Decoding India PR trends 2017, is it make or break time?

Never has PR mattered more for a business reputation, a leader or a product. In the grand churn of social media, there are always eyes watching you and an innocuous comment can quickly escalate into a crisis.

To make sense of what PR in India should do and what it is heading towards, PRmoment India spoke to senior corporate communications leads, to heads of PR firms and to young PR influencers to decode what’s in store for PR in India for 2017.

Rakesh Thukral, managing director, Edelman India

One big trend that Thukral, head of one of India’s largest PR firms, picks for PR in 2017 is the coming together of brand communication with corporate reputation management. Thukral says social listening and digital reputation will matter as much for reputation as for brands, one feeds of the other.

Rakesh Thukral, therefore predicts that, “PR firms will benefit by integrating corporate reputation and brand communications; a realignment of teams and overall strategy of managing our clients’ business will pave the way for success.”

 Adds Thukral, “For PR professionals at an individual level, gaining knowledge of digital platforms and knowing how to leverage them for their clients – reputation or brands will be key. “

Paroma Roy Chowdhury, vice-president -public affairs, SoftBank

Taking a sector approach, Roy Chowdhury flags off technology as an important sector for PR in 2017. She includes new tech in this; namely AI, IoT, genomics and superior healthcare as key sectors in 2017.

Roy Chowdhury also says that “India is going to be more critical than ever as it’s the last bastion of companies such as Uber and Amazon.”

Subhash Pais, founder and business head, i9 Communications 

Pais, not one for mincing his words about what the PR business needs to do says the one thing that will matter most is, “Change. Change in attitude, mind-set and approach. Invest heavily into retraining and move away from a labour mentality towards that of a consultant and a partner, build a strong employer brand.”

Some of his predictions for PR in 2017 include ‘Patanjali’ as a market influencer that would force other forms to rethink their marketing:

Nitin Thakur, director - brand & communication, Max India Limited

The healthcare space is a challenging sector for PR anywhere in the world. And Thakur, who leads brand and communication for Max India Limited says that narratives today as well as media is increasingly polarized. Therefore, Thakur flags off ‘trendjacking’ as technique that communicators should excel in, saying, “For instance, communicators will be well-placed to come up with innovative campaigns in early 2017, which capitalize on demonetization’s fallouts.”

Thakur also disagrees with the current obsession with VR, saying it’s time for effective marketing is not 2017.

Samir Kapur, senior vice president, Adfactors PR

Integration of PR and SEO

For Kapur, it’s no longer desirable to keep PR and SEO apart. Given the influence that ‘earned media’ has on search results, Kapur says, “As Google rewards high-quality content on high-quality sites, the two practices are becoming best of buddies.”

Nitin Mantri, co-founder and CEO, Avian Media

Mantri, who is also president, PRCAI, is bullish on visual storytelling as a PR trend for 2017, including VR.

Mantri adds that data with context will be important.

Says Mantri, “PR firms should invest in dedicated data tracking teams, whose job will be to monitor, collect and analyse data and tailor them according to the needs of different clients.  But there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What works for millennials will fall flat with the Gen Y and Gen Z crowd, not to mention the untapped, but booming, rural market. The bottom-line: Information is out there and in plenty. PR pros must decipher what is relevant for each client and their target audiences. That’s how PR will become truly data driven in 2017.”

Sandeep Rao, co-founder of WhatsApp group for PR, ‘One Source’

As co-founder of the highly engaged WhatsApp PR group, ‘One Source’; Rao is at the frontline of what trends are being seen for PR. Especially, within the millennial PR pros community.  While, some PR professionals are beginning to move closer to being influencers themselves, but even this is not enough to excel at PR in 2017. Says Rao, “There will be the coming together of PR and digital at a crossroad where PR professionals will be required to be mandatorily savvy with ad rates for Facebook, LinkedIn, Dainik Bhaskar and The Economic Times.” 

Rao also says the other issue that will be highlighted, “Is the chronic paucity of skilled professionals in the communications industry. As more brands require marketing professionals who not only talk-the-talk, but can walk-the-walk in terms of integrated thinking, this paucity of talent will mean better pays for those deserving and more stringent demands on those professionals who need to play catch-up.”

Nikhil Kharoo, partner associate, consumer technology practice at Genesis Burson-Marsteller

As a client leader with a sector that continues to be a key growth sector in India, Kharoo says a major challenge for 2017 is tackling public perception about the credibility of messengers of news and views: both media and bloggers.

Kharoo also points to new areas of growth to raise the flat retainers that have plagued PR.

Sunayna Malik, managing director, Text100 India and senior vice president, Text100 APAC.

Text100 has traditionally been a firm that is strong on tech. And this is also the single biggest trend influencing all types of communications today. Says Malik,”2017 will continue to see digital technologies transform businesses and a further blurring of the lines between PR, digital communications, advertising, content marketing. Henceforth, the focus will be on solving the CMOs problems.”

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