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PMMAO 2007:Public Relations: PR Becoming Professionalised

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Marketers are increasingly using BTL activities like PR to get value for money. PR is an important tool in the arsenal of marketers, and professionals in this field are being seen as communication specialists who manage the clients’ image. Several foreign players are now having Indian affiliates and close to 35 key players have fueled competition.

The Pitch-Madison Media AdOutlook 2007 estimates the size of the PR industry to be at Rs 400 crore. While it is true that PR has expanded to become an industry with many players, the hard fact is that only around 20 agencies are really professionally managed. Some of the established PR agencies which have made a mark are Corporate Voice Weber Shandwick, Good Relations, IPAN, Genesis Burson Marsteller, Perfect Relations, Hanmer & Partners, Vaishnavi Communications, Integral PR, R&PM:Edelman, 20:20 Media, Text 100, The PRactice and Madison PR.

Yes, PR is the buzz today for a large section of marketers. Expanding from what was till now dominant media relations; making corporate strategies, internal communication, managing crisis has now become the domain of public relations agencies. “It’s a myth that a PR agency’s role is limited to handling media relations. A PR agency in reality supplements the role of the corporate communications department and is an integral part of all our competition mapping and brand-building initiatives,” says LG India’s VP-sales & marketing, Girish Rao.

Building a strategic communications programme for clients is key to the effectiveness of a PR agency. “The communication strategy for a client would depend on its articulated needs. We make a series of recommendation on what clients should do to reach its audience. Any recommendation made is aligned with the client’s strategic, business objectives and also backed by what the current trends are,” explains Vivek Sengupta, President, IPAN.

PR is all about determining the positioning and messaging for a client, which is then further leveraged through advertising. This has led to further integration and inter-dependence with advertising. A veteran in the industry, Veena Gidwani, CEO, Madison PR talking about Pantene shampoo says, “Pantene’s baseline that ’80 percent of the country’s most beautiful women prefer Pantene’ is a PR initiative that was later leveraged in advertising and BTL communication.” The latest instance of PR’s tremendous influence is in pulling the cola majors out of the pesti-cola row.

Increasingly, PR is finding a place for itself in the boardroom. Strategic Public Relations management has helped the CEO a great deal in dealing with stakeholders. It’s clear  PR is playing an important role in the communication mix of a client but whether it will command budgets in comparison to ATL advertising is a big question. Industry players, however, believe PR is emulating advertising and is already in an accelerated growth mode.

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Neeta Nair

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