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Personal meetings, story narrating to journalists, eating in media office canteens - Where Art Thou My Good Old PR?

On World PR Day I reflect upon the past two decades of my PR journey. It's been a long time filled with massive transformations in the industry. But amongst all these, the one thing that I deeply yearn for is the raw, human interaction that used to be a fundamental part of the job.

In the yesteryears, PR was largely about fostering relationships with journalists. Our interactions extended beyond mere professional exchanges. We would schedule coffee dates, lunch meet-ups, and even evening drinks, where we would passionately narrate tales about our clientele. This was a time when we could truly understand journalists as individuals, and they would reciprocate by knowing us beyond our roles.

I nostalgically recall the informal networking and camaraderie that thrived in the canteens of popular media houses in Delhi, such as the Times of India building at ITO, the PTI building, or the HT House. Each place buzzed with energy and stories, offering opportunities to bond with journalists and fellow PR professionals, share industry insights, and simply enjoy the lively atmosphere. Since I mostly worked out of Delhi, I can share the names of popular Delhi hangouts, but I am sure PR folks in other cities would have their own favourites.

The importance of these personal connections can't be understated; they were the bedrock of trust. Trust which, once established, meant that journalists were more inclined to write about our clients. And when they did, their write-ups were more often than not favourable.

While the relationship-building aspect hasn't completely disappeared from PR, it has morphed significantly. Our primary communication with journalists is through channels like email or social media. There's a loss of personal touch; we rarely get to appreciate them as individuals anymore.

Further amplifying this nostalgia is the absence of the jovial hogging sessions in media office canteens. It used to be an amazing platform for meeting fellow PR professionals and learning about the latest industry happenings. These gatherings were more than meals; they were vibrant exchanges of stories, sharing of valuable tips, and a whole lot of fun.

Yes, the concept of networking events still persists today. However, they aren't the same as those lively canteen sessions. Those were more informal, more relaxed, and the perfect opportunity to unwind.

I don't imply that PR now is inferior to what it used to be. It's merely different. Today, PR leans heavily towards data and analytics. We employ tools like Google Analytics and Meltwater to monitor our clients' media presence. These platforms enable us to measure the return on investment (ROI) for our PR campaigns, creating a more data-driven approach.

Yet, I firmly believe that the human element is still crucial in PR. It's this aspect that transforms PR from a mundane profession into a vibrant people's business. It's what injects the element of fun into PR.

As we commemorate National PR Day, I propose a toast to the golden era of PR. A time of human connections, personal meetings, and passionate storytelling to journalists. I pine for those days.

But alongside my nostalgia, there's an eagerness for what lies ahead. I foresee PR gaining more relevance in the forthcoming years. PR will be pivotal in helping businesses foster relationships with customers and stakeholders in an increasingly interconnected world.

To my fellow PR comrades, I say this: let's welcome the future of PR with open arms. Let's leverage our skills and enthusiasm to effect meaningful change in the world.

And most importantly, let's always cherish the human element that breathes life into PR. That's what makes our profession so unique and rewarding.

Madhukar Kumar, founder & chief strategist, Grey Cell PR

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