PR Scenario in India – A desperate cry for help! – Short Story
By: Parama Dasgupta
On a cold Wednesday morning the office door burst open. The loud bang was more than enough to draw the attention of all the executives of the otherwise usually calm and quite Delhi office.
The curious looks were met with a pair of narrow condescending eyes behind glasses. The office somehow felt colder…
What followed next in this Delhi based PR Firm was a hurl of activities quite entertaining for an onlooker. As if by magic the branch heads and the MDs suddenly became “available” and “approachable”. Peons become extra efficient and the “good china” comes out from the back of the cupboard.
Yes! It is indeed a potential client that has walked into the office. Within a few seconds the office conference room was transformed into a nothing short of a war zone. Getting on the good side of the client seemed to be a “do-or-die” situation. As the Man’s eyes got narrower the commitments got bigger.
After a few excruciating hours and some extremely difficult if not impossible commitments later the client though still condescending, seemed somewhat satisfied and an agreement was signed. The client apparently was “bagged”! The man left as coldly as he had arrived and life returned to normal in the office.
The new account was awarded to an appropriate group. The account manager who was already overworked and underpaid neither had the time nor the patience or the interest to train the junior on whom the execution responsibility now befalls.
The junior is now expected to achieve the impossible. What the seniors merely got away with just promising, the junior is now expected to make a reality. Coverage is all that defines their success. Whether the commitment was achievable in the first place or not is never asked but whether the task is delivered is always scrutinised.
Lets analyse why this happens;
The Account manager himself was probably promoted after only 3-4 years in the industry and never got any appropriate training on the fundamentals. The Account manager is the most important link between the client and the agency. It is vital that they are well trained. He/she must know how to handle the client as well as how to guide and train the junior.
People above Account Managers, most of the time are busy running behind new business and better opportunities.
The junior Executives or even new joinees are often ultimately left to and even expected to execute the entire task and get the results.
However, one would like to know from the senior members of the team what training they actually offer to the new joinees.
- Is anything done beyond an induction process, which can last from 1-2 days?
- How are they trained on gaining the understanding on the client and the sector the client operates in? Are there any internal checks on gaging their knowledge on the sector and the client?
- Are they taught how to research or simply leave them to the God Google and assume that they will learn to work around with keywords
- Before pitching to the journalist are they trained enough to know the media; the journalist they are pitching to on what kind of stories they cover (not the beat but the journo focus of writing stories?)
- Is enough time invested enough in helping them identify a story and are they trained about how to create a theme out of the idea and pitch it appropriately to the appropriate journalists?
- Are they trained to identify the accurate target audience; understand the demographics of the diversified Indian market, and different consumer behaviour across states?
Even in our PR institutes what is taught is far from what happens practically.
These institutes fail to attract the cream of the students and the ones that we actually get are left alone to learn and earn on their own.
There are now boutique PR agencies growing up very fast everywhere. These agencies would hire anyone and go to any length to get and keep a client.
So at the end of the day all PR has come down to is “coverage”
Proactive PR is an ugly looking animal who we don’t even want to touch and are happy doing glorified post man’s job of conveying client initiatives to the media. But in the process of getting away with this “chalta hai” attitude, are we forgetting the responsibilities and real duties behind PR?
Have we ever wondered if, we are ready to take on the humongous growth that will soon enter India benefiting the Indian PR sector, will the clients trust us to manage their reputation?
Maybe we should stop to take a different and a more specialized approach to handling our industry before PR becomes a career of the past.