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PR has moved beyond mere media relations: Kunal Kishore

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PR has moved beyond mere media relations: Kunal Kishore

Good PR practice is no longer about pestering calls to journalists and nagging requests to feature clients. Public Relations firms seem to have moved beyond mere media relations. Now it is more incisive, in-depth and strategic in its outlook. With digital and social media making brand crisis an everyday affair, PR firms have assumed a critical role than ever before.

In an interview with exchange4media, Kunal Kishore, Founder, Value 360 Communications spoke about the coming of age of Indian PR agencies, the strategic shift that the domain has witnessed in the past few years and the future of Indian PR agencies. Excerpts:

What was the biggest takeaway for the PR industry in 2017?

If you look at what all happened in 2017, it has got us thinking about the importance of crisis communication in the PR business. When the year started with the crisis at TATA’s and it continued with Infosys and went on to Indigo, we realized how important crisis communication is for businesses as such and how we need to look at it very critically. Such incidents also make you think about the value loss that the brand can have due to wrong image perception.

I would say that the 2017 takeaway for the industry is that one needs to have a very strong crisis communication practice because one crisis can cost you millions in terms of just the value loss.

How has the practice of PR transformed over the past few years? What have been the drivers of this shift?

I think the PR space has transformed in a very positive way because public relations today is driving the strategy on the communication side. It has evolved from a time when we used to explain to clients what PR was all about to a point where it has become a consumer word. When a niche service becomes a common lingo it shows that the industry has evolved to a level where it is getting its due recognition. There is a huge shift from being a mere support function of marketing to a point where it has become a strategic function and that evolution has happened in the last five to seven years. 

Has PR moved beyond mere media relations?

Earlier we used to think that our services are limited and restricted but recent research has shown that a significant percentage of our revenue has moved beyond media relations. The percentage of contribution of revenue coming in from other services has increased. Earlier media relations used to contribute the most to overall PR industry revenue but now a lot of this is getting spent on public affairs, digital, storytelling, listening and understanding the consumers. In fact, we are doing more than what we were doing earlier. I think we are slowly moving to an era where we will be looking at communication in a holistic way. With the advent of new media, there have been aspects that have been added to PR which were never there earlier. 

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the PR agencies in India today?

One of the biggest challenges is the mushrooming of PR agencies because there is no entry barrier. This sometimes impacts the parity in pricing. The other challenge is how the Indian PR firms can stay relevant in the digital age. As an industry, we are focusing from the perspective of tomorrow and day after. Most importantly the bigger challenge is that Indian PR firms need to invest to build future-ready PR teams.

What would you call the characteristics of modern-day PR communication?

Firstly we are no longer looking at straight jacketed communication for the brands that we represent. Today with the whole digital, big data conversation that you already have, we are able to evaluate and understand the consumer’s viewpoint in a much better way. For us communication is no more a press release peddling exercise, it is now more research oriented. We are also monitoring the impact of communication. Right from the insight, the message to distribution we are embracing technology in a big way to serve our clients better and create impactful communication for the brands.

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