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Public relations career requires people who are creative and can challenge the status quo

Posted on Monday, June 11, 2018

Public relations exists because there is a genuine need to address pressing issues, says Ajay Muliyil, partner, Ogilvy Public Relations

Public Relations is one of the most misconstrued professions, if not ‘The’ most, as it means different things to different people. While for some it is all about attending fancy events, conferences and interacting with celebrities, high-ranking officials; for others, it’s the role of a middleman between clients and the media at large. Nothing could be further from the truth once you decide to plunge in. A lot of people have negative connotations attached to the profession, a moniker of ‘spin-doctors’, so to speak, an industry of insincere professionals who spin stories, which are otherwise false and intended to influence and sway opinions.

So what is public relations? It is one of the oldest professions and can date back to the time of Julius Caesar, when they used PR unknowingly to drive a message. David Ogilvy, known to many as the father of advertising, had once made a popular statement – “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative”, and he realised early on that selling and creativity are intertwined. He didn’t intend to relegate it to only advertising, but all forms of communication. The selling was not of a product but of an ‘idea’. While this forms the bedrock of modern-day advertising and all forms of communication, so to speak, it couldn’t resound better than in what PR tries to achieve. A bad PR campaign, just like a bad advertising campaign, can spell disaster for the brand. However, unlike in advertising, where the creative control is in the hands of the creative agency, in PR that isn’t necessarily the case, as the outcome to a large extent rests heavily on the editorial of any publication. Hence, a PR’s job involves envisaging and pre-empting the worst-case scenarios to any communication effort, in order to avoid irreparable, far-reaching damage to the brand.  Not to mention, a career in PR is rewarding and enriching experience if one can prove their chops.

First and foremost, public relations exists because there is a genuine need to address pressing issues, concerns, developments, which if not well executed would never get to see the light of day. It’s a classic case of the best mousetrap, which no one knows of unless you promote it. In the age of digitalisation and the massive proliferation of communication, whether it’s ATL, TTL or BTL, it’s not hard to see people’s attention span getting limited. Hence, communication needs to grip the attention of the audience in a very genuine way. The audience, to be precise – ‘the target audience’, in most cases can differentiate the wheat from the chaff, and this is where a promotional campaign, a pure advertising effort might not be able to resonate sincerity and genuineness as PR could achieve.

If I were to help a person or layman who plans to embark on a career in PR, it would be to allay some of these demons:

a)  Qualifications not a barometer

You don’t necessarily need to have a degree in journalism, mass communication or allied qualifications to carve out a career for yourselves. People from varied backgrounds like Law, Engineering, Management, Computer Science, fashion and art have flourished in this field. In fact, the more varied your experience is the more likely you are to succeed in this profession.  However, what is a must is, one should possess a genuine interest to learn and grasp newer things, and be open to explore areas and domains which they might not be familiar with and not comfortable initially.

bI  It is not for only extroverts or great communicators, quite the contrary

     Many people confuse a good PR person to be an extrovert and a great communicator, whether it’s verbal or written. While it would certainly help, it is nearly not what your clients is looking for. What they really want is a person who is intelligent and perceptive enough to advice and counsel them. Apart from IQ, the profession demands a high level of EQ (Emotion Quotient), as a PR professional is often communicating with a varied set of people in their day-to-day interactions, which could be his/her client (many a times even the junior most executive might need to interact with a CXO level executive), media and internally among their colleagues in a highly pressurised work environment.  

c)   Lack of creativity and a reactive approach can yield adverse results

TT  This profession requires people who can challenge status-quo, aren’t afraid to think out-of-the -box and be creative, not for the sake of being creative, but to solve real-life issues and problems in a very real way. On most occasions, a PR professional becomes an extension of his/her client, and is able to guide them through choppy waters. For this, it is important from them to be well to be on top of important issues nationally and internationally.



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