Public Relation, Public Affairs…..Whatever. Who takes us seriously?

The ambition was to position us as central players and respected partners in a company’s quest for a great brand reputation and a shining brand image.

Some twenty year down the line most of us are still measuring column centimetres of free media space. Public relations delivery and impact is measured by the thickness of the monthly clippings dossier. Today, our only measure of success is the advertising cost equivalent of media coverage. We have earned no respect in all this time and we are still seen as back room flunkies who will do as they are told.

In all these year we have failed to establish the value of public relations communication as a business tool. We have said “Yes” when we should have “No” to unworkable short term ‘get me more media’ fixes. We have failed to establish with client companies the meaning and value of “strategic” advice.  

The first generation of PR experts in India were people who made lateral shifts into this profession largely from media and advertising. It was learning through trial and error. There were no templates anywhere in the world that were significantly better one from the other. Those of us who spent time in multinational PR organizations knew this to be true even if some international colleagues erroneously believed they had a lot to teach the natives.

Did we do enough to create a talent pool that could take our learnings to the next level of proficiency? Not really. While our challenges in the market have grown, our talent pool has not grown. We will likely see more and more expats taking over as the multinational PR firms, almost all of whom are now in India, with more waiting to enter. It will be interesting to see how they meet the challenge of low value, high volume media coverage being the only game in town! Although it must be said that media relations continue to be core to all PR programs anywhere in the world. BUT….they are not as poorly paid and DO NOT form the core of the business/brand communication strategy.

How much longer will we continue with this street level scrabbling for low value, high volume media relations work that clients throw at us?

This piece is intended to be an invitation to all PR professionals to come together to frame the issues which must be fed and shaped so that we move forward towards consensus on where to take the PR industry in India.

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