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Guest Column: Debunking the untruths of PR: Ameer Ismail, GolinOpinion & dCell

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Guest Column: Debunking the untruths of PR: Ameer Ismail, GolinOpinion & dCell

In an age where the complexity of navigating the marketing ecosystem is challenging, getting consumers attention is difficult and managing reputations and conversations are the need of the hour, effective PR can play a very important role. However, the industry is a victim of clichés abound – and the need of the hour is to debunk these myths. PR has grown up and deserves its right of place. As we structured towards a new PR 2.0 reality, I would like to share insights on untruths that continue to plague the PR industry.

PR is just media mileage

The industry continues to reinforce the old-fashioned impression that PR is synonymous with press release and that effectiveness is measured by the kilo of coverage rather than quality of coverage and strategic value derived. With the availability of diverse platforms and multiple formats, an untargeted press release with a one model fits all strategy will no longer suffice.

It is only about communication – how difficult is that?

The communication strategy, while remaining true to a client’s brief, has to be looked at from a PR and storytelling lens. It’s the content of a brand’s communication that has to be created not just with objective and direction but also creatively different to fit the model of the target media. The need to recognise an opportunity to tell a story, whether in text or visuals, has turned content creation into a core function of PR. This enables PR to be leveraged as a strategic tool and not just generate press release impressions.

PR is ineffective in a digital era

The advent of new media has drastically changed the dynamics of communications. Until a few years ago, what used to be one-sided communication has speedily become a two-way street, often leaving corporates and brands confused about effectiveness. With audiences becoming equipped with better and advanced tools to voice their opinions at an increasing rate, crisis situations that barely take any time to snowball across several platforms have become the new norm. The Cadbury and Nestle crisis brought this reality to the fore and reinforced the need for communications specialist to manage reputations. This growing and welcome demand for PR calls for an urgent restructuring of agencies. Not only in the way they perceive themselves but also the critical propositions they can offer to clients in a digital era.

PR is a support function, no deep insights required

The changing reality, new tools and increasing demand for communications experts offers fertile ground for agencies to offer differentiated value propositions to clients.With clients understanding the significance of real-time feedback and the consequences of a social media buzz gone wrong, PR’s function is moving from the supplementary role to getting a window to lead the client’s thought process. Today PR professionals have the ear of the CEO and research based insights are integral to communication strategies.

PR is not measureable

A constantly chattering audience has provided a bank of data to be mined for insights. Social media listening and community management capabilities form the core that lead to dynamic ideation within various teams across our offerings.Online surveys and perception audits can measure efficacy of PR campaigns. All this and more helps us stay relevant in owned / earned and paid media by solving business problems and delivering measurable strategic value. The learnings from these closely mined consumer insights help us challenge convention and offer bold solutions for an increasingly networked world in which the changing media landscape and highly connected consumer poses ever more complex challenges to clients.

No ‘PR’essure in PR

Today the challenge lies in how you react and how fast you respond. An undesirable comment or a news story gone wrong can no longer be shoved under the carpet. There is an ever pressing need for a well thought and calculated statement to be made in a short span of time. This invariably demands a mechanism which involves the client.

My opinion

The PR industry in India, though several decades old, is still nascent in the values it delivers to clients. While the traditional model is nearing its end, its true potential has not yet been unleashed and can still offer learnings for a seamless transition towards the new reality. G4, a unique model from a PR agency perspective, recognises this fact and brings together a new way of working that can help PR break the mould limiting it. The industry still finds itself operating in the old era defined by circulation figures while audiences have long moved on to the like-comment-share generation. We still get clients who believe that PR professionals need to use their personal connection to influence journalists and thereby the outcome – and nothing is further from the truth! While these are realities that agencies are still gearing up towards, we see a tempting opportunity in challenging this status quo with the single-minded focus to move out of the time warp the industry is set in.

(The author is Executive Director, Golinopinion & dCell)

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