Why is your first year in PR so tough?

Low pay, rude journalists, handling multiple accounts, the shock of real life PR that education doesn’t really prepare you for and lack of adequate mentoring at work; life is tough for young PR professionals in the first year of their PR career.

PRmoment India spoke to PR professionals in India who are both in the first year of their job or have just completed a year to find out what their life is like.

Starting out

Aashray Akundi, 25 years old, Junior Account Executive at Avian Media Mumbai, doesn’t have the typical educational background for a PR professional. A graduate in Mechanical Engineering from Osmania University, Hyderabad, he did his MBA in communications management from SIMC, Pune. His MBA degree is a sign of the demand for PR professionals that understand marketing and business outcomes.

Commenting on his first year as a PR professional Aashray says that, “Money is one of the big challenges a fresher faces in the PR industry. However over a period of time, it no longer remains a challenge. Another great challenge for a fresher is having an open mind. A willingness to accept any vertical or client given to you, understanding its scope of work, trials and re-trails in work and then deciding if you are able to do it well or not, is a must. I come from a Mechanical Engineering background, I interned with Edelman Delhi in the technology vertical and later joined Avian Media Mumbai, in the entertainment and lifestyle vertical."

Mallika Singh, 21 years old, is a political science graduate from Miranda House and a post graduate in Advertising and PR from the Indian Institute of Mass Communications. She is currently a management trainee at 20:20 MSL. Mallika says, “The biggest trial for me is to devote equal attention and time to different sets of clients who have varied requirements. The tech industry is new to me so understanding official terms is also difficult but one learns on the job.”

Mallika adds, “Also, getting touch with journalists without having any prior working relationship with them is always challenging as our deadlines are different and they seem to have different PR professionals calling them through the day which can leave many short tempered!”

Why do young PR professionals quit?

Rakesh Kumar Jha, PR professional with a leading PR agency, says there are three major reasons for young PR professionals to quit – better salary, better boss or a better brand name.

Subhash Pais, Business Head at i9 Communications Pvt. Ltd. says, “I have spoken to a top head hunter for the industry in Bombay who said almost two-thirds of kids leave the industry after 18 months. This was endorsed by the head of a top institute as well.”

Sandeep Rao, Group Head, Blue Lotus Communications, also pegs the attrition rate as high – close to 50-60 % in the first 6-12 months.

According to Shilpa Narani, who has a Masters from Jamia Millia Islamia University in Media Governance: “Sometimes there is impractical pressures on PR professionals, such as getting media coverage for every story, to pitch to top publications only and pulling out stories from a poor concept. This may be the reason for newbies to quit.”

Aashray, says that, “‘Agencies pay less’ – money is a very common reason why people quit PR, but just give it a thought from the agency’s point of view. They invest in freshers at the entry level to train and get them into the right groove. After a year or so many realise they aren’t meant for or are not comfortable in the mad race. They quit and go. An agency would rather invest in someone who demonstrates long term sustenance and eventually becomes an asset to the agency.”

Another reason for PR professionals quitting in the first year, according to Aashray is, “Lack of the right mentorship. My peers aren’t being guided the right way which makes them lose interest and drift towards another field. I am lucky I have got the right kind of mentoring during my internship with Edelman Delhi, SIMC Pune and now with Avian Media Mumbai.”

Rakesh Thukral, Chief Operating Officer, Edelman India, agrees that, “In our experience wherever the leadership of the company has spent time engaging with the fresh talent, both the fresher’s and the company have benefitted. We tend to forget that talent is the prime asset in our business.”

Rakesh adds, “The young ones today need fast growth – they tend to get restless with the routine. The biggest component of growth being new opportunities. They are motivated by diversity and the options to do big things that give them exposure and new experiences. The good news is that the PR landscape is now starting to evolve and with those who are actually practicing a more integrated form of communications, the opportunity to explore diverse options exists.”

What PR skills do they want going forward?

23 year old Gaurav Goswami is a media science graduate from George College, Kolkata and a Post Graduate in Corporate Communications and Event Management from Apeejay Institute of Mass Communication.

According to Gaurav, “My education solely has not helped me very much when handling my job mainly because the education system and the actual Indian PR industry are totally different. A major portion of things I only came to know after entering the PR industry.”

Geetika Chadha, a junior PR Executive with Blue Pigeon Image Management has a Post-Graduation Diploma in Public Relations from Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan but says that there are skills she still wishes to pick up.

“I think I should work more on my writing skills and more on creating media contacts. I believe my strong points, such as market studies and designing campaigns will help me a lot in my future.”

Rahul Dhall, 22, has a PG Diploma in PR from Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan, New Delhi. He highlights content generation as a major skill to pick up in the future.

“I still need to develop my content writing skills. I also need to develop my technological skills and software skills. I should know how to operate Adobe Photoshop and Corel Draw software.”

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