PR Lessons from my year abroad

As Public Relations professionals, we take pride in the work we do in a complex market like India. We often tell our global colleagues how unique our market is and how this or that doesn’t work in India. We tell ourselves, “we are Indians and we are like that only”, and “it happens only in India”.

Our jobs are tough and demanding and we have worked around the challenges to create a process that delivers results. I have spent almost a decade working in India and if given a chance, would not change a thing about it… however, over the last one year I have had a different kind of education.

I have had the good fortune of working in New York for a few months and I’m now based in Shanghai. With my experience in India, I discovered that we are at par, if not ahead of our global colleagues when it comes to planning, managing and executing great, creative campaigns. However, there are things that I am learning that make a lot of difference to me as a working professional and as a PR professional…

Respect your time:

Indian Standard Time does not work… being 3-minutes late on the call/for the meeting is unacceptable. Nobody told me about this before I signed up. No fun I say! And people do stick to the end time too; meetings scheduled for an hour, end in one hour and not extend to three (so predictable and dull, who doesn’t love talking for two hours more?) On a serious note, I don’t think we deliberately delay things in India or do not respect time. However, I do think we are more flexible than we should be. A little more discipline and respecting our own time will help us a lot – at work and in our personal lives. **6:59 pm… dials in for the 7:00 pm call**

Let’s get to the point:

As Indians, we love talking; we love telling stories and we love getting lost in them. Our movies are so long that they need an intermission; our presentations and documents are equally long and go round-and-round before making a point – just like this paragraph. What can be said in five slides, we take thirty to say; and what needs a hundred words, we spend a thousand more to explain. At times we think we are being cautious or polite but there’s nothing better than being straight forward and to-the-point – in our documents and our interactions with people.

Network, network, network:

Not everyone is at ease among strangers but in the communication business, that should be our strength. We like to hang out only with our friends and colleagues… We go to parties and stay in our mini-groups; we hardly have any professional networking platforms and when we do, we don’t attend them. Networking has a lot of benefits… you get to know more people, learn from them, expand your horizons and it helps you further your personal and professional goals.

Appreciate the opportunities:

In India, we have a shortage of good PR professionals and therefore it’s an employees’ market. There are plenty of growth opportunities and people grow up to manager and director level positions fast. I am not saying, we don’t deserve it but simply saying we need to appreciate it more. We have to work doubly hard to stay up to the standards of our colleagues abroad who may have had to spend more time to reach those positions.

Showcase your work better and share:

We do some excellent work but do not end up presenting it well… In addition, we spend little time in documenting our learning. Indian entries are increasingly being shortlisted at international PR awards but we could always to better. The idea is to not win awards only (which definitely boost morale and a team’s credibility) but to also share learning with our peers in the industry.

There are a lot of things our international colleagues can learn from us but that will take another post or two. For now, feel free to share your thoughts on the above and what according to you we can do to improve as Indian PR professionals.

Shrey Khetarpal, @shreykhetarpal, PR Professional

This article is based on my own opinions and does not reflect my employers’ or clients’ views.


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