Today’s young PR force wants respect, says Ritika Kar Sharma
Like any other industry, one of the biggest realities facing Public Relations today is the assimilation of millennials into the workforce. Having seen the birth of the internet and the increasing interconnectedness between communities based on virtual reality, millennials are perhaps best poised to understand the work environment and realities of the current times. The motivations and objectives driving millennials are unique to this generation. In this context, I believe one of the most important forces driving today’s young PR workforce is respect. However, respect does not come easy. It has to be earned!
After spending almost eight years in Public Relations, I would like to share a few thoughts from my experience that I believe have helped me earn respect for myself and my profession. These include client experience, creative thinking and holistic communications strategies.
The importance of client experience
Marketers have been raving about the importance of exceeding customer expectations. In PR too, the client is our customer; it is essential that we ensure that the overall client experience is memorable so that we can forge strong and long-lasting relationships.
Clients and media are working around tight internal deadlines themselves, and we need to be able to give them the support and counsel they require. Having a sense of urgency to deliver on urgent client requests is key. Even if there is no rush, there should be absolutely no tolerance for compromise on timelines and commitments. Like Salman Khan says, “ek baar humne commitment kardi, uske baad hum apne aap ki bhi nahi sunte.”
I remember an instance where my team and I pulled off a great large-scale event from planning to execution for one of our technology clients. We managed it without any glitches and had a happy client who wrote us a heart-warming e-mail appreciating our efforts. In the excitement and relief of closing the event flawlessly after months of hard work, we faltered at the last leg of sharing the coverage report on time. Inspite of going beyond deliverables, the last minute issue left a bitter taste in the mouth for the client. This was only because we lost focus on ensuring that the customer experience is consistent till the last minute.
The power of creative thinking
In the last few years I have observed that all of us tend to get stuck in the drudgery of daily work and ticking off activities on our task lists – deliver reports, act on the urgent client request, pitch stories etc. Moreover, we are so limited by what we “think” our clients will and will not do because of our past history and baggage of our own experiences that a lot of times we forget to apply creativity while strategizing. Keeping in mind that clients today talk more about “storytelling” than mere “reporting”, we need to think out-of-the-box.
Creating a storyboard when planning large format stories and pitches can be very handy. It acts as a guide for easy reference throughout the process and gives a clear picture of what information we have in addition to what is further required to beef up a story.
There was a time when we were struggling to get a cover story out in a business magazine for a client. We had limited messaging and were restricted in terms of what India-specific information we could share. This is when we utilized the storyboard approach – described above – and attempted to build a story from scratch. The outcome? A six-page cover story for our client in one of India’s most popular business magazines. Creative thinking and constructive brainstorming helped us with out-of-box ideas that could never have been possible by one person thinking alone.
I cannot emphasize enough on holistic communications. There is an intense need to go beyond media relations and traditional PR. Clients exist and operate in an ecosystem of several stakeholders. The future of public relations lies in recognizing the significance of every stakeholder and design engagement strategies with insights.
Working with one of the largest seeds companies in India over the last six years, my colleagues have been able to work with a diverse range of stakeholders including farmers, seed dealers, and policy makers, apart from the media and traditional influencers. Through engagement initiatives using traditional as well as social tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., we have seen a very positive impact for the client in its stakeholder ecosystem.
To sum up, I strongly believe that the three simple thoughts mentioned above should help us to move the needle for any client that we work with. Respect will come from our ability to constantly push the bar of solutions we provide and quality of work we deliver. We must strive to learn more, be open to challenges, take risks and keep moving up the value chain. Most importantly, being millennials we must embrace our uniqueness as our strength. Taking from Rancho in the movie 3 Idiots – try to achieve excellence; respect and success will come looking for you.
Ritika Kar Sharma has spent seven years in technology PR and has been with The PRactice for over 5 years now. She has run PR campaigns for some of the best known IT organizations. Ritika has won the prestigious PRmoment India’s 30 Under 30 PR professionals in India award in 2015. During her free time, she binges on English TV shows and knows the lyrics of most Hindi songs.