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Public Relations: It's time to go beyond media relations and get into active brand building

21-November-2005
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Public Relations: It's time to go beyond media relations and get into active brand building

Today's world is that of integrated marketing and the line between advertising and public relation (PR) is blurring day-by-day. The fact is that the distinction between PR and communication is virtually non-existent. It is thus interesting to find out what role PR play in today's marketing mix.

As is known, PR is a science that, if applied in the right manner, can not only build a brand but also sustain it for years. The industry in India, too, has grown. Asserted Shunali Shroff, Head-Corporate Communications, Shringar Cinemas, "The PR industry in India has come a long way from being mere postmen delivering press releases to being consultants who are involved in the brand building process. It has today become a mainstream arm of marketing instead of the peripheral role it had played a few years ago."

"The potential is immense. Companies and individuals alike are waking up to the power of a good PR campaign. The big advantage that PR has is the credibility factor with consumers. After all, third party endorsements in the form of articles in newspapers and stories in the electronic media are far more credible than advertisements," she added.

What makes PR effective is its versatility. For this reason, it is not only used in the initial stages of brand building on a strategic level but also on a more tactical level.

Elaborating on the role that PR played in the entire mix, Meeta Bajaj, CEO & Principal Consultant, Coffee Communication Solutions, said, "PR is as yet a very small one. I think this is going to change, though it might take some time. Brands are clearly recognising that just a single communication channel for impact may not be effective anymore. I think that its impact will grow as marketers begin to understand and grasp the leverage it can bring. Those that accomplish this will benefit tremendously and have very strong brands that are very well understood and valued."

To cut a long story short, PR is indeed an integral constituent of any well-balanced and integrated marketing mix. But the key issue here is that PR professionals need to go beyond and enlarge their role beyond mere media relations. They need to extend it to brand building and reputation management.

But have our marketers understood the real importance of public relations. "There is a lot to be done by marketers in understanding PR. In India, PR has a wide spectrum. On one hand, it means only releases, while on the other hand, bulldozing the media professional to write good things about the organisation. Thus, I would say that there is no conscious attempt to understand and build brands through consistent and right use of PR," said Philips' Senior VP and Executive Director, Shiv Kumar.

On the international scene, companies, and on a majority basis the FMCG firms, spend a lot more on their PR activity and regard it as a permanent component of marketing. Though here in India, it can be safely said that marketers are using PR more than ever before, still many marketers struggle to know just when to use it.

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