Amith Prabhu: Public Relations for dummies

28 Oct,2013

By Amith Prabhu


This column aims to explain in less than 700 words the world of Public Relations to those who most often think that the profession is all about wining, dining and planting stories. Time and again we come across people including our elders at home, who worked in traditional professions who want to know what really goes on in Public Relations. I was to write the second part of the theme I focused on last week but decided to postpone that to next week as I needed more time to research that topic better and write about this because two people from advertising I recently met in Chicago asked me what really goes on in Public Relations.


I’m not going to define Public Relations as that is been done by several experts over the years. I’m hoping to use five bullet points and help explain the core of this profession that one can use to share with those who are curious. This comes from a collection of thoughts from over a decade of being in this business.


I like to begin by stating that PR firms are not agencies and the PR community is not an industry. Both these terms have been wrongly used for the want of a better word and it misleads people to think PR firms are like ad agencies. I always believe PR companies are more like law firms as the basis for what we do is rooted in consulting. Hence advising clients on what is the right thing to do and counseling them when the wrong thing is done is a significant part of the job.


PR firms work with various types of clients, helping them do things that enhance their reputation. Traditionally, this included getting third party endorsements through media coverage and the notion that is all that PR does has stayed. PR goes beyond that to include employee engagement, crisis communications, investor relations, blogger outreach, social media management, government relations and several other strategic and tactical things.


The profession is rooted in communications – at the right time, to the right audiences and using the right medium. If the time, the audience and the medium are not mapped and matched then the effort is in vain. Hence PR professionals need to have an eye for detail, an ear to the ground and a sharp nose to smell the floating fragrances. Getting coverage in 24 publications on a Monday is pointless if the only publication the audience reads is the 25th one and that too on a Sunday.


Public Relations is about proactivity. Taking those important steps on behalf of the oragnisation or brand to highlight social responsibility, corporate governance or even an issue that has the potential to blow into a messy situation. Hence the job can be 24/7 and involves a lot of strategic thinking.


Ultimately, PR is 10% part of the 4th P of Marketing as Publicity can also be got by paying for it. It is 90% a management function and an important one at that with a direct impact on the company’s fortunes. Several CEOs who understand the value of this function lead it subtlety by getting the in-house head of PR to directly report to them rather than to the marketing head.


I’m sure over the last six to seven decades of this profession’s formal existence in the western hemisphere and in the last two decades of being part of India people in few professions have tried to malign the profession for vested interests. Advertising folks have considered PR to be a poor cousin, lawyers have deemed to be story stoppers and marketers have thought of it as being a column centimeter coverage generators. In addition a few quacks masquerading as wheeler dealers have brought disrepute to the profession. But PR has always held its ground and of late is coming into its own by carving a niche for itself in the world of social, political, business and media management. PR is indispensable to build a good reputation. And it starts within.


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2 responses to “Amith Prabhu: Public Relations for dummies”

  1. Raja says:

    PR is a very fluid job .. needs to evolve every second, as per the dynamics of the company as well as the perception that it wishes to generate vis a vis the one that actually gets portrayed against the one that gets implanted on the target audience..a real tough cookie this one. Needs a quick thinking head and a real cool cool one, just like you. Envy you for doing what you love.