PrSpeak Valerie Pinto
Valerie Pinto
CEO, Perfect Relations
13 Apr 2012
Social media is an abused medium. Everyone wants to ride on it because it’s new and fast growing. However, it cannot be used in isolation. The internet as a whole offers large number of opportunities for PR professionals to play listeners, conversationalists and crisis managers.
Valerie Pinto joined Perfect Relations Group in 1997 as an image executive and rose to the rank of the Chief Executive Officer in 2010. At Perfect Relations, Pinto provides leadership at a pan-India level and is involved in roles that cut across a variety of services such as client servicing, relationship management, client acquisition, team development, crisis communications, etc.

She also guides, motivates and develops training programmes for a team of 350 employees and develops work processes across 16 branches of the firm.

Pinto’s professional career includes stints at organisations such as UTV, where she was responsible for internal communications as well as public relations. Subsequently, she joined Universal Public Relations, where she managed clients such as Graviera and Arvind Mills - Lee Youth project, among others.

In this interaction with exchange4media’s Shanta Saikia, Pinto speaks at length about the evolution of the PR industry, its challenges, opportunities and trends...

Q. How has public relations evolved in India over the years?
I think there has been a substantial shift in how PR is perceived in India. Earlier, it was treated more as a sub-function of the marketing department, often a one-person show. Today PR has evolved to become an important part of the CEO’s toolkit, with a separate budget and a dedicated team that handles different facets of the task. In a sense, there is more focus towards reputation management.

PR is also a fairly recession-proof industry as the importance of communication cannot be undermined during financial crises. In fact, Perfect Relations continued to grow at double digits even during the recession and the industry as a whole saw stable growth.

PR is now ready to evolve to the next level. It has become indispensable to every type of organization.

Q. What measurement tools are available to measure the effectiveness of PR campaigns? Are these adequate or is there a need for more sophisticated tools?
PR is difficult to measure. Traditionally, it is measured through column inches, space or time and duration of visibility on broadcast media. However, with evolution of the industry, these parameters don’t always tell the whole story.

It goes without saying that the right impact is seen on the bottomline of the company, but the industry is still struggling to find and isolate the impact of evolving PR methods on brands.

We, at Perfect Relations, are taking the lead by working with an American university to develop parameters that will be able to help the entire industry.

Q. What steps need to be taken to make clients recognise the true value of PR?
From the time I joined Perfect Relations, about 13-14 years ago, there has definitely been a growing appreciation from clients for the value of PR as a service. People and quality of output will be extremely critical to determine the value of PR. If current talent takes their jobs more seriously and learns the science of PR, the entire industry will evolve and move into the consulting space.

Q. How is Perfect Relations tackling the talent crunch problem?
Talent crunch is definitely a big challenge for the industry, but not one that will necessarily limit its growth. At Perfect Relations, we started the Perfect Relations Centre for Image Management Studies (PRCIMS), an institute that focuses on developing industry-ready talent. This institute not only supplies quality PR professionals, but has also raised the standards of the PR industry. Many top PR firms in the country have already recruited from PRCIMS.

Q. What makes for a skilled PR professional in today’s business scenario?
Primarily, I believe that people management skills with high levels of interpersonal skills are the most important, followed by creativity, analytical skills, and the ability to handle clients.

Q. What kind of opportunities is social media providing to the PR industry?
Social media is an abused medium. Everyone wants to ride on it because it’s new and fast growing. However, it is one of the mediums of communication and therefore, cannot be used in isolation. The internet as a whole offers large number of opportunities for PR professionals to play listeners, conversationalists and crisis managers.

Consumer redressals and CEO communiqué are growing services demanded from the PR industry. Very few firms are competent to deliver this today. Facebook and Twitter can be set up, but monitoring conversations and steering perspectives on the net is where the key role of a PR professional lies.

Q. What has Perfect Relations’ growth been like in the last five years? Please tell us about major client wins in 2011.
Perfect Relations has grown 30 per cent year-on-year with the industry averaging 15 per cent. Large wins in 2011 included American Express, Khaitan & Co, Union Bank, Polaris and ITC, to name a few.

Q. Going forward, what are the major trends that you see emerging in 2012?
I think the major trends for 2012 are in check with PR’s gradual evolution. Firstly, PR is transforming into more of an advisory service than just a media function. Its offerings will be more analysis based. Secondly, it is clear that digital will increasingly take the lead in terms of services offered.

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