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PR industry cautiously optimistic about 2014: MSLGroup study

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PR industry cautiously optimistic about 2014: MSLGroup study

MSLGroup, Publicis Groupe’s flagship strategic communications and engagement company, has announced the launch of its latest executive report, ‘Public Relations in India: The Impact of the Economic Downturn and the 2014 Outlook’.

The report details the findings of a countrywide survey focusing on the business environment and how India’s economic downturn has affected the PR industry. This is an annual report that is in its third consecutive year.

This year’s survey focuses on those who deal most closely with the business end of things – revenue generation, clients’ changing expectations, budgets, growth, etc. MSLGroup in India restricted the survey to senior PR professionals – account directors and above – to understand where they believe the industry is headed in 2014.

What has emerged is a picture of cautious optimism. Most respondents feel that growth will be strong, but there are serious challenges – squeezed cash flows, clients expecting more for the same fees, and shrinking budgets in some cases. Talent shortage continues to remain a major concern.

Some of the key findings include:

About 20 per cent of the respondents said that industry growth will be in the 15-20 per cent range in 2014. What’s interesting is that this growth will happen despite clients cutting overall communication budgets. This indicates that money is being diverted from other disciplines, such as advertising, to PR.

Despite the downturn, 30 per cent of the respondents said that clients have increased budgets either ‘somewhat’ or ‘drastically’.

Most feel that the tough times will last for several months more.

An overwhelming majority – 90 per cent – said that clients are demanding more for the same fees.

Respondents have identified integrated marketing communications as the best way to grow business.

Apart from digital, clients are demanding crisis communications, training, content and research and insights from their PR agencies.

Jaideep Shergill, CEO, MSLGroup remarked, “This is a time of great churn for the industry. Ground realities – from the evolution of media to the increasing number of stakeholders to what clients want – are changing fast and it’s a challenge to keep up. Thankfully, the industry has shown the capacity and resilience required, and this is evident from the survey’s findings.”

The second section of the report examines the rise of cheap smart phones and their impact on marketing communications. As India becomes the new battleground for high-end smart phones, there is a ‘sub-revolution’ bubbling under. Given the country’s price sensitivity, several firms have unleashed a range of cheap smart phones that have become very popular.

Mobile became an integral part of the marketing mix a long time ago, but how does this proliferation of smart phones in India impact the communications industry and PR in particular?

This section assesses how communications strategies are being aligned and integrated with smart phones and other handheld devices, and how the messaging and content have changed to engage a different set of demographics.

In the first edition of the report, launched in January 2012, MSLGroup in India had highlighted such critical issues as the need for integrated communications, sparking widespread interest and provoked much-needed dialogue. The objective was to kickstart a much-needed debate within the industry on vital issues such as the shortage of talent, the low retainer fees, misconceptions about the size of the industry and the changing nature of its stakeholders.

For the second edition, released in January 2013, MSLGroup in India commissioned a third-party India-wide survey of Indian PR professionals. The objective was to understand how they viewed a potentially tough year for business and the trends that would define the industry.


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