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!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My baby steps in Public Relations...

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I have recently completed my master’s degree in Mass Communication. I was always attracted to the mass media and would have loved to work in a production house or in the film industry. But, because I belong to a Business family, I have always been attracted to the business of communication and therefore opted for PR (public relations). I find it the best suited to my interest, education and backgroud.

Before joining PR, my conception about working as a PR person and the job profile was completely different. There was a huge amount of glamour associated with the business. I thought and had been taught too that PR meant creating a good image of a company or an individual. This was through “activities”: social work, charities, stage shows and events. Iin today’s world every business, company or individual wants to grow, earn name and fame. I also thought that the medium of Advertising was more effective for branding than Public Relations could ever be. I mean visibility came through advertising, right???

In February, I appeared for interviews and started working with Finese PR, an agency based in New Delhi. And for the first time in my life I was made aware of what PR really was and how wrong I really was about my expectations from the business of communication.

After my Masters, I was made to un-learn what I was taught! I was told that I needed to read and write. I was to begin from the lowest rung of the ladder, and was asked to read, read and read!  The agency has a diverse client roster and I was suddenly looking at categories that I was never aware of: Electrical & Electronics, Wires and Cables, Social Businesses, Technical Education, Markets Research, etc. 

So it required a lot of “education” for me. I had to start from scratch and then learn about the categories of interest for individual businesses, before I could do anything about them. Okay, so there were “cheat-code” benefits that I could use: Material already available with my seniors, FAQs on the category, previous media releases and Q&As. I suddenly realized that I was studying way more than what I had during my masters!!!

So here is the "cheat-code" for the beginners in the sector. Nobody ever told me this, but I believe that if I knew what was in store, I’d have been better prepared!  Before you believe that you are cut-out for PR, you need to be sure of the following:

  • Excellent communication, interpersonal and writing skills – preferably in more languages than one – Hindi and English are a must, in any case
  • Drive, competence, flexibility and a willingness to learn – In normal language, work like an ass and do not be cowed down with all that you do not know!
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills with the ability to multitask: One is expected to have many many balls in the air at the same time – learn to get 16 hours out of an 8 hour work-day. Not having enough time is not an option!
  • Ability to cope with pressure: The kind of business that PR is, the deadlines are always yesterday. There is a huge  requirement of “Just-now” responses and one needs to learn fast. 
  • Creativity, imagination and initiative: In my 4 months in PR, I’ve already had run-ins with all and sundry(read media) and have been called names: useless and several other adjectives. One needs to remain cool, make the conversation get back on track and get the powers to still use our material for our clients. So if you have an ego, forget about PR, or learn to keep in in check! And it is difficult sometimes! 
  • Business awareness and a good knowledge of current affairs: I thought I was well read, but … 

Having said all this, I firmly believe that I have grown as an individual. I now know way beyond what I did a mere 4 months ago, and have lots to learn as I go along. I am hopefully, a better writer and a better communicator than I was earlier. I am still learning the ropes and will have much more to share as we go along. So watch this space…

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Communication Issues with Political Parties

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The fact that the Parliament is in session is not the big story today. The big-stories in the last few days are:
  • PM's degree fiasco:  AAP goes ballistic... BJP responds to the degree issues... Bhakts question AK's degrees... The fun begins 
  • The Uttarakhand Government Dismissal Issues: Govt. suspended: Accusations and Counter Accusations from Congress and BJP: Floor Test: Even before the final results, show of victory...
One common theme that under-runs all these fiascos is the very low quality of public discourse!!! And underlying this is poor communication.

We as a country need to start listening, and stop talking. The diktat that actions speak louder than words is something that we need to re-learn.

In PR, we address major communication issues in all media training workshops. And some of the important points that can work well for the businesses, would have worked wonders here too...
  • Focus on work - Build good foundations and then talk.
  • Back up everything with data and analysis.
  • State Facts and then SHUT UP!!!
  • Neither speak too little nor too much... Too little makes you appear nervous, secretive, dis-interested, or worse lacking in empathy: Too much makes you bombastic, verbose, not believable, etc. 
  • Do not be nasty, overly aggressive or stoop to abuses, whatever the provocation.
  • Saying ill about competition, does not make you smell like roses. People are coming to you to hear about you and your initiatives - limit yourselves to only that. The minute you speak of others, you are inviting them to speak of you.
  • Do not create issues where none exist. 
  • Have a crisis plan in place - so that in situations of crisis, clear chains of command are in place and can address issues as they arise. Never never ad-lib: you get into bigger controversies if you do!
  • Check the veracity of the evidence presented, before you create a noise about it.
  • Be graceful - accept your praises and brick-bats with equal amount of equanimity.

If the political parties start to follow some of the things that our clients are asked to do, our process of communication will better, the cacophony will get reduced and hopefully some sane voices will also be heard, once in a while.

And maybe, just maybe, finally some "right" people may find  a voice too...