Sunday, January 20, 2013

For the love of public relations…

When I started my career in 2003, I was the only one in my batch of 20 students to opt for public relations (P.R.). In fact, my curiosity of P.R. dates back to school days when I watched a comic TV show cracking jokes on PR practitioners in one of its episodes. By the time I graduated, the curiosity turned into an infatuation. While all my classmates were making their career choices in areas such as event management or journalism (options made easy by the fact that these streams were far better defined), I had no doubt that my fate was in P.R. Amused at my conviction, a few classmates joked whether I was born to be a P.R. professional.  A decade later, I can surely say that P.R. is not just my profession, it’s my passion.   
Over the years, I have been talking to many new joiners in the P.R. community on their aspirations. It’s heartening to see quality talent opting for a career in P.R. But what I see missing is focus and direction. When I ask them what they wish to achieve from the discipline, they are either unclear or say that they would want to move to the corporate side in corporate communications departments. If the same question was put to a budding advertising professional, there are high chances that the answer would be to design and execute creative campaigns that can set benchmarks in the ad industry. I’m amazed that very few P.R. practitioners ever talk about creating industry leading campaigns that set the benchmark in communications. That has made me wonder if most of us understand the power of public relations beyond a front page story in top business, mainline dailies or magazines or the coveted 60 second slot on television.

From 123RF

We live in a world where messaging is king, irrespective of the medium, be it online or offline. With so much clutter and competition, it is becoming increasingly difficult to convey the desired messaging to target audiences. Who can understand, craft and deliver messaging more effectively than P.R. professionals?

Today P.R. is being asked to prove its worth for every penny spent. With communications budgets facing intense scrutiny, I see my team being pitted against those in ad agencies, digital agencies and others in the fight for marketing dollars and for ownership of integrated campaigns. I know we can win as long as my team controls the message and gives the most holistic and cost-effective idea. I disagree with those who say that clients don’t listen. Let your ideas speak for you.
Our business needs people who are intensely passionate about what we do and can demonstrate the deep knowledge and business acumen required to take on detractors. We cannot survive by playing on the defensive. Without passion and drive to think different, we will be relegated to a corner in the communications business.
The purpose of my blog is to see if I can convey and transfer this passion to promising young P.R. professionals and students. This week also marks the passing away of one of the pioneers of public relations, Daniel J. Edelman, whose life inspires many of us. While reading a book titled ‘Edelman and the Rise of Public Relations’, I was quite intrigued by his vision and passion for the profession dating as far back as 1950s.  
I have no doubt that P.R. is the future of communications business. So, for those who want to do more than just make a living out of P.R., watch this blog for some interesting takes on P.R.
For the fence-sitters yet to make up their minds, I hope this blog can clear some of your doubts.
And for my most beloved - those in the P.R. baiters club- please be aware that no matter what you say or do, there will always be people who will continue to LOVE this profession!

Some interesting videos:

‘A World Without Public Relations’ by spirited young P.R. pros

‘Creativity in PR: The bigger picture’ by Arun Sudhaman, Partner and Managing Editor, Holmes Report