[PR] We challenge to innovate & thereby set trends: Khalid Jamal

16 Apr,2012

It ain’t a small agency but its ’boutique’ way of doing PR, where it goes beyond the obvious towards building, managing, reinforcing and protecting reputation is what endears the agency to its clients and goes a long way in laying solid foundation for a long-term partnership. Much of the agency’s good showing could be attributed its leader Khalid Jamal.


Mr Khalid Jamal possesses close to two decades’ experience in Reputation Management having handled over 300 key clients drawn from across all sectors. He has also been awarded numerous awards by IMM and PRSI for innovative work done by him.


In an interaction with MxMIndia’s Johnson Napier, Mr Khalid delves on Orion’s journey in the country thus far, on the two units that have been delivering top-notch growth for the agency and also scrutinises the current state of the PR industry inIndia. Excerpts:


How has Orion PR delivered on the growth front in 2011-12?

The year 2011-12 has been excellent for Orion PR as we doubled the growth digit compared to previous year. Two verticals which contributed to this growth are: Crisis Management/Issue Advocacy Practice and Social Media/Digital.


How would you assess your client roster across the several domains that your offer your services in?

We work with a number of clients from established Indian corporates to MNCs. However, the new users of PR (the growing mid-level companies and large SMEs) are going to drive PR more significantly than the good-old PR users, and hence, would be our focus for growth.


How would you rate your agency on the parameter of client retention?

Performance-delivery on each account at Orion PR is well-above average in the industry. However, one has to be guarded against the general tendency to compare ‘PR account retention’ with that of ‘advertising account retention’; the two are different disciplines; hence the parameters to be applied have to be different, contextually. I would imagine that this aspect should be compared with that of Management Consultancy firms, where the periodicity of the accounts are determined by the scope of the assignment and the clients’ needs.


How do you review your practices each year so as to stay ahead of the curve on a consistent basis?

You have to feel the pulse of the clients’ businesses and its operating environment and challenge yourselves to innovate and align with clients’ interests. If this is followed in spirit, there is all the reason why you will be on cutting-edge. At Orion PR, we constantly challenge ourselves to follow this operating philosophy: challenge to innovate and thereby set trends.


What is the shift you observe in the way PR as an industry functions today to what it did, say, about a decade ago?

Absolutely nothing. It is what it used to be. However, you will see a change effecting over the next few years as the old give way to the new in mind and material; as the old-gen of PR moves over and the new gen takes over. The good news is that PR has started attracting some real good and fresh talent, and not the second shifties as it used to happen till recently. This is a significant development in the Indian PR industry and I hope it continues for good.


Where do you see Orion PR placed in the PR pecking order amongst its contemporaries?

I do not believe there is such a thing as pecking order in PR. Unfortunately, it’s an industry which is famed and defamed by a few big mouths who bask in their own wishful thinking and ‘number crunching’. That’s fine if they get their share of five by one cc quote with a mug shot. It’s nothing beyond that. Any service which is driven by the practioners’ expertise can’t be, and shouldn’t be, compartmentalised into the so-called numbers and pecking game. By the way, the whole process of defining a pecking order of the Indian PR firms suffers from the lack of credibility and a credible process. So lesser said the better.


As for Orion PR, we are distinguished by our rich experience and expertise which attracts our clients, especially for high-end strategic PR campaigns, which remain our focus area, and not the vanilla services.


How do you think social media has impacted PR and its functioning?

Orion PR has a dedicated social media division called Orion Digital which has done some path-breaking work. We do not pay lip-service to digital, but rather produce integrated campaigns which make measurable contributions to clients’ communications initiatives.


We have invested significantly in social media and digital for over the last three years which has begun paying dividends only now.


However, if you talk of overall PR industry scenario, Social Media hasn’t impacted PR as much as it should have. Clients still have to make a choice between the digital wings of ad agencies and PR agencies; and this is where the dichotomy lies. PR agencies have a lot of catching up to do in this domain to be able to compete with the digital outfits of ad agencies. However, with the growing online activism, PR agencies will be advantageously placed to handle social media/digital.


Including talent, what are some of the big challenges facing the PR industry in India?

I don’t think ‘talent crunch’ is a big challenge today. With the infusion of fresh talent into PR and with a little reorientation of the pool, this problem, by and large, could be resolved. The real problem of ‘talent’ is at the senior level like any other industry, and there is no quick-fix solution for this. As the industry matures, this issue too will be naturally addressed.


The other problems facing the PR industry are:

1. Lack of understanding of its functioning by majority of clients

2. ‘Cottage industry’ type of internal functioning, and haphazard growth

3. Lack of consistency and respectability

4. Lack of organised industry forum

5. Ethics


What are your views on international agencies venturing into India?

It’s good as long as it adds value in terms of learning and development. Else, it’s just another dot on the map of their reach.


What is the future you foresee for the PR and communications space in India?

PR inIndiawill see exponential growth in strategic services for which very few agencies are prepared or are ready in terms of expertise. The vanilla PR services will see a solid decline, and I fear, would continue to be the cause as to why PR is yet to get its due recognition. I hope we will be the profession who didn’t miss the bus!


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One response to “[PR] We challenge to innovate & thereby set trends: Khalid Jamal”

  1. ahmed says:

    masha allah….
    proud 2b part of ur family….