Jaldi 5 with Amith Prabhu: PRAXIS brought together seniors & juniors in the PR and corp comm community

28 Nov,2012

He’s made the fullest use of the time zone difference between the United States and India. So when he’s not on his desk at his day job at PR major Edelman in Chicago, he was busy coordinating PR conference PRAXIS 2012 and dreaming up what else the Promise Foundation should do. MxM India caught up with PRAXIS co-chair Amith Prabhu a day before he was heading back to the US and asked him a few leading questions.


01.   As you look back, and given the standards that you had set for yourself, how would you rate PRAXIS 2012? And vis-a-vis other PR conferences that happen through the year?

We, the organising committee of 12 at-larges and specifically Shane Jacob and I as summit co-chairs are very pleased with the way PRAXIS 2012  turned out to be. It surpassed all our expectations. When we had conceptualised the event we had thought of a small compact conference but over the months it grew to become bigger than we had imagined. And the final outcome was there for all to see. As many as 260 delegates including 35 top-class speakers and a full-house despite an experimental schedule. Everyone in the audience and backstage took ownership and that was evident even when there were glitches and all were supportive.


It would not be fair to compare with other PR conferences because our intentions were unique – bringing together the seniors and the youngsters of the core Indian PR consulting and corporate communications community. We achieved this with aplomb and the fact that we are proud of is punctuality throughout the two days.


02.   While there was representation from most firms, and most CEOs were also present, the big guns from a few agencies were conspicuous by their absence: Dilip Cherian of Perfect Relations, N S Rajan of Ketchum Sampark, Weber Shandwick’s Shiv Reddy/Atul Ahluwalia, Ameer Ismail of LinOpnion. Any reasons for their absence?

We had invited 30 PR firms of all sizes when we set out on this mission and we had an instant response from over 25 of these wherein 15 had confirmed their presence right at the start. Around 9-10 had expressed their support but had scheduling conflicts. Of the four firms mentioned above we tried hard to connect with them but were not successful. Mr Cherian had responded favourably but was unable to make it. The CEO of his firm was a panelist but had to drop out at the last moment due to a personal emergency. We are confident that we will be able to have all of them not just attend but also be on panels at the next edition.


What would you tell them given that they didn’t turn up?

I would tell them that we missed their presence and their insights and they cannot afford to miss a humble attempt put together completely by volunteers next year around. It is also possible that several people were apprehensive of a brand new event by a group of youngsters and would consider being part of it in the future. We are a completely independent not-for-profit venture and our focus is to collect people and give them a forum to learn and share.


03.   It was in effect just a one-day event, though spread over two days. Given that people are spending a fair bit of time and money to get here, do you think there’s need to pack in more?

We packed in as much as 24 hours could permit… 6 panels, 3 networking sessions, 2 keynotes and 1 concert was quite a bit. We planned the timings around flights to and from Chennai so those who wanted to spend just one night could make it. But we have feedback that people are open to an additional day and we will consider that when we plan the second edition.


04.   Chennai agencies and corporate communications professionals didn’t appear to be exploiting the opportunity?

The summit was promoted and marketed completely on social networks. It is possible that several firms in Chennai were either not aware of the intensity of this endeavour or chose to wait and watch. Honestly, there is nothing to exploit other than being there and having a good time. Hopefully, in the future there will be greater participation from professionals in the vicinity.


05.   Was Pondicherry a good venue? Isn’t there too much of anxiety of storms?

The idea is to offer delegates a destination that is unique and has tourist appeal. Our gut feel told us that Pondicherry would have a uniqueness that very few venues could offer. The concern was not so much about storms but about distance from the Chennai airport which was well taken by most despite the long drive, thanks to the decent roads.


Where will it be next year? Dates finalized? Venue?

The idea is to take the summit across zones and keep it moving. We have begun in the South. We intend planning the second one in the North or the West. We will decide dates and venue based on feedback received from the delegates which we are evaluating. We hope to announce the same soon on MxMIndia. All that we can say is that it will certainly be bigger and better.


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