PR professionals under 30 talk about their dreams, their challenges and learnings

The lifeblood of the PR business, are the young professionals.

These practitioners of PR, by the age of 30 already have several years of intensive work experience under their belt.

What does PR mean to them? What are their dreams? What has been their major lesson from handling a PR crisis? And, how are they learning to keep pace with the evolving PR business?

PRmoment India spoke to young PR professionals across the country for this story. Let’s listen in.

What does PR mean to you?

For Mumbai-based PR professional, Karishma Dawar who is 29 years old and Manager of Communication at Nickelodeon, PR means three things: “First, you need to be a great communicator; and that is beyond being a writer. If you have the art of communicating, a small solution can easily march its way through the biggest crises in front of you. Secondly, you have to understand the business of the organisation like a CEO; it’s sales like a CFO and how it all operates like a COO and thirdly, position the results of the hard work you do, quantitatively if possible.”

Hyderabad-based Aashish Washikar, 30, Associate Manager of Global Media Relations at Information Technology Service provider, Tech Mahindra, says that for him PR means: “Being human – focusing on emotional quotient along with a focus on IQ. Being connected – networking is important in PR and should be the forte of the professional too and being a thinker – a PR professional needs to be a thinker. He should be able to think about the strategies, tactical moves as well as being clear on the operational stuff.”

28-year-old, Bangalore-based Anyesha Das, Associate Account Manager, says PR means: “Communication skills, the ability to embrace a service mentality and the curiosity to learn something new or do something new for the client.”

On the Client-Agency Relationship

Clients not understanding media relations and lack of strategic thinking among agencies emerged as the top pain points between agencies and their clients.

Anyesha Das, who works with a large PR agency, points out that: “The biggest challenge faced with clients is that intermittently the clients are not able to give clarity on what they actually require us to do and this might occur because of the multiple number of corporate communication people we deal with. Often there are times the clients want us to reach out to a particular media for something specific and they do not seem to understand that the news they want to share might not be relevant for that person in the media.”

24-year-old, Delhi-based, Apar Mathur, PR manager, points out that the: “Biggest challenge PR faces is making a client understand the value of all coverage, according to a client there are only two papers TOI and HT, they don’t understand the value of other publications and the impact they have."

Aashish Washikar, who works in-house with Tech Mahindra, says in general he feels that agencies offer: “No strategic thinking – firms like us are more interested in how we plan for the big picture and how it effects the image. The agencies get into tactical and operational stuff rather than focusing on doing things differently to show strategic value-add.”

Karishma Dawar, who works client side, also believes: “The biggest challenge for the PR agency is the lack of understanding of the business. The execution is great, PR professionals are generally hard working but the strategic inputs are missing because of less time being spent on understanding the business and its environment.”

For Mumbai-based, brand communications consultant, Deepika Gumaste, 24: “There is nothing more painful than conversing with an expert. Imagine offering solutions and consultancy to a client without knowing about his industry, line of operation, business, competition, so on and so forth. While this is bound to happen because the client is the master of his own business, lots of reading and attending industry and networking events can help build the communication gap with the client and reinforce faith in your clients.”

Biggest Learning from a PR crisis

Karishma Dawar outlines the lesson she learnt from a PR crisis she experienced as part of the PR team handling the launch of LG Smart TV in 2011.

Actress Kangana Ranaut was hired for launching the TV in Mumbai, which was one of the causes for the PR crisis -- PR coverage did not justify the money spent on the launch.

The experience taught her two important lessons: “First of all that the tech media does not care about the celebrity. They will cover the product if it is interesting. And secondly, apprise the marketing team of issues beforehand. For example: no coverage in Bombay Times and Hindustan Times, due to paid coverage in the papers; and hence target select papers via advertising.”

Deepika Gumaste tells us why you shouldn't rely on press conferences and press releases for coverage. She says: “One of my clients operates in a very niche business segment. So niche, that the media doesn’t even consider the business a structured industry who could add value to stakeholders. We had organised a press conference for this client, which was supposed to make an announcement. In spite of several red-flags, we had to go ahead with this conference. Turns out no media could make it to the event. Result – the client was terribly upset. Later, our team ensured large-format features in leading financials and vertical magazines. Moral of the story – PR is not only about press conferences and press releases- there are more tools that could be utilized. Only strategic thinking needs to be in place.”

Incorporating Strategic thinking and social media at work

How are PR professionals incorporating the demands of strategic thinking and the power of social media at work?

25-year-old Sneh Meghlan, who is Assistant Manager of Public Relations at the Radisson Blu Plaza hotel, Hyderabad, says that she is conscious of the need to use social media at work: “I am working in the hotel industry and the most important public for us is our guests. One negative comment about us in any social media platform can be harmful as it spreads within no time. Every guest has a good and bad experience but it becomes worse if bad comments don’t get addressed. So apart from engaging the public on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs and feedback forums like TripAdvisor, it also becomes important to attend to each piece of good and bad feedback.”

Aashish Washikar: “Social media forms a key part of the PR strategy at Tech Mahindra. Digital communication is a much emphasized upon routine in the company and is deployed through Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other media communities available on social sites. At Tech Mahindra, we foster a transparent culture where media and public can ask questions to the executive management on Twitter. Official blogs are another way of communicating our views to the external world and share experiences and thoughtful insights.”

Karishma Dawar says: “Firstly, I try to experiment with various measurement modules in order to position the work done by PR. In order to understand the business better, I communicate with all the divisions of the organisation regularly and even draft documents that fall under the ‘Corporate purview’ to get an in-depth understanding of the business. Lastly, I try to filter the feasible marketing plans from non-feasible ones that come to PR every day.”

Deepika Gumaste: “Strategy’ is all about thinking. Thinking about the long-term goal, keeping in view the vision and mission of an organization and keeping the individual in mind.”

Dreams , Hopes and Advice

Sneh Meghlan says: “Since I have been exposed to the PR industry, the only thought that ponders is that the Indian market is yet to utilise the real power of Public Relation. We are still stuck with just media relations or playing a role of disseminator of information. I yearn to see PR industry grow as more influential medium to build its brand.”

For Apar Mathur, his: “Biggest dream right now would be to be not only just a good PR consultant for a client but also to be a brand consultant for them.”

Aashish Washikar wants: “To be a trusted communicator. A professional who is just not followed but interpreted. I would like to urge the youngsters and the experienced to share their experiences and be ready to guide others. Sometimes these experiences can be the guiding light to understand ‘what not to do’ more than the ways to perform."

Anyesha Das would like: “To learn as much as possible in the field of public relations and probably own a public relation firm someday.”

Deepika Gumaste’s: “Biggest dream is to have worked on brands- small and big in different verticals and business sectors right from NGOs, BFSI, healthcare, lifestyle, real estate, IT-Tech, telecom, etc. Having said that, working for a travel brand remains my biggest dream.”

Karishma Dawar, dreams of the day that she will be: “introduced in the meeting of board directors as a member of the ‘Leadership Committee’ of the organisation and position the value of PR and how it impacts the business.”

What are your hopes and dreams and challenges for the PR business? Do share with us.