Start reading to become PR smart, says Indian PR Forum’s Vikram Kharvi
22nd May 2013
The 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 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 news paper. If you can add at least one regional language paper 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 everyday.
Vikram Kharvi is Founder and moderator of the Indian PR Forum