Why some PR teams successfully extract their pound of flesh: Siddhartha Mukherjee, Eikona

Guest Column: Business Head of Eikona & Senior VP - Corporate Communications explains why agencies fail to get the desired fee hike

e4m by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Updated: Oct 5, 2018 8:54 AM

Year on year, PR machineries, comprising the corporate communications desk and their PR agencies, have been losing out on their desired appraisals and hikes. However, I do know of quite a few client-agency teams who have transformed themselves into amazing mavericks. These maverick PR teams are scientific, focused and very well measured. They know how to extract their pound of flesh — corporate communication desk extracting from top management and consultancies from their clients. They are achieving this because they are breaking the decades old convention and rigidity.

Well, on a separate note, number of such positively focused maverick PR teams need to go up rapidly if we want the growth of our industry in realistic terms. Broadly, from what I understand of the current market condition, while on one side, there has been no fee hikes for many agencies, on the other, corporate communication budget allocation by client management too has been kind of flat.

Coming back, the question of WHY some PR teams successfully extract their pound of flesh should get answered if we understand HOW are the maverick brains thinking and executing their ideas.

Below is a seven-pointer sneak peek of what maverick corporate communication desks & PR consultancies are doing to get their pound of flesh from their respective customers:

1. PR Mavericks believe in ‘India principles’: They have a mind of their own. They do not need inspiration from the copy-paste of western markets or principles. Well before these western principles came to the rescue of many marketing and analytics agencies in India, these maverick teams understood the universal principles of brand communications, strategic use of PR/earned media, ROO & ROI and their marriage with data & analytics. Which is why they know what it means to achieve results in the India environment. No wonder, it calls for the world to learn from ‘India principles’.

2. PR Mavericks depend radically on data: In today’s age, which is only about ROOs and ROIs, data has to be the start and end of everything that we do. PR mavericks, despite their past exposure to data being limited, are today breaking the barriers. They are making brand and business data, research, measurement and analytics their armoury and part of their daily lives.

3. PR Mavericks do not mix monitoring with measurement: PR mavericks are brave-hearted. Why? Well, while EAVs or AVEs have been an industry cancer for decades, mixing of PR monitoring with measurement has been an industry epidemic. They are clearly two separate worlds. As much as one tries, monitoring will end up make us chase our own tail…which is what has been happening in the last two decades. Monitoring allows basic tactical moves, but will never attract genuine respect from our respective customers. Daily news updates, AVEs, count of clips, tonality, journalist details, spokesperson scores, geography-wise analysis etc are all part of PR monitoring. On the other hand, PR measurement is an actual data science that can show the outcome of every inch of effort the PR team has put in. Measurement is governed by ROOs, ROIs and lots of interrogations across What, Who, Where, Why, How, When & Whom. Needless to say, this approach needs a lot of brave-heartedness.

4. PR Mavericks identify disguise: Ever since the concept of PR monitoring was started in India by PR agencies and self-claimed dedicated monitoring agencies almost two decades ago, they have been operating and shelling out monitoring services under the “garb of measurement”. No wonder, because of the continued disguise, even today, 8 out of 10 industry members think monitoring and measurement are mere synonyms. More so, the only way these disguised service providers got to project intelligence, value and aristocracy was when they got access to some international principles on measurement. ‘Copy & paste’ was the only simple and available mantra that they could think of. Interestingly, that continues to happen even today. The good news, however, is that the mavericks are quick to identify the deception.

5. PR Mavericks give huge emphasis to ‘Whys’: PR measurement starts with asking all kinds of questions? Importantly, maverick PR teams do not care even if the client or the corporate communication desk’s internal customers express discomfort with the interrogations mentioned above. They keep going. Who is the TG? What is the current vs desired mood? What do we communicate? When do we communicate? How do we communicate and so on…Well, there can be many such question combinations. However, the paramount question mavericks go deep into is ‘why are we doing this PR initiative? Why a press release? Why a press conference? The series of Whys do not stop till the time the PR team is convinced that their efforts will bring value to the brand quotient and/or the business.

6. PR Mavericks establish PR machinery as a revenue centre: Unlike the common perception of PR being a cost centre, maverick PR teams are being able to strategically showcase themselves as a revenue centre. Through PR measurement (and not monitoring), it is easy to show the savings and/or revenues accrued by the organisation with the help of PR. When the end users of PR, the CXOs, see the measured brand & business values PR has brought on the table, they have no other option but to consider the machinery as a strategic desk. If not ROI, even if ROOs are met, savings or revenues have got a nudge, they are more than happy to acknowledge the maverick team in the board room discussions.

7. PR Mavericks use data to fortify client-consultancy relationship: Ours is an industry that is led by knowledge and processes. To build a brand and establish the pay-offs from PR, one needs long standing relationship between client and agency. On ground, changing agency every 2-3 years don’t work. Smart PR machineries make PR data and analytics central to their day-to-day operation and interaction. Planning, implementation and execution are all guided through data. This creates wonderful camaraderie between client and agency and joint onus of what PR is meant to achieve. As a result of clever maverick thinking, in many cases, clients have been supporting the service extension of the agency.

Mavericks are known to revolutionise and change norms. PR industry needs mavericks because there are plenty of norms to be broken and revolutions to be set in. My feeling is that the real growth of our industry is being contributed by these PR maverick teams who are quietly but effectively functioning across various industry verticals. I wish someone would take the onus of collating and documenting their efforts and achievements.

PR machinery extracting its pound of flesh is not only an indication of getting acknowledgement and accruing financial benefits but more importantly, it is an indication of the start of a movement – ‘PR needs PR, thru data & measurement’, something that I had called for in the E4M IPRCCA panel discussion way back in 2008. Happy to see the needle starting to move.

The author is the Business Head of Eikona & Senior VP - Corporate Communications

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com.

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