Public Relations and the rising debate over its credibility

If Public Relations could be measured in an effective way, would it be a more recognised industry? Industry experts seek to find that elusive RoI for the industry, while also finding out ways to make PR more credible.

e4m by Preeti Hoon
Updated: Mar 18, 2011 9:09 AM
Public Relations and the rising debate over its credibility

If Public Relations could be measured in an effective way, would it be a more recognised industry? It certainly does put a question mark on one’s willingness to call PR industry credible and respected. The reason is obvious –not just clients but PR professionals themselves are not confident of their own effort, and that it is making a difference.

Jaideep Shergill, CEO, Hanmer MSL, felt, “There is no budget for measurement. It is time we sat down to invest. You can’t do measurement without spending money. I still know there is a large group here which would disagreebut the times are changing with social media. PR industry doesn’t know how to measure. It is not going to get us anywhere.”

According to Radhika Shapoorjee, President, IPAN Hill & Knowlton, to give the industry its due it needs to build credibility for itself. “The single most important factor is to build credibility and it is very unfortunate to know that we are not credible. It is a challenge that we get stuck in marketing. We have to set the parameters of evaluation. We have to answer questions like - Are we thinking of the goals we need to set up? Do we have discussion with our clients? Or is it only about buzz we create? How ready is PR industry? That is what we have to ask ourselves and to the clients also.”

Discussing PR’s evolution and reach, Seema Gupta, Assistant Professor – Marketing, IIM-Bangalore, said, “The word Publicity has been replaced by Public Relations. I have seen evolution happened. Earlier, it was to keep media at bay but gradually, it evolved into writing and gradually morphed into government relations and so on. To my mind, economy is growing, activation is big and we no longer can afford to be not transparent. I really see the industry to be at a rising point but what is the next big step? It is strategy, sitting and discussing what will work in its favour.”

“I have spoken to the head of communications, majority of them highlighted reputation as the most important aspect. Here lies an opportunity to be the custodian of the corporate brand,” she added.

The discussion took an interesting turn when the panelists were asked if the industry was officially official and what could be done by the consultancies to have measurement in place.

Amith Prabhu, Director – Corporate Communications, Vivaki India, was the first one to react and said, “Yes we are official. Appointing a specialist to specifically manage your reputation says it all. People are these days taking it as career and we form all kind of entities that makes PR a serious business.”

Shapoorjee opined, “Agency actually understands the brand’s business and then clients feel their importance. We need to learn lot better from the advertising industry to have PR advertising campaigns in place.”

“Lot of clients have a point of view, business perspective and they want us to set their goals. We are happy to work with third parties but I see a lot of insecurities - it needs to stop. We are all like ostriches. We are treated with very little respect. I think it is up to the younger people taking senior positions to act. This is the time to have solidarity. The biggest challenge is talent. We are doing nothing for it”, Shergill added.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, Senior VP-Communication, TAM India, the moderator for the session, then asked the panelists how the industry is looking today and what changes could be brought in for solid foundation. Gupta candidly replied, “Stop reporting to the marketing and HR! Report directly to CEO. They don’t value us. Currently we are in a very reactive mode but we have to be part of the strategy and raise the bar and continuously try and move up in the value chain. There’s only one HR and one Marketing. It is high time we found a nomenclature for PR and not divide it into sub-parts. Globally, there is a usage of balanced scorecard these days by the companies and it is not an alien term to India, organizations have been using it.”

Agreeing with Gupta, Prabhu stated, “We have to stop calling ourselves agencies and gradually the mindset will change. Where are the Prasoon Joshis and Piyush Pandeys of the PR world? We do much better work but still we are not recognized.”

Summing up the session in one line, Shergill said, “I think, we need to invest, educate and work together.”

The industry experts were sharing their views during a panel discussion on ‘RoI or Value: Measuring success in the new normal world’’ at the second exchange4media India PR and Corporate Communications Conference, which was held in Delhi on March 16, 2011. TAM India’s Siddhartha Mukherjee moderated the session.

The Conference was presented by Adfactors Public Relations. CVB News Service was the co-sponsor. Eikona was the measurement partner, while ISB&M School of Communication was the academic partner. Insights were provided by Penn Schoen Berland.


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