FEATURED, Guest Column, latest-stories, Public Relations

The Genesis of a PR Firm

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Think back to a time when the economy of India had just opened its doors to global businesses. A time when Indian companies were taking their first steps in advertising and had little or no idea of the concept of public relations. Genesis Burson-Marsteller—then Genesis PR—was born in such a time.

It all began in 1992, when I was running a printing press, and happened to meet Priya Paul of THE Park Hotels. The latter was looking for someone to create a new brand identity for THE Park. We thought of a monthly public speaking event that would attract people to the hotel, and thus was born ‘Going Public at the Park’. From then to now, THE Park Hotels continue to be our client.

The economy opening up was just the stroke of ‘luck’ we needed, because post-liberalisation, a slew of multinational companies entered India. Soon, we increased our client base and saw the need to expand to Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata. Along the way, we were part of some of the most interesting and iconic campaigns—the launch of India Habitat Centre, the iconic television shows Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahin and Indian Idol, DCM Daewoo’s Cielo car, and many more. We also got our first taste of crisis management.

Through the years, as we grew, so did the public relations industry in India. There were three things that the industry needed—good talent, more structured systems and processes, and greater collaboration. The Associate Learning Programme (ALP), the first on-job management training programme for public relations, was our way of dealing with the dearth of talent. One by one we also put a lot of processes in place—we were the first to use technology, first to measure service quality, first to create proprietary tools for reputation management. But it wasn’t enough for just us to do all this—the entire industry had to come together and move forward. That is why we pushed for the formation of Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI) and then Public Affairs Forum of India (PAFI).

Today, communication is a rapidly and constantly evolving field, where standing still is not an option. Whether it is our clients, our people or the community, it is our responsibility to push the boundaries of what we do for each of them. From creating domain-specialised practices and centres of expertise for content, digital, crisis and others, including another first—our GBM Live! Newsroom, to making sure each of our employees is learning and applying new skills every day, we really are pushing boundaries every day.

It has been a long and satisfying journey so far, but as one of our clients recently said—we will take a minute to acknowledge and look back, and then continue ahead on our journey.

Prema Sagar, Vice Chair, Burson-Marsteller, Asia Pacific & Principal/Founder, Genesis Burson-Marsteller

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