Relations = Press Relations may have been the trend
when public relations (PR) as a concept was new to
India. But while most of the tools of the trade have
remained relatively unchanged through the years; be
it media relations, financial or investor relations
or management and internal relations issues; there
have been instances wherein PR agencies have gone
beyond the obvious to create awareness among consumers
for their clients.
increasingly cut throat competition, the complex,
information-intensive communication environment and
the rising expectations of consumers; out-of-the-box
thinking while communicating to the consumers is one
thing that PR professionals should make their prerogative.
A question to ponder on
how else do you differentiate
between what one is offering from the other? Add to
that the fact that the consumer is bombarded with
millions of messages through the day
be it via
the television, newspapers, Internet hoardings or
concept of PR is a little more than a decade old in
India and can be attributed to the entry of multinational
companies (MNCs) post 1991-1992. Thanks to the MNCs,
the Indian industry at large has realised how these
giants have utilised the concept of communication
effectively in either shaping or shattering governments,
brands and identities.
tracked some top-notch Indian PR professionals and
channel representatives and got them talking about
where they think PR for television channels stands
today and whether it has moved beyond mere press relations?
From what we find, each seems to be gung ho about
the conduit Indian PR is taking!
Relations India chairman Anthony Good
some television channels have their own corporate
communications department, most others employ independent
PR agencies to take care of their public relations.
Says Good Relations India chairman Anthony Good, "The
adage of 'media feeding off media' is so very true.
In India, while content and concept is indeed important
for success, we've seen a number of programmes, channels
and media houses succeeding or failing at the altar
of effective PR. From driving viewership through programming
PR to supporting the channel's initiatives to impart
a 360-degree brand experience for consumers, PR has
a critical role to play." Good Relations handles
PR for MTV and AXN. Good rightly says, "While
PR's contributions cannot be underestimated in the
success or failure of media channels, it forms but
a part of the marketing mix, which additionally includes
a good core product and easy availability at an affordable
price. A channel needs to get each element of its
mix just right for its success, not just its PR."
about the same, Sony Entertainment Television (SET)
senior vice president marketing Albert Almeida says,
"In the television industry, each programme is
a brand and public relations play a critical role
in the success or failure of any brand. The success
of any PR campaign lies in how well the campaign can
integrate itself with the marketing and communications
strategy of the channel's brands and how it can contribute
in building the equity of that brand and drive sampling
to the show."
has an in-house corporate communications department
and also an independent PR agency - Genesis which
handles PR for them. So what is the reason that a
need is felt for an in-house corporate communications
department and an independent PR agency and is it
really required? Throwing light on the key differentiator
between the two Almeida says, "Independent PR
agencies bring with them a width and depth of expertise
in the field of public relations. They have dedicated
teams and resources who come with valuable domain
expertise be it FMCG, consumer entertainment, technology,
etc. Also for a mass channel such as ours, reach and
widespread consumer contact are crucial which is something
established PR agencies are able to offer owing to
their network bureaux and their relationships across
the country. Ultimately, it is the effective combination
of in-house PR professionals working closely together
with the agency that makes for a winning combination."
Relations consulting partner Dilip Cherian
concurring on the need for in-house PR departments
and independent agencies to work in tandem with each
other for implementing the communications program,
Perfect Relations consulting partner Dilip Cherian
says, "The benefits of an in house team are:
'early opportunity spotting' - i.e. having a person
who will look from a 'communications perspective'
at the planning stage, advance warning for upcoming
opportunities and the ideal coordinator between the
agency and senior management of a company. The agency
on the other hand should have the intelligence and
confidence to give the CEO impartial advice even at
the risk of contradicting the boss."
Kale, whose PR agency CMCG handles television channels
like Cartoon Network, CNN and HBO, draws an analogy
between American and Indian PR agencies. Says he,
"In the US, the evolution of PR is in terms of
the technology but the drawback is that there the
PR professionals are not directly dealing with the
CEOs of companies on a day to day basis. In India,
however, the companies are more personality driven
and we are in touch with the CEOs on a daily basis.
PR professionals here are more enterprising and are
very competent. However, we are far behind in terms
of professionalism and sophistication."
with so many channels in the offing, the remote control
becomes the enemy of a channel or brand. So to escape
the remote's tyranny and retain viewer loyalty, PR
agencies and companies have started resorting to diverse
methods such as programme reviews, public screenings,
marketing presentations and special platforms like
quiz contests. Says Cherian, "The end results
every channel looks at are: how to increase viewer
base and attract appointment viewing."
associate director Siddhartha Mukherjee said that
one instance that comes to his mind was when the Star
Group was contemplating its foray in India. "IPan
actually helped the Star Group enter India and not
just in the form of providing them with a helpful
communication and business strategy. The agency thoroughly
studied the business strategy of the group after keeping
a close watch on the market realities and then suggested
a helpful communication strategy," said Mukherjee.
ensure the group's smooth foray in India, the agency
chalked out the obstacles and more importantly the
communication obstacles that it might face at the
press, consumer or government levels. The issues IPan
tackled were ranging from the issues of the company's
stake holders and in turn the broadcasting body, the
government, the opposition party and the existing
entertainment industry. No area was left untouched
thus guaranteeing Star's smooth docking.
Sahara Manoranjan head - PR, promotion and publicity
Anusha Samir Gill offers, "In terms of corporate
image, image building and brand promotion exercises,
agencies definitely can provide a lot of input and
help growth with their experience and expertise. But
in case of a channel where on-going programme promotion
and publicity is as important, one needs to be there
in the company to disseminate the right information
on an ongoing basis. By ongoing, we mean weekly or
latest, fortnightly. Out of sight and another channel
will come to viewer's mind!"
PR principal and founder Prema Sagar
Genesis PR principal and founder Prema Sagar, "In
the past, most public relations firms were focused
primarily on media relations. Also the clients understood
and expected public relations firms to only provide
media relations support - 'How many articles have
come from the press conference launch of my product?'
However, the mindset on both sides of the fence is
now changing. Public relations today is truly a catalyst
for building corporate and brand reputation. This
encompasses building outreach programmes that carry
key messages to the target audience to shift perceptions."
News Brand Director Keertan Adyanthaya
light on some of the good communication activities
carried out by channels recently, Star News brand
director Keertan Adyanthaya says, "Some PR activities
are more effective and some are less. Some examples
of good PR which is seamlessly woven into marketing
are those of Star Plus' new show Dekho Magar Pyar
Se and also that of Sony's Jassi Jaissi Koi
crops up the issue of whether PR agencies are moving
from being a mere agency to being a consultancy. Adyanthaya
says, "While PR agencies are moving to being
a consultancy that provides 360 degree solutions for
clients, it's not happening in an organised manner.
A rapport has to be built between the PR agency and
the client which needs to be worked upon."
on the other hand, provided an interesting insight
on the same saying that a PR agency and a PR consultancy
are two divergent schools of thought and both have
their merits and demerits. "One school prescribes
the integrated or 360 degree approach. The other school
of thought endorses true specialists for each discipline,
so that the client can derive the full benefits of
each. Synergy is derived by involving all specialists
at the planning stage itself. Each client chooses
one or the other, depending on his comfort levels.
We however believe that in India, at the current stage
of evolution of the discipline, the bigger challenge
is to provide clients with a one-stop PR solution,
addressing all key target audiences, from consumer
to stakeholders, i.e., moving towards strategic PR
solutions rather than remaining press relations agencies."
introduction needed here!
use of viral marketing techniques (what Sony did for
), especially with respect to online
media and the use of SMS technology has grown and
how in the last one year or so. Says Sagar, "As
the acceptance for new tools of communication such
as websites, e-mailers, CD-ROMs, etc increases, so
does the ability of public relations firms to effectively
the fact of the matter is that today, companies are
willing to invest in a good product or service. Talking
about their mascot show Jassi... which completed
a year this month, Almeida said, "Our marketing
and communication efforts seamlessly integrated with
PR has made Jassi... a household name today."
instance of out-of-the-box thinking for a TV channel
was the recent on-ground promotion for Animal Planet.
Cherian elaborates, "Our goal was to 'Get Bangalore
buzzing about Animal Planet' to support the rapidly
rising distribution and reach of the channel."
The components of the communication programme were:
Getting Animal Planet global head Peter Weil to visit
the Bangalore zoo riding atop an elephant; creating
special opportunities for the public to interact with
Animal Planet; corporate interactions with media and
advertisers; and on-ground support in the form of
mobile kiosks, banners and interactive promoters.
adds, "This concerted marketing and public relations
exercise generated spectacular results for the channel
in generating tremendous buzz in the city, receiving
huge media coverage and the bottom line is that it
successfully moved viewership up to the next level."
on the other hand did something interesting when BBC
World was launching University Challenge. Says
Sagar, "Till now, BBC had promoted programmes
that were focused on an older audience. The invite
to the media was sent out in the form of a graduation
hat, inviting them to witness the show. To demonstrate
to the media the format of the show - a celebrity
quiz was held - six celebrities were invited to form
two teams and fight for the honor of winning the University
Challenge. This was supplemented by interviews
with the quizmasters, celebrities and the programming
and marketing heads of BBC World."
Manoranjan is also very proactive as far as innovations
are concerned. All the press conferences that the
channel holds are theme based. For their show Raat
Hone Ko Hai, the channel created an eerie ambience
complete with props from the show and the replication
of the look and the logo at the venue. Three ghosts
escorted the producer to the stage and they even had
a skeleton dance. Says Gill, "When a journalist
or an advertiser sits in an ambience like this, he
experiences the show as he watches the show reel."
For Sahib Biwi Gulam, they had created a palace
relations is fast becoming an integral marketing tool
for companies primarily for its cost-effectiveness.
The experience of sectors that cannot advertise due
to the law of the land proves that PR is the most
cost effective and impactful method of image building.
Cherian said that he regularly encouraged companies
to use RoI as a benchmark to evaluate the success
of the PR campaign as well. Almeida on the other hand
said, "PR can be as cost effective as one wants
it to be. The key is to understand and appreciate
the value it brings to one's brands and to one's business."
to the area of measuring the effectiveness of PR.
Good said, "PR can be measured at various levels
and each level has a different measure and a different
implication. It can be measured at the 'input' stage,
which includes resources, planning etc; at the 'output'
level, which includes frequency of impressions generated,
column centimeter measurement etc., but more importantly
PR should also be evaluated at 'outcome' level which
includes measures like share of voice, message delivery,
PR mileage was measured in terms of column centimeters
but most PR agencies have developed their own proprietary
tools to measure efficacy of PR. Sagar believes that
measuring the effectiveness of a campaign through
column centimeters is not the right approach as it
doesn't give any indication of the message delivery
or conversion in the right media. She says, "Genesis
has developed proprietary tools to measure the effectiveness
of a public relations programme, both direct as well
as media. We also work with a number of research firms
who have specialist tools to measure reputation index
for third-party validation of our programme."
Relations, on the other hand, has also created a proprietary
360 degree evaluation model that is an end-to-end
evaluator of the PR process. Cherian said that some
of the criteria for the same are: strategic advice
and planning, results delivered media and non media,
key messages delivered, and an image audit. Almeida
agrees, "Today, most agencies have qualitative
measurement tools, which help evaluate effectiveness
of PR more transparently and accurately, be it the
efficacy of messages delivered, the buzz created in
the marketplace and the performance of the brand thereof.
The efficiency of PR is also directly proportional
to the creativity and innovation that the PR teams
bring to the table. Ultimately it's about a winning
combination of great ideas and impeccable execution."
organising logistics for media events, writing press
releases, pitching stories, gathering research for
a story or providing access to spokespersons, PR professionals
are most definitely an important resource for journalists.
So it boils down to the fact that PR practitioners
do play an important role in the development of companies/
brands and to deny that public relations professionals
have a role to play in ensuring that media sources
remain credible is a laissez-faire attitude that the
industry cannot afford to take.
this what the future holds?
wrap up - while the media professionals are definitely
upbeat about the contemporary Indian PR scenario,
the fact of the matter remains that there is still
scope for growth.
PR scene: Not so hunky dory after all
with Eikona associate director Siddhartha Mukherjee