I got into the communications industry, when after studying physics for three years in my undergrad I felt no gravity towards Newton’s laws and was hardly positive about studying electrons all my life. And today, I can confidently say that I am glad I did. One might argue that how does apparently one of the most stressful jobs in the world (Public Relations is number six in the top 10) makes me want to say that? Well, because it’s totally worth it. There are so many things that make PR fun and challenging every day, be it the unexpected crisis or a new business pitch. As I move on to my next academic adventure, I want to share some of my top take-aways from my four years in Public Relations.
1) No one really knows what you do
Ever since I started working, I have been bombarded with some really odd queries about my work – ranging from “What do you exactly do?” and “So you work in advertising?” to “Do you manipulate media and give a spin to facts?” Oh! and not to mention the utter disappointment my mother had when she did not find my name anywhere in the “first media story” I got. But, I am not sure if I should be worried about this lack of understanding among folks outside the industry, considering even some decision makers still associate public relations with “press releases” and “coverage”. While, this perception problem gnaws at India’s PR landscape, technology and social media have completely transformed the industry today. It is imperative now for brands to pivot their PR strategy and make best use of these unceasing changes coming their way.
2) Nothing trumps an in-person meeting, still
I am all for using virtual modes of interacting and communicating, exchanging a few elaborate emails instead of wasting hours in meetings, but when it comes to building great media relations or to network better, I think an in-person meeting is still the way to go. It might sound obvious, but it is also one of the most undervalued practices, specially among the new generation of PR practitioners. What always worked for me was to have a great first meeting and there on humanising and personalising my communication with that particular reporter. Although, it’s definitely not easy to befriend the “media”, but the best you can do is have a positive relationship and not come across as a “ghost cold caller” or a “creepy WhatsApp-er” to them.
3) Everything needs some brand building, including yourself
As PR professionals, we are building and managing reputations for brands and spokespeople day in and out, and it’s ironic how we end up failing our own doctrine when it comes to building our personal brand. You are your biggest asset and it’s a waste if you don’t end up marketing your personality distinguishably to your advantage. Be it through social media or your personal connections, make yourself heard and build a reliable brand for yourself.
4) Your client is actually a part of your team
Having worked in an agency, some of the most horrific stories I have heard are those of having difficult clients with unreal expectations. But, during my four years in PR I have been fortunate to have worked with some great clients who were at the top of their game. But an invaluable lesson they have taught me is that the secret to a happy client-agency association is when clients are considered a part of your own team and vice versa. Be available to build a relationship beyond just transactions and build the mutual respect and trust to be able to work collaboratively instead of raking each other coals. We, collectively as client and agency, just probably need to foster a culture of working together instead of ‘working for the client’ culture.
At the end of the day, good storytelling is what webs it all together. And remember in PR, you are always the king-maker and seldom the king.
After a 4 year stint with PR, Himalaya Talan is set to earn his MBA degree from the Indian School of Business (Class of 2019) . Talan who worked with 20: 20 MSL, says he plans to pursue opportunities in marketing after earning his degree.