Why should PR/Corporate Communications practitioners wear clients’ shoes before advising?

Knee jerk reactions and off the cuff advice often catches you off guard if you belong to the fraternity of PR practitioners. Probably, you come with that consultancy mindset of having a ‘know-all’ attitude. Working with a firm sort of gives almost a birthright of becoming the guiding angels of our clients’ communication strategies. What if the angels supposed to spread light, themselves aren’t enlightened enough? What I am trying to explain is a situation not very uncommon in the PR consultancy circuit. And often, we are hypocritical enough not to accept this in our profession.

Yes, the consultancy over the years provides a well-rounded experience to the professionals who are committed for a long. Generally, the consultancy exposes you to a variety of sectors, unless it limits to certain specialisation in a specific domain, as a part of its own business strategy. Generally, you will come across several clients, from diverse sectors before you’d like to specialise (or not) in your careers in a PR consultancy setup. Firms, many of them tend to work in their silos and believe they know it all. Every strategy suggested to the clients by them is like delivering the gospel’s truth. Unfortunately, most of the time it doesn’t work that way.

Client-Consultancy relationships always thrive on mutual respect and understanding of each other’s strengths. It grows on the best practices from both sides to see that they can work together to make any campaign successful. Assuming a consultant’s role, the professional in the firm often tends to move away from the ground realities that their client is always attached to. Something, often proves disastrous for any communications campaign.

Indulging in jargonised management books, meandering through the best of B-school journals, and playing with words to craft a PR strategy for any client is not an uncommon scenario. When firms present such strategies and plans, one question that always haunts a client is whether this strategy will work well in his case or not? And why would he not think about it as he is always connected to the ground situation, in an almost real-time basis?

Starting from the very point of understanding a client’s brief, a consultancy is required to drop its ‘know-all’ attitude try to unlearn a lot that it ‘knows already’ as it might have become old, irrelevant, and useless by now for the client in current situation. In-depth learning of the client’s business environment, its market dynamics, its competition, its customers, choices & preferences of customers for making a purchase decision, sales & distribution mechanism, etc., is a crucial element before one can present a communication strategy to a client.

With geographies being complex and markets becoming global, and media channels becoming diverse along with the new age media in the current social media environment, it calls for a much closer understanding of a client’s business than ever before. Time tested tricks of the trade no longer work as effectively, as they would have worked decades ago for PR consultancies. Any professional growth for PR practitioners would always require a constant upgrade in terms of knowledge, new learnings, research, besides getting involved into the business of their clients.

How many of us use the products or services launched by our clients before we get to start working on client campaigns? How many of us reach out to their trade partners for that matter, only to understand the market scenario? And how many of us, interact with their current or potential customers to figure out what’s going in on their minds? How many of us seek those insights first from the ground zero, before advising our clients of a certain PR strategy, a specific plan of action? How many of us delve deep into what our clients have been doing?

Yes, many among us are serious about it and walk those extra miles in getting to know more about their clients, while many avoid taking such pains. And that is a differentiating factor when it comes to finding the right communication strategy and advising our clients. It may be tough and not an easy path to walk. So be it!

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

Praveen Nagda
Praveen Nagda is the CEO of Peregrine Public Relations, a full-service corporate communications and public relations consultancy firm delivering a pan-India reach to its clients. He also heads White Coffee, an independent events & celebrity engagement company.

Praveen has been closely associated with many national and international events related to cinema for children, art and culture. He has a well-rounded experience that cuts across all key sectors of PR & Corporate Communications.

He started his career with URJA Communications, an advertising agency specialising in technology brands, where he was instrumental in developing the PR division. Post this, he had a stint with Horizons Porter Novelli, a global public relations consultancy. Thereafter, he was heading the IT & Telecom division at Clea PR, a leading Indian public relations and communications company followed by a fairly long stint with Omnicom Group agencies viz. TBWA\India and Brodeur India.

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