Amith Prabhu: Positioning, Participating and Packaging and a night to remember

28 Jul,2014

By Amith Prabhu

 

I was at the Sabre Awards night in New Delhi last Friday. Now in its second edition in India, the programme received 400 entries from over 25 firms, which, as the organisers claim, is double the number of entries received on its debut last year. The awards ceremony was preceded by a mini-conference on three interesting topics.

 

My column is about three observations in three capacities – first as a PR professional, secondly as an observer of all things PR and thirdly as a member of the jury at Sabre. I am not batting for any of my former employers nor am I trying to promote an event I co-organise. I may be provoking a debate and I hope I do.

 

First, the positioning we have created for our profession of calling firms we work in as agencies is pitting ourselves alongside any other service provider which in my humble opinion needs to change. I think the day we collectively stop saying PR agency we will be better off in just bringing back the self-esteem that some clients, ad agencies and media have helped to erode. One of the panel discussions brought up a heated debate about how the client felt that PR firms were not delivering value. My only suggestion to clients who think that way is to step back, think hard and find out if they even have access to budgets to run meaningful PR campaigns which certainly come at a price and then to tell their firm on record to invest in outstanding talent that come from Ivy League institutions who are paid what they deserve and then give them 12 months to deliver some great action based on jointly arrived at ideas. Until this happens, the chicken-and-egg debate will never end till the cows come home.

 

Second, several practitioners felt left out of an awards night that is the pride of the business. We are not an industry though we like to call ourselves as being part of one. We are a community of consultants and that’s that. The weirdest part is that some firms who sent entries were not sent invitations to buy seats or tables at the event because they were not members of the organization that co-hosts this event. It is a different matter that 7 of the Top 20 firms in the world besides three other prominent Indian firms are not members. It is the duty of the Indian organisers to ensure three things – a) that whether or not the firm is a member of the organization, the fact that it has participated in an awards programme deserves an invitation to buy seats or a table b) the organization cannot suggest that one should check news in order to become aware of the availability of tables c) there has to be a way to promote the event to as many people from in-house roles who feel left out.

 

One solution is to have an association of individual practitioners from both sides – consultancy as well as in-house that comes together to celebrate the profession. This also has to involve the under 35 generation (largely millennials) to be part of the growing movement. I’m sure that someone will bell the cat soon.

 

Lastly – the packaging of entries needs a serious introspection. As a member of the jury I was fortunate to glance through some great work but only one firm has mastered the art of sending entries in a format that is succinct and clever. I hope that firms learn to use storyboards or a one page format to share the campaign and its outcome. I pray that firms do not send reams of media output as part of the entry. Put it up on a microsite and share a link if you really want to flaunt it. And for our own sake let’s stop using AVE in entries. It can’t get more awful if we as professionals subscribe to that devious concept.

 

I hope this marks the beginning of better positioning for ourselves, better packaging of our entries and more inclusiveness, more transparency and more relevance. If the majority of the professionals are left out when they belong to an age group where they long to belong it will be unfortunate. So here is to more collaboration in the times ahead.

 

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