Conversations at the Intersection of PR, Traditional & New Media

27 Responses »

  1. Vikram has pointed out stark truth of this profession. Everyone is interested in only one thing – COVERAGE, how you mange to get it is nobody’s problem. It is really sad that we do not spend time in addressing the deep rooted problems. Unless agencies give up the ‘Chalta Hai attitude ‘ , PR pros will be perceived as idiots.

  2. Facts mentioned in the post is relevant to the current scenario in India in PR domain. But these are going to change in future due to the technologies that PR department uses. . Probably we will look for a good engineering or technology background in a PR person in future.

  3. Recently, I have been thinking a lot of international PR. This blog caught my attention right away. It is amazing to me how different India’s culture works with social media and their opinion’s about it. I would love to travel to India one day and volunteer at a PR organization to gain the inside scoop of everything. Thank you for posting this blog!

  4. Dear Sri Vikram Kharvi

    Your ice and nexhaustive observations about the PR profession in our country indicates very pathetic. It is a neglected sector remains only on paper and in speeches. No far or fore sight as how the profession should be made up to the growing needs of the society has been thought over. As you say the attitude of ‘chalta hai’ (I may add ‘chalne do’)is prevailing in regard to the PR profession what to talk of training etc.,

    A revolutionary change has to take place in ‘reforming’ the PR in the country as otherwisw PR would lose its significance in the coming days, but then , who has to ‘bell the cat’ ! Atleast you have rung an alarming bell in advance.

  5. Agree on most of the aspect, and let me clarify M not from PR b/g.

    However i have seen Social media is emerging and people are
    spending/giving dedicated resource etc, at the same time!

    Do you think, each PR firm will fully/partially turn to Social media in future?

  6. No matter how much social media is impactful, traditional PR will be a must…

    From a bigger picture brands and organizations would like to look at PR services on both fronts together.. Some of the known agencies do that but the workforce for Social Media PR guys have to be a powerhouse team.

    I can understand that brands may look into Traditional PR but would also look at Online Reputation Management.

  7. Great article Vikram, agree with your thoughts on scenario of PR in India. But with regard to training, I strongly believe is that each individual has to take responsibility to equip himself/herself to acquire the required skillset in any industry. In today’s fast paced environment no one really has the time to mentor anyone. Every individual needs to chart out their growth plan by assesing current skillset,identify knowledge gaps and take appropriate action in order to fill those gaps.

  8. Totally agree with Richa,

    While we must share some bit of initial training, what we need to do is present good role models that they can follow. A very good way of training youngsters is to follow the right practices that you spoke about on terms of media targeting and client understanding. We learn what we see and these freshers are not some school goers who need classroom lessons on these. If they see this being followed by their team members they will learn that as the way of operating.

    That’s how we have learnt. We were never given any training beyond the initial intro to the client. We learnt by observing our seniors and following their ethics and practices.

    Fortunately I had some really good seniors who I could respect and follow. I hope we are able to make such seniors and the training will take care of itself.

    As far as indian clients asking and counting clips is concerned, I have worked with several and often only US, UK and Singapore clients, from the supposedly evolved IT sector who are big names. And trust me they were found to be even more stingy in terms of measurement. Yes one difference was that along with the number their focus was on messaging also, say about 50:50. But that came only after the number were met.

    Its the mind set that needs to change. Clients are the same all over I feel.

  9. Hi,

    I agree with Richa when she says that every individual must take responsibility for his/her own training. But I strongly disagree that there’s no time for mentoring in our fast paced world. Newcomers today are quite focused and can pick up the finer tricks of the trade real fast.

    Ours is one of the more people oriented professions and seniors can really help youngsters in understanding and building relationships and knowledge base. From my personal experience I’ve seen, it doesn’t take much time. The results, rather, can be quite gratifying.


  10. I agree with you priyadarshni. We always learn by observing things. Not by learning

  11. Excellent thought Vikram!

    In fact, I must tell you that we take pains in explaining to new joiners right from the basics of PR. I personally tell them not to forget the text book definition of PR – Deliberate, Planned and Sustained effort – to learning the art of multi-tasking. Agency PR is all about multi-tasking. Unlike in advertising where you have client servicing people are different from creative people, in PR the client servicing person has also to plan and execute and he or she cant afford to leave it to some one else.

    And I try to drill this simple example of multi-tasking that we see and experience at our homes: The Mother is the shining example of multi-tasking. Just observe the way she works. She is the first to rise and last to go to bed!

    I dont think these kind of live examples are taught in any school or college.

    And one more aspect that many youngsters ignore – reading.

    I still remember, when I was in my journalism school, we had an opportunity to meet the legendary journalist-columnist Kuldip Nayar. He told us to read and read a lot.

    A word about God Google! It is an excellent resource, but need not always be the most reliable. Google just throws up what is posted. Much of it could be biased, one sided information. Take, weigh it and use it.

    Remember, information is the most potent weapon!

    I agree with your analysis of the types of people brought into the PR system.

    Ex-journalists do have an edge since they understand the functioning of the media, but in some cases they lack strategic thinking. For instance, if a story cannot be sold to a particular media in a straight jacket format, many do not know how to go about with it! Then the client obviously gets upset and screams: Why have I hired you guys?!

    A story can be told in ten different ways. We must try and find our way out.

    I know I am sounding like a lecturer and some forum members could well react: Boss, it’s easier said than done!

    But let’s be practical. As Vikram rightly pointed out how many us – the so-called seniors – do mentoring? I have come across many cases where youngsters are left to learn swimming through correspondence courses!

    And, I fully endorse the opinion that PR in India is still at its nascent stage. In fact it has begun to evolve but some recent development have tarnished the image of PR professionals as being fixers.
    Having said that, we must strive through this and other forums to do some churning of thoughts and leave good thoughts for the youngsters to ponder over.

    I am making all out efforts to set up a platform to bring together experienced PR professionals and even corporate honchos to impart skill development programmes.

    Please watch this space!


  12. the finest article on PR i ever read….!!!
    Amazing work sir..!!!

  13. 2 things:
    1. It’s important to gain thorough knowledge of the industry one is handling and therefore lot of stress should be on research and as mentioned ‘right’ research.
    2. Constant advice and feedback from seniors is essential, alongside a person’s self-will to learn.

    Nice read, because the issues pointed out are bang on true!

  14. I agree with you that in India the job market for PR/corporate communication is not that dynamic as it is in other advanced economies.

    In fact, I’m looking for a position in corporate communication.

    I’m a French speaking MBA graduate in Marketing from SKEMA Business School of Paris.I’ve degrees from the best universities of India and from elite schools of France.

    Currently I’m working as Business Development Consultant at Oracle. I’m fluent in French, English and Hindi.

    Do you have any advise for a person with my profile for entering into corporate comm/PR?

  15. Vikram – I agree with your observations. However, the industry is also to blame for its current state.

    1. PR professionals are averse to asking clients “what more can we do for you”. A case in point is how agencies are no longer even doing media monitoring for clients to share the number of media mentions.

    2. PR professionals do not want to spend time with clients to understand their business and propose suitable avenues for publicity – More often than not, the expectation is that the internal PR/ marketing team will reach out to them with the content so they just have to liaise with the journalist to push these stories.

    3. PR professionals do not want to look at client relationships from a long term perspective and hence do not offer options like syndicated contributons to clients. Further, the entire client engagement is more transaction driven than strategic.

    4. PR professionals role in crisis communication is severely diminished. They prefer lying low and not advising the client on what action needs to be taken.

    5. PR professionals do not want to enter into client relationships where there are metrics and benchmarks to measure effectiveness on each project.

    6. Somewhere done the line the industry and PR professionals have limited the definition of PR to just the mainstrem mass media. Today, with the prevalnce of social media and increased emphasis on peer group publicity, mass media is just one of the marketing channels for companies. PR agencies. professionals are unable to assess how else the client should be leveraged. Eg: They offer little or no support in reaching out to industry body associations such as CII.

    This might seem like a rant, but all these aspects are a reality today and the industry needs to work on this. Else, you will have marketing professionals doubling up and doing a better job of PR.

  16. I completely agree with Archana, PR professional needs to a strategic communications consultant rather than an office executive eying on media opportunities.

    But having said that also want to make a point that clients also don’t prefer consulting agencies at time of crisis…. probably the relationship gradually evolves to giving orders and following them…

  17. I completely agree with Vikram’s Point of view and likewise second what Archana says. PR professionals are perceived more or less as salesman by the media. There is a dire need to reform PR etiquette and rebuild the reputation of the PR industry itself. The first step towards that is making the client understand that the role of a PR professional is not merely to get stories published or ensure positive coverage. Stress has to be laid on various other activities that a PR professional can carry out hence widening the scope for the agency and the client. Brand building is not limited to obtaining print / electronic coverage. There is a lot more that goes into building , rebuilding brands.

    Client Servicing in the Advertising industry has obtained a certain respect which the PR industry hasn’t. Not many understand that PR-Client Servicing can be as creative or vivacious as Advertising Client Servicing is, if given a certain free hand.

  18. Absolutely right, PR in India is still in its teens…….

  19. I think when PR consultants are managing media issues they build the reputation of the profession when they genuinely act like an “outsourced news room”, giving the right advice to the client (even if they do not want to hear it) and quality media releases and ideas for stories to the media. Then some respect arises. What do you think?

  20. while i agree on some level …i also believe that it is a two way process…the trust, commitment and collaboration within the two parties is extremely critical. i have had personal experiences when these exists the results are phenomenal

  21. PR is evolved when the client drives PR and there is a strong collaboration between the the agency in partnering to achieve a very clearly defined objective. Otherwise it is all about computing the clips and meeting the deliverables every quarter.

  22. I can certainly say with my first hand experience setting up business in India where we engaged a PR agency was nothing short of a disaster. Learnt heaps in the process and am more than willing to help any enterprise wanting to enter India and needs any guidance on the things they should and should not be doing….This is a gift from me to you at no cost…Be in touch…

  23. Dear Vikram,

    The problem you have stated is absolutely right. If you look at the attrition rate figures for PR industry, they suffice as the proof of your problem.

    And as you said, the ‘Chalta hai’ attitude still persists, no one is bothered much about it. But good and niche PR agencies with ethics address the problem in a very professional manner( as they train their new recruits for atleast 6 months or an year), while most of PR agencies follow Indian ‘Lala’ culture which is hurting both the industry and people who are employed in the industry, where the only focus is to get business, no matter whether you will be able to work for the new client or not.
    I am not going to take any names here. :)

    Also, you were right about the perception of the new recruits most of them target for an advertising / marketing opportunity but land in PR industry; and since they don’t get what they are after, in first place kills the very interest to work and that desire to work, further diminishes when the new recruits gets to see the original picture of journalism (it can happen in very initial days of joining or may take some months as well).

    Its these Lala type PR agencies which are killing the PROFESSIONAL PR culture, per se. Because they are not able to control the expectations of clients and they kneel down to the requirements of the client, without even informing them that things are not possible.

    Its important to put your feet down and let your client know, about what to expect from PR. There is a misconception among clients, that PR can result in high sales directly. Which is not possible, PR can only build the image of the company which can further lead to improved brand image. PR should not be compared with advertising and sales promotion, they are different marketing tools for absolutely different stake-holders. Its this difference which needs to by conveyed to the clients. Clients can only be educated about this difference by the senior professionals of the agency. Once a client understands this difference, the demand for the QUANTITY of coverage will automatically decrease and QUALITY of coverage increases. Which is good for the PR agency, its employees and the client as well.

    Coming to the point of students, you are right that they are only told about the operational part of the job. Whereas, they should be told about the practicalities and soft-skills required for the job. It is required because tackling media is an important aspect of a PR person’s job and one never knows how a media person may behave in a particular situation. So, its important that team leads / managers should keep weekly workshops / sessions to discuss on an open platform the different experiences they or their other team members had in past when handling media-person(s). But for this to happen they have to have time in their hand, instead of just running after to get new business. And i believe its better to use this approach because I have read and experienced that, its better to retain a current client then to acquire a new one.

    So, the change has to come in the minds of those Lala type PR agencies, that, you cant have everything in you plate. And its better to have QUALITY then QUANTITY.

    Abhishek Saxena :)

  24. Insightful….No wonder i see a huge gap and dearth of a good PR Agency. Most of the corp comm manager and CEO I have found have complaints regarding their existing PR Agency.

  25. Great to read so many comments & niggling concerns & issues raised. With my experience of being a business journalist for 8 years & last 12 years in PR agency, corporate comm function & now as an independent PR strategist – its also about our inability to take the client along in this journey & move beyond media relations & col. cms as a barometer of our work.

    Due to poor recruitment policies, lack of any skill development programs and business pressures – we don’t engage clients and allow them to have multiple agencies offering advertising, branding, digital, films. The PR agency gets the brief at the end – voila for pushing it in the media. Only if we can upgrade to ensure the briefing for all agencies happens together – we can help clients develop a single unifying thread of communication, irrespective of which medium is used and make ourselves more worthy of client attention and also move up the value chain from pure media relations also.

    We should also ensure that we can work towards developing a Stakeholder Engagement Plan especially for companies executing projects sector agnostic so that a proper communication channel is established and regular information exchange happens keeping everybody updated on developments.

    Working as a Reputation Advisor working with clients in Healthcare, IT, Realty & Power Sector – am able to take these clients on a journey of communication panning media relations, advertising, branding, internal & marketing communications – brochure/flyer/website/films, CSR & stakeholder engagement and issue/crisis communications and work with different vendors but am the clients’ single face for all communication stitched together with a uniform message running across any medium used by the clients. it has been helping me so far and clients trust my judgement – I also share my experience with some lectures & academic pursuits in the field of Public Relations and constantly looking for new ideas, trends and willing to learn always.

  26. Every word written in the article holds true for our profession in India. I’m totally with you on it Vikram. Investing quality time in research and training is the key to differentiate yourself from the other mediocre agencies mushrooming all across. Over loading employees with work with little involvement of the senior resources is a situation that must be changed.

    The initiative has to be taken by agencies where I feel a simple 2 step change can take us a long way.

    1. Do not compromise on fees. Sure, competition will tempt you but do not give in to delivering poor quality work for a lower retainer fees.
    2. Don’t over stress employees with more number of clients and make research and training a part of employee KRAs. That’s the only way to ensure that this happens. In the long run it will keep your employees as well as your clients happy.


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Disclaimer: The thoughts expressed by me in this blog are my personal views and do not represent the views of my employer or the organizations I have been associated with. I believe in the principle of sharing information. Feel free to link to any of the posts in this blog.
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