Amith Prabhu: How Public Relations can win back the respect it deserves!

21 Oct,2013

By Amith Prabhu


Exactly a year ago I read an article and realized that PR has to work harder to keep a strong reputation in order to make those who invest in it realize its value, those who choose to study it and make a career out of it realize its potential and to those who know of it and read about it realize its significance.


Several people have written blogs and columns on this topic and most often the issue gets brushed aside or pushed under the carpet. I am writing this column purely in the Indian context having spent the large part of the last decade in India. I will also touch upon this next week with specific reference to how a key stakeholder in our business – the journalist thinks of the PR professional. This column is with reference to clients – both those who understand and those who do not understand the concept of Public Relations.


Most in-house professionals who engage with their consultancy counterparts have worked with a consultancy in the early days of their career and understand its inner working. Quite often, the in-house professional not only knows more about Public Relations but definitely knows more about the business they operate in. This is the first level of where superiority develops.


Next comes the two most essential traits that consultants fail to develop – an undying commitment to the client’s cause because he or she works on multiple clients and cannot dedicate time and effort in entirety and because several of us fail to develop a thorough understanding of the sector our client operates in, quickly. In addition to this time for industry knowledge enhancement and time to focus on creative thinking and strategic planning is limited. This leads to a fractured relationship in many cases thus lowering the respect that comes from the client in many instances.


The third aspect which leads to Public Relations getting no respect is where the client thinks that the only job of PR is to get press coverage for any and everything that the client considers news and this mentality has to change on both sides. The PR consultancy needs to push back and educate the client (this generally happens when the client is from marketing and has not had prior PR consultancy experience) that PR is not at all about media coverage but is much more than that. Media coverage is just a byproduct of a number of other things that are done to enhance the reputation of the client’s brand.


Lastly, clients confuse PR with advertising and expect a Return on Investment (ROI). I do not think PR efforts can ever have an ROI. What PR efforts can have is an ROO or a Return on Objective. Where a set of objectives set up at the beginning of a campaign can be evaluated to see if they were met. And media coverage or clips can never be an objective.


If these four are sorted from Day One of a relationship – treating each other as equal partners and not as vendor or supplier; following the FCUK principle of Focus, Commitment, Understanding and Knowledge; Educating client that PR is not about media coverage and that PR is about ROO and not ROI – the profession can bring win back the respect it deserves. It is in our hands to make it or break it and the chances are higher that we will make it.


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