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136 PR profession in India can do with better ! Where is the force?

March 22, 2012

The India PR and Corporate Communications Summit made its debut in 2011. The previous year the organizers – exchange4media group gave PR professionals in India its first India centric event in the form of the Indian PR and Corporate Communications Summit (http://bit.ly/GGyjBB ). While the 3 A’s of e4m [Anurag, Amit and (Nawal)Ahuja] are highly respected in the media industry and are professional friends of mine I think there is a lot of public relations they need to do for the event next year, after what I feel was a ‘by the jury-of the jury-for the few’ awards night in 2012.  (http://bit.ly/GHB702) I was not physically present at the event but the feedback from reliable sources and the publicly available information make me think so. By jury I’m referring to a section that head or have headed PR firms whose entries won awards.

These are my personal observations and not of the organization I’m employed with. I have shared similar feedback with Anurag (Chairman of e4m) and Noor (Executive Editor of e4m) after last year’s event but I am putting it on my blog so fellow PR professionals can add to the suggestions and we can see a better event in 2013.

a)      The online publicity that the event got was hardly negligible. The least the organizers could have done was send mailers to all the registered participants of last year. Created an event microsite to call for entries at least 2 months in advance and use social networks (twitter and facebook) to the hilt. If there is any one group of professionals that is constantly hanging out one or both of these social networks it is PR professionals. But none of this was to be seen. Wose, the tweeting stopped abruptly.

b)   A better managed jury would have brought in much more credibility to the entire process. By better managed I mean having jury members who are not likely to be nominees for any of the award categories. Or to have a good mix of academicians, marketing folks, advertising professionals who appreciate the science of public relations and maybe senior retired PR executives and corporate communications professionals. But none of that was to be seen. PR is about credibility and avoidance of conflict of interest. Even if the jury member would choose to not vote or walk out when discussing a category he or she is likely to be a probable the verdict on the award will certainly be one of bias.

c)       The jury consisted of 12 professionals (see list appended from e4m website), each worthy in their own right. Of the PR firms represented (first 5 names) 80% won an award for the firms they represent or for themselves. From the second list one took an award home. The least the jury could have done is taken a decision that they will not be eligible for personal awards while they are on the jury. If there is always a next year for improvement, there always is a next year for the award

Jury list:

Atul Ahluwalia, President, Corporate Voice Weber Shandwick

Radhika Shapoorjee, President, Hill & Knowlton

Sharif Rangnekar, Director and CEO, Integral PR

Dilip Cherian, Consulting Partner, Perfect Relations

Sunil Gautam, Founder, Hanmer MSL

D Morada, VP, Corporate Brand Management and Communications, L&T

Deepa Dey, Head of Corporate Communications, Bharti Airtel

KM Shrivastava, Professor, Indian Institute of Mass Communications

Meenu Handa, Director Corporate Communications, Microsoft India

Paroma Roy Chowdhury, Country Head, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Google India

Pradeep Wadhwa, Director Corporate Communications, PepsiCo India

Shweta Shukla, Head of External Relations, P&G

But how long will we judge our own work and on what basis? Where is the transparency? And where is the list of nominees to know who the person/campaign won against?

d)      Embracing as many PR firms would have made this a more robust event. Attempts must have been made but it is never easy. I am aware 3 firms boycotted the awards in 2011 because the jury chairperson was their rival. This year couple of PR firm CEOs were not even aware of the event and were asking on twitter as to what was going on. While you can blame their ignorance, another PR firm MD received an email invite 27 hours before the event (and I have a copy of that invitation). Talk about planning ! The first rule of PR and of life is to plan well.

e)      The least one could have done was live tweet the event with correct spelling of winning PR firms and by using a hashtag. This is not rocket science. But even this was not to be. This may sound trivial. But remember we are talking public relations here and the main sponsor is India’s second largest PR firm.

f)       Delhi is not the PR capital. Neither is Mumbai or Bangalore. All these 3 cities have varying amounts of the PR pie. But having all Delhi centric jury members (10 out of 12) makes the result skewed. I understand logistical issues come in the way but in the digitized world how does it matter to get a good representation from the 3 key metros to make it more national. Nothing like having city centric seminars as a run up to the main event. I agree these cost a lot and PR firms in India do not have budgets to sponsor events for teh fraternity like their parents do in the west and the far east.

g)      There is so much to learn from the way the Cannes PR Lions and the PR week Awards are organized. E4m representatives visit Cannes every year. And India has had representation on the jury every year. So getting pointers in not a herculean task.

h)      There is a corporate communication young professional award and a corporate communications person of the year award. While one has an age limit the other is assumed to be meant for anyone 30 and above. This award is likely to be given to a senior person and they truly deserve it. Last year it was Ms Balwani and this year it was Ms Handa – hats off to these ladies. My concern is what happens to those who are young and deserving, smart professionals in a PR firm or assistant managers in a corporate communications department. Neglected till they enter their 40s because all hell will break lose if they are awarded. Create a category for this group of professionals please.

i)        There is always the excuse of we are just in our infancy and there is always a second time but PR professionals are well aware you are only as good as your last event and you cannot make the same mistake twice. As owners of one of the most widely read trade portal getting the results up there should not take more than couple of hours. But as I write this blog it is 5 am in India and there is no sign of any news about the event.

This blog will remain a work in progress until next week as there are likely to be bouquets and brickbats coming my way and more observations after reading the final results.

Having said all that I have, I must thank Anurag Batra and team for giving PR professionals a forum to discuss and be recognized. I have been witness to the events in 2010 and 2011 and a lot of hard work and sincere effort goes into it. But if some ground rules are not followed only bad PR is created out of a PR event.

2011 was a watershed year in Indian PR and I have written about it earlier this year – ( bit.ly/2011PRinIndia )  – I wonder if anything from past experience was reflected upon in the seminar that preceded the award ceremony.

The need of the hour is inspiration for younger generations in PR. An India focused print or online publication for PR professionals and a democratic forum of PR professionals on the lines of CIPR in UK or PRSA in the United States is the ask. The question is – Who will bell the cat and how soon? We can do with better. May the force be with us! But where is it?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Yash permalink
    March 23, 2012 8:33 am

    Amith, If you know the organisers so well, then you must have seen their other awards too. The sponsors HAVE to win, otherwise why would they sponsor it, is apparently the logic these guys use.

    I personally think the awards are just an extension of the desire of the organisers to keep all constituencies who could influence advertisers, happy. As you quote in your many examples of the slipshod work, doing a memorable event is not on the agenda.
    The best PR event will only come if the PR industry gets together and organises it, like the DM industry is trying right now, under DMAI.

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