PR folk get set for PRAXIS 2012-11-23

23 Nov,2012


By Johnson Napier


The hotel was buzzing the evening before with activity thanks to a film shoot. Tamil superstar Karthi moves in and out of his DTH-fitted vanity van (ah, well, a bus), as the core team of PRAXIS 2012 ensures that all’s well with the organising the event (*See Disclosure).


The scenic and pleasant climes of Pondicherry, er, Puducherry that buzzes with tourism activity at this part of the year is expected to see action in a different avatar over the next couple of days. And it isn’t action in the form of adventure games or a beach sport that the place prides itself upon but rather something that has a serious if not exactly academic connotation to it. Le Pondy in the former French colony will play host to over 250 communication professionals from India (and one from Nepal) who will throng the venue for a unique and first-of-its-kind experience that’ll be high on business knowhow.


This is just the beginning: Amith Prabhu, co-chair
He landed from Chicago just a few days back, and has been connected ever since, trying to ensure the event happens without any booboos. Well, he was doing that even when he was in the US, taking full advantage of the time zone difference and not impact his day-job at Edelman. 

MxMIndia posed a few questions to Amith Prabhu, co-chair of the PRAXIS 2012 and also founding trustee of the PROMISE Foundation, under the aegis of which the conference is being organised.


It’s the Big Day today…  do you see the event setting new benchmarks?

This is definitely historical for the Indian PR fraternity. It has evolved more as a movement of bringing several minds together than just another conference. We have had to reject over 35 late-comers in the last two weeks, both because we had planned for 200 and the numbers exceeded and also to help create a culture of planning in advance and not support the concept of ‘last-minute’ registrations. Delegates will get to visit a beautiful Indian town which has rich history and is a centre for spirituality and learning. They will get to listen to and interact to over 40 leaders – all under one roof and in a power packed 24 hours. There will be a concert at the inaugural gala which adds to the excitement.Thus is the first event of its kind completely organized in spare time by full-time professionals who have day jobs


Tell us of some speakers that you are proud to invite at PRaxis and whom you feel should be the ones to watch out for at the event?

We are proud of the fact that over 12 CEOs of Indian PR firms could commit to travel all the way for this cause. Deirdre Breakenridge who has authored several PR bestsellers is also visiting India for the first time and exclusively for PRAXIS. Prof Dr JV Vilanilam will inaugurate and deliver an address that is solid and insightful. A few of India’s leading corporate communications managers will also share their insights at various panels. The Emerging Leaders panel certainly will be a highlight.


Does the demographic split of delegates who have registered thus far suggest any trends?

There is a healthy mix of youngsters and seniors and an almost equal number of men and women. There are delegates from all the three major metros and one from Nepal too. It is clear that the community has been eagerly waiting for an event of this nature and a lot of young people have made the investment of money to be part of this event. India is waking up and smelling the coffee and that is a big deal.


You mentioned about your core-team organising this in their spare time. Any special efforts to differentiate PRaxis from other similar events?

To start with this event was born out of an online conversation and inspired by certain situations. No part of the event was outsourced to an event management firm to ensure costs were low and the benefit could be passed on to delegates. The event was only marketed on Twitter and Facebook with event ambassadors playing a huge role in building momentum.We did not add the awards element to keep politics at bay.


What do you intend PRaxis to throw up at the end of its 2-day showing?

We are hoping this summit is the beginning of an annual feature and will also give birth to many more smaller day-long summits in the metros that are targeted at those who cannot afford a destination event. We are sure PR professionals will look at their profession in a new light. Most importantly we are confident the summit will lead to a structured organisation of members who meet frequently to mentor and to be mentored. This profession can only regain its sheen which a few events in the last few years have attempted to destroy.


Most suggestions or workable solutions that get discussed during such events are left ignored or are not converted to action soon enough. What does PRaxis intend to do in this direction?

The main purpose of this event was to bring the fraternity together which has been achieved with over 80 organisations being represented by 255 delegates. The road ahead is very clear and is two pronged – to do one large annual summit and a few mini-summits annually & to offer a forum that is largely online and connects offline to help professionals learn from each other aspects that can only be handed down through experience.


What do you expect the youth to take away from this event – something that will make them return again next year to learn more?

We are hoping the younger delegates will get to interact and listen to senior professionals whom they idolise. Most importantly, here is an event that they can call their own which is truly secular and democratic in every sense. It is not an extended offsite of one PR firm to which everyone’s invited. It is not backed by any single body that makes it polarised. Most of all it is truly an event by and for professionals completely organised by volunteers who in have full-time jobs. We are sure some of the terms that are abused and wrongly used like ‘agency’ and ‘industry’ will be used less and less.


PRAXIS 2012, the flagship event of the PRomise Foundation for Public Relations, a non-profit created to enhance the reputation of the PR profession, is scheduled to take place today and tomorrow (November 23 and 24, 2012). The organisers have invited over 35 speakers who would discussing and deliberating and help steer the industry forward.


The summit will be inaugurated by academic and writer Prof J Vilanilam and followed by an interaction to be moderated by APCO India’s Managing Director Sukanti Ghosh. This will be followed by a keynote address by Deirdre Breakenridge, author of several PR books, speaker and professional communicator, who will talk on the theme “Our Time Is Now” and cover impact of traditional and digital forms of earned communication in her address. Following next would be a panel discussion on Storytelling and Creativity. The Storytelling panel moderated by writer and editor Amrita Salian will have two best-selling novelists Anita Nair and Ashwin Sanghi share tips and tricks on storytelling in the world of fiction that PR professionals can learn from and apply to real life in real time.


The day will proceed with a panel discussion on creativity to be moderated by managing editor of The Holmes Report Arun Sudhaman who will be joined by Founder and Principal of Genesis Burson-Marsteller Prema Sagar, Edelman India’s Managing Director Robert Holdheim, Head of Corporate Communications at Airtel – Deepa Dey and Shweta Shukla, Head of Corporate Communications at Procter & Gamble and Prasanth Chalpalli of creative shop Jack in the Box, the man who led the team that promoted last year’s sensation Kolaveri Di.


The second day would begin with a ‘by invitation’ only breakfast session where N Madhavan, associate editor with Hindustan Times will lead a conversation with the keynote speaker, Deidre Breakenridge on all things communications and digital. The summit will then kick off with two panel discussions that will focus on key challenges that communications and PR professionals are facing increasingly – Measurement and Ethics. The first panel on Measurement will be moderated by Aseem Sood, Director at AMEC and CEO of Impact Research and Measurement. The other panellists include Meenu Handa, Director of Corporate communications at Microsoft India, Shravani Dang – Head of Corporate communications at Avantha Group, Paresh Chaudhry – CEO of Madison Public Relations, Jaideep Shergill -CEO of MSL India and Sunayna Malik – Managing Director of Text 100 India.


The next panel on Ethics would be moderated by Nitin Mantri, CEO of Avian Media and will have Ravi Kiran – Founder of Venture Nursery, Ophira Bhatia – Director of Corporate Affairs at Cadbury India, Valerie Pinto – CEO of Perfect Relations and Yusuf Hatia, Managing Director of Fleishman Hillard India as panellists. The session that follows is a roundtable created to discuss issues concerning young professionals and will be moderated by Summit Co-Chair and Chairperson of PRCAI South, Shane Jacob. This panel has two young entrepreneurs Poonam Ganguly of Media Moments and Neha Rastogi of WordsWork, two young chief communications officers – Shwetank Jain of Future Group and Vikram Kharvi of Tata Housing and one more young professional who will be chosen from a blogging contest.


On high pitch

The 2-day event has received a tremendous response from the industry be it through mere participation or even sponsorship. Sharing his view on the participation and interest being evinced by his firm, Sukanti Ghosh, MD India, APCO Worldwide, who would also be moderating the morning session on day 1 said: “APCO has its management team attending the Summit, as we have a management meeting planned on the sidelines of the event. We are delighted to be an official partner of the event. I, personally, am happy to be one of the Praxis mentors as well.”


Elaborating on his expectations from the 2-day event, Ghosh added saying, “The Indian communications industry has for long needed an objective industry platform that brings together diverse industry voices. Praxis promises to provide just that. I congratulate the organizing committee for conceptualising and bringing to fruition an industry initiative of this nature.”


Presenting his viewpoint, Nitin Mantri, CEO of Avian Media said: “It’s a one-of-a-kind and much-needed event for the PR industry. In our industry, most of our time goes in celebrating events that belong to our clients but this is an opportunity for our members to do so. It’s a step in the right direction and it is good to know that a lot of agency bodies are supporting the initiative.”


When asked about his expectations from the conference, Mr Mantri said he expects the level of interaction to be very high. “The quality of discussions, networking with prominent people etc would all be exciting stuff to do at the event. I think the delegates should look forward to and imbibe as much knowledge as they can from the various seminars and keynote addresses. As for me, I am going to be part of a panel discussion and I also am on the Board of Praxis as well.”


Excited about being a part of the initiative, Jaideep Shergill, CEO, MSL India who will be seen with a large pool of members from his firm, said: “I see the event as one of the big things to happen for our industry. It’s high time we had an independent event for the industry. In fact the event has drawn in a huge response from all quarters, a fact that can be confirmed from the high number of delegates and speakers who would be attending it. Also noteworthy is the fact that this event is not being held in a major metro city which takes the focus away from the Summit as people get busy in meetings and other personal appointments. With Pondicherry as a venue, one can look forward to having a suitable captive audience that’ll attend the sessions. I would say that Praxis will open an opportunity for new ways of doing business for the PR industry.”


The summit sponsors are – Platinum Partner: Edelman India; Gold Partner: Genesis Burson Marsteller and The Content Company; Silver Partners: Impact Research and Measurement, APCO Worldwide, SIMC Pune, Adfactors Group. Other event partners include Avian Media, Sage India, SABMiller India, Sula Wines, Avignyata, Centronics Support, Aircel, Shady Ideas and Westland Books. MxM India is the online media partner while The Holmes Report is the international media partner. PR Moment.In, PR Buddy.Org and Global alliance are strategic partners.


* Disclosure: MxMIndia is a Media Partner of PRAXIS 2012


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