What’s the best PR advice you’ve ever received?

In the fast paced world of PR, hardly anyone has the time to stop and give advice. So, PRmoment India spoke to a range of PR pros, including millennials, to find out the best piece of PR advice they have given or received.

Handling clients and bosses

Ritwik Sharma, senior account supervisor, Weber Shandwick offers a sensible tip for handling tough situations with clients or colleagues. Sharma says, “Do you have a problem with a team member or client? Deal with it by talking about it. The PR business in India is very small and you’re bound to bump into each other sooner or later. You don’t want to be recognised as ‘that’ guy who left when the going got tough.”

Nidhi Thakur, 24, founder of PR and social media agency, ‘The Owl Post’ feels that a key aspect of handling tough working relationships is to, “Remember to work “together” and not “for”! This may sound philosophical, but it’s true. My boss from my first PR job always insisted that I consider her as a colleague; in fact she introduced herself as a colleague at business development meetings. I now try to do the same with my team. And same goes for my clients.”

“I don’t promise the stars, I always keep them equally involved in every process so that they are aware of the challenges I face and their expectations are well in sync with my efforts. This balance between us has helped me a lot! “

Best advice for starting a campaign

Anju Thakral Makin, Founder Director, Alchemy Corporate Communications has this succinct suggestion for starting a campaign. Makin says, "Map your media and pace your message. keep it interesting at every stage."

Sharma believes in speaking up and asking questions, “If you have just 5% doubt, question the client and demystify the confusion until there is nothing but clear thoughts in your mind. Once you see the bigger picture, involve everybody in the brainstorming process. You’ll be amazed to find the quality of information you can get from people that come from different disciplines. I remember asking an intern wacky ideas for a product launch. The ideas he brought to the table were refreshing and mind boggling. You never know what an extra head can provide when it’s not functioning within a defined framework.”

Thakur advises on keeping a flexible approach. She says, “Be open to change. Such as  discarding months of hard work because some other brand has suddenly launched a similar campaign just days before you had to, or designing an altogether new plan overnight, and even accepting ideas from the clients’ marketing, advertising, digital and production teams.”

Thakur also says it’s important to remember that, “No campaign is successful until it really is!”

Sharma says, “There will be times when you’re not convinced by a campaign and the voice inside your head is telling you to scrap the communication plan. Dealing with a rigid client is an art form that gets perfected.”

Pitching a so-so story

There are certainly times when you have to pitch a not so great story.

For Sharma, the answer to these situations is very clear. He says, “There will be times when you don’t have a breath taking story-peg nor have the liberty to share exclusive information. That day you will need to pitch a story that, frankly, isn’t that great. If, and when, that happens, ask yourself, “would this interest me if I were a journalist? If your answer is certainly not, then be ready to say no to a client. At the end of the day you are their media advisor. Advise them to let this one pass-by.”

Thakur has a different take. She feels that, “Your pitch being turned down by one journalist does not mean that it is a bad pitch. It only means you haven’t pitched to the right journalist yet. Go back to your drawing board, twist your communication and target another publication. If not mainline, go for magazines, go for websites, go for bloggers. Every story has a buyer; you just have to find one!”

Handling a social media crisis

Thakur advises, “Apologise! Don’t try to cover up your obvious blunder with a lie; don’t blame it on an intern or on your nephew…and definitely DO NOT try to keep your feet up in the air even after you know you have fallen. A simple sorry works much better than a cover-up that will only invite scorn, criticism and customers losing faith in you. The biggest examples for this would be the latest Flipkart apology after the Big Billion fiasco, and the TOI cover-up for what should’ve clearly been an apology in the first place!”

Sharma says, “Leave it to the experts. There’s a reason why every PR agency now has a digital division. Don’t try to be a hero by solving the problem by yourself. You may have 3 thousand followers and more on your Google circle, but that does not certify you as a digital communication expert. Integrate your expert on the client with the digital expertise of the social media team and work together to curb the crisis. I’ve seen amazing PR campaigns go down-the-drain because of a wrong tweet by a digital novice.”

Break down the silos

Sharma also suggests that, “When working in PR, one gets cosy with a particular vertical and creates walls that isolate the person to other practices. This should be avoided and you should always have an open-mind. Make it a habit to talk to other teams and participate in the brain storming process. Once you get nice and comfy with a particular client/vertical…change. Participate in a project for another team; learn digital, start participating in NBDs. Once you’ve distanced yourself from the world, there is no coming back”.

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