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PR professionals must reorient themselves rapidly to survive the present

6th March 2014


The other day I had to go through the IRS 2012 Q2 figures for a presentation and couldn’t help notice a de-growth in figures for a large section of the print media both magazines and dailies. There are many reasons ascribed to this decline. Some of the views can be found here.

Mark Zukerberg once famously said: “a squirrel dying in front of your house maybe more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa!” To me, it seems that the phenomenon of choice has finally gripped the pattern of information consumption amongst the youth of India and partly those in their early forties. And that calls for an early change to the way the PR practitioner functions in this country.

Yet in India, the Print and Television continues to be the bulwark of information dissemination and outreach. Many believe that despite the hype, the digital media is “still arriving”.

But this is likely to change soon. Consider this….

Digital Media: The Big Picture

Total online users

227 Million

PCs/Laptops et al

127 Million

Mobile, Tablet & other devices

100 Million

Total digital ad revenues in 2012

2,170 crore

Total digital pay revenues

25,000 crore

% Share

Source: The Indian Media Business (Edition 4), IAMAI, TRAI, FICCI-KPMG Report 2013

Clearly the importance of how these numbers impact the entertainment industry or the business of brands in India cannot be ignored anymore. Now the consumer has the choice of media and information that is available at the click of a button…if you have the resources (here I am talking about the penetration of PCs/laptops and bandwidth). It’s the consumer who is in charge and chooses what they wish to see, act upon or buy!

From a corporate communications perspective, this also means that while Print and TV can act as “awareness generators,” the conversations over the NET will finally influence opinions. From a corporate affairs or political and social PR perspective it means that free flowing debates, however uncontrollable, bizarre or meaningful, will need to be seeded, watched and participated in order to shape opinions. It cannot be about media exposure alone!

While the mavericks on both sides continue to dub each other as “niche media,” the PR professional in India today must juggle with 3 delivery models at the same time.

  1. The first is what they always lived and learnt…the art of spin and the ‘one-way’ dissemination of information.
  2. The second is to manage the online buzz that is often a result of the former.
  3. And the third is the option to start their campaigns on the social media platforms that hopefully goes viral – powerful enough to shape headlines!  

Here are a few thoughts to deal with the altered ecosystem:

Think Integrated: At least in India today, a campaign that weighs heavily on either the traditional or the social- digital media is bound to fail. Integrated communications thinking that encompasses both must be at the heart of every planning process. Conversations must be manifested and carried forward in a manner that they reach the customer across demographic segments and media consumption patterns.

Understand consumer behavior: It’s no longer about what you wish to communicate BUT about what the consumer wants to know. PR professionals must increasingly factor in the available data on readership and viewership in Print and TV as well as consumption trends across digital devises.  

Be a keen student of marketing: It is no longer about just about visibility alone – it’s about targeted visibility with the right messaging. So understand why and when a consumer might want to look at your client’s products or services. Life occasions, social reasons and income factors must be considered. 

Love thy research: Data driven campaign planning is much more important than ever before.

Deep dive the digital world: Understand that transparency is key here. Whatever you might want to hide will be found out and shared rapidly. The social conversations and review platforms are meant exactly for this purpose. The traditional idiom of PR being a flower arrangement is now passé. ‘Spin’ could now assume the kosher role of shaping conversations rather than a pejorative. Also as the tools, apps and channels increase at a jet set speed, keeping up with it and navigating this piece is still a challenge for many of us in the business.

In conclusion, we can say that most of these skills were always “desirable” in a PR professional but never a matter of survival. The changing environment has now made them indispensable! The time is NOW and it is important for us to adapt, as we ride the waves of change to survive the present.

Devdarshan Chakrabortyy, Founder, Strongkofee Leadership Communications


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