SCORE high with PR!

25 Feb,2015

 

 

For people who have spent all of their professional lives building the reputations of organizations and professionals, this duo just doesn’t believe in their faces doing the talking. Just use the logo, we were told. Thankfully, our phone was out of bounds so we couldn’t be reached, else we would have been persuaded to drop the pictures.

 

Over the last few weeks, over phone calls, text messages and meetings, N S Rajan, Global Partner and Managing Director of Ketchum Sampark and Amith Prabhu, PR professional, MxMIndia columnist and founder of PR conference Praxis have been stitching together plans to set the Indian School of Communications and Reputation (SCoRe). Messrs Rajan and Prabhu were in Mumbai on Tuesday to announce the plans for the institute and meet select media to address questions.

 

SCORE has been set up by a limited liability firm promoted by Messrs Rajan and Prabhu. Although there’s no direct monetary investment made by either of them, the broad arrangement is that while Mr Prabhu will run the institute, Mr Rajan will play the role of a Mentor and also bring in the monies if there is a need. The business plan expects the institute to be in the black from Year 1.

 

The institute is is being established in Gurgaon and while admissions process will start soon, the classes will commence in July. SCORE, according to a communiqué, aims to be a centre of education and research focused on Public Relations, Corporate Communications and Political Communications. The vision is to be the best school for those who want to make a mark in the field of strategic communications. SCoRe will offer a Post-Graduate Diploma in Strategic Communications with two specialisations Political and Corporate.

 

Details of the programmes offered are at www.scoredindia.org

 

 

Students will experience life of being in a workplace at SCORE

 

Q&A with SCORE Chief Mentor N S Rajan and Founding Dean Amith Prabhu

 

Congratulations on the announcement. But having heard more about it, and given that there are various media and management schools offering PR training programmes, one was wondering that since why set up another?

The industry still doesn’t have good number of trained freshers who are pinning their hopes on a career in Public Relations. That explains the overwhelming support of all members of the profession. Moreover, there is a lot that a postgraduate programme in strategic communications can offer, both students and organisations that has been untapped so far.

 

Don’t you think it would’ve been better if you had tied up with an existing player and offered your services to them? Some – if not all – of the institutes do boast of excellent faculty and have been producing quality PR professionals. So why reinvent the wheel?

There is no institute that has been set up by practising professionals. And there is no institute dedicated to Public Relations. If PR has to get its due, it needs an academic management that is focussed on offering various specialisations within the craft without being attached to a larger educational set-up where it remains one of many specialisations. For example, SCORE will offer specialisations in Corporate, Political and Developmental Public Relations. Sometimes a new way of doing things is the best solution. More importantly, the school will aim to be the fountain of talent in the years to come.

 

How is SCORE going to be different from the others?

SCORE will be the only school of its kind dedicated to Public Relations. Something we have broken down into what we do and what we say – Communications and Reputation. Five things will stand out a) The school will be affordable by offering a well thought out programme at a price point that students can pay easily as they start out a career. b) By being located in Gurgaon the school will tap into a wide talent pool of professionals who will teach c) The accessibility of large organisations and PR consulting firms will enable students to work on live projects and real-time assignments d) This will be the first independent school that has the leadership of most of the Top 10 firms supporting it with guarantees of internships that will translate into jobs. E) And lastly, the curriculum is inspired by the leading communications schools of the world offering an intense programme with extensive in-classroom training

 

So, why should students apply?

The programme being offered is like no other. It is carefully planned with the work-life in mind. Students will experience life of being in a workplace at SCORE. They will learn from the best in the profession. Work on live projects. Solve case studies. Make campaign plans. Track news. Consult on projects. Plan events. Meet business leaders. Be equipped to tackle reputational problems. Trained in elements of brand communications, business management and strategic communications in small batches

 

Rajan, when you are recruiting talent, would you prefer to hire talent that’s from a communications/PR school or someone with a general MBA. For, after all, the people at the other end of the table in the form of clients are pedigreed B-schoolers and hence it makes sense to hire people who can match up to them?

As is the case with most graduates coming from school, the industry including the PR fraternity and the firm I have been associated with has had to invest substantially in their training and in many cases retraining to make them unlearn some of the concepts. So in the past we have recruited quite many Management graduates.  Hopefully, the curriculum of SCORE with its emphasis on practical training and case-study based learning along with a holistic learning approach would fill the current void and make the students ‘industry ready’.

 

Or is the hiring of IIM/ISB/etc Tier-1 something that PR firms can never dream of given the price tag?

There are several considerations in the minds of an IIM or an ISB graduate and salary is only one of them. For instance, my own son would prefer to join a start-up.

 

Yes. I do agree as an industry, we have not actively tapped talent with a general management background. The Top management schools better prepare students to work specially in areas like FMCG . We hope the SCORE curriculum and the rigour of the programme places  those choosing a career in Strategic Communications  on par with their peers from general management in terms of being industry ready.

 

Rajan, could you for the benefit of our readers and the fraternity, explain your exact association with SCORE? How did you think of mentoring SCORE? Post-Ketchum Sampark retirement planningJ ?

I have been part of several discussions with industry leaders over time on the need for a practical curriculum for entrants as also training to current young professionals to raise the overall standing of the Industry. This project is to me in a waygiving back to the profession in a small measure the great joy and fulfilment it has given me. SoI am not looking at this as a business venture.

 

Amith has done a yeoman service to all of us in PR by bringing us under one roof with PRAXIS and I felt if the School project was to be truly neutral and independent and stand for the PR industry in India, Amith is best equipped to anchor and run it.  I am gratified that the Industry as a whole and many of my fellow professionals have graciously accepted to participate actively in this venture and I thank them sincerely.

 

At 55, I’m far from retired and I’m looking to build my firm in India. While I initiated the idea it was Amith who, having worked for the fraternity at large, immediately saw the opportunity and agreed to anchor it. I will not be actively involved in the day to day operations other than mentoring the young team that will run the school.

 

Amith, given Rajan’s active association with SCORE and the fact that he’s a veteran PR professional but associated with a large PR firm, did the thought that some PR consultancy professionals/agencies who are rivals of Ketchum Sampark could possibly not encourage your institute?

This institute is being created with a clear purpose. To offer a world-class education at an affordable price to the future managers and leaders of the profession. My biggest strength has been to work on challenging projects without letting biases creep in. Be it the weekly column I write or the annual event I organise, I never take sides. The school offers every PR firm CEO and corporate communications head the option to nominate an individual for the rigorous training programme on the condition that they will hire the student on successful completion of the programme As mentioned by Mr Rajan , I have the mandate to run the school independently and it will be company agnostic .The fact that a large number of leaders from across agencies and companies have agreed to participate whole heartedly is perhaps an indication of the need for such a school as also its neutrality.  I look forward to their continued guidance and counsel in my new avatar as they supported PRAXIS

 

PR firms like having journalists on their fold?  Does the setting up of SCORE imply that trained PR professionals is possibly the way to go rather than getting bored-of-their-journalism-jobs editors?

There is room for everyone. While journalists join PR firm at middle and senior levels bringing in the strength of content creation and media relations. There is always a need for good talent at the entry level as generalists and at other levels as strategists and planners. Some institutes offer PR as a specialisation but do not deep dive to train students in emerging areas where PR is in great demand like the developmental sector or the political arena. Besides, the institutes offer a programme that is expensive thus preventing good talent from embracing it because of price barrier and those that graduate want to work in jobs that have higher starting salaries compared to PR which leads to a brain drain of sorts.

 

Amith, at 34, you would obviously be among the youngest professionals to get into education. Does the fact that you are not been an educator or have too many years into the profession, do you think SCORE wouldn’t be taken too seriously as an educational institute?

I turned 35 this monthJ. Well, I was expecting this question from the media but this question has not come from parents of potential students I have spoken to or from fellow ‘senior’ professionals who have signed up to be on the Academic Council and to teach. Age is no barrier to the success when there is an idea whose time has come. That is why Rajan and I chose to collaborate in creating this programme. A good mix of youth and experience can always create wonders. When I floated the idea of PRAXIS in early 2012 I was 31, and many dissuaded me saying it would have no takers but when people saw the product which was of high calibre and independently done there was overwhelming support. My role is three-fold. To attract the best students and faculty. To be the custodian of something that the professional community has been yearning for. And lastly, to let the programme do the talking. 

 

 

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