Charu Raizada: The Delusion faced by PR

22 Jun,2018

By Charu Raizada

 

The good news is that PR is no longer considered the poor cousin of advertising and has carved a distinctive place for itself over the years. Regarded and appreciated by marketers, the industry continues to prove its worth through successful campaigns. Today, it is recognised as an industry which is clocking a double digit growth and is projected to reach Rs 2000 crore by 2020 as per Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI). Ironically, mired in controversies, PR professionals continue to be subjects of jibes from journalists and sometimes even clients. I remember in the early days of my career (much before the days of social media), one scathing comment from a senior journalist (god rest her soul) left a scar for life and shook my confidence in the profession. Till today I continue to draw strength from that comment and use the negativity to fuel positivity to the profession.

 

There is no denying that the PR industry continues to face TRUE challenges – Talent, Respect, Understanding and Engagement. So what do we do to ensurea better future for the industry, is a question we need to ask ourselves.

 

Talent:

This has been the industry’s perennial bane of contention. While the defence may argue that the problem of talent is common across industries, there is no denying the fact that globally (not just in India) attracting and retaining talent is the biggest challenge facing the PR industry.

 

So where are we going wrong? To answer this question, we need to go to the root of the problem. Ever wondered why watching ‘DahiHandi’ is so fascinating? The success of DahiHandi is in the team effort. In this exercise, the most crucial stage is the one in which people in the lowermost tier, who sit while the pyramid is being set up, have to stand up. Only when they stand, balancing the entire pyramid on their shoulders does Krishna get the butter. In their growth lies Krishna’s success. In the growth of the junior most person in the team, lies a PR firm’s success.

 

Often we find, as leaders we tend to get carried away by our personal goals. The onus lies on us to make the time to train our junior colleagues and cultivate a sustainable pipeline of talent. It’s important to have clarity on the common goal and encourage an environment of openness.

 

Secondly, no more can we restrict ourselves to sourcing talent from within the industry. As PR firms continue to transition into offering integrated communications, there is a growing need for multiple skill sets related to visualisation, data analytics and digital.

 

Respect:

I empathise with the youngsters in the PR industry as managing the pressures and demands of the managers and clients can be overwhelming. Public shaming by journalists acts as fuel to the fire. There is more to PR than what meets the eye. The PR industry is full of some real sharp minds – brains behind the success of many brands and companies. We are not an industry of con men or fixers but thinkers, guided by intellect and strategic decisions. Like all professions, yes, there are loopholes and we tend to make mistakes. But is it fair to write off the whole industry?

 

As PR professionals, everything that we do is focused towards people’s views and attitudes. So what can we do to earn respect from journalists, clients and even peers? Let us begin by sharing knowledge and resources to avoid being the butt of insensitivity. Go back to school and adapt the elementary i.e. Read, question and learn for better awareness, a necessary safeguard against being caught in a tricky situation in front of a journalist or a client. Lastly, strive to complete each assignment or task on time.

 

Understanding:

A shout out to all the brand guardians and marketing heads – PR is not about juggad for some space in a media outlet. We are consultants. Reach out to us if you believe in our abilities to aid your business objectives. PR has evolved to include social, digital, influencer outreach. So it is surprising when companies sometimes hire different firms for each function or entrust us with only media relations. The foundation of communications weakens when compartmentalised like this, leading to a compromise on the effectiveness of the function. Help us help you better with an integrated approach. PR professionals have always been responsible for building the message house and igniting meaningful conversations amongst stakeholders. The tools we use – traditional or new age, is a decision we wish to be trusted with based on our experience and knowledge.

 

Engagement:

Finally, it is imperative that we all engage with each other for a fulfilling partnership. Brands, learn to trust your PR firm. If you have entrusted them with a task, rest assured they will take the best path in the interest of your business. Confide in them. Selective information could lead to a crisis or may prove to be damaging to the reputation. We ain’t sharing your secrets with competition.

 

The historical love hate relationship between journalists and PR professionals too could take a distinct turn with engagement. We hope to strengthen our relationship with relevant and interesting information, sans the clichés and errors, but for that we need to work with you as partners.

 

Interestingly, the talent challenge too can be ironed out to a large extent with engagement for a motivated and a productive team.

 

Truce!

 

With nearly two decades in the PR business, Charu Raizada is currently on a ‘jobbatical’, sharpening skills to meet new challenges. She can be reached via Twitter at @charuraizada. The views here are personal

 

 

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