How should PR in India tackle digital?

One of the biggest challenges facing the PR business in India today is how to tackle the digital question. What areas of digital PR should you get into? What areas are best left outsourced and what new areas is digital bringing PR into? Kevin King, the Global Practice Chair for Edelman Digital spoke to PRmoment India’s Editor, Paarul Chand about the way ahead for digital.  

Paarul Chand: In what areas of digital does PR have an advantage?

Kevin King: I would put digital in 3 different markets. Digital can be used to evolve, promote and protect.  With the ‘evolve’ function we are competing against the Deloitte’s and McKinsey’s of the world. We are involved in change management like management consultants.

Where promotion is concerned, the CMO is really struggling with an online marketing strategy where the marketer and the customer are all in the same channel. Handling that is the piece that is really tripping up people. CMOs are becoming more and more in charge of everything online.

This is the grey space everyone is in right now - in the ‘evolve’ and ‘promote’ function. Agencies, consultants, advertisers – all of us. Deloitte, for example, is building its own digital capabilities.

Where PR and the ‘protect’ side is concerned, the reputation protect side, PR agencies are not facing any major competition.

Paarul Chand: Is India investing enough in content?

Kevin King: I don’t find it that different in India. I don’t think the level of investment in the creative side is low. The biggest challenge is that that there is no creative culture. We need to bring in creative directors who can go toe to toe with the advertising agencies. As a paid media agency you will not be successful without that. Having said that you also want an agency that will execute the ideas well.

One must also look at the way TV ad spend is dropping off in countries like Canada, in the US and Brazil. In fact, in Canada digital ad spend has already overtaken the ad spend on TV. At the Brazil World Cup, more money was spent on digital media than on TV. In India, print and TV are still very strong catchers of advertising money. But we have to remember that the 25 and under market are not following the traditional market. You have to completely change your tactics to catch them.

Paarul Chand: How does one integrate PR and digital?

Kevin King: You are going to have an overlap for sure. But from our strategy perspective – marketing and communication side the buyers are very different – there are tremendous specialities for both. Internationally the bulk of our clients are CMOs, but that is not the case in India.

Paarul Chand: Do you think digital PR agencies should invest in their own technologies, in their own IP?

Kevin King: They should invest in IP in terms of thought leadership – brain power and not product IP. In general philosophy, if you have a product IP, the problem is that it puts you in a customer service business. You have to sell a lot to make it pay.

Kevin King, the Global Practice Chair for Edelman Digital

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