Mind the business knowledge gap in PR says AvianWE's Divyabh Singh

The Indian PR industry, which touched Rs. 1600 Crore in FY19 as per PRCAI, has been galloping at a rapid pace. However, the biggest challenge the industry faces after a dearth of quality talent is a gaping ‘business knowledge deficit’.

While business knowledge today can be acquired in a few clicks, agency teams need to ensure it flows seamlessly across levels. The deficit in knowledge comes to the fore with devastating consequences when clients look for strategic interventions from PR agencies and struggle to get the desired knowledge and insight backed inputs.

This deficit stems from the fact that information asymmetry exists between clients and agencies, which never gets addressed by any of the stakeholders involved. Corporate communication teams fail to share the required business-centric information – marketing cycles, sales channel details, GTM channels, sales trends, and other intrinsic business cornerstones. 

This results in PR agencies building plans on assumptions and/or past experience within a similar industry. Additionally, the onus rests heavily on PR agencies to shrug off their perception as media managing platforms and instead transform into true knowledge backed consultancies.

Here’s how I see the PR industry shifting gears in the coming years:

  • Do you have what it takes? Today there are no entry barriers to the PR industry, no clear demarcations exist to set a standard for new recruits. It almost seems as if anyone who has a graduate degree can apply and thrive in this media ecosystem. Identifying and nurturing a robust talent pool with the right skill set is the need of the hour. The PR industry needs people who are analytical, thoughtful, and lateral thinkers.

    Graduates from diverse backgrounds like economics, statistics, behavioral sciences, AI need to be identified and recruited to strengthen the PR talent pool.

    Lastly, talent needs to be mapped closely with emerging businesses for best results. With Agri-tech gaining momentum as a business, for instance, does your agency have the know-how required to market such a business?
  • Train to gain knowledge: Trainings and workshops have become more frequent in agency circles over the past few years.

    However, they need to be standardized and their benchmark raised to meet the dynamic demands of clients. Agencies need to recognize that new recruits need to understand and invest maximum time in understanding the business associated with their clients.

    They need to burn the midnight oil to understand media landscapes, business eco-systems, business metrics and marketing cycles. But along with this, they also need to be trained in managing stress.  This issue is discussed on a recent PRmoment podcast.
  • Decrease the information asymmetry: Agencies need to put in extra effort to understand the entire business cycle of their brands. They need to push their clients to share additional information across the business verticals- sales, marketing, finances. Furthermore, brands need to be more receptive to the idea of sharing detailed business plans and GTM strategies with agencies, to empower them to strategize and deliver optimal results.
  • See beyond the media horizon Nothing in today’s business eco-system is static. Businesses, PR agencies and media are all changing at a rapid pace. Therefore, agencies need to pre-empt and act as swiftly. We need to see beyond the media horizon and guide clients over a period which goes beyond contractual obligations.

I am sure there are more ways that can help propel our industry further, and industry bodies can bring agencies together to plan the shift. But we as PR professionals need to do our bit to bring about a change in how we visualize our industry, and accordingly, make tweaks within teams to set benchmarks for great PR consulting.

Divyabh Singh, is director, AvianWE India

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