A lot has changed in PR since I first started working in this field around the year 2000 (yes, I am that old!). Communication has gone from faxes to emails to Whatsapp to Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat. Quotes have been replaced by memes. Our camera lens sees a lot more than our eyes. On the flip side, our language skills have sharply declined, strange acronyms have popped up and our attention span is now lesser than that of a goldfish. And to think that PR is slowly but surely moving in this direction…??!!
I don’t have anything against technology. But there is a lot to be said for the fundamentals of PR. The basics have to stand for a lot more than the prurient way in which dialogue has begun to run over the past few years. Personally, I have relied on the simple things while going about my work. As a result, I have learnt a lot, evolved a lot, built lasting relationships and had a lot of fun. But, whenever I think about it, there really is nothing that can replace the basics, the fundamentals of good PR. Here are some important things that have helped me build an enriching experience in PR so far, and I continue to rely on them.
The most important building block of a successful PR career is the ability to be a people’s person. In other words, you should be able to build relationship that last. Clients, media, peers, bosses, team members. The client will remember you for the way you interacted with them, not for the news clip that you generated. And, building relationships is not the same as networking…in fact, they are as different as having sex and making love! Whenever you interact with someone, do so with only one objective – to leave a positive impression. Passion, compassion, mutual respect and yet, keeping things professional, will always be in style.
Another vital skill is to be able to tell a story. Someone once told me when I was prepping for a tough pitch – remember, if you can tell it as a connected, continuous and interesting story, you’re home. This is even more true once you have onboarded the client. Every idea you pitch, must have a back story and connect to a narrative that you should already be thinking of for the future. That’s why I like having clients who spend years with us – the story continues. That also brings on its own challenge – to imagine the same story differently each time while keeping messaging consistent. Maybe Indian movies are the real pros at this where, almost always, the boy gets the girl. I might have almost entirely agreed to this except that they lack a bit on the imagination of the storytelling front, focusing only on reaching the same conclusion.
After you get the story right, you need to be able to write that story or, in other words, creating interesting content. Once you have formulated the idea in your head, it’s time to sit down and write the script. When you create content, you are actually validating and creating proof points for the fluff that you have been throwing at your audience during the story telling phase. In order to separate the chuff from the grain, set the right context (briefly!), take the dialogue beyond self and if possible, add some emotion. Nothing works like creating a personal connect. That’s probably why these days articles on data centre are talking about how and what their impacts will on our daily lives – right from choosing the best suited child care facility for your kid using AI to the robot Paro in Japan who offers companionship to the lonely aged population in Japan.
At this point, I want to come back to technology again, which I believe, will be the driver of how our profession shapes up over the next 5-10 years. However, we should be able to limit technology to a medium of delivery and not as a replacement of our ability to think, imagine and create. It’s for us to form and maintain relationships and for technology to delivery them to the receiver. It’s for us to create content and for technology to publish it and ensure that it travels far. There’s no future without the basics and the basics are obsolete without a technology trajectory.
These days, more than ever.