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Public relations in India is underpaid and underappreciated, says MSL India’s Jaideep Shergill

21st January 2013


Public relations in India is underpaid and underappreciated. In the first edition of MSLGROUP’s India PR report, released last year, industry veterans had said that clients are reluctant to recognise the value PR brings to the table.

This reluctance is a longstanding worry in an industry that is still evolving, one which doesn’t yet have even the basic fee-per-resource norm. The industry itself is not above blame. Undercutting is rampant, which is partly responsible for retainers not rising.

It’s no surprise, then, that while the average annual advertising contract is Rs 2 crore, PR retainers average Rs 20 lakh.

This has a direct impact on the talent that industry attracts. Low retainers ensure that the salaries on offer are lower than the ones offered by corporations. This has resulted in a talent shortage that is the biggest challenge before the industry. This shortage often results in client expectations not being met, which, in turn, makes them reluctant to raise fees.

In MSLGROUP India’s latest executive report, ‘Public Relations in India: Inside the Industry’s Mind and 2013 Outlook’, we surveyed PR professionals across India and across hierarchies. Talent was a top-of-mind issue for most respondents.

Many feared that the talent demand-supply gap would widen over the next few years. Here are a few things to think about:

What was thought-provoking in our survey was how respondents ranked potential solutions to the problem. Curiously enough, even while the industry debates salaries, respondents ranked raising salaries ranked lowest as a potential solution. A structured, stringent selection process ranked first and planned, consistent investment in training ranked second.

It was obvious that money is not the main motivator.

The respondents echoed what the first edition of the report – ‘Understanding the Public Relations Industry in India: Challenges, Opportunities and 2012 Outlook’, released in January 2012 – said: With the education system not geared to the industry’s needs, it’s time PR agencies collaborated with training institutes to evolve a curriculum that makes their students employable.

Several other industries – such as information technology – have collaborated with academia and there is no reason the PR industry can't do the same.

So, here are my recommendations to solve the fees-talent conundrum:

Jaideep Shergill is CEO of MSL India


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