Amith Prabhu: PR frat needs a Goafest-like event

25 Apr,2012

By Amith Prabhu


Goafest has become the annual jamboree for the advertising folks in India. And nothing wrong with that if it serves the purpose of those organizing and those attending. It is an expensive programme, especially for younger people. The cost to attend Goafest for a person varies from as low as Rs12,000 (if a person under 30 from Mumbai travels by road or rail and lives in very simple accommodation for 2 nights) to Rs40,000 (if a person over 30 from Delhi flies low-cost and lives in decent three-star accommodation).


The point is that in all this effort and investment or spending (depends who pays the bill) very little is achieved for the industry in terms of learning. Most high profile speakers either use the opportunity to make a sales pitch or are not effective enough to make an impact (I have been to two events and seen for myself).


The few who are impactful and are not making a sales pitch have few takers because they are either not well known, haven’t got the right publicity in advance and therefore those who should be listening to them are either on the beach or in their luxury rooms or sightseeing.


The real achievement is for those who want a break and get it (most often fully or partially company sponsored), great work done in the year gone by gets rewarded (sometimes with controversy), people seeking a job change get to meet their potential employers and those who want to catch up in a non-work environment with former colleagues and buddies get to do that.


Some PR professionals attend because they are involved in some way with the organizing and some others are connected with the ad agency that has a big role to play.


But most inspiring of all the achievements is that all the big boys and girls in creative and media agencies who fight it out like bitter rivals in new business pitches and industry awards between May and March come together in April to celebrate the profession. And this to me is remarkable. No doubt there are a handful of boycotts that happen each year, but those are bound to happen and frenemies come and go.


Cannes, around which part of Goafest is modelled, embraced PR a couple of years ago by including a separate category for PR and having a full-fledged PR jury. I’m not saying Goafest should do that. I’m here to seed the idea of a gathering of PR professionals from around the country. Head honchos of PR firms can collectively do a lot for the industry and the young and mid-level professionals. The three things they should do at break neck speed is put together a forum for PR professionals modelled on PRSA, create an industry award that is transparent, world-class and the gold standard for younger professionals to gain inspiration from and plan a gathering of PR professionals over a weekend to learn from each other. Networking is no longer a major need in the age of Facebook, Twitter and frequent after hours parties in the metros.


There are several forums that function formally and informally in the PR space. But none that brings together corporate communication executives and public relations professionals, at all levels and of all ages, under one umbrella. It is time for a body that works closely and learns from PRSA. There is so much it does through several chapters for the betterment of the practitioner. With almost 15 of the Top 20 global PR firms present in India there is scope to even be handheld by one of the well-established forums.


Thereafter, this organization should establish a PR award that enables entries to compete in the global arena. There is a major vacuum that needs to be filled and no one can help us on this but ourselves.


Finally, the PR fraternity of India needs an annual event where PR professionals get together, listen to experts fromIndiaand around the world and celebrate the profession keeping aside differences for 48 hours at least, if not more. Maybe this could be called PondyPoweR and be held at Pondicherry on the east coast ofIndia. Symbolically, a quaint town with a rich heritage, near the beach for those who want to mix learning with fun.


Hope this happens sooner than later, so public relations people can ponder on how to do some Public Relations for themselves, their firms and most importantly for the profession.


Amith Prabhu is a public relations professional who spent a large part of his career in India and is now based in Chicago working for a PR major. Views are personal and do not reflect that of the writer’s employer. 


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5 responses to “Amith Prabhu: PR frat needs a Goafest-like event”

  1. amithprabhu says:

    Shrey, Liza and Shane – thanks for your comments. This article has created more optism than I had expected. The encouragement from some of the PR firm CEOs and younger leaders like you has been encouraging. We need to start somewhere and start small. Watch this space…

  2. Liza Saha says:

    A PR Fest is much required for the fragmented industry but will be a waste if all the stakeholders including agencies, corporate communications/marketing heads & CEOS of clients, journalists/media houses do not participate. The issue is that majority of PR people do not believe that they are part of an industry.

  3. Shrey Khetarpal says:

    It’s important to view the obstacles also and overcome them… if we don’t identify them, how will we get past them.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Nice post Amit, there are many reasons that folks will come up with on why this is not a good idea… however the industry needs something like this simply because PR needs PR.

  5. Shrey Khetarpal says:

    Interesting idea Amith, though I think money is a big issue. Advertising as an industry is much richer and PR still gets too little of the marketing pie. Many small agencies charge 40k, the travel & stay cost mentioned in your post, as monthly retainers and I doubt there will be participation at a larger scale. Even if we consider the big players; am sure they’ll also not like the math. I may sound like a miser here but once there’s enough money in the industry, only then these things materialise well. First, there’s a need to correct the market and pricing of the services we provide.