We need to protect the industry from becoming a cottage industry: Khalid Jamal, Orion PR

Khalid Jamal, Founder-Director, Orion PR & Digital Pvt. Ltd. (India) expresses his views on the core issues in the PR industry, paradigm shift, and the future-forward

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Nov 13, 2019 4:18 PM
Khalid Jamal

Khalid Jamal,  Founder-Director, Orion PR & Digital Pvt. Ltd. (India) is an award-winning communications professional. He has been a recipient of many awards which include the ‘PR Manager of the Year’ award by the Public Relations Society of India and many others.

Orion Digital is the social media division of Orion PR providing a 360-degree approach to web marketing solutions, for brands/companies to connect and interact with consumers online.

During an interaction with Khalid Jamal, he shares his views on the core issues in the PR industry, paradigm shift, and the future-forward.

How has your journey in the PR industry been?

My journey in the PR profession has been an eventful and fulfilling one. In a career spanning close to three decades, I have been handling and advising a large number of clients across industries, MNCs, governments, autonomous bodies, and social sectors. Prior to the current engagement, I also co-founded and headed RC-PR, South Asia’s first venture-funded PR Company after an eventful stint with Abacus Integrated Corporate Communications & PR, as President (a part of Triton Communications Group).  Before that, I was heading corporate communications of ITW Signode– India (a part of ITW Inc., a Fortune 500 company).

This is the profession where you get up to new tasks calling for creative answers to complex issues. And, this is what keeps the adrenaline flowing. You change, evolve and contribute.

How do we distinguish the stories created by Orion PR in the cluttered PR industry?

Our campaigns have a discernible marquee as they are not a humdrum activity of ‘press-release-flash’ or a bundle of a few activities from the pyramid-bottom of a perceived PR program, but well-thought-out integrated campaigns encompassing manifold functionalities. Our marquee approach combines a multi-disciplinary approach towards leveraging each tool meticulously, propelled by our rich experience and expertise. 

We have built and honed our agency talent and expertise over the years, by investing in people, process and technology. We pool our capabilities across media, creatives, content, technology, and production to arrive at our campaign constructs. This enables us to offer a seamless solution, addressing the core PR issues being faced by the clients. That’s how Orion PR creates the funnel of creative communications in PR across online and offline domains unlike the much prevalent factory-production-line approach of the so-called ‘large agencies'. 

How can you trace your growth over the years in the industry? 

Orion PR has been consistent in its approach to growth, not just in numbers that we set for ourselves but also as a grown-yet-evolving professional practice. Today, we have four divisions. Orion PR offering traditional PR services, Orion Digital for online and digital communications, Oriel for crisis communications, media training and ORM, and Orion Design House for production.

Together, these units possess and provide a substantial knowledge base and capabilities that enables us to offer integrated communications to our clients and create discernable differentiators vis-a-vis other agencies of all hues and sizes. 

What paradigm shift have you noticed in the Indian PR industry?

I would say that, much against what we would have desired, the paradigm refuses to shift. The pace and progress of the industry in terms of mind and material have largely remained static. The exchange of knowledge and ideas do not take place in this industry as much as other industries, except for the addition of innumerable PR online groups offering sort of directory services and contact exchange. This can’t constitute a shift, worth a mention. 

The PR industry/function was once considered by management thinkers as a case of 'Managers who Missed the Bus', unfortunately, it continues to remain so. As the industry still grapples with the ways of dealing with the demands of the time and building an intellectual and knowledge base that could clearly distinguish it from the competing functions, such as advertising and management consulting.

How do you leverage your social media reach using the traditional media?

At Orion PR, our integrated approach wherein we pool together our traditional, digital, creatives and production talent to develop solutions for the clients, hold us in good stead. It enables us to offer effective solutions and campaigns as an integrated agency with a single-window servicing approach. We will continue to invest in capabilities-building and internalizing the technological changes coupled with sharp insights. 

What are the core issues surrounding the PR industry currently?

 I would split the core issues faced by the PR industry into two categories, one at the national level, and another at the global level.

 At the national level, the issues are four-fold:

  1. Re-visioning the PR profession: You have to go beyond running a traditional PR shop. For this, a change in thinking and approach is required on the part of agency honchos. Unfortunately, most of them happen to be the second shifties who entered the profession and have fallen short in responding to the crying need of this noble profession that urgently needs the infusion of intellectual capital and value.  
  2. Adoption and internalization of technology: We have to adopt a dynamic approach towards internalizing technology and other tools and functions of communications, and then attempt to re-orient and re-train the team to be able to create thoughtful and awe-inspiring work.
  3. Protecting the industry from becoming a cottage industry: There is a need to realign forces in the industry and be able to add perceptible differentiators to the clients’ communications program. Else, we will all be vying and under-cutting for the same small pie, without going up the value chain.

Globally, the industry is undergoing a major churning as it is pitched against the advertising agencies and creative boutiques. The differences have blurred in terms of service-offerings. The industry has responded by changing its contour from pooling talent to adopting cutting-edge technology, and ever-pushing the portfolio of services by investing in talent, training, and technology. In times to come, the consolidation is bound to happen to result in re-alignment and survival of the fittest.

What are your 5-year growth plans?

Our growth strategy will continue to be driven by our 'specialist-practitioner' approach, which we intend to institutionalize at all levels in order to achieve a sustainable organic growth trajectory. We don’t plan to focus on number-crunching for the sake of it.

Our key growth-driver will be our organization building exercise that could thrive and face the challenges of tomorrow. And growth will be a natural corollary to this.


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