The Anchor: 5 challenges that PR in India still grapples with

26 Nov,2012

By Vivek Rana


PR is coming into its own in India, with more and more companies recognizing that strategic communication can help build brand equity and support a company’s marketing goals more effectively than other disciplines. As the industry evolves, and principles of human behavioral change become core to spirit of communication, there are a number of dilemmas its members have to ponder over, to move the needle forward. Here are a few of these challenges:


#1 Identifying the target market: When they are up against the wire, many PR professionals reach for a generic set of tactics that ignore target market demographics or preferences. Since success depends on correctly defining the audience, practitioners must have a firm handle on this aspect before they roll out a PR campaign or initiative. Studying customer profiles, consumption patterns, market research reports or other relevant data will help in this direction. Relevancy of stakeholders is key to a successful program.


#2 Looking beyond print: The Indian PR industry continues to be fixated with print coverage with results often measured in column centimeters or some variant of this. In today’s world, people get their news from many different sources, spanning traditional and new media. So, PR professionals must encourage both themselves and their clients to invest to measurements tools that look at direct impact on behavior. After all Public Relations is not just media relations. This approach will also help identify the most relevant channels that resonate best with the target audience.


#3 Do not compromise on creativity for ‘paid editorial’: We have heard enough on the debate around paid editorial v. earned editorial. While this trend becomes an increasingly mainstream practice, the concerning factor is that many PR professionals are willing to compromise on being creative, on walking that extra mile, because yes its easy to pay and get written about! And when you have a willing client, voila! To be sustainable and maintain credibility innovation and good ideas will continue to hold you valuable and in business.


#4 Ethics and Integrity: The challenge today is not that we do not communicate enough; we just do not communicate in a manner that displays integrity and ethics. Everyone seems to be in the race to “kill stories”, influence the media through relationships and not by providing accurate, unambiguous messages.  Often I meet candidates at an interview to gloat about how they are skilled to “STOP PRESS” and I start wondering what drug is he on! Respect the intelligence of the media, and partner with them to ensure they have access to clear and genuine information.


#5 A need to raise the bar: Mediocrity can crop up in many forms in the PR industry’s output: a poorly written press release, an uninspired campaign, a campaign strategy that is not based on research, a lack of attention to detail… the list goes on. On the flip side, when substandard quality is accepted and condoned by clients, it gives PR professionals little reason to up their game.


The good news is that these are problems that are now acknowledged by many in the industry.


Let’s not remain armchair reformists. Let’s lead the change.


Vivek Rana is Principal at The PRactice


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