How have PR regulatory bodies fared in these changing times

Industry watchers say that these regulatory bodies have been working hard to serve PR execs through thick and thin

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Published: Nov 3, 2020 8:56 AM  | 6 min read

The regulatory bodies, referred to as thinktanks of the PR industry, have been working to forge relationships to form a dynamic network for the PR professionals. The bodies or organizations have been interacting physically and now virtually with publicists and audiences to come up with solutions for better working of the public relations industry, at large.

The past six months have been harsh for every sector, including the public relations. Individual agencies and nodal regulatory bodies have both been trying to stay strong in these difficult times. Here we explore the perspectives and functioning of some of these nodal regulatory bodies in this context.

Work in Covid times

The Covid-19 pandemic created new realities for regulatory bodies as well. “We, at PRCAI (Public Relations Consultants Association of India), realized that we can weather this storm only by working together as one strategic unit,” says Nitin Mantri, President, PRCAI. “We prioritized all our resources, time and energy to make the situation less disruptive and stressful for our teams and clients. As soon as the lockdown was announced our member firms agreed to prioritize their collective efforts in making health and safety of our people top priority, assuring our clients of uninterrupted and efficient solutions and collaborating resources to provide support to the government, civil society bodies and society at large in its battle against Covid-19.”

He further said that a task force was created to work with bodies like CCI and filmmakers (like Shutterbuck films) to promote the message on staying safe from the virus and the need for a behavioural change. These bodies were approached by the Ministry of Health and MyGov to support them in raising awareness about the crisis. They also collected funds and distributed safety kits to media professionals in Delhi and Mumbai. “We also shared with our members and clients a database of NGOs and other organization working to help the needy and collaborated with a job portal to assist job seeking media professionals connect with job providers.”

Meawnhile, Public Relations Professionals of India (PRPOI) focused on imparting practical knowledge to the PR community. Adding context, Tarunjeet Rattan, Founder, PRPOI said, “Since the complete lockdown came into effect, we focused on helping the entire PR community with actual practical knowledge and curated webinars and live sessions to make them adept with the changing times and resilience.”

To get some international perspective, The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) used its resources to guide and support PR professionals in tackling Covid-19. ICCO comprises of 41 associations representing 70 countries across the globe from Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, and Australasia. Collectively, these associations represent over 3,000 PR firms.

The ICCO conducted a survey in March and May in partnership with Provoke and research platform Stickybeak to help all members understand how Covid-19 is impacting PR agencies and in-house communications departments, informed Mantri, President, ICCO. “We held weekly calls with senior PR practitioners globally and advised members on how to support employees, clients, and customers in these difficult times. We developed extensive training course through webinars to encourage members to continue with their professional development.”

 Further, ICCO’s UK Member PRCA launched an online library that allowed practitioners around the world to access webinars and online training at a time and place that suits them.

Welfare measures

With extended work hours and reduced deadlines, the execs went through a rigorous process during the gone months of the pandemic. “When the lockdown started PR professionals were being asked to multitask and gain new skills to retain their jobs with no resources or additional budgets to do so. We stepped in with free of cost curated live sessions with a relevant expert every Saturday on Facebook with the PR only community of over 8,700 members from across the country helping them upskill and get a handle on the new developments as they happened every week.”

“This was completely voluntary and we worked every single Saturday putting this together for them with experts from PR, corporate communication and media. This got us a lot of positive responses and helped us upskill professionals at various levels, create more positivity and camaraderie within the community and showcase new voices with practical advice,” acknowledged Rattan.

Speaking on similar lines, Mantri pointed towards PRCAI’s #SupportEachOther campaign under which surveys were conducted on mental wellbeing and stress among PR professionals. He said, “PRCAI hosted sessions with mental health experts and put up panels under Talk To A Friend initiative to assist PR professionals (includes senior journalists, health communications experts, Corp Com and PR Professionals).”

“We created customised media advisory to guide and update PR Professionals on the developments in the media industry and also on how to engage effectively with media in these challenging times,” added Mantri.

Giving a perspective from the point of view of ICCO, Mantri said, “We have partnered with PRCA’s Global COVID-19 Taskforce to provide a free consultation service to communications leaders. The taskforce comprises an impressive group of leaders from across the world who will give their time to help fellow professionals make the best decisions possible.”

Reboot & Revival

Bringing the spotlight on rebooting plans and the way forward, Mantri informed about PRCAI’s plans. “PRCAI will hold weekly e-meeting with leaders of PR firms to update, discuss issues, exchange ideas and suggestions and best practices. Discussions will be held with other industry bodies like EEMA and AAI to exchange ideas and suggestions and also representation to the government with few demands and suggestions for business revival and rebooting the business.”

Mantri further said that surveys will be conducted with in-house corporate communications professionals and PR leaders to understand the challenges being faced and expectations during the Covid-19 situation. “PRCAI will continue the ongoing training sessions with experts from PR industry for sectors like MSMEs. We will soon be launching a PR campaign highlighting the importance of PR in Covid and post Covid Lockdown.”

Sharing more on similar lines, Rattan said there is a lot of work for the PR industry to be done. On the rebooting plans and business impact, she said, “As PR professionals we have never been busier. You will have to let go of certain niches and gain more knowledge of others. Some will have to understand brand authenticity and advocacy better while some will have to get their hands into technology and healthcare PR; some will have to know more about how to craft an empathetic message and others will need to move beyond media relations.” 

She also emphasized about leveraging digital and urged every communications/PR professional to be a communication specialist and get a proper command over the digital landscape. 

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