Has PR become harder?

One arm reaches for social media, the other to the leading print daily, the next arm struggles to handle new demands in the face of no additional fees and another fights to keep on top of the game by learning on the run.

Sounds familiar?

Just your average day in the life of a PR professional.

In this two part article, PRmoment India looks at the demands on PR today and what is being done about redundant skills. First up, what are the new challenges of PR today? Is it much harder today to be in PR?

Under cutting is making PR less viable

Richa Seth, account director, Adfactors PR prefers to see the job as more challenging today, rather than harder. One of the main issues? Increasing client demands.

Says Seth, “Clients now expect PR consultants to advise organisations beyond media visibility, they now involve teams for planning integrated marketing communications and look for recommendations that are in sync with the overall objectives and narrative.”

At the same time, Seth points to what she calls the ‘Business Dynamics Paradox’. While underlining the fact that these are her personal views,  Seth explains that, “ In the recent past, many boutique PR consultancies have emerged; they tend to charge low consultancy fees and also are ready to work on a project basis. Therefore, some of the companies continue to bargain for low retainers that is hampering the growth of the industry.”

Senior PR professional, Rahul Rakesh, agrees with this opinion. He asserts that, “No matter, how much we go gaga over the present government’s achievements, the under-current in India is very cautious and is wary of spending cash. The irony lies in the fact that corporate wants to include and expand the services which is inversely proportional to the retainer they want to shell out. What they forget is they can have a masala dosa from a roadside vendor but if they need to experience the servicing, they have to go to a ‘SagarRatna’, a ‘Sarvana Bhawan’, or a ‘Dakshin’.”

Rakesh shares his insight that today corporates are increasingly looking for increased time and mind space from consultancies. This, says Rakesh, has led to a shift towards mid-size or boutique firms which promise to give more time space at a relatively lower cost.

So many channels, not enough time!

Pratishtha Kaura, associate manager, Text100 voices a challenge that PR has had for quite a while now.

She says, “The job of modern day PR professionals is far more demanding than it used to be earlier. They not only need to be informed and updated about the industries where their clients operate in, they need to know the dynamics of the industry which are changing at a fast pace. Additionally, print media in India continues to grow, contrary to a scenario in other parts of the world which is why the significance of traditional PR cannot be downplayed.”

Dhruvi Mahajan, account executive with the capital market communications practice  of a leading PR firm comes up with a colourful way to describe how PR has become more difficult, saying, “In a way, the PR job today like before is quite similar to cleaning dirty linen in a washing machine. The input as always is a tarnished image and it is the job of the PR consultant to build a structure of a clean image around the client. This is one of the toughest challenges, as say 10 years ago the PR professional only had one or two communication channels to play around with. Today, the PR agency has to give a complete range of services across different media from television to radio to blogs twitter and other social media platforms.”

This is why Rakesh believes that, thanks to content and messaging being paramount in communications, “Never ever before, PR has come so close to its distant half-sister, advertising.To maintain and further consolidate its acceptance has made PR more challenging.”

Debashree Chatterjee, account manager, Concept Public Relations India Ltd, says that while clear, measurable PR results are demanded, she feels this objectivity has helped bring about better planning. Says Chatterjee, “Clients are preferring goal-based planning and execution, the focus on bonus component attached to the performance is therefore really motivating.

Next week: Redundancy in PR

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