“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some hire public relations officers.”
– Daniel J. Boorstin
The quote very beautifully explains the job of PR professionals. The PR landscape in India has seen a sea change in what it was doing years back compared to what to it is doing today. While PR was considered to be a glam job nothing more than wining and dining back in those days, it has come a long way since then. Today, PR professionals are juggling between the multifarious roles of consulting their clients to pitching to the media and from making integrated communications plans to reach out to the diversified set of stakeholders to executing some of the creative PR campaigns.
Just about 18-20 years back, PR was not more than distributing press releases for the clients one was servicing, be it meeting the journalists in person or just faxing them. Today, India is known to have some of the world’s biggest names in the business of PR. When the world was entering into the new millennium, there were many PR agencies of the land that were either merging with their global partners or were acquired by the big international names.
From then to now, there have been innumerable changes. From the way PR professionals work (adopting the technologies developed over time) to the divergence of PR services, there has been an explosion of the opportunities. At a certain point of time, media relations and public relations were considered to be synonymous; then came an era of dotcom news portals and today with the advent of digital media, the lines between advertising, PR and digital marketing have started blurring. PR agencies have now started following the integrated communications approach and are offering solutions for different pillars of communications such as internal (employee) communications, crisis communications, public affairs, influencer relations and so on.
Since I myself work at one of the leading PR consultancy firm, I have always thought of this question – why call PR agencies by this name – PR agencies? Are PR professionals working only as mediators between their clients and the media or vice versa – a point due to which many journalists want to interact directly with the corporate communications professionals? Aren’t they (read we) providing valuable services to our respective clients in managing their stakeholders? Aren’t we conceptualizing new campaigns for our clients to be executed on various channels spreading over umpteen audiences? Aren’t we managing the crisis and saving our client’s reputation when they are trapped amidst the horrendous queries of social and traditional media?
So, if that is the case, why do our workplaces be called as PR agencies? Why not look at some other names such as reputation firms or simply PR firms. By merely replacing the word ‘agency’, the change that I am trying to communicate can be realized. Being a young PR professional, this argument might sound a little audacious, but having said that, it is the responsibility of the millennial PR pros to bring this change, if we really want to bring it.
In my short career of PR, I have met some journalists who bluntly state that we do not like talking to ‘agency people’. If asked why, the answer is why I should talk to a mediator when I can directly talk to the corporate communications person who is more close to the spokesperson. This is where the role of our client comes in. PR firms are not merely doing a postman job but are an extension of the communications team of the corporate, providing valuable services to work for the reputation of the brands.
We, as the entire PR fraternity need to take a call and bring a change and if we wish for the same, it is not that difficult a task to accomplish. We need to reinstate this fact that we work at PR firms and not PR agencies and we are more than simply middle men.
So, the next time you call up the journalist pitching for your client and you are asked this question, “So, you are from XYZ’s PR agency?” pause for a moment and politely reply, “Yes, from their REPUTATION FIRM!”