What’s a Journo doing in a PR agency?

What’s a Journo doing in a PR agency?

My experience as a journalist in a PR agency has been interesting. While I have learned many things about PR, there are a few things that the PR person can imbibe from a journalist. The central and most important concern for a journalist is the critical, questioning role that he or she plays, something broadly missing in a PR set up.

A journalist questions many “given and established truths”, while a PR person has to present a positive picture of an issue at hand. There is a fundamental difference between the journalist and PR person when it comes to a story – a journalist asks scores of questions of an issue and might not easily accept a standard position, while a PR person presents “neutral” or “positive” facts. The PR person describes the “critical questioning” as a “negative mindset” and the resultant story as a “negative story”, while the PR person would produce positive aspects of a given story or truth and handover a “positive story”.

This I will describe as the pivotal difference between journalism and PR – “critical-negative” versus “uncritical-positive”. This difference produces two very different versions of the same story – while the journalist will be described as a professional who cannot see the good side of things in society, the PR person will be described as a one-sided professional who cannot see the critical side of things.

In both cases though, the overall picture of a story may be missing. A broad concoction and mix of the two is perhaps the truthful and complete version of the story. Both journalists and PR persons will have to be humble to accept both vantage points for a good story to be out in public. I remember an academic who described negative views as news and positive views as Corporate Public relations. Bridging the one-sidedness on both sides is a challenge to both a journalist and a PR person. A journalist can play an advisory role in a PR agency and guide the PR craft to draft stories that will in some way balance the two perspectives – the critical and the positive.

An issue that would cause some unease in the relationship between journalists and PR persons is ghost-writing. Here again, a journo can play a crucial role. Typically, I find that authored articles or quotes for an industry story or even press releases written in advance of an event on behalf of clients is again in a positive mode.

What comes from a CEO’s desk cannot have critical elements. The authored article is written by the PR person on behalf of the client and only facts that reflect the client’s interest. A journalist on the other hand, if he or she is especially a columnist, can reflect both the critical and positive aspects to a column or an article. An authored article cannot do this. A Journo would once again ask many questions of the article or the quote composed, and bring a holistic touch to it.

The PR person is shackled by the client, while a journalist is not. This is not the personal mistake of a PR person, the nature of the PR industry itself is such. The media is free to question, while the PR set-up is an unfree microcosm of the client. There would naturally be a conflict of interest if the PR agency were to project anything else other than what a client wants.

You may ask what a journo then is doing in a PR place?

I would answer the same by saying that a journo can bring a more complete view of the work of a PR person. This is possible. In my experience, I have been able to question clients whenever we have had meetings and interviews with them prior to the preparation of an authored article or press release. I have asked questions of the client exactly like I would when I was a journo. I have asked questions that may also be uncomfortable for the client. The client would then tumble out with facts that would otherwise not have come out, thus lending a more comprehensive touch to the interview. All-roundedness is something that a journo can bring to the PR’s table. The resultant product would then be closer to a 360-degree view.

In the course of these interviews, I have met clients who can pound you with their attitude and those who are soft and polite. I happened to meet a real estate client from Mumbai, who interacted with us in a manner as though we didn’t even know a bit of what they were talking. They taunted us and pressured us with their “Mumbai attitude”, with not a care for decency and even made faces with some peculiar and crude eye expressions, dismissing us entirely.

When I and my colleagues started asking fundamental questions of their work and projects, they tended to either be defensive or even more aggressive. What I gathered from this experience was that if you are well informed and have knowledge about the subject, you can turn things around and even put them off. Towards the middle of the interview, I realised that nothing of their project had commenced in Bangalore nor did they have adequate basic facts about their own project. I came away with a lesson – if you are fairly knowledgeable and have a journalist sense in you, you can take on anybody. Coming from a journo background, you tend not to be defensive, you tend to be on the offensive. The clients had to withdraw from their offensive once it became clear that they did not have much to reveal while having loads of attitude to share.

Going gaga over the client and praising them sky-high would not be fair. A journalist would ground this kind of reporting by frontalising facts rather than praise. Whenever I have come across undue positive reports, I have made it a point to factualise the report more and remove the unnecessary adulation. This comes from the journalistic instinct that one carries into PR. This kind of difference or tussle is welcome at K2, which has given me the freedom to exercise my opinion freely and fairly. When you filter a report full of adjectives with facts, a journalist tends to project a more objective view of the issue or story at hand. This would be fair to the reader or viewer. When clients have been told of the need to be fair, there have been instances when they too have been nice to us and have acceded to such a stand.

I joined PR to see the other side of journalism – to understand the backend of journalism. I had apprehensions about whether I could survive as a journalist, but allaying all the fears, K2 has given me space to openly question many issues and offer a contrarian view to things. A journalist’s journey in PR is not wasted. You learn the art of balancing the critical (negative) and the uncritical (positive) and come away in the end with your convictions intact.

The author’s views expressed here are personal and do not reflect the views of the associated organisation.

About the author:

Prashanth – He brings on-board his enriched journalistic perspective to K2 communications. Armed with a Degree in Sociology and a Masters in Philosophy Research from the University of Hyderabad, where his thesis was on Human Rights, his vast experience in the field of writing, reporting and editing in print media is highly valued and appreciated by our clients.

The Changing PR Landscape

The suspension of two talented young cricketers recently due to their off-field demeanour points to two pertinent things: one, professionalism and success are not just about performance on the field, and two, the pressing need for sound PR (public relations) advice for people under constant public glare. Whatever is the nature of the recent episode, there is no denying the fact that professional efforts are required to build a public persona—to ensure the person is socially aware and responsible, gender sensitive, and doesn’t offend anyone.

Undoubtedly, PR has become a critical strategy of any brand management exercise, more so today than ever—whether the brand is a celebrity, a politician, a product, a service or even a nation.

But the role of PR today is not what it used to be many years ago. Today it has taken on a newer and bigger dimension, starkly different from what it used to be.

Transition in the last few decades

In the early 70s, the PROs, as they were called, were mostly seen in government departments, banks, and PSUs. They were mainly liaison officers, transport managers and sometimes travel agents too. In short, the PRO was an odd-jobs person with a status like an executive secretary to the chairman or managing director, accompanying the Bureaucrat to ministry level meetings.

Over the years, with outsourcing becoming more commonplace, PR was no longer an in-house function. As companies understood the importance of PR in the competitive marketplace, the task was outsourced to professional agencies well-versed in the art of managing people.

The mundane role became more well-defined. Media relations became a vital part of the job, comprising assignments like creating press release content, reaching out to the media, arranging press conferences and meetings of company spokespersons with the press, maintaining professional relationships with journalists, and attending to Public Affairs functions like lobbying with the government for positive business output & Media advocacy to influence the policy bills.

With so much conversation happening online, and in traditional media too, the role of the PR professional has transformed significantly to encompass a gamut of functions. The PR professional now has to don multiple hats, that of an image consultant, a brand manager, a liaison officer, and a media coordinator, among many others. This means PR professionals have to upskill themselves in technology, social media etiquette and other New Age skills.

Let’s look at the skills that modern-day PR professionals have to possess in their repertoire.

Articulate and analytical

Today, a PR executive has to be more understandable, interpret better and be a good conversationalist too.

Socially savvy and globally aware

As companies go global, PR professionals have to be more aware of what works in a genuinely international set-up, transcending boundaries of language, geography, and region. Knowledge of diverse cultures, awareness of social norms and nuances across different regions, and language proficiency are big plusses in today’s age.

Well-informed about various topics

People who engage in forums convene debates and moderate panel discussions are sought after by corporate.

Managing media      

Some PR functions never go obsolete, and this is one of them. PR professionals should be able to talk to the press and present their views in a professional manner and network with journalists across the world to strengthen the organisation with positive media imprints.

Media education

A good PR person should train CXOs on how to handle the media and draft relevant question-and-answer sessions for them. The training should involve aspects like gender sensitisation, social awareness and avoid stereotyping.

 Crisis handling

Today, thanks to technology, any situation can blow up into a crisis in no time. PR professionals should be able to think on their feet and rise to the situation to save the day without getting hassled.

Tech-savvy

Needless to say, the PR professional should be aware of trends in technology, social media, and digital marketing to advise clients appropriately.

People-centric

No matter what changes have happened, one thing has remained constant. PR is still about people, and it will continue to be so. Thus, empathy, sensitivity, patience and tolerance are essential traits that need to be nurtured to maintain relationships for a lifetime.

Today, PR includes relationship management and image building by managing media and information flow. It also involves strong internal communication across all levels of the organisation, consulting, and engaging in trade body associations for networking opportunities. As a result of this, PR has become more complex, intricate and challenging than earlier.

 

Adapted from the article authored by Mr. Shiv Devraaj first published in Reputation Today – bit.ly/RTViews155 

Image Courtesy: <a href=”https://pngtree.com/”>Graphics from pngtree.com</a>

About the author:

Shiv Shankar – He is the Executive Director & Founder of K2 Communications. Under his astute leadership, K2 Communications has developed into a frontrunner among PR agencies that incessantly delivers excellent regional and national PR support to clients belonging to various sectors including government, IT, education, consumer, and healthcare.

Why current scenario of the Indian media market requires PR agencies to do self PR?

According to a recent report released by the Public Relations Consultants Associations of India (PRCAI), the PR Industry in the country grew by 18% in the year 2017 with digital, social media and content-driven campaigns contributing as much as 29% of the revenue for the PR firms. (Source)  The report further shows that the industry is expected to touch Rs. 2, 100 crores by the year 2020. Several sectors such as retail, automobile, and FMCG are currently the key revenue generators for the PR firms and are driving its growth.

Although the industry is witnessing a boom, the awareness about the industry and its services are still at a very nascent stage. In India, the industry is still budding, and its services are often confused with advertising. Consumed with securing coverage for clients, PRs are notoriously bad at promoting their agencies and are often underselling themselves. This happens to be one of the biggest dilemma PR companies are facing today.

The devotion to our clients and their products allows us to give the best in class service and deliver them adequate representation in their industries. However, the same is not repeated when it comes to service ourselves.

Today, Self-promotion for PR industries is just as important as securing successes for others. PRing in the current scenario doesn’t always refer to advocating for puff pieces.

An engaging video, content, online and offline social media campaign can not only help in getting traction for the company’s website but can also increase its awareness among the several stakeholders.

The world is moving beyond press releases and press conferences, and this highlights on the need for PR agencies to adopt an integrated approach to self PR. Taking measures to attract new audiences, building the reputations of our agencies, and increasing the understanding and awareness about the industry will also ensure in bringing an appreciation of PR as a whole.

Promoting our work also leads to better client relationships and helps in boosting the morale of the company. A case study on how an agency successfully managed a crisis if promoted across all media channels, for example, not only brings the agency in the limelight but also showcases the hard work and effort of the team, bringing them more recognition. Acknowledgment of the work done by the employees and their contribution towards the company’s success not only promotes happy culture in the company but also help in garnering the interest of the new clients and employees. Talent retention is one of the key challenges which the industry faces today and thus a ‘slap on the back’ by both the internal and external stakeholder’s acts as a confidence booster leading higher employee retention.

Experts in reputation management communications consultancy, brand building, content marketing, and social media, we as Public Relations representatives understand how the media works. It is time that agencies utilised these skills to benefit their organizations.

How should agencies adopt Self- PR?

  1. Allocating budget and resources for marketing the agency
  2. Brainstorm the story angles on which you like to promote your agency
  3. Sharing the success stories, media clips, testimonials and employee experiences on all the social media handles of the company including WhatsApp and Instagram
  4. Participating in industry stories if the company following unique employee-friendly practices, undertaking CSR activities and adopting any green initiatives etc.
  5. Making use of several innovative social media tools such as GIF’s, memes to put forward your views about a recent political, social or an industrial issue.
  6. Organizing summits featuring experts and leaders in the domain of marketing and

Communications to give insight to the people about the PR industry

‘If I were down to my last dollar I would spend it on public relations’ said Bill Gates. What we as the PR industry should realize is that he did not just mean it for his organization, but this is very much applicable to the PR industry as a whole.

Background Photos from <a href=”https://pngtree.com/freebackground/business-technology-background-material_415885.html”>pngtree.com</a>

About the author:

Shiv Shankar – He is the Executive Director & Founder of K2 Communications. Under his astute leadership, K2 Communications has developed into a frontrunner among PR agencies that incessantly delivers excellent regional and national PR support to clients belonging to various sectors including government, IT, education, consumer, and healthcare.

Who is writing the new code for Public Relations?

Public Relations professionals are tasked with a paradoxical feat- “How to create brands that are “human” and relatable to their customers, yet, employ the latest technological advancements like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning into their strategies and services?”

We live in a fast-paced technology-enabled world where both- business and personal life is trying to thrive in a socially charged atmosphere. My truism could be another person’s “fake news.” Confrontation on social media is the latest game we all play, and any public comment could be misrepresented or misinterpreted, leading to serious tarnishing of a business’s reputation and brand.

A negative digital footprint which is the result of a single misstep on social media platforms used to spread messages far and wide may follow the company, the brand, and the leaders forever.

Companies and businesses are being extra cautious of what they do or say, but at the same time, they are vying for their customer’s attention. And while they struggle to gain mindshare as well as market share, they look for newer, creative ways to cut the noise and make their story an interesting value proposition for their customers. All this while the competitors are waiting with bated breath to pounce at a small error or copy their every move.

Who is a Communications Officer?

A CO/ CCO is a company’s eyes, ears, and mouthpiece to the outside world. They are actively engaged with employees, customers, partners, investors, media and other stakeholders and are in the best position to effectively manage a brand’s reputation.

By monitoring the pulse of the market, CO’s predict future trends or issues that might impact the business.

How the present scenario affects a CCO’s job ?

The role of the CO is not just restricted to generate attention and positive press coverage for the company anymore. The person at the help has to promote, protect and preserve the brand’s reputation.

In today’s high-tech, aggressive environment, protection needs to take precedence over promotion.

Apart from traditional media management, CO today has to broaden the scope of responsibilities to include non-traditional media engagement like establishing a strong social media presence and having more direct interactions with customers.

Today’s customers make choices about a brand based on criteria that go way beyond product features and price. Therefore, the communications with this audience, as well as internal communications within the company have to be expertly engineered by the communications officer.

Today, public relations for companies and businesses is all about creating a culture and vision that exists within as well as outside the organisation. A brand success story that everyone loves to be a part of and contribute.

6 Steps that CCO’s can take for an effective PR strategy

  1. Convey the vision & values of the company- Knowing what makes a company stand apart is important for today’s customers and is a part of a purchase decision. The CO has to share the company’s vision, purpose, values, belief, and strategy in a story that resonates with its customers.
  2. Engaging and empowering employees- Employees are the living breathing advertisements of a company’s corporate values.CO has to ensure that employees speak with one voice on the company’s vision and goals and has to collaborate with human resources and other functions to instil pride in the company they represent.
  3. Modernising the approach towards traditional media- The CO has to ensure that traditional media, especially the outlets that regularly cover industry news have a solid relationship. To make sure the company stays true to its character and values while shaping public opinion, the CO has to maintain a positive relationship with traditional media.
  4. Take the lead on owned media- Strong Co’s don’t wait on the sidelines for someone else to engage with their business, they take the lead with compelling digital content and attract new customers while maintaining a relationship with existing ones. Leading the pack to develop and deploy thought leadership to influence perception and behaviours.
  5. Double up as the communications coach– Not every one of the top brass in the company is an expert communicator. The CO may have to guide the senior management on how they can manage their own personal brand, and how to engage with various stakeholders to maintain consistency
  6. Take risks-The only risk to fear is the risk you didn’t take.” Nothing great can happen without risk. The CO challenges conventional wisdom, seek out opportunities that competitors might find too risky to attempt and ask uncomfortable questions. Leading by example, and providing support and counsel to the CEO and leadership team without fear is one of the most essential traits today.

Now more than ever, strong communications counsel and assessment of opportunities and threats for the company from the CCO is of chief importance to establish an impactful PR strategy.

With 15 years of experience in managing top-class PR for its clients, K2 has established itself as a one-stop solution provider for all PR related services. Contact us today!

About the Author:

Bulbul Satsangi – She is a Digital Strategy Consultant at K2 Communications Pvt. Ltd. A Finance professional in her previous avatar, Bulbul, entered the arena of content writing to soothe her creative energy. In the past 5 years, she has worked on all the aspects of the internet and helped many businesses establish their online identity.

Can PR ever be 100% ethical?

USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism released their 2018 Global Communications Report – aptly named “The Evolution of Ethics” where public relations students and professionals worldwide were surveyed about the role of ethics in public relations (PR).

Some interesting insights about the current public relations landscape were revealed which also reflects on how ethics will impact the future of the PR industry. Here is a findings snapshot:

  • 70% of professionals believed the PR industry is set for drastic changes over the next 5 years
  • Only 36% of these professionals think that their companies are ready for the change.

Driving forces of change in the PR industry

The top three drivers of the change in the next 5 years according to the survey are

  • Evolving Media Landscape– 64% of respondents said they are sure the average consumer isn’t equipped to distinguish between owned, paid, shared, and earned media exposure. 60% feel the average consumer won’t even care if these are distinguishable.
  • Technological Innovations– New technology has changed the media landscape. Therefore, the scope of services offered in public relations are expanding, and the skills needed to meet those service also need to multiply
  • Greater Access to data- the Internet has dissolved the boundaries and access to information for everyone. Public or the target consumers have sensitive data on their fingertips that can make or mar the image of a company. Anyone can sniff the bad news out. Nothing can remain hidden, especially in this wired age, where news — especially bad news — gushes in an instant. It has only made the job of a PR firm all the more challenging.

Why should PR focus on Ethics?

The most prominent ethical problems for the PR industry as per the respondents:

  • 92% think fake news is one of the most potential ethical problems
  • 91% feel that PR firms that purposefully distort the truth are being unethical
  • 88% consider defending the malicious behaviour of key decision-makers, and management of the company they are representing as unethical.
  • 81% feel not maintaining corporate transparency at the firm itself as one of the major ethical dilemmas.

The most significant factor that impacts ethics in PR is the ever-evolving media landscape flooded with fake news, branded content, and paid influencers.

…good relationships between an organization and its stakeholders are built on trust; trust is gained by acting ethically and lost by acting unethically; therefore, ethical decision-making is good public relations. And, good public relations are dependent on ethical decision –making.

Paul Holmes- In his book “The Case for Ethics.”

Ethics are vital for any business. More so for the PR industry. PR is perceived as something less than respectable, and public relations professionals are known as manipulators of the public mind, who use clever tactics to convince the public that what’s wrong is actually right.

As Wendell Potter, former PR executive and author of much talked- about book- “Deadly Spin” writes

“With PR so intricately woven into every major industry and movement in today’s mass media reality, the stakes of spin have become incredibly high. And ethics do slip. PR often crosses the line into misleading, withholding, or simply lying. And when it does, society suffers — sometimes tragically so.”

Therefore, to say that there is such a thing called “Public Relations Ethics” is not just a subject taught at communications schools. It is a reality, and PR industry should embrace PR ethics the way other industries have their own code of conduct.

Critical Skills needed for ethical PR today

Considering the drivers of change in the PR industry, these are the essential skills for PR firms to succeed in future

  • Strategic Planning Organizations should sit down with their PR firms and work upon a strategy to formulate ethical boundaries. Most PR firms have the “cross the bridge when it comes” approach which is not a good strategy. In moments of crisis, it is difficult to take vital decisions which least are damaging both to the brand image as well as the public, and therefore, PR firms should sound out the alarms much before the crises hit. Strategic planning will be one of the most critical skills to develop in the future.
  • Leadership- The head of PR firms should realize that though it is easy to say that “you were not aware of the decisions taken by the accounts executive” or “you will look into it” – the damage to your reputation as a leader of the PR firm is already done. You must take full responsibility for all the decisions, big or small made on your behalf by the team. This includes the fundamental dilemmas related to integrity, honesty, and crisis management.
  • Written Communications- A PR firm has to sometimes deal with volatile situations where stakes are being revised every minute. Written communication between the company leadership and PR agency is extremely vital. If you can’t determine whether the course taken is ethical or not, at least you should be able to envision the fallout and work on scenarios. All the information should be duly shared with your clients and should be put on records.
  • Social Media & multimedia content development- Social media is here to stay, and a video literally speaks a thousand words. See our previous article: The Big Picture- Value of videos for brands- here. Therefore, today’s PR managers have to be well-versed in how to churn out engaging social media content that projects the values, brand, and image of the organization in the correct manner.

The role of today’s PR manager is continuously evolving, and today they are as much a part of management as any other function. Despite a lot of negative reputation of public relations, there is still potential for encouraging ethical communication.

Public relations professionals have long been labeled as “spin doctors,” and as a result, they are always a subject matter of critical scrutiny by journalists and the public. The only way to break this image is by adhering to the highest ethical standards to demonstrate their credibility as honest and trustworthy professionals.  As Madan Bahal, co-founder and MD of Adfactors PR, rightly puts it

“The evolved professional should not be limited by the idea of communications – which by definition itself is limiting. One school of thought says that public relations is 90% behaviour and 10% communications. Our jobs will involve advising client corporations on the right conduct in society so that they are not misaligned with stakeholder expectations. This, in my opinion, will drive the strategic relevance of PR professionals”

 

K2 Communications Pvt Ltd. has been in the business of helping clients successfully embrace technology changes and the ever-changing media landscape by employing innovative tactics ethically and with integrity for the last 15 years.

We have the strategies and tools to help clients claim their positions as industry leaders. If you’re in healthcare, education, technology or any other industries, and need help with a PR, marketing or social media campaign, contact K2 Communications today!

About the author:

Shiv Shankar – He is the Executive Director & Founder of K2 Communications. Under his astute leadership, K2 Communications has developed into a frontrunner among PR agencies that incessantly delivers excellent regional and national PR support to clients belonging to various sectors including government, IT, education, consumer, and healthcare.