The recurring themes from PRAXIS 2013, by Ben Smith, Founder of PRmoment.in
3rd October 2013
Many of the Indian PR community gathered in Lavassa last weekend for the Praxis 2013 conference.
I have been to many PR conferences over the years, but what differentiates this one is that it's organised and run by volunteers. Praxis is an absolute credit to the founders Amith Prabhu and Shane Jacob, the co-chairs Liza Saha and Umesh Nair and the rest of the Promise Foundation team. I also think the fact that Praxis is organised by volunteers has the effect of creating a collaborative atmosphere amongst delegates.
To try and explain some of the themes from the two day conference in a blog is kind of impossible but here are some that recurred a few times for me:
Public relations is a market in transition. On the one hand media relations, which for some reason became synonymous with PR during the nineties, is still an important part of PR. But, brands are increasingly focusing upon an integrated approach to PR which includes social media and reputation management.
Within this context it should be remembered that public relations is a broad church. On the one hand it includes brand publicity and on the other, reputation management. Perhaps PR practitioners in India need to be clearer on the differences in strategy and objectives between brand publicity (trying to sell stuff) and corporate reputation. You cannot assess the success of a product related PR campaign by measuring the impact that it is had on the reputation of the business.
Another theme was the importance of media within PR in India. Printed media, regional media and of course, broadcast media are thriving in India. This differentiates the Indian market compared with most of the rest of the world. It seems to me, therefore, an error for the PR community in India to criticise itself for continuing to focus on print media. Printed media in India is very important as an influencer for brands.
Social media and digital media are becoming increasingly important for clients and in-house organisations in India. There is a danger that PR embroils itself in an ownership of social debate – but no-one owns social media. You might as well argue about who owns the telephone.
That said, PR is well positioned to help brands tell their stories to lots of different media channels, including social. The PR community in India should focus upon creating interesting and engaging content for brands, building communities and distributing this content to various different channels, including social.
From building websites, building Apps and a content production point of view, the Indian PR scene is like the rest of the PR world, in that you probably need more geeks.
A recurring theme was the fact that agency margins in India are being narrowed. In essence client fees are rising slower than inflation and salaries are rising at a higher level of inflation.
The sector needs to balance these financials to ensure that agencies are able to hire the right talent and that the talent is being given sufficient time to do creative and strategic work. Good PR takes time. Strategic and creative thinking tend not to thrive in a pressurised environment.
At every PR conference I attend, measurement is a recurring theme. Measurement of public relations is important. If you do not measure what you are doing the chances are you have not set strategic objectives for your work and you will always be on the back foot when it comes to increasing your fees and budgets.
Therefore, evaluation by setting objectives and measuring those objectives is important. At the same time I do think there is a danger that public relations may become paranoid about measurement. Measurement in PR is not actually difficult, and public relations should not feel insecure about its measurement compared to the advertising sector for example.
The overriding theme from the conference for me was the importance of public relations in India to move from press relations work to focusing on becoming a trusted advisor for their clients. Trust is a complex emotion. You have to earn trust you cannot simply ask for it. By doing excellent work over a prolonged period of time the PR community in India has become and will become a trusted strategic advisor.
From talking to many of the agency CEOs this is a road that is half travelled. There is a lot of good strategic work going on. One agency MD I spoke to now refused all media relations only briefs.
That said, I have no doubt that integrated, more strategic PR will become increasingly prominent within the PR market in India.
We spoke to Madan Bahal, Managing Director, Adfactors PR, David B. Rockland, Ph.D. Partner, Managing Director of Global Research, CEO, Ketchum Change, Chairman, AMEC, Shane Jacob, Co Founder, Praxis, Amith Prabhu, Co Founder, Praxis, Radhika Shapoorjee, President, IPAN Hill & Knowlton and Aseem Sood, CEO Impact Research and Measurement, about their thoughts on Praxis and the Indian PR industry.