Conversations at the Intersection of PR, Traditional & New Media

Make Yourself an Expert

how-to-find-expert-adviceThe most valuable people in any organisation have deep smarts — business-critical expertise built up through years of experience which helps them make wise and take swift decisions. If you wish to become this go-to person in your company, but don’t have the time or opportunity to accumulate all the experience of your predecessors, acquire the knowledge in a different way — by reading. Yes, very simply said but hardly practised these days.

I remember when I joined the PR business at a junior level, I had to daily read so many newspapers, track not only client coverage but even the industry related coverage and later prepare two separate dossiers and email to the client. This used to be the routine morning job atleast for three hours, and unknowingly what we gained was an understanding about what was happening in the industry the client operated in, which section a particular type of story gets carried and we were able to update ourselves on which journalists covers which beat. This knowledge that we had gained was very useful for drafting PR plans for existing clients and for creating new PR pitches for prospective clients. This also enabled us to have quality discussions with the media, where we were able to demonstrate our knowledge of the domain the journalist is operating in, earning us our share of credibility. This knowledge often helped us to confidently have a good discussion with a client about his business and offer your views on possible trends in the future.

As fresh PR professionals we were often asked by our seniors to read books on various subjects ranging from PR and communications to business management and economy. In fact, I was also fortunate to have worked with a boss, a tech PR Stalwart – Arnab Mukherjee at Adfactors PR, who asked us to make a presentations based on the articles printed in ‘The Economist’ aided with our own research. Imagine that first you have the task of making sense of what’s written in a magazine like ‘The Economist’ and then create a presentation on the basis of an article written in the magazine, which is on world economy, depression,  the crisis in Europe . It was difficult to sleep the day before the presentation and this torture came our way almost every month. Honestly, I hated so much of extra work then, but today I thank him for making us go through it and sitting along with us, helping us understand the broader socio-economic, political issues not only of our country but across the world. Because of this training I feel myself at an advantage in many peer level discussions today.

Today, the world and our own profession is moving towards automation and getting technologically smarter. Today, most of us don’t have the time to read newspapers; we get all the client and industry coverage tracked from a monitoring vendor. It is not only delivered in our inbox even before we enter office but is also sent to our clients. Therefore, we no longer have to take the trouble of going through those reports unless there is any client specific coverage. Social media has overpowered us so much that our lives have shrunk to less than 140 characters. Who, then, will then extend themselves to newspapers, magazines and books lying on the shelves? It is tough even if you have a Kindle or a tablet at our disposal.

Our fast-paced lives are killing our reading habits and you know what we are losing out on? Knowledge – this can’t be fed only through 140 characters. It is only knowledge that can make us more experienced than what we have actually experienced. 

Here are three quick tips to restart the reading habit:

1. Start with at least two major newspapers every day – one business paper and a general newspaper. If you can add at least one regional language newspaper or an English language paper, even better. So if you are a Hindustan Times reader, try to add The Hindu or a paper with a different perspective such as The Indian Express.

2. When you get comfortable with this routine, add a Feedly account to scan news about your area of interest on a daily basis. It just taken an hour every day and you will get some of your best ideas from here.

3. Make a habit of writing down observations and story ideas from what you read. It will help you track the current environment as well as industry sentiment beyond Twitter and Facebook.

Choice is yours, the newspapers and magazines still arrive in your offices at the scheduled time every day.

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Categorised in: Management, Public Relations, Vikypedia Exclusives

13 Responses »

  1. Hi Vikram,

    I so much agree with your thoughts. Freshers today they don’t want to read at all. Often I have heard from them reading newspapers and making dossiers are a clerical job and they think they are meant to do a job which involves client interactions, media pitches and anything that they see their respective seniors are doing . I remember we were supposed to read almost all newspapers everyday and my Boss used to ask us the headlines of the day of the major publications. We understood so many sectors and competition only by doing competitive and industry analysis.

    By reading newspaper/magazines daily we learnt who writes for what section and that helped us in initiating conversation with the journalist . I am not even sure how many practices sending one line texts to the journalist telling how much they loved the article on so and so subject or I read your coloums daily and they are very educative/entertaining.

    The idea of taking services of the media tracking agency is to increase the efficiency and not loose the essence of PR. I guess there are few things like newspaper tracking, media rounds, Media lists should be made mandatory in the KRA’s of the generation. May be only then they would take it seriously !Food for thought

  2. Good Job Vikram..remimded of my days with Dainik Bhaskar when was handling Communications guided by my boss to read all newspapers every single day and he would hear me out everyday..Keep me posted on more of such shares…good sharing

  3. very true..newspaper reading helps you to get the all required and essential information which can be developed further.

  4. You have hit the nail on the head with this article. Reading a newspaper/magazine/online portal for being well verse with industry happenings, acquiring sector/domain knowledge and of course knowing which journalists covers what kind of stories is very crucial for PR professionals. And as you rightly mentioned, one can draw ideas from stories we read across media. Though reading is a personal habit and cannot be enforced upon someone as a process but working in the PR industry definitely requires one to have this process of reading from within in order to stay ahead of the league.

    Keep Calm and Keep Reading :)

  5. Thank you, Vikram, for the kind words. :) I am surprised…. pleasantly so….:) also gratified, as it strengthens my conviction that trying to do good eventually helps, though not necessarily immediately :)

  6. Dear Sir,

    I have been writing since long now (knowing very well that I am not a great writer but want to be one), and I have received many appreciations but never was as happy as I am after reading your SMS.

    I must have never acknowledged what I gained while working with you, may be because I never understood how I was benefiting and hence always showed disagreement. Was somehow not able to see through how we can implement what we learnt in the real world. Though personally I have gained a lot as because of what I had learnt then, I can today speak at conferences, be a part of panel discussion, teach at institutes etc., (and I was just your mediocre student and still I am just average). But in the world of immediate ROIs, you will come across many people like me who will not acknowledge when you are imparting knowledge to them at that moment but certainly as they move ahead in their lives they will somewhere appreciate and will be grateful that they had the opportunity to work with you.

    At the more practical end and to be honest with you (one must be atleast with their guru), I will still find it very taxing and painful to meet up with your expectations. Believe me sir; it is not easy to even come close to what you call it perfect. Digesting this becomes more difficult when we see our clients and people around us – peers & colleagues are also on the same level as us.

    Three years for me were like an intensive Harvard MBA but at the end, it was not only worth it but something that redefined by career.


  7. Hello Vikram,

    This is a wonderful article for an intern like myself. It is been just a week now but I can understand and could connect to each word of yours.

    In future please share ideas about writing and how to improve it with time. And how to make best out of internship.

    Will look forward to read more.

  8. An excellent article, Vikram. This is what comes up in discussions among senior journalists and PR professionals – the demise of good ol’ reading and an understanding of the socio-political milieu. As a former business correspondent, the 4-pink paper routine was a must, and good thing too! Knowledge has become the biggest casualty these days which is why people who can make interesting conversation are few and far between.

    Look forward to reading more from you!

  9. Hi Vikram, Great checklist – but you forgot the 4th quick tip: PUBLISH! Nowadays it should be no problem that your stories can be found by the leading search-engines.

  10. I’m a pr-student. And in my pov, reading that much seems time consuming. On the other hand, I admire the fruits of your labor. Do you still do as much reading on the client as you used to back then? How did you thin the information in the economic magazines to a presentation?

  11. good article vikram

  12. There are indeed gems to be found in the midst of hard work, if one considers them as learning opportunities.

  13. I have been a spokesperson of this and that organisation in all my active life and writing opinion pieces in various media. This is a self-taught skill I have acquired by virtue of being active in both student and community media coupled as well as youth movement. For this, I was always considered a jounalist and approached for communication jobs because of my excellent verbal and written communication skills. Everytime I had to explain that I am not journalist or do not have any journalism training but have inborn ability to communicate effectively at all levels. And one big union of workers pursued me with a desire to rope me into its communication desk to put my requisite skills to test as the leadership was not convinced with the assertion that I am not schooled in the specified field.

    Inasmuch as I declined the offer but learned to appreciate the conflation of the concept of schooling with education. Have you had the experience of dealing with a schooled communicator in comparison with an educated communicator? What was your experience?

    My experience taught me one lesson that a skill needed to do a job is not necessarily an attribute of one’s qualifications but his/her abilities or competency acquired through a demonstrated experience and/or skills training. And crisis communication is a whole new ball game.

    In a nutshell, being schooled is a necessary formal training but it is not the be-all and the end-all of a skill needed for the job. Hence proficiency can also be demonstrated or even better, by someone who got educated through skills training or experience – something that is indispensable.

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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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