Having watched the PR industry from the outside for about 20 years and now being a part of it, I could clearly see the credibility challenges of the industry itself, impact of marketing- mix budgets and the low prioritization of “earned media”. But these challenges facing our industry are rapidly changing in our favour due to some clear new trends. We need to keep pace with these changes and prepare for the future as PR will play a critical role in brand building.
1) High Economic growth with bring focus back to Earned PR ; The economy growth adrenaline, induced by one of the biggest mandates given to a single party in the 2013 general elections is an encouraging trigger for large scale investments that will enhance higher incomes and consumptions. With a reformist agenda in place the World is focussing on the Indian Market Place. Brands will have to embrace earned PR for the long term play.
2) Citizens build brand loyalty, consumers don’t ; New regulations are now compelling medium and large corporations to focus on citizens, who are also aspirational consumers and will ride the economic wave faster. FMCG, Consumer Durables, Lifestyle, Luxury, Entertainment and Hospitality are amongst the fastest growing sectors who will spend on PR like never before. Research proves that citizens are more likely to be associated with Companies & brands that create Social , economic & Environment impact in the societies they operate in. The Domini index that measures social responsible companies is growing faster than the S&P index that measures profitability & growth , for over a decade now. This establishes the need for PR to be on top of CSR & PSR .
3) Going beyond tradition ; The Nation has embraced e-commerce in a big way. It’s beaten all estimates and the “Young India” is going digital. As the internet penetrates into the heartland by the day with age no bar, more Indians are realizing the facet of convenience and affordability, with global aspirations. Brands with high customer service quotients will be highly successful and PR will play a big part in this transformation.
4) Magic of New India ; Brand Managers, CMOs, CEOs are demanding an integrated communications strategy from PR agencies – both traditional & digital. The 52 growing emerging cities and the plans for 100 smart cities (fertile markets) across India are the new targets for lifestyle, hospitality and luxury brands. Citizens straddling the “India Pyramid” will join the Promise – Trust – Delivery triangle and strategic PR will provide credence to these aspirations.
5) Remain in your Domain ; Specialised agencies are moving into non-specialised zones. An attempt to grab every client that comes their way could destroy the “Expertise Quotient” of the agency. This may lead to non-performance and reputation erosion of the industry itself. It is very critical to stay in one’s domain/domains that one innately understands. The long term relationships with media, marketing influencers and bloggers are critical to enhance sharper visibility and a qualitative share of voice. Stay high on the learning curve .
6) Regional Media – New Powerhouse ; Clients are looking for local knowledge and pan India expertise. India is 30 countries rolled into one. Diverse markets, consumer behaviours , changing habits and media landscapes, needs localised knowledge and knowledgeable associates in every state of the country. Generating column centimetre is passé. Regional media is emerging stronger by the day. 9 out of top 10 circulated dailies in India are regional reaching over 110 million Indians. I strongly suggest that agencies involve all their associates for an annual offsite and cohesively discuss, debate and decide the regional brand PR strategies. These insights when fed back to your clients results into a “Wow” moment. It’s paid us big dividends, both in terms of insightful execution and building long term relationships with our associates who become a passionate extended team.
All these emerging trends require a solid backend capability building. All team members from a trainee to the top management will have to convert into effective brand managers, company communication professionals and speak their language.
Are we focusing on employee growth and delight? Are we preparing him/her enough to become a brand manager? Are we allocating time for market and consumer visits? Are we investing in research? Are we preparing for the digital revolution? Are we becoming real communications partners?
If the answer is yes, then our industry has a great future.
The difference between GOOD and GREAT will determine our own reputation.
The author is CEO of Madison PR.