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The evolving world and the conventional PR: Brand understanding is foremost

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The evolving world and the conventional PR: Brand understanding is foremost

exchange4media hosted the 2014 edition of India PR and Corporate Communications Awards in Mumbai.

The first panel discussion for the day was on the topic ‘The evolving world vis a vis The Conventional PR’. Steering the panel discussion was Venkat Mallik, President & Head RAPP India and joining him in the discussion were eminent heads of the PR fraternity in India Madan Bahal, MD, Adfactors PR and Paresh Chaudhry, CEO, Madison PR, while from the brand side were Roma Balwani, President, Group Communications Sustainability & CSR, Vedanta Group and Sudeep Narayan, Marketing & PR Director, Volvo Auto India.

The main points which the discussion highlighted were the relationship between the PR agency and the brand in today’s day and age, the talent pool in the PR agencies today and need for PR agencies to bring more creativity to the client. Balwani started with talking about becoming a communicator to becoming a strategist on communications sustainability and CSR. She said that roles are something that a communicator should be looking at closely. “It’s not all about an issue, it’s all about how would that create that partnership. How it (PR) can work in an environment which is so cluttered and information led and how do you be smarter,” she said.

She further talked about the partnership between the PR and Brand which she said is become very relevant and important in today’s context. She talks about India which has 65% of youth population and questions how many are addressing this population. “With this kind of context the client and the advisory firm (PR firm) becomes even more complex. Your advisory firm must believe core purpose and does not understand your narrative. Each organisation has a narrative and story, I think the advisory firms need to understand that they are not just somebody on the other side. They have to understand the brand and the narrative of the brand and help them develop that narrative. I will not be comfortable with an advisory firm who just comes and says this is what we offer and these are our strengths. Every good advisory firm can do that, how is it different? How do we look at it together working towards creating  brand respect?,” she said.

Chaudhry further says that the word called PR is considered as a dirty word in this country. He further says that PR agencies are not putting their mind were their heart is. He went to say that brands on the other hand are not putting money into research where it is really needed, than saying that they are putting money in all the mediums of communication. “The fact is we are on the ground telling them about the trend, competition, brands, etc.,” he said.

Bahal however said that there isn’t a divide between the agency and the client relationship. He speaks about how the agencies are trying to navigate the growth of the brand. In crisis situations there are expectations from both sides but there is not conflict between the two. In fact it is the expectations of the clients that actually help PR agencies evolve, he added.

Narayan said that they have a lot to gain from the agency side. “We see agencies as a partner that tells us what the best trends are. They are involved in strategic discussions, involved in research. What I think for us to look at them should not be PR people but brand managers,” he said. He further spoke on how PR has been used innovatively to benefit brand. For instance he spoke at how he feels that Chetan Bhagat and producers of 3 Idiots were a PR exercise that was in fact helping both the parties through the controversy.

Bahal further highlighted the point that there is lack of rigor in PR agencies. There is a need for the agencies to know the client completely in terms of their market and what the brand is dealing with. He said that PR has now come to templates and formats where press releases are filed instantly and that there is lack of thought in creating good stories. He further added that PR industry needs to get rid of this notion of self defeatism which currently exists. There is a need for self confidence to be instilled in the industry.

Chaudhry on the other hand spoke about how the PR workforce should learn to stand up and not take negativity from either clients or journalist. They have to learn to be more assertive and put their point across.

Balwani brought about the topic of talent in the PR industry and that they do not know much about the client and how they lack knowledge of business communication imperatives. They need to make the brand relevant in today’s world and for this it is important to know about the narrative of the brand. 


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