322. The story of how PRAXIS was born!
Around this time last year (April 19th to be precise) the annual jamboree of Indian advertising professionals was kicking off at Goa. I was missing out on the event after attending it two years in a row (in 2010 and 2011). And I wondered during both my trips if something without all the bells and whistles could be organised for the community of PR professionals as well and if it were to see the light of the day who would pull it off.
While the Goafest centric conversations began to take place on Twitter a couple of friends in Delhi (Rimsha and Ankita) began to discuss the possibility of such an event and I wrote an article to articulate the aspirations of fellow professionals which led to three comments on the post and several others pitching in with their thoughts and ideas on Twitter and via email. The big question was how would we find it. The advertising business has the advantage of media owners pumping in money as a quid pr quo for the business they receive throughout the year on behalf of brands and corporates while the PR fraternity has no such luck.
Thus by end April begun the calls to a few friends and former colleagues in corp comm to see if their organisations would consider parting with a couple of lakhs as a community relations gesture but all the efforts were in vain. By end May we had put together a team of 10 young individuals – each from a different organisation to become the brains trust of what we were planning to organise. Plan A was to get sponsors by June and Plan B was to ensure each of the 10 brought in 5 others and the 60 of us would book a venue and gather for a weekend to see what we could do.
But by July there was hope. First in the form of a structure that couple of us put in place and called it The PRomise Foundation. So it did not have to be Shrey, Shane, Amith and Liza present THE SHOW ;-). We needed a catchy name that would become a brand overnight (in the interim we called it National Weekend PR Conference in public and Pondy Power in private – because we had decided to meet in Pondicherry for a variety of reasons including the novelty of a beach venue and the French connection that was linked to Cannes among others). Well, with no sponsors in sight but a confirmed date by end July there was a cause of concern and then the second positive thing happened with the first set of three commitments happened within a week (Aseem from Impact, Prof Chandan from SIMC and Prema from GenesisBM). Next in August came another two sponsors (Robert from Edelman and Nitin+Girish from Avian). Closer to the event we had Adfactors, APCO and The Content Company making commitments that had us breathing easy.
By August we had almost all the speakers in place and registrations were trickling in. Towards September as I was strolling in a supermarket the idea of an acronym struck me. How about calling it the Public Relations And Corporate Communications India Summit (PRACCIS for short or even better PRAXIS for shorter and it also had a relevant meaning – To Act or To do, which was what we were upto). The best part of the entire endeavour is that we were transparent about how the money was spent – we made sure all donors directly paid the vendors on actuals thus creating a system that few can emulate.
The rest is history and now we are gearing up for the second edition with the confidence that this will be an annual feature and an event that Indian professionals will look forward to eagerly. Someday we may have a full-time person running the show. Overnight, we created two event properties (the other is PRONTO and is in an experimental stage) and ensured we are a not just a different breed but a breed that makes the difference.