PR is more Human now than Half a Decade Ago believes The PRactice's Sayesha Arora

Five years ago, as an intern tracking the coverage of my consumer electronics’ client in The Indian Express, I learned my first PR lesson -- Influence. 

After scanning the paper thoroughly for over 20 minutes, I went back to my manager with disappointment. My team lead instead pointed to me the left most corner of the half-page tech paper and there it was, a picture-less coverage announcing the launch with a headline that does not even call out the brand’s name. 

While intently looking at the paper I could not find my client’s coverage, I wondered how many buying decisions that print clip could really influence.

When my friends and classmates were busy opting for internships in sectors such as tourism, marketing, fashion designing, teaching, I found it difficult to explain ‘What is PR?’, ‘What do you do in your job role?’, ‘So you write for the paper?’

Fast forward to last year, when my father came to me and said “We are not going to use Dabur honey anymore, the NavBharat Times have done a research and there are top five brands of honey titled the purest, we will buy one of them. I immediately pointed out to him it’s a PR gimmick. His response was not surprising either. “A good one then should as well bring them some sales,” he said.

Over the years, public relations has also seen the effect of war, politics, technology, socio-political changes and has emerged as a rather essential part of any business. Brands are no longer communicating on a need-to-know basis, they are demanded to actively communicate 24*7 via multiple mediums including social media. The latest influencers in the sector are the rapid adoption of technology and the covid-19 pandemic. The reason behind the communication industry coming out of the pandemic less affected than evolved is due to its capability to marry science and human touch to meet the most unique requirements of businesses.

From a 24-hour news cycle, we are moving towards a 24-second news cycle

With absolutely anything and everything going viral these days, one must be sensitive to what goes on social media. 

This practice has altered the ‘as and when’ phase of brand communication and entrusted communicators as round-the-clock managing experts of how the brand is perceived.

PR has emerged as an industry that has used technology to communicate the human aspects of the brand more cleverly and frequently, further enhancing its scope in the country.

Effect of political environment and entertainment industry

Political PR is not a new field, but the last half a decade has given it the due recognition it deserves in the most populous democracy of the world. The ruling government is leading the path of Political PR by using PR tools like #ClapForOurCarers, #9MinuteDiwali, Mann ki Baat with PR Modi to address the biggest crisis of its term -- the COVID-19 outbreak. Communication was used to bring the collective will of 1.3 billion people together to stay indoors, while the country prepared itself to fight the pandemic.

Making political PR mainstream has been a two-way street- A more communicative government communicating with the more communicating democrats. Digital advancement has enabled human voices to emerge from so the ‘common man’ as never before. Voters now have multiple social outlets where they can actively voice their views instead of being dispassionate observers; thus, opening the communications window wider. 

From recent examples, we were all directly or indirectly a part of the #FarmersProtest or the #CAAProtest from our screens at the comfort of our homes. While at the same influenced for a weekend getaway @FiarmontJaipur because all influencers from our social media feeds are celebrating Holi there. 

The long-term effects of influencer marketing and communication through public figures are debatable, but we sure are actively moving towards creating a wider domain for third-party communication in the industry

Human Interaction through a Digital framework

Artificial intelligence and machine learning have widened the digital framework and created more opportunities for brands to communicate with tech-savvy consumers. Transforming customer journey by data-led decision making, deciphering tons of information coming from the digital realm has also left the consumers in a sense of analysis paralysis.

PR allows one to optimize the digital tools by backing them up with a human touch of customized, sensitive communication strategy. Hence, communications today have a larger a role to play in strengthening paid marketing tools.

In conclusion, Being Human

PR has optimized communications strategies to make the most of today’s technological innovations and has emerged as a stronger tool of marketing than five years ago. It has now become the humanizer element necessary for tools of marketing rather than just being a tool itself. It is thus high time that education around PR becomes more than just a last-page brief mention in an 11th standard Business Studies textbook or a semester subject in mass media courses.

Having witnessed recognition from brands, marketers, and consumers, PR now has the potential of emerging as one of the mainstream career options and perhaps, a little easier to explain to a layman.

Sayesha Arora, account manager, The PRactice. She is also winner of the 2021 edition of #GodrejPRmomentAdfactors 3030.