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!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why Rookies of Mass Communication are more interested in Journalism

The much debated power of journalism has captivated the imagination of millions who aspire to be Barkha Dutt or Pranav roy. They aspire to be one amongst the top rated journalist this country has ever seen. They join famous schools and colleges to do several courses, in the hope that they will be a part of this glamorous career.

In India, journalism has reached the coveted heights where from PM to CM, everybody seems to oblige them in one way or the other. They are treated like celebrities wherever they go and they are seen as symbols of truth and justice. This very showcase of power and liberty inspires many to follow their footsteps.

As debated in the previous articles, I shall not comment on the quality of these institutions but I'd rather focus on why people are confused and choose other verticals like PR as the founding stone to fulfil their aspirations.

Most of the rookies I have interacted with, have no clue as to the kind of hard and tedious work and long hours that journalist has to put in to do an honest story.

They have hardly any information either on PR, Advertising, or Journalism. Their only comment on what they want to become say five year down the line is - a reputed journalist.

Journalism is the prize possession they would want to achieve, but if you ask them “How”, they have no clue whatsoever.

Alleged Colleges of Mass Communication should provide them with a clear roadmap as to how the education that they are getting, would enhance their chances to fulfil their aspirations. If they wish to become a Reporter/Journalist there should be clear roadmap of how they should achieve it.

But no one can deny the fact that today the focus is on glamour and power rather than on reporting and in one way or the other, Media is also responsible for creating this ecosystem.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What to do with colleagues who are very good workers but have "poorest of the poor" comprehension of English?

Today I am faced with a peculiar problem for which I am still scratching my head trying to figure out a solution. This problem I am sure is prevalent all across the PR Industry and I would like to know the solution. One of our colleagues with more than a decent track record in delivery across media both vernacular and mainline English, has not even passable knowledge of English. Unfortunately for all of us coming from the interiors of India, English still happens to be the main language of communication at least in the written mode. This is especially true for emails.

Our problem stems from the fact that his written English is as bad as it can get. Typically one of his colleagues edits his mail and then he sends it. We are all aware of this and have let it be in the hope that he will slowly pick up and start doing his own writing. But this seems to be not working and today a wrong mail was sent by him to a client who is very particular, causing embarrassment all around. He just escaped being fired by the skin of his teeth. We all feel sorry for him, but how do we get him to improve?

This brings me to the larger question - why can't the so called Industry organisations run some kind of English classes for those aspiring to make a career in the Public Relations sector. Since this is a problem that most of the PR professionals, that I have come across, have - poor written communication skills. To give a classical example Chartered Accountants in India were never known for their communication skills,however ICAI, the governing body recognised this and today runs courses for CA's on communication in conjunction with the best institutions that there are in the country. The CA profession has benefited immensely and today you will find a marked difference in how a CA communicates, though there is still a long way to go. But at least they have made a beginning.

I just hope that all of us working in the PR sector wake up to this reality and take some corrective steps or else many a career like my colleagues will be in jeopardy.

In today's era of Communication, Is the Clients' fascination with Multiple Offices justified?

We are living in an era where communication methods are evolving on a daily basis. If I tell today's generation, that to get a telephone connection one had to apply and wait for years together then they would probably take me for a mentally deranged person. Yet I remember the 70's and 80's when telephone was a luxury and one gave a neighbours number as a p.p. number to be contacted in an emergency. When I bought a Fax machine in 1992 most of the people were unaware of such a contraption.

90's bought the era of internet and e-mails, I actually had an incident when a pretty neighbour of ours walked into my office and pointing to the Fax machine asked is this the e-mail :). Yet today we take this all for granted such has been the progress of technology in the field of communication. We no longer need physical presence we are available 24x7 over mobile phones/email/messengers.

One would have thought that with so much advancement in Communication and with support from the Aviation sector in India, one could do with having large centralised operations for PR set up with Strategic offices in cities of importance.

We decided on this model and have successfully executed PR campaigns not only across India, but also in UK, US, South Asia - Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives; Singapore, Middle East etc. with a centralised delivery team in Delhi. Clients who have worked with us have endorsed this by staying with us for years together.

Yet I am dismayed sometimes at the mindset of people at new Client pitches. You send them your profile which mentions this fact and they call you for pitches. Here you are more often than not asked, how many offices do you have? One looks flabbergasted, is this guy for real? We have sent him our profile, he has called us for a pitch assumingly after having read the profile, then why this stupid question? One patiently explains and tries to show him the power of communication, but this guy will not understand. He wants an agency which has 50 offices. More the better.

One loses out in the pitch to agencies who show 30-40-50 offices. And what are these offices, more often than not they are affiliates or one man desk manned by junior level guy. And the client wants this? I can only scratch my head and wonder at the intelligence of such clients. Whenever we have lost a pitch to the so called big agencies, we have monitored the PR campaign of such clients closely for years together and have wondered at the output.

One would not be complaining if the outputs were good, as you would at least have the consolation that the account went to someone who is good. But rarely have I seen accounts going to better agencies. My question is really to all those people sitting on clients side, who happen to read this, Is your phobia with number of offices justified? Shouldn't you be looking at the bandwidth that the agency is bringing to the table? Shouldn't you be looking at people who can actually partner you in your enterprise rather than act as vendors?

Managements at Clients should realise that unless their marketing team gets rid of this phobia, they might end up the ultimate losers, by appointing agencies who at best can perhaps do sporadic media relations and lot of ego massage of the marketing team. And by the time the realisation of a mistake dawns on them, it might be too late for them to catch up with the competition.