PR in 2020 – Adding powers to the core

When the going gets tough, the tough need a radical change. With hundreds of webinars, video calls, Zoom conferences, live chats on different platforms; the Indian PR business is yet to come out with an assuring stand for its thousands of professionals across India.

The hard fact is that – The PR community does not have to sustain but survive 2020! 

The INR 1600 Cr business in FY2019 is at a worrisome stage. PR business functions only when all other businesses flourish. The Coronavirus has killed the demand in the market. Not because we imbibed minimalism and are living lives only on essentials as per the quixotic whatsapp stories. There is an economic void in the market which will take months to be filled. 

The only businesses that are doing good as per the Stock Exchange is Healthcare and Pharma. Only on the 5th of May did we see a plunge in the alcohol companies stock prices followed by the opening of liquor shops across India. Sadly, these comprise only a mere 10% – 15% of any large or mid size PR Consultancy. How do we ensure our PR resources to stay calm and composed? 

Public Relations no more, Its Consumer Relations!

Let the government do Public Relations because they see all of us as equals. 

It is the Brands, that also pay us a PR retainer, who communicate with the individual consumers. 

They are the ones investing in data. That is why on YouTube, we get a Surf Excel ad at Eid and a Paytm ad on Raksha Bandhan. The TOI carries a news about a new luxury product but the Navbharat Times does not. Nor does a Dainik Jagran report of the upcoming concert of the International artist but the Hindustan Times spends a quarter page on it.

Brands differentiate in the TG and for them getting the consumer segmentation is a boon. 

In FY2019, the revenue of the PR business was only 47% dependent on media relations. 53% of the revenue came from the non-media PR. That means the brands, are now investing more on technology with increased spends in digital, social and data-related services. This is an assuring trend.

Hard copy vs the Screen!

What’s very disturbing, is the fact that, in a presentation to the government, the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) reported an estimated loss of ₹4,000-4,500 crore in March and April 2020. The economic activity has nearly run down as there’s no more advertising now.

Due to the lack of advertisements, the Delhi edition of Hindustan Times, is now of only 14 pages, down from over 20 pages in number. The Indian Express, has made its e-paper temporarily free. The Outlook Magazine has now gone for digital version. Many others follow suit.

The Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC) and Nielsen report reads, that content consumption on smartphones has increased by 12% with users spending an average of 4.3 hours a day on their devices in the week that ended on April 10. India today tops the world in data usage at 9.8 GB per month, thanks to digital video consumption which has increased 2X in the last two years.

The demand and supply for the print has seen a strong shift to the digital media. And this love for the screen is going to stay.

Storytelling and Innovation: Back to Basics

While formats, media & language may change, the art of storytelling will always remain a PR professional’s superpower. With an abundance of innovation brought by technology, digital is the only way brands tend to tell their stories.

Gauging the consumer’s psyche, the brands can become more personal and subtle in their campaigns. During the lockdown, we already have brands that are focusing on the experience brought alive by them than the products. 

  • Alcohol brands are creating entertaining experiences like Kingfisher which rolled out an Instagram campaign that promises to bring the ‘good times’. 
  • Diageo India has partnered with stand-up comic Vir Das, #SavourThePause brought on by the shutdown.
  • Cereal brand Kellogg’s has rolled out a ‘21 day, 21 recipes’ campaign with consulting chef Ranveer Brar.
  • Mondelez India, has leveraged its tagline for Cadbury 5Star – telling consumers to ‘Do Nothing Outside’ and tied up with stand-up comics.
  • Panasonic rolled out a virtual photography workshop series titled #PassionNeverRests with photography experts.

For now, till until the lockdown continues, the brands will follow the wave and drive conversations that support the society while staying true to their brand philosophy. This inclination of the brands to be where the party is and the consumers to stay attached to digital media will go on. The trend will be leveraged by brands to create most of the compelling and impactful campaigns. 

This doesn’t make the PR Pros irrelevant, rather stronger. It is the time when PR consultancies embrace these as an opportunity to create a larger brand resonance and brand preference.


The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Udit Joshi
Integrated Marketing Communications Specialist at Topline Consulting Group.

Udit brings along the highest communications experience and positioning acumen to create the highest brand equity. An avid practitioner of Brand Positioning, his foundation lies in the art of story-telling to create highest brand recall. He has emphasised to play a role which is on the strategic side of PR for brand building and impact. Udit is credited with making brands achieve their due visibility among the target audience in domains and has won the prestigious Abbys (Goafest) and several Industry awards in over 11 years of Marketing and PR experience.

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