Amith Prabhu: Why is Public Reputation Management widely misunderstood

18 Aug,2014

By Amith Prabhu


In the start-up I run, I work with a tiny bunch of political clients helping them embrace the power of communications and enhance their public reputation. Kindly note the absence of the term Public Relations. They are in a phase that most corporate clients were in a decade ago – completely focused on media relations.


They find it hard to believe that Public Reputation Management is a science and not just an art of charming and buttering which may have been the case 20 years ago. But the good news is there is a change in mindset that is slowly evolving.  Let’s examine why there is a complete misunderstanding of our profession by clients and potential clients.


We do not position right – We are unable to communicate accurately about what we do because we have not taken the pains to get together and find an elevator pitch that make sense. We are questioned by family, friends and random acquaintances and most often than not we end up cutting a sorry figure. Many end up thinking we are in the sophisticated courier business.


We do not behave like lawyers – PR firms began after the World War II in order to help some smart organizations capitalize on earned media. Firms were designed like law firms and expected to achieve an objective for a fee. Commissions were not paid because remuneration was on a project fee or retainer for consultancy and execution similar to how lawyers first advised a client and then argued a case in court – our courts are the many stakeholders and they make the judgment on how well we offer or position our product.


We do not convey that what we do is a science and not just an art – Recently, a client of mine wanted me to change the format of a mobile press conference (yes – you read it right, a press conference on wheels) with a 12-hour notice. On telling him that the new plan would not only pose security risks but also hamper positive coverage, he retorted by saying security should not be the worry of PR, just getting positive stories should be. The science I’m referring to is about taking into account every detail to ensure a good reputation only gets better.


We do not train journalists who move into the profession to understand what we do better – Very often journalists are hired by PR firms without a proper orientation on what encompasses the business of public reputation management. They in turn fail to realise there is much, much more to the profession than mere media relations. I have interacted with a few in the recent past and feel sad that the firms hiring them are not being fair to them.


We do not measure our efforts in a pre-defined manner – Public Reputation professionals rarely go to their bosses or clients with a focus on measuring their campaigns so that they can be evaluated in a fair and just manner. Measurement is mostly an after-thought. This only hampers making us come across as serious professionals. Hope this changes for the better.


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