Think about PR as a Career

First things first. The media industry in India is booming, with year on year growth that is the envy of many nations even in the west.

Advertising is growing by leaps and bounds. In a consumption-driven economy, with half the population under the age of 25 years, people are buying, buying, buying. And to get people to buy, you need advertising, hence the growth.

The news industry is growing, television, and internet and of course, the mobile, which has become the screen of choice for hundreds of millions of Indians. Why, at a time when Europe, the US and the UK are declaring shrinking numbers when it comes to print publications in favour of the internet, even this segment is growing in India, and at almost 10 percent a year.

And then there is Public Relations, the youngest of the three largest media segments (not counting film-making).  First, there was liberalisation in the early nineties. This was followed by the entry into India of large numbers of foreign corporations, attracted by our consumer economy. Suddenly, the India story could not be ignored any longer. It had to be told to the world, and in return, the world had to woo India and its mouth-watering market. And at this point, the practice of Public Relations, which was doddering along as a media relations exercise till then, just exploded.

In terms of numbers of people that the Public Relations Industry is employing today, it may not seem too large at around 8,000. Now consider this.

In 2008, the industry was evaluated at around Rs 490 crore. According to the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI), in a report released in September 2016, the PR industry is expected to nearly double in size, from Rs 1,120 crore rupees to Rs 2,100 crores by 2020. In 2015, it grew 13 percent over the previous year. Last year it grew 19 percent, which is mind-boggling. And as more and more job portfolios and descriptions open up, the number of employees required will increase exponentially. In fact, don’t be surprised if these numbers MORE than double.

So if you are considering a career in Public Relations, now would be a very good time to jump in and qualify.

There is a huge, acknowledged gap right now in the industry which is suffering from a dearth of trained professionals.

There is so much exaggeration. Public Relations has moved far beyond the traditional role of making your client seem great to the world through a series of well-placed articles in the media. Sure, they speak on behalf of their clients, but they do much more than this now. Public Relations professionals:

  • Inform constituents (customers, suppliers etc.)
  • Educate audiences on important issues related to their area of specialisation)
  • Represent the client to different audiences
  • Act as a go-between for the client with the media
  • Do crises management when the client is in trouble so that he or she does not look too bad
  • Strategize future plans and carry out a host of activities depending on a client’s needs
  • Generally, make sure that the lines of communication remain constantly open and responsive to the need of the moment

Public Relations (or PR) is much, much more than getting publicity for a company or an individual or a corporation. It is about creating and maintaining reputations and this requires a host of activities.

On a day-to-day basis, PR people are constantly looking for new ideas on how to deliver messages to people through a variety of platforms and formats. This is what makes the profession unendingly interesting, infinitely full of possibilities. There really never is a dull moment.

So you may find yourself drafting press releases or speeches, planning events or even arranging for your CEO to speak to the media on specialist subjects. Here it helps immensely if you have friends in the press or at least you know who to talk to in the media.

On other days, you may be working on the publicity needed for the launch of a product, or planning an event linked to its appearance on the market. The idea is to think out of the box, beyond the traditional methods, to grab attention.

PR industry in India grows 18% to reach Rs 1, 315 crores in 2017

The media and entertainment industry leans heavily on PR to get their initial messages out. Imagine being the PR person for a film or a television star, a media house or a television and film corporation. Nowadays, every celebrity either hires a PR company or an individual to do their publicity projects. Sometimes this is on a retainer basis, but increasingly, the business model is beginning to lean towards the project-oriented pattern. Now imagine the opportunities this offers to people who would rather freelance than join a company.

As more and more the importance of good, constructive, trust-building publicity is acknowledged, the greater the room to grow for those who are suited to the field. What are these particular qualifications? Actually, they are much like those required for journalists, which is why you hear of quite a lot of journalists actually moving into public relations! So here are some of those qualities one requires to be a successful PR professional.

  • A good general education, with a strong degree. No, it does not matter that you have not done Media as part of your undergraduate qualification. You can do a Post-Graduation after this. A good general education is one that exposes you to a worldview while keeping you rooted in your own culture and traditions.

You should like people, or rather, the public. Of course!

Strong language skills are absolutely essential. In India, this could mean English (very desirable) or even a regional language, depending upon whether you want to go mainstream of vernacular. This will also enable you to decide where you want to do your PG in Public Relations. Usually, this would be a Diploma, as the academic skeleton to support a PR qualification does not exist in India through a degree.

You need some knowledge of mass media. Particularly it will help if you understand some social media and how to use technology to choose the platform and format for your communication and marketing exercises.

Interact with PR professionals, do internships to gather a working knowledge of the profession. The only way you can hone what you learn is by constantly practicing.

Finally what kind of designations can you expect when you become a PR professional in a company?

Account Co-ordinator: this is usually a supportive role where you work with an Account Executive. Sometimes the work can be tedious, involving newspaper clippings and filing, doing a bit of research, making phone calls, keeping databases, sending mail out to the media etc.

Account Executive: You usually work directly with a client, getting the brief, translating this, planning special events, doing annual reports, looking for opportunities for publicity where your client could fit in. For example, during the annual Budget, you could pre-empt newspaper or media requests for reactions on the Budget from your client before they are even requested.

Account Supervisor: This personality oversees accounts, managing both Executive and Co-ordinator. Sort of a big shot.

Media Relations Manager: This is the guy who makes the phone calls to his friends or acquaintances in the press. It is your job to pitch stories and persuade reporters to write about them.

Director, VP: Big cheeses, who manage the firm, meet the clients, create overall communication strategies, and decide on the form all the company media releases will take. You will be responsible for getting new accounts and generally seeing that everyone is happy with the job done and with spending money on publicity.

Entrepreneur: This is the gift of the age of technology, and it stretches across Media. Technology has enabled us to work as freelancers, whether in journalism, in Advertising or in Public Relations. As long as content is king and the platform matters, more and more young people are going to strike out for themselves.

Good luck as you make up your mind

Think about PR as a Career
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