[PR Channel] Young PR professionals need a reality check

23 Jan,2012

By Sayantan Sinha


When the editor (no I am not talking about Mr. Mehta’s pet) called me to write this piece, I wondered “who’s going to read?”


We, the breed of superior intellect and pray do not believe that, like to imagine (which is true) that we are the most well-read lot with deep understanding and knowledge on everything from needle to submarine. So my PR brethren, let us get out of our cocoon and do a little reality check.


The stalwarts of the PR industry are people with huge repertoire of knowledge. Hence they are where they are today. The likes of Prema Sagar, Dilip Cherian, Madan Bahal, Supriyo Gupta, N S Rajan, Sunil Gautam, Roger Periera et al are known for their indelible track record.


The intellectual growth of PR professionals has been inverse to that of India’s economic growth rate, particularly so in the past few years. While figure, physique and sensational sense of dressing have incorporated the oomph factor, lack of intelligence pervades the industry. Unfortunately, the finest of the gyms or the salons cannot add that aspect to personality. Add to that sheer indolence and Herculean attitude.


Most of the younger lot, particularly in Delhi, have a lot of both. So much so, they successfully make new editors (refer to Person X as editor of one biz paper when s/he is in fact RE of another pink daily) , create awesome profiles (no link between the journalist, his area of expertise and publication) and above all confidently attribute journalists to publications which they left eons back.


Why is this happening? I totally agree with my peers about the inflated egos of the younger generation. But we cannot absolve ourselves from the fact that we have not instilled the sense of responsibility in the new lot. Every agency has well-defined (and that has to be another critique) systems and processes. However, despite insisting on regular media rounds, you would hardly find youngsters rushing from one building to another on India’s Fleet Street.


Of course, if there is a press conference, you will find a few hovering around. Penetration of internet and mobile have done all of us good, but our younger friends need to realise that relationships cannot be built only over emails and telephone /mobile or for that matter BBM.


It is true that even five years back, it was far easier to meet a journalist. We could amble on the ET floor or chat with multiple journalists in Hindustan Times, but today that is not possible. But it is imperative to meet journalists so that there is connect between the face and the email id.


It is a different issue that it is far easier to grab an appointment with the President than send a youngster out for media round. One is accosted with barrage of questions like “Why do I need to meet him / her? I get my work done”; “They must be busy”; “They do not come out to meet” and the best “What do I talk to them about?”!!!


In the good old days, when people used to go for “shikaar” (hunting), they used to study the prey and its surrounding. Transform that to our profession. Even if there is no story to pitch for, go ahead and meet a journalist of the beat you cater to. Read his articles, talk to him about his stories, create a rapport and nurture it. A personal touch can go a long way. Don’t forget the brilliant line of Airtle’s campaign “BAAT KARNE SE HI BAAT BANTI HAI,” though the approach of today’s PR professional is as horrific as Airtel’s connectivity.


And by the way, media rounds in Delhi can be great fun, if one is a foodie. From the crisp samosas of INS building canteen to dosas and vadas near Jantar Mantar, from bread pakora outside PTI building to finest fresh juices at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, the choice is huge. And make friends in Times Building, at-least to visit their swanky canteen.


The other grey area is the fabled media list. More often than not, the most “updated” media list is the dated one. In Google age, youngsters seem to have forgotten the art of copy & paste! Otherwise how would one explain about a CoB who passed away some years ago still holding that position?


More often than not, senior journalists complain about young PR professionals calling them and asking what do they write on! This brings me back to the first paragraph of this article. The stalwarts of the industry and anyone in the industry worth his salt, reads. Unless one reads, it is rather difficult to survive in the industry. Every byline has a name and in today’s day and age, most of the newspapers have compartmentalised content according to the beat. It is not rocket science. Even a child reading a newspaper regularly will be able to say what a particular journalist writes on.


The angst in media against PR professionals is not unwarranted. We have provided them with enough ammunition to allot PR professionals as courier guys, adding no value. Unless one proves his mettle in this value chain, the individual must leave the profession. PR is serious business and we hope to have able people in the industry to take it forward. This is not written to demean anyone but to look within ourselves to find the answer.


Sayantan Sinha is Founder & Managing Partner, Out-There PR & Communications


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2 responses to “[PR Channel] Young PR professionals need a reality check”

  1. Ritzsengupta says:

    well written…

  2. Charu says:

    Well said and so true