The PR Circus!

730 days of swimming in PR waters! Phew! A thing I had not imagined I will be doing at any point in my life. So on this “happy” occasion of completing 2 years in the PR industry let me do some PR for PR and give some gyaan on why PR as a profession is not a bad option at all!

Through it all I aim to give a practical, no nonsense and unadulterated picture about the PR industry from an insider’s point of view. Keep your hand on your heart lest it jumps out of its cozy chamber at the end of it!

The PR ground rule: be ready to be thrown into the murky waters and get downright dirty. Meaning be ready to beg borrow or steal for a story. I will go about the crash course in three sections
1. Clarifying the common mis-conceptions surrounding the PR profession and industry
2. Giving a brief insight into the nature of work involved in PR
3. The skills you are supposed to be equipped with to dance to the music.. Quite literally!

NOTE: My “gyaan” is purely based on my own experiences in the profession and are subject to PR agencies only. Also though officially PR still does not have the tag of an “industry” I prefer to use the tag as it rightly gives the profession the deserved recognition.

The misconceptions:

Misconception No.1: that PR is an “easy” profession where you will have lots of free time to laze. I admit even I thought of PR in the same vein till I found myself in the midst of the action. PR allows you to do anything but laze! Yes there are lean days as in other professions but most days you are required to be on your toes- ideate, write, network, sell!

Mis’concept’ion No. 2: public relations as being a boring, monotonous, press release factory kinda thing! PR and just press releases and Press Conferences..ha ha ha ha! Gone are those good old days. Now is the time when PR talk essentially involves exclusives, special stories, breaking news, presence in industry stories, self-titled articles, columns, digital media.. PR agencies have moved out of the press release disseminator role and donned the role of crafting communication strategies and creating brands. Pick up a newspaper for example and at least 30% of the “news” on any given day will have been fed through the PR route.

‘Mis’conception No.3: I do not know what is it with girls and PR but it is a fact that girls outnumber guys in the PR profession. I have come across specimens- mainly female- in the industry who think that batting their eyelashes and dimpling up will help sell the story or get them up the ladder in the organisation. False! Only hardwork and smartwork clubbed with having the basics right will get you anywhere in PR where being able to sell a story/ client to the media or a concept to the client or your seniors depends on a matter of a few minutes they will spare for you. If you prefer to bat your eyelashes in those few minutes then are in the wrong profession!

Now coming to the nature of work involved in PR:

A typical day in a PR agency goes like this:-
Come in the morning scan (skim through in simple terms) all the publications- mainlines, financials, vernaculars- whichever is/are relevant to your client(s) for coverage on the client, competitors, industry etc. Compile the news on client, competitors etc in the prescribed format and email the “daily update” to the client with a long list of CCs by 10.30 a.m.(in most cases).
By this time you would have a string of mails-some stinker- from client, senior, boss etc. Answering them “tactfully” does take time. Then comes the touching base with your offices/ associates in other cities to follow-up on the story for your client or a press release in those particular cities.
Most days will also involve drafting pitch notes for stories you want to sell to the media, press releases, profiles/ backgrounders on clients etc. If you are lucky to have got by without any content drafting the PR plans-weekly, monthly, quarterly, yearly…- will not spare you.
After you are done racking your brains for the plans there are the media movements and updating of your media lists you cannot ignore! (Why do journalists shift from 1 media to another so frequently I still do not comprehend?!) Then of course there is the “being updated” about the stories journalists in your client’s beat are working on to plug in clients inputs in industry stories.
Now comes the real action and the real comedy circus- Pitching/ Selling client’s story to the media. You don the role of a sales person and “sell” a story to the journo. It is up to you to identify a story peg which can sell to the media and then convince the media of its importance and ensure coverage. It can be done through various PR vehicles- press release, one-on-one interaction of journo with client, telephonic/ email clarifications etc etc. Ultimate goal is to complete the set target of X number of coverage or coverage in A, B, C, D publications or electronic media. You may get yelled at, ignored..take it with a pinch of salt!
Yes and no forgetting the internal meetings, client meetings and reviews, Concalls…
If there is a press conference planned then there is more fun to look out for! Finalizing announcement, venue, content, media rounds, inviting media, follow-ups, coordination during PC, post event targeting of release, consolidation of coverage! Whew..action packed and exciting!
If you are involved in Business Development then there are the BD calls to make to potential clients, meeting them, drafting PR proposals, presentation.. Quite a handful for a day!

Ok now coming to the skill sets necessary to survive in the PR profession and make it big:

1. Content skills: most essential
2. Ideating- thinking for clients and news sense- ability to identify the right news i.e the news that will be picked up by the media. Knowing the pulse of every media is the key
3. Power of selling and Convincing
4. Networking: media, clients, prospective clients et al
5. Presentation skills and being presentable- neat and professional
6. Following up a task to its completion
7. Ability to work under pressure and not let the stress get to you.

So… If you think you have the necessary skill sets in you and find the PRisms exciting..go ahead hunt out an agency that handles “your kinda” clients- IT, Telecom, Lifestyle, Hospitality, Healthcare, Education, Real estate, Celebrity whatever it is!
Good luck to move up the ladder from Account Executive to Senior Account Exec to Manager to Sr. Manager to General Manager to Director to VP to CEO! 😀

P.S: PR is no inferior a profession than journalism even though some snobbish journos might think otherwise. Just let them live in their dream land while you move ahead without giving a damn to it.. 😛


“Green Print”

It is amazing that even after so much hype that Go-green initiatives in their various forms and avatars have got, the result of the entire exercise has been near nil. Though we know about the impact our actions can create, we actually continue doing the same actions with a non-chalant attitude. It is simply a matter of “choice”! We have the power to control most of our choices and, therefore, the impact we create: from where we live to what we buy, eat, and use to light our home to how we use natural resources. It is time we put on our thinking caps  to brainstorm for ways to contribute towards saving mother earth.

Take for instance our easy going attitude towards paper…. Paper plays a very important role in our lives. The newspaper, cereal box, the shopping bag, the tissue, the toilet paper, books, magazines, labels; it is almost omnipresent. When paper is such an intense part of our lives and we know trees need to be cut down to make it, why not be a little more judicious while using it?

It takes about 24 trees to make a ton of paper and the paper industry ranks 4th in contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, and contributes 9% of the manufacturing sector’s carbon emissions. Paper usage is rising by around 20% every year, with the average office worker using approximately 50 sheets of paper every day in the typical office.

Yes, use of paper is unavoidable but we can sure make a difference towards environment based on how responsibly we use it. Paper accounts for more than half of all municipal solid waste. Saving paper will decrease waste going for dump in the outskirts which in turn will reduce pollution, energy usage in production, transportation and recycling new paper products and also majorly reduce the cutting of trees to make new paper.

In the office we can do our bit to save Mother Earth and to make earth a better place to live in.

•Watch out for excessive paper usage. Most of the companies strive to make a paperless environment, but hardly succeed because employees do not cooperate. We should avoid making hard copies unless absolutely necessary, use both the sides of paper when printing, cut unused half paper for someone else, reduce font size while printing etc. But the ground rule should be – do not print unless very important.

•Buy carefully. While buying paper or diaries, stick to recycled paper. Opt for unbleached and uncolored paper and buy in bulk to reduce packaging.

•Proofread documents on screen before printing. You don’t want to reprint pages because of errors that could have been avoided.

•Print addresses directly on envelopes and avoid using labels.

•Fill copier trays correctly to avoid paper jams.

•Change the paper cups in the pantry with ceramic stuff that can be washed and put back on the shelf.

•Use the fastest and paperless way to mail documents. Email.

•Send wastepaper for recycling and ask for recycled paper products.

At home:

•If we can, why not stop buying the newspaper and read the epaper instead.

•Getting our names off mailing lists that send promotions we don’t care about.

•Get washable cloth towels for the kitchen and cut down on paper towel usage.

•Teach children not to tear paper from notebooks to make airplanes.

•Give wastepaper for recycling.

•Stop accepting promotional fliers as they are going to go straight into the bin.

•Reuse envelopes.

Our commitment towards saving paper can help minimize environmental liabilities, maximizes the efficient use of resources, reduce waste & pollution and increases profit and efficient operations of organizations.

Indian Entrepreneurship in doldrums

Recently while surfing the net for reading material on Venture Capital in India, I came across an interesting article.(

In the article the author describes how the committed capital chasing India is abundant but that in today’s India, the commodity in short supply is good entrepreneurs. Bulls eye!

The arguments enumerated by the author are very convincing. Take for instance these paragraphs- “Historically, India has been the world’s back-office. Consequently, the skill-set that has developed in India is that of engineering management and coding. The specifications are provided by teams elsewhere. Elsewhere, the market studies get done. Indian managers do not understand global technology markets. They have hardly had opportunity to learn this aspect of business. Entrepreneurs try to position products without knowledge of the product marketing discipline.
The natural instinct for Indian entrepreneurs is to build outsourcing services companies. BPO. Software Development. Chip Design. Those ventures take less capital, and become revenue generating fast. None of the Operating Loss period of a pure play product company is necessary, and hence, venture capital is also unnecessary.”

Juxtapose this situation against the entrepreneurship boom in China that we are hearing so much about. China has today become the second most influential economy in the world and it is an open secret that the Chinese government’s move to mobilize its working population towards entrepreneurship has a big role to play in what China has grown to become today. From an over-populated poor country to a country that can make the US President Bow to its wills-quite literally!

Yet year after year a talented pool of Indian youth bred to set their minds on corporate jobs in multinational firms pass out from professional colleges and universities in India, with their eyes set on the 5-6 figure salaries that they can lay their hands on in these MNCs, opening the door for a grand lifestyle. There are very few who dare to take the road less travelled-that of the entrepreneur!

Skip to the scene in China again, the country that is pushing India up the wall be it in trade, economy, growth or muscle power in international relations- border dispute included! The dragon has the largest pool of entrepreneurs today and is soon set to overtake India in having the largest English speaking population.

Holding the mirror to the difference between the 2 countries is a reality show titled Win in China where the best entrepreneur is the winner, the winner receiving nearly $1.5 million dollars to invest in their new business plan. Win in China is more than a lucrative business plan competition – it is an opportunity for the government to educate, motivate and inspire the latent entrepreneurial talent in the most populous nation on earth.

Have you seen this in India, a country where every possible reality show finding success abroad is aped?! Of course we Indians only like to watch dramatic marriage hunts and celebrities bitching about each other in the reality shows!

Throwing more light on the scenario is a documentary #WinInChina that uses the world’s largest and most lucrative business-plan competition –Win in China– as the metaphor to explore the radical cultural changes taking place in China and the surge of Chinese entrepreneurs, to consider the implications for the rest of the world.

The documentary directed by Robert A. Compton, the Executive Producer of the Two Million Minutes series on global education describes how in the 30 years since Mao’s death, China has evolved from deep poverty to the second largest economy in the world – quietly lifting 400 million people out of abject poverty.

The documentary shows Chinese capitalism in its rawest form. Beneath the game show’s surface lies a nuanced, subtle view of Chinese business practices, ambitions, ethical norms and competitive behaviors.

The timing of the documentary couldn’t have been more apt, what with India looking more like a sitting duck for the Chinese onslaught with every passing day!