borne in mind that if the effort is not genuine, the backlash could be quite severe.

This approach would sound greek and latin to those who measure PR success by number of impressions or number of fans on the brand’s facebook page. To them, the question really is – Does how loud you shout determine the attention you get? The audience may be scoffing at you for all you know. If the message matters to the audience, it will be heard and appreciated even with a balanced PR program.

As a first step, we can all start by asking ourselves – How often have we advised our clients on ways to play a stronger role in advocating social causes? Have we helped clients to support communities that work to ameliorate the condition of consumers?

The purpose of raising these questions is not to make accusations but to introspect and raise awareness particularly among the youth in PR on the responsibility that rests on their shoulders. When journalists shied away from exposing corrupt practices, the civil society stepped in to play the role and in the process showed them the mirror. Let us not wait to be shown the mirror.
The first generation of PR leaders in India has very ably led this discipline into a thriving business and given thousands of aspiring PR professionals the opportunity to experience the power of PR. This has been done through a strong client focus which is understandable and was the need of the hour. The new generation of PR leaders and professionals must balance this client-focus with community needs. This is the only way that PR will earn the respect that it has been longing for. And if we want this change to come, each of us will have to be the change that we wish to see in PR. Are we ready for it?

 

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. At PRAXIS 2012 he was part of the Emerging Leaders Round Table.

If the public relations practices are viewed as part of a family, technology public relations would be among the younger siblings. Its fast growth and strong potential has made it the apple (pun intended) of the eye of senior leadership within the PR community. The growth of technology PR has followed the success of India’s technology sector. Add to it, the growing pervasiveness of technology in the life of every individual and business today. In fact, this is leading to a rethink on the role of the technology practice within PR firms as more of a horizontal rather than a vertical- as an overlay to existing campaigns- similar to public affairs and digital.

In comparison to other Asian economies, India, with one of the world’s fastest growing technology sectors, has an inherent advantage. Very few countries in the region can boast of the kind of technology expertise and size of talent pool that exists in this country. It’s not surprising that most multi-national companies in the technology domain have a significant presence in the country specifically for research and development (R&D) purposes. Leaders such as Microsoft, HP and Cisco have invested heavily in India to take advantage of this large talent base. This has helped build depth of expertise while widening the breadth. The rub-off on technology PR in India is quite evident considering its continued growth within most PR firms in India inspite of the slowdown. Moreover, many start-ups specializing in technology PR have tasted early success.

This begs the question on whether India operations should be built as the Asia-Pacific hub for technology practice for global PR firms operating in the region. For an industry that is so heavily dependent on talent, it would seem a very logical step. However, there are challenges that need to be overcome before the centre of gravity for technology PR in the region can move to India.

The foremost challenge and ironically so, is developing the right talent itself. While most would argue that it is a challenge irrespective of the practice area, nowhere is the gap more acute than in the technology practice. Be it enterprise or consumer technology, Indian PR firms are yet to groom local talent in a way that could design and support cross-cultural regional campaigns. Most firms have taken the easy route which has been to hub Asia-Pacific mandates in centres where clients’ regional corporate communication headquarters are based which is usually Singapore, Australia or Hong Kong.

As India and China markets gain more eminence, they are increasingly being treated as separate from the Asia-Pacific (APAC) PR mandate considering their complexity and scale. China PR mandate for most technology clients is already treated as independent of APAC and it a matter of time before the India mandate follows a similar path. So, should PR firms explore a more economical yet effective model that can be scaled to suit the evolving requirements within the Asia region? The logical approach would be to groom talent for developing regional campaigns at a hub. The localization and implementation would obviously lie with country-specific teams. Amongst the three markets (China, India and the rest of APAC), the strongest contender for this hub role in the case of technology PR would be India.

It is time that global PR firms begin thinking in this direction. This would require a new approach and investments in talent building. The question is whether anyone is willing to try out the model. Yes, there are risks but if the model succeeds, it can sure fetch some great rewards. Above all, it would truly signify the coming of age of technology public relations in India.

I look forward to views on this subject from industry stalwarts during PRAXIS 2012.

 

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. This is third in a series of blogs he has written on in his own initiative thereby being eligible to be on the Emerging Leaders Round Table.

The PR business established its foothold in India around 1990s. That decade witnessed the establishment of small independent Public Relations firms in the wake of economic boom and growth of media houses. The next decade saw the industry expanding rapidly along with the entry of global PR firms. The business is undergoing a lot of activity in the current decade – mergers and acquisitions, new global entrants, more local boutique firms, rise of social media are all adding up to an intense competitive landscape along with opening up a whole new set of opportunities and challenges.

Today, the PR business is at an inflection point. The industry can no longer sustain and grow only on the basis of media relations and traditional PR strategies. PR has to reach out to the consumers of clients who are socially active, digitally connected and constantly updated with the latest happenings. Not only this, the industry is much more exposed to scrutiny and criticism courtesy social media. Hence, there is no way PR can turn its back at the digital world and work in silos.

With widespread recognition, limited understanding, controversies galore and influence of social media, there is a huge opportunity for the business to expand and consolidate. However, the lack of understanding of what PR people do or what PR is needs to be addressed for the greater good of the fraternity. Thanks to controversial taped conversations, frequent open advice from journalists on Twitter, any and every crisis where a brand is involved – irrespective of the people or situation, the ground rule has become that PR is always wrong. Oh! And not to miss the PR plug! Blame game. It is interesting to note that the first set of reaction post a crisis or controversy related to a brand always points towards #PRfailure. If there is mess up, it has to be PR. Every time a brand faces a crisis or controversy, the Corporate Communications department/PR firm has to bear the brunt of ill-informed audiences due to the mess created by mostly unrelated elements. Sigh! Life is difficult for a PR professional in 2012. As if managing clients, mandates, colleagues and media was not enough, now they have to manage their own as well as their fraternity’s reputation as well.

While the Public Relations business in India is expanding its horizon to include more capabilities like that of content, crisis communication, public affairs; digital media is a front-runner in this scenario. With the rise of social media, internet penetration, connected users, limited media opportunities; digital will lead the growth curve of the PR business. The global trend is being witnessed in India with leading firms focusing on specialized digital wings, training and partnerships. There is tough competition to PR firms from Ad agencies, media agencies and social media firms in the digital domain.

However, it must be noted that PR specialises in a wide variety of consulting and execution which includes communication, content, storytelling, crisis management, event management, third party endorsements, analysis and reporting. The day is not far where it will become imperative for Indian PR professionals to have digital credentials on their CV. It has already started happening in the west and will happen in India in the very near future, faster than most of us realise.

And now we have PRAXIS, which is an event the community of PR professionals has been long waiting for.  I’m excited about this summit. At PRAXIS 2012, I would like to discuss this evolution of PR in the wake of digital media with the best minds of the industry who are gathering for a weekend of learning and sharing. Hope to find a better perspective along with trends and challenges. Watch this space for more updates post the summit.

The author of this post, Liza Saha works at a leading Public Relations firm in New Delhi, India. The views expressed here are the author’s independent views and do not reflect her organisation’s viewpoint. Liza is part of the core team organising PRAXIS 2012.

A few final pointers to prepare better for PRAXIS
a) Pack light – Smart Casuals is the dress code for the summit
b) Le Pondy, Ginger and Delorient are the official hotels of the summit. The main venue will be Le Pondy
c) For those of you who are expecting a free shuttle by car or tempo traveller and have not received information about the same let us know – it could either be an error at our end or an imagination at yours and we will happily rectify
d) The summit check in (in other words, collecting your kits, badges and wristbands) will commence at 1 pm for students, at 130 pm for those staying at Le Pondy and at 2 pm for those at Ginger and Delorient
e) Only dinner on 23rd and lunch on 24th will be provided to all delegates. Breakfast is part of the package in your respective hotels on the 24th Lunch on 23rd and Dinner on 24th is not part of the summit offering
f) The wristbands we will provide at check in will be clipped around your wrists and these will entitle you to dinner and drinks. These may be purchased at Rs 1000 a piece if you lose the one you are given
g) For those reaching your hotels (Ginger and Delorient) by 12 noon (if rooms are available) there are shuttles to Le Pondy – 1 shuttle from Delorient and 1 per group for 7 groups at Ginger at 2 pm
h) At 1030 pm after the inaugural gala the shuttles will return to the respective hotels. Those who miss shuttles can make their own arrangements by contacting any local vendor or http://aurovilleomtravels.com/Contact-Us.html
i) All consumption in room, room service orders, additional amenities utilised that are over and above usage of room will be charged directly and need to be cleared before check out
j) For those staying in one of the hotels for just a single night please ensure you check out by 8 am as you will be at the summit thereafter and thus avoid paying for a second night
k) At Ginger and Delorient we recommend check out and breakfast to be completed by 825 am to board shuttles in order to reach Le Pondy by 9 am in order to win an iphone 5
l) During check in kindly leave a business card which will go into a draw on Saturday morning at 910 and the delegate needs to be present in the room in order to collect the iphone 5

 

Many of us recall instances of repeated calls by insurance agents out to hard-sell a newly launched insurance policy, claiming to make our families ‘even more’ proud of us after we depart for heaven. The intense cajoling makes it seem as though the policy is an eligibility criterion for entry to the heavenly abode. The divine discussion finally falls to the earth with a single question – what’s the lowest possible premium? Insurance is clearly the least valued investment option, rather, a necessary evil. Many Public Relations practitioners like to position PR as insurance against risks to corporate reputation from external factors. While that analogy may have some solid reasons, it is not surprising that the PR business, particularly in India, stands commoditised as is the case with insurance.

 

Intense competition has meant that PR billing in India is at its lowest among almost all large markets, not only globally but even within the Asia-Pacific region. On an average, PR budgets for China are 7-10 times that of India. There have been several instances where PR budgets allocated by MNCs for smaller markets in East Asia are either equal to or higher than the budget for India. Faced with this scenario, it is only plausible to ask whether this low billing model is sustainable. Low billings would mean that growth in employee remuneration in the PR business would fall behind other key service industries. Moreover, the investments in training and development would continue to languish. In such a scenario, how can the business of Public Relations expect to attract or retain top talent? And without good talent, how will PR ever deliver results that will help it take centrestage in the communications strategy of clients?

 

PR is definitely not the first services business to be facing this situation. So, what is the solution? I’m looking forward to perspectives on this from stalwarts of this business at the forthcoming PRAXIS 2012 in Pondicherry, India on November 23-24.

 

I certainly do not claim to have an answer but see no harm in trying to take a leaf out of the book of the insurance industry. Insurance now comes bundled with most financial instruments which seem to be far more amenable than standalone insurance. Perhaps it’s time PR is integrated with like-minded offerings – in other words its time to look at ‘Public Relations Plus’. Till a few years ago the additional offering was primarily Public Affairs. However, that didn’t solve the problem of measurement. The new service offering, with a promise, is digital. As standalone, digital is heading for a similar cycle of commoditisation. But as part of PR Plus, digital gives PR teams the power to customize the message for each audience and deliver it directly with real-time measurement of audience receptivity. In a diverse country like India where marketers grapple with audience segmentation, the situation is set to get more complex with the growing penetration of the digital media. This complexity, in essence, has given PR its biggest opportunity.

If PR teams (comprising the PR firm and the in-house PR department) work in complete sync with a single-minded focus of showing the value of PR Plus to the C-suite in the backdrop of the increasingly complex external communications environment, there is a strong case for greater budgets being allocated and therefore better billings.

And it is this very message of PR Plus setting new benchmarks in communication that must be delivered to marketing and communications students. If setting new standards in communications is a student’s impression of success, then PR should be the career of choice. On the other hand, if PR teams continue to undercut each other and as a result fail to focus on demonstrating the strategic value of integrated campaigns, the community will do a great disservice to the PR discipline. Top talent will look elsewhere and the PR community will have only itself to blame.

On the digital front, while the debate continues to rage between marketers and PR teams as to who owns digital, the more plausible approach comes with understanding the purpose of the digital campaign for the company. Where digital is aimed at driving conversation with the audience, in other words the engagement is more social, it is up the alley of the PR team and where it is advertising-led, marketers can take ownership with PR playing the supporting role. As companies gain clarity on the role of digital in their communication matrix, the differences are expected to be ironed out in due course. But again, we must remember that PR professionals would have to earn their place.

In my previous guest blog titled Putting the Promise Back into Public Relations, I had voiced the need to view PR strategically. Without strategic thinking, PR Plus would end up as a mix of disjointed campaigns with media relations and digital going in different directions, thereby defeating the purpose of the communications exercise. I’m sure most of us can cite several examples of such campaigns. On the other hand, if the PR community is able to action the integrated approach, PR teams can expect their rightful place at the high table of strategy within Indian corporates. It’s high time for this decisive transformation to Public Relations Plus.

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.