The India Public Relations Summit 2004 was an eye opener of sorts. For one, it featured stalwarts of the caliber of Tarun Deo (President, PRCAI & Vice President, Asia Pacific, Text 100), Prema Sagar (Founder, Genesis Public relations), Nicole McMohan (Director, Corporate Affairs, British Gas Pvt Ltd), Jayant Murthy (Director, Marketing, Intel) and Veena Gidwani (President, PRCAI & CEO, Madison Public Relations). Secondly, it stressed on just the right issues, such as the presence of ethics within the Public Relations sphere, the art of spinning the media wheel, measurability and reliability within the discipline, client attitude and the application of the global PR standards in India.
Sagar stated, "Clients ought to be told that it's not you, versus us. It's a partnership of sorts, wherein a clearly spelt out brief goes a long way in maintaining relations and delivering value. The PRCAI (Public Relations Consultants Association of India) ought to float a complete template on the client brief, which the client needs to fill before he takes on any PR agency. India is completely unaware of the concept of a quality brief. What works here, is if you charge the lowest possible price for your services. Part of the problem is lack of adequate benchmarks and measurability of the services."
She went on to state, "If clients are willing to spare a little something for research related to public relations, I think that it would do wonders for the discipline. In addition to these issues, there ought to be regular appraisals of people within the field of PR, which ought to be based on external and not internal merits. Performance appraisals will go a long way in generating efficiency. The PRCAI could also develop some guidelines on the right approach to the media, which will aid and speed the task of providing information."
Meanwhile McMohan asserted, "If you belong to a company that's listed in two stock exchanges, everything depends on timely disclosure of information. There are journalists who feel that we are a fairly non- cooperative lot, but it must be understood that if we make an announcement within India (way before time), it would have repercussions outside. Another problem that we face is that our silence, many a time is mistaken for assent or confirmation."
Murthy was of the opinion that PR scene is much the same in India as anywhere else. He asserted, "Nearly 112 out of 150 PR companies in the United Kingdom, are small and insignificant entities. The problem of measurability is as acute in UK, as anywhere else. There's a lopsided pyramid that dominates the scheme of affairs… a small number of people at the top with a large experience, and a large number of personnel below, with relatively no experience. And in India, to add to all of it, clients don't have a clue, as to what they can really expect from PR firms. The concept of a quality brief just doesn't exist."
Murthy added, "As a client, I cannot gauge the ROI on public relations. Pay for performance, is a nil concept because there are no standards that we can judge the performance against. There has to be a way to determine the financial value, which the public relations agency is helping deliver. On their part, PR officials need to be pro-active and a big part of the strategy employed by the company."
The summit may not have provided the answers to all the questions, but it did manage to draw attention to some of the problem areas. A common consensus was reached on the PRCAI playing a larger role in the scheme of things, and acting as an active agent in developing quality and standards within public relations in the times to come.