What was you first job in PR like? What lessons do you remember from that time?
Let's dive straight into our new twice monthly column, 'My First Job in PR'.
And who better to have this conversation with than Prema Sagar. It will not be an exaggeration to say that Sagar is one of the chief architects of the modern PR industry in India with Genesis PR.
She has not only built up a phenomenal brand, but Genesis BCW has been the starting point for many senior PR professionals who are now leaders in their own right.
PRmoment India: What was your first job in PR?
Prema Sagar: I started my professional life when my brother and I started a printing press. It is what first led me in the direction of public relations.
My journey with public relations and Genesis began as a result of some chance encounters and a series of coincidences. My meeting Priya Paul of The Park Hotels—who continues to be our client—and my going to London to study at the Frank Jefkins Institute of Public Relations were the happy outcomes of these coincidences. It led me to start Genesis PR, which was technically my first job in PR.
Back then, there was no understanding of what public relations was and what it could do. Starting a PR firm back in the ’90s was like exploring the unknown. Genesis started its official operations on November 1, 1992, a landmark year in my life and in the life of India. The country had witnessed the most revolutionary economic reforms and business and trade had opened up. In came companies from all over the world and with them, the exposure and the expectations that would lead to the need for PR and communications.
PRmoment India: What did you do with your first salary and how much was it?
Prema Sagar: I didn’t have a salary back then. I started off with Rs. 100 in my pocket and hoped for the best! Our first retainer in those early days went right back into the company and the small team of two that I had with me.
PRmoment India: One lesson from your first job you still carry?
Prema Sagar: I have always been someone who is constantly looking to do more. I knew I wanted to do more, and chance brought me there. Running the press gave me my very first lessons in running a business. From managing operations to marketing, client servicing to networking with people. Everything got its foundation from that first job really!
PRmoment India: Your biggest dream then?
Life was simpler then. Looking after my children, the business, my parents, the clients and the relationships I made along the way. That was it really. Oh, and I wanted to be able to put up a music festival like Woodstock in India! This was a big dream, that eventually came alive with the Kasauli Rhythm and Blues Festival we started with Genesis Foundation!
PRmoment India:One PR tool you remember from then?
Prema Sagar: People may forget what you tell them, but they don’t forget how you make them feel. Back then, what people were missing was just coming together to experience something new. People love to remember experiences, which is how ‘Going Public at the Park’ was born at THE Park Hotel. Experiential events are very important, and the need for thinking out-of-the-box and constantly innovating is constant.
Today, this has taken on a much bigger form with greater impact, with the presence of social media, influencers, key opinion leaders, etc. But it was and still is, all about getting people together to experience something new.
The other thing I remember, which is not a tool, but one of the things I had to do early on was, PR for PR. In those days, no one knew what public relations was, and I had to educate businesses around the importance of PR. I remember I started writing about PR in the Financial Times and holding round tables on PR. If the company had to grow, the industry had to go through a paradigm shift, and we were the flag-bearers of change.