Siddhartha Mukherjee: Humility & Quality wins over ‘Dude’ Culture

23 Oct,2015

By Siddhartha Mukherjee

 

“Why do you want to take up a job in PR Industry?’, a common question a lot of us ask while interviewing candidates. Pronto comes a common answer:  “ …because I like meeting people.” For those who find this response completely normal and healthy, I don’t want to comment any further. This particular column is not for them. However, for those who find this to be a wrong signal or symptom, my response will be – Let’s Talk!

 

Till recent times, interviewing candidates used to be a harrowing experience. The various audio and visual symptoms/ signals candidates from PR Agencies, Corporate Communications etc would display have often made me wonder if our Industry’s so called talent pool will be spelling its doomsday.

 

While ‘Jugaad/Fixing’, unfortunately though, still continues to be the core ideology behind certain clients hiring PR services, the good news, however, is that a large part of the client set have started gathering around he the need to build brands, nothing short of it. To meet such expectations, PR firms have started attracting “Quality, Well qualified and Humble” talent pool – specifically those who understand brands. Those who do not believe that meeting people or journalists is the mainstay of this business. Those who understand that Public Relations is all about Input, Output and a final Outcome. And that this business requires research and a very systematic measurement/ appraisal system.

 

Our PR firms are trying their best to take a positive U-turn, as fast as possible. They are doing everything possible to attract and sustain them with rigorous training processes. They are making it clear to their teams that client servicing is no longer meeting, fixing or just a press release exercise. In short, life is not going to be the same!

 

Dassera 2015 marks our Industry’s beginning of the victory march over the following ten evils or hurdles that was stopping our professionals transform from jugaadus/ fixers to brand-building partners:

 

1. Agency Professionals have started Reaching Client Meetings on Time: There was a time when the Client Servicing teams of PR Firms were (ill) reputed to never reach on time. Despite pre-decided meeting schedule, clients (corporate communications and its internal customers) have been kept waiting for the (grand) agency team to reach the meeting venue at their own leisure and convenient time. Today, amazing examples of punctuality are being displayed by teams across Agencies.

2. Agency team is well-prepared for the meeting: For most of the agencies and their team members, the answer to the core question of why the client is doing PR remained a grey area. More so, no one wanted to know the answer. Attendance in meetings was a customary formality. Preparations through research, Asking the right questions, Presenting a scientific plan, etc was a rarity. Today, however, client servicing teams are coming well-prepared. They are asking the right questions, working out a crisp brief, and clearly working out the blocks of Input, Output and Outcome. They know that they have to move the cheese and that they are accountable towards an objective!

3. Agency team is geared up to meet CXOs: As a continuation from the above, PR firms are getting more reasons and opportunities to meet the CXOs. Earlier, owing to their typical traits of punctuality and (lack of) preparedness, the corporate communications team wasn’t so sure of introducing the agency to his/ her internal CXO customers. Today, that hesitation is slowly fading away.

4. Agencies are opening up to working with External & Neutral PR Research & Measurement firms: There was a time, when external and neutral PR research and measurement firms were considered as Roman agents by many PR firms. Today, that thought process is drastically fading away. They are opening up to working with such firms not only towards various possibilities of research but also in terms of getting their client work measured and audited.

5. Clients allocating higher budgets to PR Tool: That paid media (ads and sponsorships) have started delivering declining ROIs is becoming an increasingly known fact. No wonder then, CXOs are being forced to depend equally (if not more) on Earned Media/PR initiatives. Monies are being allocated accordingly. A down-the-line beneficiary of this should be the PR Agency talent pool.

6. Corp Comm gaining importance over Marcom: Generally speaking, at one point of time, PR industry was known as the product launch machinery. Marcom used to rule the roost. In today’s Reputation Economy, CorpComm and corporate brand is taking centre stage. PR Firms and their talent pool are having to transition accordingly.

7. Clients are preparing detailed, scientific briefs for PR Agency Teams: Yes, the flipside of all this is that CorpComm teams are getting better and timely briefs from internal CXOs. This, relatively better, brief is bring passed on to their agencies for better ideation and implementation.

8. Clients hiring and firing of Agencies becoming more stringent: Gone are the days when PR agencies would cakewalk into a new client business with just a credentials presentation. So is the case with clients firing agencies. Recruitment of an agency and firing it is no longer that easy. Stringent metrics are being worked out for entry and exit into a client’s life.

9. Industry Events and Awards cropping up slowly to acknowledge talent: An average of two-three PR/Corporate Communication award functions are being held each year to highlight work done by Agencies and specific team members.

10. Course Curriculum & Recruitment process being revamped across Institutes: That a fresher will have spent making news clippings dockets during the first six months (to a year) of his/ her career in a PR agency or CorpComm department is breaking down, though slowly. No wonder, course curriculums, quality of faculty and guest lectures are seeing a drastic change.

 

The march towards victory has started. The army of PR professionals are proactively carrying the torch of doing PR for PR. Their audio and visual touchpoints of PR professionals are reflecting thought, sophistication, poise and above all, humility.

 

The industry has realised there was a Ravana with sins. Now, they themselves are out there to destroy it.

 

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a senior PR industry professional and currently Senior Vice President, Eikona – Earned Media Planning, Audit and Advisory. The views expressed here are his own.

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