| Interview with Eikona associate
director Siddhartha Mukherjee
on 31 August 2004)
does the Indian PR industry stand today? What needs to be done so
that PR agencies can move from being a mere agency to becoming a consultancy
firm that can provide 360 degrees solutions to the clients? What are
the challenges that the industry is facing in the aggressive marketplace
at present? These are some of the issues that Eikona (Tam India's
PR monitoring service set up in association with UK's Media Measurement
Limited) attempts to unravel. Eikona's associate director Siddhartha
Mukherjee believes that caging PR within a definition is the biggest
crime we commit against this wonderful marketing tool. "PR has
no definition," says Mukherjee in a chat with Indiantelevision.com's
the talk is all about going beyond press releases and offering overall
brand communication, more a consultant's role. Can you cite the
difference between a PR agency and a PR consultancy?
The essential ingredients required to transform a PR agency into
a PR consultancy is that the PR professionals should have a better
knowledge on brand management. Brand management automatically means
that one has full knowledge about the company, its people, the marketing
and financial setup and more importantly (which is more often than
not, missing in PR agencies in India) - the knowledge about the
ground market realities. Once an agency has done its homework thoroughly,
only then can it tell if what the client is telling it is of any
importance or not.
What is the difference between the budgets that a company allocates
for advertising and that for PR?
Today, one cannot generalise the fact that all companies across
industries are cutting advertising budgets. Some FMCGs may want
to cut costs. For example: HLL has cut costs by almost 11 - 15 per
cent recently. However, consumer durable majors like LG or Samsung
are piling up advertising budgets by the day. But they are also
increasingly focusing on PR and not looking at advertising as a
stand-alone communication tool. So the pie for advertising does
remain constant, but at the same time it cannot be compared to the
pie for PR spends. Today any average PR agency's normal retainer
fee can be anywhere between Rs 1.5 to Rs 2 lakhs (Rs 150,000 to
Rs 200,000). Obviously that is but a pebble when compared to what
ad agencies charge. But on a proportionate basis, if you index it
to the importance of PR agencies, then the relevance is growing.
India the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI),
which is a compilation of good PR agencies, is trying to bring some
standards and synergy in what communication is all about. One of
the agendas of PRCAI is to ensure that PR gets its due recognition.
The big question is whether it is only press relations or is it
something more than that?
much is the PR industry in India pegged at?
The "officially disclosed" size of the Indian PR industry
is close to Rs 1 billion. The industry is yet to get its due recognition
in India and it is to be kept in mind that because of that, there
may be many PR agencies or consultancies who may not have disclosed
their revenue figures. Hence the actual size of the industry would
be much more.
Indian PR industry is roughly about 1,000-1,200 agency strong with
a total manpower of around 8,000 to 9,000 professionals.
is the scope of professional growth in this industry?
The flip side here is that unless employees feel a certain importance
from their clients, they will have serious doubts about the future
of their careers. The reason being that there is not much scope
of growth here. One climbs up the ladder from being a summer trainee,
junior executive, senior executive, account manager and so on...
but then what?
one wants to move on to the clients' side, at best he can move to
their Corporate Communications sector. There is a one in a million
chance of him moving into the brand management team there. This
is because, if one generalises the Indian industry at large, companies
are yet to see the importance of public relations in their overall
are the different kinds of PR agencies?
Unfortunately because of the fact that the industry today still
looks at public relations as nothing more than press releases and
press conferences, they do not see a reason for PR executives to
bring a lot of value addition to the table. So it becomes even more
important to shift from being a mere agency to being a consultancy.
the point here is that because the industry at large does not see
much of a value addition being brought to the clients' table, the
bottom rung of the PR agencies in the industry are essentially looking
at clients' needs in the form of generating press releases and arranging
conferences and making sure, the client gets publicity. These agencies
thus provide very basic and low cost services. These agencies will
service some five - six clients and operate across three or four
other category of agencies is where because of the kind of work
done by them in some walks of their life, they've got some MNCs
and individuals in hand thus making their size of operations large.
These agencies will have a large number of head counts per branch
and a proper structure would be in place - let's say one group will
handle automobiles, another will handle FMCGs, the other will handle
pharmaceuticals etc. These agencies are either stand-alones or extensions
of advertising agencies.
Relations and Text 100 are the ones who are stand-alones and are
not extensions of any ad agencies. Agencies like Enterprise PR and
Ogilvy PR are extensions of ad agencies and the advantage these
have is that they carry a lineage.
the final and top rung there are very few agencies and an interesting
thing is that many agencies from the second rung are trying to reach
there who really have acted like a consultancy all this while. In
the top slot, come agencies like Roger Pereira, IPAN and Genesis.
The latter is one such example of a stand-alone agency which has
successfully managed to plunk itself into the top slot. These agencies
have not exactly moved away but have reduced their importance level
of the day to day postman job. The press relations part of their
operations have been reduced from 70 - 80 per cent to about 40 -
50 per cent. The remaining 50 per cent has been bombarded with other
tools of PR.
is the efficiency of PR agencies measured?
Companies have actually started correlating the appraisal of their
PR agencies to sales. In the case of advertising it is an ongoing
process because advertising as a tool has an immediate impact but
not necessarily a long term impact. Whereas PR has a long term impact
because as a subject it offers the advantage of using different
permutations and combinations.
interesting comparison between advertising and PR is that advertising
can be termed as 'allopathy' - one which has an immediate effect,
whereas PR can termed as 'homeopathy' - one which has a slow but
steady process. People have now started analysing and measuring
how effective their PR efforts have been but the question is what
does one measure? In the communication's world there is a concept
of "key messages" and this applies all the more in public
relations, especially in press relations. During the course of an
interview, if a person is talking about a particular brand or a
company, they have certain "key messages" that are coming
across constantly in his conversation.
one, those are the key messages that help shape perception. In advertising,
one has the space and can write whatever they want. Whereas in press,
one doesn't have that control. The first thing that a company does
is jot down their five or six key messages that they want to communicate
to their target audience, be it the press, consumers, suppliers
and to the industry at large.
has a tie up with Media Measurement Limited (MML) UK, which is a
father figure as far as analysing and evaluating PR trends. They
do that in a very scientific way by using the Prism pie software.
In Baroda, we have a full line up of data entry input. They themselves
are experts on how to read key messages, what position of the newspaper
has the item appeared in, etc. For example, they are also trying
to evaluate - if you pick up a magazine and look at photographs
- the face should be looking inside the magazine and not outside
the magazine. Often many people don't know this. A picture looking
inside the magazine is much more effective. These are the nitty
gritties that one can go to as far measuring PR effectiveness is
concerned. So therefore you have a PR plot pattern.
does PR for television channels stand today? Are television PR agencies
being able to deliver for the channels? Any data to support your
Today because the competition is so high, things are changing very
fast. Right from the CEO to the corporate communications manager
to the brand manager, all have to keep a tab on what is being said
about their company, product and people on a market to market basis.
One can't afford to miss out anything. The moment you move beyond
press release and one-on-ones, things become interesting and closer
to brand management.
paper which dedicates a lot of time on featurish stories will have
in some way or the other either a "Tulsi" getting featured.
She may be either talking about how she is spending time with her
family or talking about her favourite tourist spot. These are ways
to promote. We don't realise it but if we get to the brass tracks,
this is how things operate. These are the things that help shape
perception about Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and this
applies with every single channel. Be it National Geographic, Discovery
in a section of the press, Peter Mukerjea and his wife have been
talked about... it is a direct connection to Star. These are wonderful
ways and mixes of how you ensure that TVRs are maintained.
One fine day you meet Jassi in Fame Adlabs, be rest assured that
the next day it will be in the Mid Day and The Bombay
Times and there you've got your publicity. At the time of Malini
Iyer's launch on Sahara, a guy in a south Indian attire did
rounds of corporate offices and distributed idlis and vadas. The
next week, a guy dressed in Punjabi attire came with some Punjabi
dishes. So PR is all about innovative marketing.
time back, Discovery came up with a special programme on Tigers.
The kind of publicity it got was tremendous and went a long way
in ensuring TVRs for some time for the channel. Discovery may have
gone for some below the line activities too but the bottom line
is that there has to be that key message across all forms of activities.
PR for a company, whether it be in-house or through corporate communications
division or through PR agencies, has to work in tandem with other
forms of communications, be it advertising or direct marketing.
is the PR agency held responsible if there is a dip in the sales
No they are not. PR agency is one integral part of the huge marketing
setup. If the company feels that there has been no awareness in
the market because of the PR agency, then the company may take it
to task but not otherwise.
PR agency can tell a company that they have done their job but it
was a particular aspect of their marketing strategy that probably
may have created the effect of dip in the sales. So here, the PR
agency's knowledge about the company and its marketing comes into
case study can be that of Roger Pereira when Seagram came to India
in around 1986 - 87 and was knocking the government's door for approval.
At that point India was a bit conservative as far as foreign companies
were concerned and that too a liquor company. After researching,
Pereira and his company found out that India on one hand was one
of the biggest exporters of fruits and Seagram had plans of entering
the fruit juice market in India. It played on this platform and
said that Seagram is here to utilise and bring India on a global
platform in the fruits industry. Today Tropicana, which was initially
a Seagram brand (subsequently acquired by Pepsi), has made market
for itself here in India.
good are Indian PR agencies at crisis management? Can you give me
Barely a couple of PR agencies in India have been able to showcase
crisis management. And from them the others have kind of picked
up and learnt. To handle crisis management properly, right from
the company CEO to practically the doorman, have to understand what
the importance of communications is. Again, this is happening thanks
to globalisation and the MNCs that are coming into India. But the
pace is slow and will take its own course of time.
company has to keep a watch on what is being said about the company
or the brand on a day to day basis in all the markets. What is happening
is, unfortunately, companies only think of PR when there is a crisis.
recent example of crisis management can be that of the Cadbury's
worm controversy. O&M, (which handles the creative and the PR
for Cadbury) roped in Amitabh Bachchan for an ad. In fact that was
a wonderful mix of how press editorial relations and advertising
are yet to understand crisis communications. But it is picking up
as, today CEOs are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that
they have to keep information ready at hand at any given point of
time. Also someone from the company should be readily available
to talk to the press. A special task force should be ready at hand
which will immediately get into action once the crisis hits. Which
means that that particular taskforce has to be kept updated across
day to day activities and nitty gritties across India every day.
What about undercutting in today's competitive scenario?
Specifically within the PR industry there has been a lot of unrest
because of undercutting and the lack of a standard as far as undercutting
But undercutting is also good for the PR industry primarily also
because through undercutting, which means that when the client goes
with you with a figure of let's say one lakh, that means you need
to ensure that within that amount, you need to make your agency
much more cost effective.
is a reason why in the advertising industry, small but efficient
agencies are coming up because they have been able to deliver good
products at low costs. This is going to help in the churn.
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