Yesterday I read an interview piece in one of the advertising news sites in India in which a senior professional of a PR agency sadly admitted perhaps PR is still just press relations in India. Another old report from PATA, which I happened to read yesterday, said almost the same thing. Reading these made me a bit sad and an inner voice told me to prove somehow it was wrong. PR is more than keeping our journalists friends happy and getting bit fat coverage for our clients. Sure our clients see more value in PR agencies than just that.
Maybe I was just trying to humor myself.
In a recent meeting with a tech major, the corp comm. asked when we presented some non media activities – where is the PR mileage? That question came many times over and however hard we tried to explain, he wasn’t convinced. Slowly it dawned to me that PR to him means media coverage. His question was actually – how do we get media coverage out of that activity?
Are we this bad?
Here are some examples (and more here) I gathered based on my own experiences and observations PR agencies don’t do just press relations anymore in India. Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
1. Strategy: I know this is an overused word. But there are clients, and big names there, that depends majorly on PR agencies to come with the entire launch programmes for its products. Not just that there is a marketing agency working for it and a PR agency has to supplement those marketing initiatives with media activities.
There are big agencies in the market known for their ‘strategy development’. For example a particular company comes with a request saying they are not going anywhere. ‘Please help us what we are doing wrong, what we should do, where are the opportunities, etc’. (Although not said in those many words often). Our agency specially conducts strategy workshops for new clients wherein the key messages and positioning are worked out before the start of any campaign, which are appreciated by majority of the clients.
2. Advocacy: Ok I don’t want to brag about my own agency but last year we did an award winning social campaign wherein our people successfully managed to get many TV stars and important government personalities to speak on public fora supporting the cause. None of the celebrities charged a dime, and even agreed to do a series of road shows. I guess this is an area where PR agencies have an edge over other agencies. For instance, approach these celebrities with your ad agency and the cost factor might just be put up front.
3. Investor relations/government relations: There are PR agencies known for their investor relations/IPO based services, analyst meets, or government relations services. These are not necessarily media activities.
4. Social media: The social media provides a new opportunity for PR agencies to connect with or clients’ customers bypassing the traditional media. I have written about this before mentioning that PR agencies with established social media practice will have an edge on blogger relations and on popularising/marketing a property online and among the various social media influencers and users than say a standalone social media agency that will primarily focus on the development part. I might be wrong but that seems to be my understanding from what I notice. The social media today provides a huge learning opportunity for PR agencies and leverage their expertise of planning a campaign and reaching out to a client’s stakeholders.
5. Editorial services: I am not talking about press releases, fact sheets, Q&As, or spokesperson briefing documents but about white papers, case studies, speeches, website content, etc. that might not have anything to do with any journalist ever but serve other important purposes to a client. Some of the agencies excel in providing these services with dedicated editorial and copywriting teams.