Traditional way of public relations is dead: Nitin Mantri, President PRCAI

As President of the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI), Nitin Mantri, Group CEO of AvianWE has a new vision for the apex body

by Ruhail Amin
Published - Jul 27, 2018 8:57 AM Updated: Jul 27, 2018 8:57 AM

In an era where years of building efforts can get undone with a single tweet, the role of the public relations agencies has become more critical than ever. No longer are public relations firms’ merely dispensing press statements and invites, they are now lending strategic direction and solutions to ensure brands stay strong at all times.

As President of the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI), an association of the country’s reputed communications and PR firms, Nitin Mantri, Group CEO of AvianWE has a new vision for the apex body.

In an interview with exchange4media, Mantri spoke about the efforts made by PRCAI in this direction and the trends which will redefine the communications and public relations domain in the next few years.

Can you tell us about the new initiatives undertaken by PRCAI in the last one year?

We have been doing three things consistently over the last two years—first we are regularly doing a survey about the PR industry and we are evolving that every year. In the first year, the survey covered only PR agencies, in the second year we covered PR agencies and Corporate Communications professionals. This is the third year of the survey and we are going to add media professionals and CXOs so that we get different perspectives about what people think of the industry.

The second initiative was to bring all of us closer to the core community of young professionals in the agency circuit. So, we started an inter-consultancy cricket tournament and we have completed two editions of that already. The third thing that we are trying to do is to grow the profession, and therefore address the talent crunch. We have started conducting round-tables in smaller markets. We are also collaborating with institutions to get more people who are aware of this profession.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the PR agencies today?

I think the first is talent and it is getting more complicated because of the way the industry is evolving. This will continue to remain a challenge until we and our clients together elevate ourselves, so that we can bring in more revenue and bigger retainers in order to pay enough to get good talent.

The second big challenge is the fact that the traditional way of public relations is dead. Today integration is important. The way the industry is evolving; our clients have changed too. We have to talk to the CMO today; we have never done that in the past. We have to talk to a public-policy head today. A lot of things are changing today within the client's side, and to address that we have different teams now. Did you ever think five years back that a PR firm will have a creative director or a design team? Never!

Today we have designers, we have creative people and we have media planners, so there is a cultural shift also going on. The evolution of the PR industry is a big shift and if you don’t respond quickly in time, we are going to lose the battle. The third piece really is how do we manage this whole shift and make ourselves more relevant to a different group like CXOs etc and how relevant are we to the new media.

Talking about media platforms, is traditional still important for PR agencies?

I think the uniqueness about India is that traditional media is not dead. It’s growing, though at a smaller rate, at least the English media; but yes the regional media is alive and thriving right now. We are a complex country and a huge pocket of population in tier 2, 3 and 4 markets is consuming regional media in a big way. Having said that, I think it is a matter of time when they will also be on smartphones and reading content online.

What according to you will be the three big trends that will redefine the PR industry in the coming few years?

I think we will definitely do more integrated work and more visual and multimedia work. Secondly we will as organizations change to become more inclusive of creative people, designers and planners. Most importantly technology is going to play a big role in the way we do things and influencer marketing will be a big piece of that.

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