Unlocking PR value, Beyond Perfection

B N KUMAR

PR has come a long way since Adam-and-Eve. The profession has begun to assert itself. We have grown much beyond the pink-shirt, party happy culture to emerge as effective bridges of communication. Whether we are corpcom professionals or agency practitioners, we have begun to play a meaningful role in building and maintaining relationships through our messaging internally as well as externally, with the senior management and with the TGs.

PR has evolved – from being treated as courier boys, travel assistants or glorified protocol managers. Yet, one hears murmurs about PR among corporates as well as media. One the one hand, questions arise about the effectiveness and meeting expectations, while on the other many PR professionals themselves grumble about their daily rigmarole and machine-like life. I keep hearing protest tones from certain practitioners about their routine role of press release ATMs.

Some corporates, in their hunt for value-for-money propositions, tend to overlook the difference between the paid medium advertising and unpaid PR. Do we need to educate them? PR professionals do not command the price as advertising professionals do. Even the low fee that is paid to consultants does not flow regularly in some cases.

This calls for serious introspection among PR practitioners. Do we need to reinvent the wheel and look for solutions beyond, what we seen as, perfection

Times are changing. All professionals are redefining themselves or adapting to newer challenges. Isn’t it time PR too underwent a metamorphosis and emerge in a brand new Avatar?

The Advertising profession takes pride in calling itself the Brand Custodian.

Can PR not be the custodian of reputation? Why not? At the end of the day, do we not take care of the reputation of our companies or clients?

Does a PR professional command the same respect or value as the other consultants such as a Lawyer or a Doctor or for that matter a Creative Professional? There are other professionals as well, for instance management, who command respect or value.

A PR practitioner is also a consultant like a doctor or a lawyer. He gives the right prescription (read solution) to a communication problem. He too spends time, energy on what he does. He does not charge appearance fee. What he asks for is respectable fee.

Isn’t it time that we as PR professionals evolve ourselves, redefine our roles and meet the challenges of ever changing times and emerge stronger than before?

Now, we strongly feel that it’s time to look beyond all these and see where we fit in and command value that we PR or communication professionals deserve.

Yes, command the key word. We cannot demand respect. It should come automatically for which we need to appear like a specialist like a medical or legal practitioner.

Acquiring skillsets is one thing and executing them is another.

We need to develop the art of storytelling and improve on it depending on the audience. You can sing a lullaby to your infant, but not to a ten-year old child.

The audience’s tastes are changing as they change. Is PR doing enough PR for itself on its changing techniques? For instance, a mid-level manager working on an IPO client has to develop the art of selling or telling the big picture about the company going public. If you have the capability, do demonstrate it and showcase it to the world. Can we not command an extra price for that extra effort?

Media needs stories and new ones all the time. City page media, which hesitated from naming companies, is happy mentioning the companies in crime or scam related stories. Are we doing enough to sell good, positive stories making impact on the society to them?

I have just come across a brilliant story of Western Coalfields Limited supplying water discharged from its mines for irrigation. The company is indirectly responsible for saving Nagpur from periodic drinking water crisis as the Pench dam water that used to be supplied for irrigation is now saved for the Vidarbha city. WCL meets the needs of irrigation. What is more, WCL has begun to supply packaged water to villages at negligible cost. It has also come out with its own brand Coal Neer.

I am sure such stories do sell well among business and general media. It is a treat for TV news channels as excellent visual story.

Business media too looks for good positive contributions by corporates.

A company putting up warning signs at traffic junctions and highways for the police could be seen as another PR effort that does not merit media attention. But imagine that the same company actually working with the police in a creative manner, running campaigns that lead to good perceivable results like disciplining two-wheeler riders. This story should sell and be not seen as a PR feed. It can even be attempted as a soft story, backed with data about falling accident and penalties paid.

PR people used to be jokingly referred to as ‘plant managers’ in one of the companies that I was associated with some years ago.

Jokes apart, we need to look at practical solutions, work closely with media friends and grab headlines that do not appear like blatant PR plants. (The author, editor of Imageinfluencer.in, is a communication veteran with 45 years of experience)