Conversations at the Intersection of PR, Traditional & New Media

The Biggest Challenge of Indian PR Industry

talent-shortage-web-largeIndian PR firms are facing a new challenge currently, no it’s not downturn, it’s not about business growth or clients but it is about finding the right talent. Almost every PR agency bosses or HR managers are cribbing about the dearth of intelligent, sound talent, specifically at the entry or AE/SAE level. It is not about education, HR managers daily interview passouts from mass communications colleges, MBA graduates, engineering graduates and even English literature graduates. The problem according to them is the attitude of the new generation. They are smart but lack vision or zeal to grow. Their agenda is very temporary and are not clear about what they want to do in life. They don’t like reading what is relevant to their careers; forget reading PR related books, blogs or journals. In newspapers page 3 or sports is what they start with.

But that’s the new age reality, that’s how they are. Like you were when you landed in the world. Each generation had its own unique way of behaving and the world adjusted to it then why are we finding it so difficult to understand our new generation?

There must be some truth in their grouse, but I also feel there are flaws even in our style of recruiting and talent management, which is as old as the PR business itself. Atleast in this part of our business, we haven’t learnt anything from other service sectors. We give writing tests, but we don’t think what kind of attitude the person carries with him, is he/she a team player? Is the person too egoistic, tolerant, patient, can manage stress well? We don’t do any kind of psychometric tests or even bother to scientifically test these important behavioral traits. Only thing we focus on is filling positions, will they be able to manage the clients efficiently or not, is no one’s business.

It is only in our business that an executive can sit alongside MDs / CEOs and consultant them on how they should be managing their reputation. The likes of McKinsey, Boston, Delloite can never even dream that their entry level talent can achieve this feat ever. Yet I wonder how much, we as an industry spend our time, money and energy on grooming and training our talent.

We only make noise about high level of attrition, but simply by digging little deeper in our records, you will realize that 40-50% of the talent is lost in the first year itself and the rest 20-30% in the subsequent years. So what do we do about it? Do we have any counseling sessions with people who are approaching this mark; do we spend time with them to understand what motivates them and what not? Are our exit interviews well structured and data recorded for future analysis?

But is that an HR’s job in the first place? Isn’t it the leader’s job? And isn’t there enough on the plate of HR – they have to recruit, recruit and recruit. Then why not change the name of the function as Recruitment department and not HRD or Human Resource Development department. Are we sure our managers/VPs are trained well to manage their team or only getting new business is our primary concern? Most client loses are the result of bad servicing and bad attitude of the servicing people, either we can keep pouring more water in the bucket with a hole or plug the hole with some solution. PR business is all about people – and it is gross negligence on the part of the industry to pay lip service to maintain the talent pool.

What research we have as an industry on the reason behind such a high level of attrition? Before that have we ever even tried to come together as an industry to resolve common problems and the most important being this? If we see resumes of the new age professionals, it is not very uncommon to find resumes, which states 4 months X agency, 6 months Y agency and when you see 1 year, you may assume that the maturity is setting in.

With the changing business dynamics this looks very scary and specifically for the business that is totally depended on people as their assets. Agencies throughout the world have already moved beyond traditional PR. The ask is to know how online medium works, content creation, how to plug in SEO in your content, how to use all the available social platforms etc. But skills were never really a problem as those can be taught and learnt, the real problem is attitude. Is there any solution to that?

 

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
― Abraham Lincoln

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28 Responses »

    • Excellent article! Specially the training part by HR, I hardly know anyone who has adapted it! And when this young professionals starts making mistakes, the only thing they can do is to blame! Whom to blame here? The employee or the organisation?

  1. if we pay peanuts we get monkeys – one can buy good attitude these days ;-)

  2. The current attitude is a reflection of the most challenging times that we live in. In a span of 5 years this generation has already witnessed to two economic downturns (2009 & 2012). Today, even the sharpest minds in business cant forecast how businesses will perform in the next quarter leave alone a fiscal year. In most agencies and mostly the top ones, AE & SAE’s are treated like cutlets doing very jobs like zeroxing, drafting an email for the boss, very limited interface with clients and senior journalist. While there is nothing wrong in doing dossiers and following up with journalist for a press release, the problem lies when someones doing the same for 6 months straight without being acknowledged as a fundamental part of the team. When you see people at your level in a different teams going for client interviews, media interactions and speaking to a senior journalist or cracking a story – attitudes drastically change. These changes happen mainly during lunch and tea breaks when people from different teams or classmates working in other agencies exchange their experiences with each other.

    There is a lot more than just this. The problem with the senior generation is that they never lived in an age where whatsapp and twitter status reflected the state of mind. Unlike people in the previous generation we dont have to meet up to know whats happening with each other – We are a Whatsapp away. This is just the tip of the iceberg there is more to it.

  3. The difficulty is in taking a graduate who all their life has been told what to do, how to act and above all “crammed” to pass so they got the best marks. This type of linear education does not set up graduates for the real world of “get on and do it”. It is our job as managers to unlock the “Pandora’s box” and make them realise that by thinking and using their brains, they will become more and more successful.Not by telling them but by training, developing and showing them.

  4. I think you need to give them time to find themselves. They are usually people who are well off and so have an attitude in life as need and scarcity is not seen by them ever. The importance of reading and writing does not sink in till they actually get into the grind and understand that this is needed if they have to eventually survive in the world. As a teacher I have realised that loads of patience is needed to manage this generation and be there if they fall.

    • Travails of working with GenX and learning to adapt
      Yes, actually – all of us are to blame – seniors by age & amount of time put in system and MIGHT not necessarily be due to right experience – unwilling to spend time
      Agency bosses|owners unwilling to invest time & effort in training Gen X and engage
      Industry and academia blaming each other but not willing to come together to sort it
      Lack of trained PR association that can accredit communication college and work with industry and academia together to get right talent
      But we will get there – necessity is mother of invention, old cliche but will apply to us very shortly!!

  5. I second Meenakshi and believe that the attitude of these haves comes from the over exposure towards the trending ideals rather than a sustainable future. Also the senior members within the team need to make that extra effort to understand them and slowly bring them within the fold by instilling processes.

    Another problem with young professionals are that they hop skip and jump jobs at the drop of the hat which puts the same person in poor light in the next interview.

  6. My experience grooming fresh graduates (& students with 1-2 years experience) over the last five years, while putting them on stellar accounts and giving them opportunities with large international brands is:

    Their college courses prepare them extremely poorly for real life PR experience. There does not seem to be sufficient rigour, analytical thinking, communications strategy and real life writing experience in the courses. I am speaking of students who may have graduated from communications and PR courses, both undergraduate or post graduate. I think this is not a unique problem to PR, but a systemic educational flaw in the post 12th standard arena in the country.

    Now given the above, it would be OK if they could sustain themselves while they learnt about the industry, with the qualities of focus, discipline and staying power. Unfortunately for many (not all), either that is not true or they seem to be incapable of cultivating these qualities as well. My feeling is, these qualities are not demanded of in college – focus, discipline and staying power. It seems college is looked at more of a fun thing, than a true centre of learning with a true rigourous approach (as they are in many international universities). The result is, without such qualities, their emotions fluctuate wildly and often-times they do not know how to handle their personal or professional lives.

    What I also find quite interesting is the dependance a lot of these students have on their fathers & mothers. If it is a girl, fathers are repeatedly quoted in professional interactions (the guys do not bring their mums up as much, but there are other attributes which can be pointed out for guys) often times fathers also want to negotiate salaries (ever heard of that?, I had never till I relocated back to India). Separately most do not seem to be well prepared for transacting as a professional – understanding taxation, having a bank account ready, working out the flow of money, billings etc in their professional or personal lives. In contrast most American/Korean/ or other international equivalent teenagers would have begun this process and sorted it out by 18, but here I find even a 23 year olds often struggle with this.

    BUT they are quick to ask/demand for inflated packages, strict adherence to end times to leave in the evening and overall seem to exude an attitude, that the business is there to serve their needs, not the clients or the company employing them (again not all, but a good number of them…there are definitely some very good talented young people too).

    I have often invested a huge chunk of my time say over a year in training, grooming and making fresh graduates industry ready while paying them; only to find they leave at the end of that; taking all the valuable learnings, confidence and understanding away. A kind of mercenary approach with no regard, appreciation or a simple thank you or an ability to actually give back to the business when they finally can. It makes me feel, our country is not really in good hands and the future for India maybe shaky if that is the behaviour young educated people are exhibiting. After working closely with many young people, I can see that a lot of them are also a conditioned lot, often perpetuating the same problems that a lot of india suffers from (this of course needs a separate discussion).

    I think what is required is by the colleges before they graduate:

    Much stronger career counselling on industry requirements, presentation skills, personal strengths cultivation, emotional intelligence and balance, an understanding of the professional world and transactions within that; and an orientation towards looking at themselves as “value creators” – rather than “I want to learn and want to be paid a lot for that.”.

    Other points they can absorb:

    To value opportunities that arrive at their doorstep and to remember one has to create value, before one demands things.

    Outgrow “Daddy” and begin to stand on your own feet. Feel the fresh air of independence and creating your own life on your own terms.

    Be open to travel and different cultures and different approaches. It opens your mind and makes an environment for learning. (I have met a number of young people who refused to simply go to Delhi for a press conference, saying their daddy did not allow that!!)

    Learn to put your head down and WORK REALLY HARD on days when that is demanded by the client/agency, in order to eventually become a seasoned practitioner”

    Understand the basics of good written communications, personal and face-to-face relations (media or otherwise) and the usefulness of strategy, ideas and content ….which are here to stay for good.

    Take a long term approach; not a headless chicken running from job to job for a few thousand rupees. Make something, not always seek. Gain mastery, not run.

    Create a reputation for yourself through sustained good and hard work, by becoming a value creator and do not remain a job hopper. Stay in a place two years at least and see yourself through before jumping.

  7. The two key reasons for this is, lack of updated syllabus content in PR courses and the failed notion that success comes very easy.

    Unfortunately many PR courses today are still stuck on rudimentary techniques of PR, which no doubt gives students a strong foundation but not really making them ‘industry ready’.

    The current young generation is impatient and want to ride high on success but do not want to go through the grind. Virtues like patience, focus and willingness to stay and learn is unfortunately fast depleting among the young guns, guess one needs to start early and a lot needs to be done at different levels to address this issue.

    I think all PR courses should have heavy load of industry case studies, live projects, updated content, etc. All students MUST have twitter accounts, blogs and social media engagement as part of their curriculum. Most importantly ‘interns’ who join any agency should be taken care of the most. Give them a complete feel of the grind and how the PR sector works so that they have a clear and realistic understanding of what they getting into. Dont let the interns be just tracking or updating media list :) coz eventually they are the ones who come back as AC / AE to the agency.

  8. I agree with Meenakshi since we have been involved with grooming and teaching students.

    You need to give time to these students. Our graduate courses have taught them to mug up and get marks, without understanding the concepts.

    Also not many PR leaders have time to come and teach since they are quite busy.
    This again takes us back to what Vikram had suggested months back of mentoring entry level trainees and students.

    Unless we get involved in grooming, we will lose out on getting the right candidates.

  9. PR is Glamorous job……Really????………The positioning of PR industry in people’s mind is confused one or wrong picture ..one of ma friend said that when somebody is not int in other field then they select PR or MarCom field…I was shocked ..how can somebody take their career decision so carelessly n without thinking …..After doing the course in PR ..when I joined PR agency that time I came to know what is Real PR n How it works in real world…n How serious work it is ……Building a Brand of company n managing its Reputation. Interacting with MD’s, CEO n Marketing Head …its not a easy task.

    As Mr.Vikram said we are like Business consulting firm for eg. Mckinsey n co , BCG n Bain n Co. On same topic , I was discussing with my sir that we r like Business Consulting firm but difference is they consult Business strategies for different depts of company n we consult communication strategies.

    One serious thing that our generation lacks Analysis n serious thinking. We hv energy n ideas but that shld be directed right way.

  10. Good morning!

    The biggest challenge is just not limited to PR. Talent is equally scarce and limited across industry.

    The reasons are very intrinsic to the character of the ‘new generation’ ( not that I am too old or an authority to say this) and the solution is also very inclusive in nature.

    I have said in the past‎ we cannot live in isolation, it applies here as well. Could not agree more to all of you- Meenakshi, Moses, Dennis and others. We have to look at a two pronged solution.

    A) being patient with the new talent. I know patience is a virtue we all aspire for and often loose it. The new talent is dynamic and volatile. We talk about attention span. We have to play real anchors channelising their dynamism, control their volatility and thus increase thier ‘attention span’ with the team and organisation. This is we all, senior managers and management have to play in our own individual capacities and just not left to HR.

    B) this is natural deduction from the previous point- our involvement. ‎I agree business is important but not at the cost of talent. If we do not nurture talent who will run the show? Year or year we have discussed this but have hardly moved a step or two in this regard. I believe we have already run past our high time when we address this issue seriously. Adding to its magnanimity is the fact that our industry is far from being matured.

    ‎A small step today is a giant step tomorrow. Can we see ourselves mentoring one member of our respective teams to begin with?

    I have always believed that public relations is all about relations and relations are not taught; they are nurtured. So PR can certainly not be taught in schools and colleges. Here again applies the inclusive theory. At institutes we should ensure there is a proper mix of theory and practical. More focus towards ‘learning by doing’ rathering than ‘learning by reading’.

    Ours is a soft skill intensive industry and these skills could not be learnt overnight. It requires continuous practice. Again the emphasis is on being patient, learning by doing and our responsibility towards them.

    Our involvement is paramount. We cannot do much about the talent pool we have. We have to live with it- the good or the bad effects of the era we are in! Some of them are born PR and some om of them are made. In both the cases we have either have to guide them or mould them- bottomline mentor them which requires our involvement.

    Linking it back to my first point- mentoring again requires lot of experimentation with lots of patience. It would take a while before we see a substantial difference.

    Rest I leave it to the forum for their views.

  11. Valid points Vikram. As you have also mentioned..the truth is agencies and experienced people do not bother to invest time and effort in training the new talent. How many agency professionals go to institutes and hold guest lectures and show aspiring PR pros the possibilities and career growth? I don’t think it is an HR problem alone! More than all this, the industry has to change its own perception and position itself as more professional and as “consultants”. That’s the mindset and behavioral shift we need.

  12. I couldn’t help myself on this. So here I go (lol)

    Skilled talent is always number one problem of a nascent industry. But here’s why our condition is worse than other industries when thy were in their nascent stages –

    1) India is not preparing products for the PR industry. Mass comm and PR courses are extremely poor in academics, which puts added pressure of training on the employer agency. All the training happens AFTER one joins a company or agency.

    2) The above doesn’t go well with the current times of instant gratification, instant success, instant three figure salaries and instant promotions.

    3) So you have a completely raw talent who’s in a hurry to become big. Some may call it ambition. And in few industries, say Sales & Marketing, it may actually bide well for the job and the bosses. Not in PR. Here such hasty ambition takes away focus from learning. And without knowledge, you’re nobody in this industry.

    4) What happens next is for all to see. This ambitious smart looking lad in a suit then tries to make up for lack of knowledge by talking. Smooth talking. Lots of it. And ends up coming across as a salesman. And you know how PR industry hates salesmen. We hate blabbers. Clients hate blabbers. Journalists hate blabbers.

    5) What happens next is frequent job change for “better opportunities”. Three jobs in four years. The bad part is, he keep getting jobs! With salary hikes! That’s how desperate this industry is. It goes for anything with the hope of getting something better.

    6) Now only two things happen to these lads in the future. When they exhaust all the agencies and corporates, they quit PR, and start on their own! Or over 6-10 years period, they do learn something and become mentors.

    That’s where we stand. And the way I see it, everyone involved are equally guilty of creating this situation – institutes, youngsters, employers.

    But coming to a solution, I strongly believe that the biggest part has to be played by the youngsters themselves. Institutes will take their own sweet time in coming up to pace with this industry. And agencies will not spend half their time only in training. And training by who? The creature I just described above! (Lol)

    So if you’re a youngster, here’s my message to you. If you’re serious about PR, spend time in learning and gathering knowledge. You will never succeed in this industry without this. Create a habit of absorbing information, data, factoids. Create a habit of reading newspapers, watching news. Not just the After Hrs and party pages, but all types of news – political, business (beyond your client’s business), regional, social, civic, crime, legal, international. Everything.

    The fun part is that it’s effects will be visible within just a few days. You’ll stop being seen as a blabber. And you’ll actually have lots of masala to make a really sensible PR plan and strategy. Who knows, even better than your senior…

  13. Dear all

    I know being an academician I could be a little biased towards PR and MassComm courses, but I will try to be as objective as possible in assessing the situation here in this discussion.I have been reading how poor these courses are on this discussion. I would beg to differ. Please check syllabuses and course content of institutes and Universities, there is definitely a change. It has started, yes there are limitations but the change has begun. The problem in our country is that the industry and academia are not together when it comes to education. I remember when I was reading articles of institutions abroad, it is the industry that funds researches and collaborates with universities and institutions on various projects and thus they together work and mold students for their future careers.

    But here in India things are very different. Each sings their own song. Yes guest faculties do come in courses and do their bit but they are far and few. It is the need to come together and change this situation or else we will only land up criticizing everything without any move to a positive solution. After all we both want the younger generation to do well, isn’t it?

    This is my take.

  14. Nice discussion going on.

    My two cents (though not exactly relevant to the original topic but suits the shape it has taken now).

    1. The respect of an organisation or an individual is in their own hands. I will cite an example here – recently I went for a meeting with a prospect. Since we are a startup brand positioning firm we quoted Rs 90,000 as a retainer which I assumed should have been Rs 1,25,000 for any established PR firm (given the slowdown and scope of work). When the CMD started negotiating, I politely excused myself and said I will recommend some other agency which might do it for a lesser quote.

    When I got up to take his leave, he took out a contract and gave it to me. It was with his current agency which is considered among top 10 in India, if not top 5 and is probably one of the oldest PR firms. Can you guess what was the monthly retainer mentioned there????

    Rs 35,000….!!!!

    A Google search shows that this company has not got even 2 mentions in the last 2 years! The PR firm has brain washed the client so much that he would never hire another agency for even Rs 60,000. And it is a professionally run, well funded Rs 500 crore company.

    I obviously left his cabin with a smile saying I cannot do it for anything less than what I had quoted.

    According to some of the BD guys I interviewed off late, the message from their bosses is very clear. Do not leave any client. Whatever they give take it.

    A CEO of an NBFC, and good friend of mine, recently told me that he called their PR agency for review few days back and just to test the patience, said that he cannot afford the fee they have been paying and needs to cut it by thirty percent. To his surprise agency agreed without much argument. All he wanted was to convince them to continue at the same fee and not increase it this year.

    I may be wrong in my assessment but a lot has to do with the attitude of the senior management of a PR firm. Formal training has its limitations. It is the daily working and mentoring that matters most. And if bosses are seen as weak and compromising at the drop of the hat, the impact is many more times on the team.

    2. A lot has to be blamed to the media institutes. Leave aside, students they churn, look at their faculty. I had the opportunity to speak at few institutes as a guest speaker. Some of the faculty you come across do not have an iota of knowledge of what is journalism, how PR works and what actually happens on ground.

    Lastly, before we debate “bigger things” like digital PR and conferences every few months, we probably need to take a deep breath and think about the job ads we post on various forums – “need a trainee to manage an MNC client”…!!! I mean seriously? Does a trainee even understand domestic and international markets?

    As a journalist I have seen agencies sending kids with one year of experience to represent insurance companies (mind you insurance is one of the toughest topics to understand in personal finance) which used to pay them several lakhs per month. It is impossible to buy the argument that the scope of work did not allow them to hire better resources.

    I feel it is pointless to blame and make these kids scapegoats. If the same executive was sent with someone with 5-6 years of experience, s/he would have learnt and been groomed. It does not require cost. It just requires some planning.

  15. Hi Ritu Kant and Meenakshi,

    I see that both of you have referred to my views.. and both of you are right when you say that students are not to be blamed alone… :-) Couldn’t agree more.

    But here’s the thing. I haven’t blamed students alone. I’ve blamed all the three parties – employers (agencies), institutes AND students. All three. And I’ve cited reasons for that – Institutes for having poor academics and faculty, agencies for not devoting enough time and resources to extra train freshers (because they’re not duly trained by institutes), and students/freshers for not having the learning mindset, and having an instant gratification mindset.

    Being practical and having known what agencies can and cannot do, I’ve stressed upon students to shoulder the responsibility of their own growth. A lot of learning and training will happen on the job. That goes without saying. But the difference between a rock solid PR professional and a substandard one will only be filled by the fresher’s own proactiveness. Blaming the agencies and the institutes may not be fully wrong. But the price will be paid by the individual first, and the industry shortly thereafter.

    Agencies will only do so much when it comes to teaching and training because every such activity eats into the time for conducting real business. Hence, time and resources spent on training will never cross a certain limit. And I’ve seen that its usually not enough, certainly not enough to compensate for what institutes should have done during the one or two years of the course.

    Maybe students are the most harmless lot among all three parties, but they’re the ones who can, and should, take the responsibility of their own growth. That is, because the other three parties have their own constraints. It’s the most practical advise I can give.

    Aarif

    That I think was my very practical approach to the problem.

  16. Dear Aarif

    It is time for industry amd academia to come together as this is what I have said even in my previous mail. This is the only solution. Or the gap will always remain.

  17. Youth is driven by Passion and Motivation. Motivation seeds from Role Models. In every stream their role models people wish to look upto, they are inspired by their charm, magnanimity, aura… and so they envision their role models into themselves. This is what forms motivation or drive to excellence. Philip Kotler, Peter Drucker, Steve Jobs, Narayan Murthy, Thomas Edison, Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kapur …(a long list). Who are the Public Figures of PR industry? Who are the Role Models? What have they achieved? What have been their struggle? What is their thought process? These are the questions that may motivate the youngsters to dive deep into being more enthusiastic and passionate about their stream of work. PR industry needs to find Role Models and Spread a word about them for the youngsters to get encouraged.

  18. hi all!

    here is a piece I wrote for exchange4media four or five years back. thought it was relevant to the current debate.

    Xavier Prabhu

    Are we really offering a career?

    If ever you catch any PR agency head over a drink or coffee these days pardon him or her if all they could groan and crib over is the lack of availability of good talent to hire and the numbing attrition levels. Am not for one moment questioning the gravity of the situation nor the intention is to lighten up the issue’s nature. It is rather perplexity over how little has been done to address this issue and how little we as a industry have out our thinking caps together to understand the nature, scale and long-term implications of this challenge. My humble submission is that this has to do with one fundamental question that many of us are not able to answer convincingly today. What kind of a career option we as an industry offer? that the much in demand talent has to look over options available and decide consciously and logically to stay and grow in the industry.

    Let me play the devil’s advocate and put myself in the shoes of a newcomer who is studying mass communication final year in any institute of some repute across India. Being a teacher in some of the institutes and having been exposed to the perceptions and thought processes of the students, can say with some conviction that my perspectives may be closer to reality. In one class where I currently teach and which will get into the job market next month end there is none who is keen on working for a PR firm despite some of the biggest names in the business making a beeline to the campus for placements. The big reason is of those who have chosen PR, many are increasingly enamored of corporate communications primarily for the big pay packet that waits them from day one. And the allure of a brand being your first employer. Even the reasoning of the faculty and institute’s head is not heeded to and after some time they plead helplessness as they cannot force students beyond a point.

    This was new to me since the last batch also the behavior was not so visible and aligned. There was always a mix and there was none of this complete shutting off that I am witness to this year. The question kept coming back to me and finally led to me accepting in class in a moment of enlightenment that we as the industry need to do probably more than we are doing today to make each of these potential talent aware of an be convinced that working for a PR firm has tangible career benefits and that we do offer a long-term career option.

    Elements for PR to be a long-term career option

    More rigorous entry criteria

    It may sound foolish and absurd and even illogical. But we need to be more choosy about who we hire and confirm amidst our ranks. The message has to get out in the market that PR is not for anyone and everyone. IT is not the last option of those who did not have better options and decide to land in an agency as an afterthought or as filler before the window of opportunity opens. Imagine the long-term damage we are doing to ourselves. That pretty young thing will go to her friend in her PG and tell her – array yaar – what if you did not get a job? Apply to a PR agency, get in, hang around for some time, figure things and when the offer comes jump. What productivity, application, commitment can you expect if increasingly our workforce is full of people who are using agencies as fillers, springboards and what ever else. What kind of client commitments and work can we deliver to? Why should we invest in training a set of people who never are going to hang around long enough to even remotely justify such investments? This is one another aspect. Look at another implication. Such careless and non committal freshers means more load on your middle managers who need to sweat it out and who may not be wrong at some point to think why are they in such a thankless job? And worse the client keeps asking them about why he sees a new face every 2-3 months? It hurts us in every way possible and look at the flip side. It is more load on existing people and pressure on them on an ongoing basis. If you just jump back a few sentences, anyways that is what they end up doing. So what big difference anyways it makes except for the headcount? Think it over!

    Formal structured induction

    Let us make our inductions more formal, more structured and more exhaustive. To let the joinee know that we take our work, their role, their career seriously and that we are like any other company. Let us absorb the best practices from IT firms and whichever sector, be pragmatic in its application in our sector but at any cost ensure we have a formal program in place.

    Defined roles and responsibilities

    Having had the exposure to atleast 4-5 large PR firms when I was on the other side one common facet I noticed was the overlapping of responsibilities at every level leading to dissatisfaction, politics and heartburn at every review cycle. Not just that, whenever there was a client issue the buck was easy to pass since the boundaries were either porous or grey. Worse, for a newcomer it does not induce any respect for the business if they see only chaos amidst which they need to make things work somehow. They think it is the way of life and start thriving on it. Imagine any good employer in any sector needs to have structure on top of which they allow flexibility for the uncertain business environment. And not leave everything to the wind, the situation and the wisdom of respective managers.

    Chart a clear career growth path

    There needs to be a clear answer to the question where will you get in 2-3 years? And what it takes and what they need to do to get there as well? This answer needs to contain the various milestones enroute clearly defined, what kind of skills they will acquire over that journey, what learning they will gain in that process, what investment in training and mentoring that will be made to enable them to get there, the criteria that will be used to assess them at each milestone and level.This would mean that the employee at any point knows that he or she is going to grow if they choose to stay on, invest the required time and effort and deliver the expected results. This will also avoid another problem rampant across the industry which we have also been prey to – premature promotion of talent who grow too fast not because they are good but because others were not staying, only to find that they cannot be grown any further at their current skillsets. A classic HR issue that affects both the employee and the employer and only has disastrous consequences for either at any point. Clear metrics allow a company to avoid this pitfall while assuring a planned career path for each and every employee.

    More investment in training

    Formal or informal. In-house or outsourced. Let us face it. There is a responsibility on all of us to provide ongoing training inputs in some form or the other to all employees at all levels. Need not be highly expensive trainers, but could even be a in-house manager who is excellent at a certain function or area.

    Practice our preaching

    Let us put into practice what we preach to many of our clients on HR activities. Again pragmatic and realistic adaptation and not blind one which will financially hurt us.

    Better leadership

    Let us ensure that we have good middle management which is sensitive, knowledgeable and has adequate people management skills. People leave mangers and not companies. It would be a farce to loose someone good in today’s times just because of a bad manager who anyways is going to be out sometime since he or she is bad. The senior management needs to spend time to evaluate and work with middle management to avoid such instances and ensure they are there as a channel incase the employee has an issue with their manager. This alone will bring down our attrition rates significantly because I personally feel this industry has whole lot of issues due to many incompetent middle level managers who mismanage people and survive by playing politics.

    The steps may not be comprehensive and the most authoritative and I do not claim to have provided all the answers in this article. Nor was it the intention. It was to get our grey cells working and to keep the discussion flowing. We the firms offer certain unique advantages which are not going to be available elsewhere.

    Await bouquets and brickbats with equal keenness.

    (Jai Xavier Prabhu David, the author of the article runs PRHUB, a fast growing integrated communications firm with a national footprint. He can be reached at Xavier@prhub.com)

  19. s, Meenakshi, it is time. In fact, the time arrived long back. I did start helping institutes in my own small way, but couldn’t keep at it for long. The demands of two institutes I was helping grew and grew, which I just couldn’t meet.

    Speaking for myself, I’m still okay if you and other academicians have any use for me. Within my daily job and travelling constraints… :-)

  20. Sure. Even a small beginning is a beginning.

  21. I think the problem is much more deep-rooted and not just restricted to our industry. Of course, I belong to an ancient generation when we were taught in school to understand, learn and assimilate knowledge to last us for life, irrespective of whether ‘it would come in the exam or not’. A thorough approach towards anything we do, to understand it well, do it to the best of our ability and keep surpassing ourselves each time has to be inculcated in childhood during the formative years. But sadly our education system is highly exam oriented and a learning approach is considered a waste of time. My children are professionals in their own right today, but I remember them telling me when they were in school that their teacher had asked them to skip a topic simply because it wouldn’t be asked in the exam. This is what gets carried forward in the later years of school and college too. Today is the age of quickfixes. That is what is inculcated in the new generation right from school and that is how they shape up. Why blame them?

    You find it in every field. Go to banks. How many of the staff members give you good service? They are busy doing their work they are supposed to do after customer hours and don’t even look up at you. Go to shops. Customers are waiting and the salesperson, even owners are merrily talking on the phione with no respect for the customer’s time. It’s there all over. Take journalists. No offence meant to any of our journalist friends, with many of them, the accent is on ‘filing the story within the given deadline’ by googling, cutting, pasting rather than researching and doing an original story. Not that there are no jounalists doing that. There are many of that breed too. Our own PR Executives also have a superficial approach. There is a comfort factor that the senior is always there to correct mistakes and approve their work. Mistakes pointed out once are repeated again and again. The attitude to give no scope to give the senior any scope to find any mistakes is lacking.

    The solution? If we can wipe out the superficial approach inculcated in childhood and plant the seed of a thorough approach to everything; if we can kindle the fire of desire in them to excel themselves and work consistently at becoming better professionals, we can win the battle. Of course, clients are no less to blame. Many times, they force us to resort to the superficial approach. And yes, for those who really have the thorough approach and do their best, appreciation and rewards too have to be forthcoming to fuel the fire we have kindled in them.

    It’s not just a battle uphill, but a battle upcliff, and no easy battle by any stretch of imagination.

  22. Hi Xavier,

    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    I think it encompasses all the angles. The point about “practicing what you preach” is quite important.

    Frankly speaking, I do not see a single PR association at least in foreseeable future!

    Regards,

    Ritu Kant
    http://www.proactcommunications.in

  23. My personal views:

    PR as a profession is still not identified as a defined profession in many companies in India, as a matter of fact many PR and communications professionals face identity problems as to what are their core roles and responsibilities.

    Speaking about young PR candidates. Don’t expect them to make miracles unless you teach them how to.

    Young talents need guidance initially, they need proper induction. PR is still not identified as a thorough profession in India. Young professionals are not utilized properly, managers, heads and HR are still ignorant about it.

    If companies in India are not aware of what is PR exactly and what are they supposed do, then what can younger generations really do?
    Satori
    The wise man speaks because he has something to say, the fool because he has to say something

  24. Dear Ritu,

    the fact mentioned about a large firm charging low is not new and will neither be a surprise to anyone in the know in the industry. and such pricing happens all the time across industries. Times of India subsidizes its paper price to muzzle competition and so do large telecom, infrastructure and consumer companies. Using scale or volumes to one’s advantage is something all companies and senior management do across the world, across sectors. The issue if you probe deeper lies with clients as well.

    He paid low and got low service in return which is fair in a economy. You offered him higher value at much higher price and he said no to it. There are clients who understand value and that it comes with a price and there are those who want to play it to their advantage.

    Predatorial pricing hurts Indian PR industry more since we are now only turning the corner towards profitability and the base we started is very low compared to international standards.

    The irony is the same PR professional for whom the client was not willing to pay a high retainer for gets hired at higher costs by the same clients sooner or later for a high pay packet. essentially there is a lot of illogic to this whole thing.

    The truth and sad situation is that we are everyone’s kick buddy and none of us will do anything about it except write anguish mails. for the simple truth is this industry is divided at the top by multiple groups with their own interests. The US, the largest PR market in the world has one top professional association and probably 2-3 more with different focus. Compare that to Indian market which is a growing one and far away in size. We have 7 odd associations.. Like a senior industry veteran told me recently egos play a major role in this lack of unity.

    Even the ultra competitive IT services industry agrees to a single NASSCOM which then has the teeth and resources to drive the industry agenda. imagine there being 7 nasscoms for an industry that is probably 40 times the size of the PR industry. it does not work.

    One can go on. The issue is on all sides. the attitude of today’s generation is only complicating it further and gets attention as it is visible and everyone is going through it right now.

    warm regards,

    Xavier Prabhu

  25. We have to accept the reality that every generation has its own way of working. But what we see as a PR agency in a candidate is how he/she can adjust its working time, coordinates with other team members and biggest of all the ability to learn from its senior’s mistake. I do agree that we can’t predicts all the things and have a perfect pr candidate for our company but with our own experience and giving little more time to the selection process definitely increase the chance of it.

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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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