Here we discuss the basic ingredients of Public Relations: Topical Issues, The backdrop - economic and social, What makes PR tick, the pain points, the problems, the positives, the negatives... almost anything under the sun related to the communication industry!

Friday, March 19, 2010

What do PR courses teach you...

I think PR is one field which is the most “misunderstood” by people. Most of us know it only as an extended part of media or to be more precise as a division of ‘Advertising’ but no one knows what exactly it is.

When I took up education for my bachelors and later my masters in Mass Communication, ‘PR’ was the subject which was given least importance. In fact, in my years of graduation only a couple of pages were “wasted” in making notes about PR. I haven’t really understood why: Was it my lack of understanding of the subject ,or was it that the stock of knowledge of my teachers on the subject was limited?

Most of the fresh graduates from any mass communication or PR course have one thing in common, i.e. the definition of PR, ‘Creating Goodwill of the Company In eyes of its audience’. But if we ask them how they will create this ‘good will’, then almost all sport a ‘puzzled’ look. And God forbid, if someone asks them the names of top 10 publications of India, then they are in real trouble!

Also, most of the PR students know of a PR tool called “Press Release”, as it is a common word used by their teachers in colleges. But when it comes to writing it, most of them land up in scratching their heads or ending up with 1 paragraph or the best of all excuse: “Sorry our teachers have not taught us this”.

I think the problem is not at the students end, but with the educational institutes which are offering these wonderful courses. The educational hubs which take pride in calling themselves as the heralders of quality “job-oriented” education and offer different courses in media, churn out 100s of “so called” PR professionals at the same time. But the lack of depth in the course content ensures that none of them are equipped with the necessary skill sets to ensure their right fitment for the job. It is imagined that “learning on the job” will work where education failed!

Most of the novices who take PR as their career have to learn one thing that if they want to be a good PR professionals, then they have to unlearn the theory books of their colleges and have to make a fresh beginning with a open mind, so that they can grasp the complexities of the field.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Deliverables in PR exercise

Yet another mail from a prospective client asking for quantifiable deliverables from the PR exercise!!! How many times have we faced this question during pitches and what has been our response?
I have asked this question from innumerable PR professionals and have yet to come across a satisfying response. Similar questions posted on various forums like Linkedin etc. have all elicited a tepid response at best. Most of the deliverables are centered around media coverage and the editorial economic value of the coverage. Simply put the easiest way of doing this is to calculate the advertising value based on the space (column centimeters) and multiply this by 6-8 times (the factor given internationally to editorial coverage vis a vis advertising).
But how fair is it ? If a half page story carries one quote from the client, still it is considered to be a half page editorial space for the client. There are seldom stories which are entirely devoted to the client. At the maximum I would say the average across all clients would be in the range of 10% for stand alone stories. We do have cases of 100% stories on the client but this is rare.
Why can't the so called associations representing the PR Industry like PRCAI, IPRA, PRSI etc. work out a common denominator? Why can't we have a PR Measurement Index (PRMI)? The quantifiable deliverables are something which has vexed the PR Industry ever since the beginning. These so called International and National associations, if they are serious in doing some good work for the profession and seeing the profession evolve into a strong Industry must apply themselves to this task.Then only can they be called the true torch bearers of the profession.
I have certain thoughts on the subject, which may or may not find acceptance. I will express these in my next article.

Media Monitoring as a Service

Most PR agencies in India include Media Monitoring as a part of their PR activities. The cost of the PR exercise quoted includes the cost of the media monitoring and is not charged as a separate service. However while media monitoring is done in-house, most PR agencies also outsource the Monitoring services to specialised Service Providers. This is done in order to try and capture the maximum coverage that appears across geographies. This is a standard practice and is not an issue.
The issue at stake is that with most clients wanting free PR service or wanting them at a cost which is like free :), how can agencies survive. This is even more true if you want to engage competent Monitoring agencies. With Media Monitoring which used to be 10-15% of the cost, spiraling to 20-25% of the normal retainers charged by most agencies, isn't it time that we started billing our clients separately for the media monitoring?
Internationally it is a norm to charge extra for monitoring, it is high time that we adopted international norms, since most clients expect us to deliver to global standards.