Who Are PR Firms Racing With?
IMPACT|September 16, 2018
Who Are PR Firms Racing With?

Taking on video, content marketing, social media management, creative work et al - once the exclusive domain of creative and digital agencies - PR agencies today compete not just with one another but creative and digital specialists too

Neeta Nair

Every once in a while, we see a thoughtful ad and fall in love with the creativity of the creators, who more often than not are sitting in an ad agency, thinking about the next big idea. That’s where the big ideas have traditionally come from, right? But nowadays, the geniuses behind such ideas might well be sitting in a Public Relations agency, which are customarily expected to just circulate these ads to the media. For example, the viral digital video for Oyo Rooms featuring Manoj Bajpayee and Raveena Tandon was not created by Oyo’s creative agency, but by a PR agency called Boring Brands. It is an eye-opener on the fast expanding universe of Public Relations firms and how more and more advertisers are seeking solutions from them in formats which were not the norm earlier.

Nitin Mantri, Group CEO, Avian WE and also the President of Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI) says, “Today, with the advent of social media and Internet penetration, PR agencies are not restricted to working with traditional media. PR has moved way beyond just getting coverage for a client in five big publications. The need of the hour is integrated campaigns - on social media, on digital, creating good content through storytelling, etc. It includes the effective use of multimedia, videos, infographics, creative, etc. If we have to do all that, then we have to have people with those skillsets within the agency itself.”

So, it is not surprising that PR firms like Avian WE today have added a host of new verticals to include designers, website developers, creative heads, digital experts, people who do social media management and in some cases even media planners to manage the online space.

Rakesh Thukral, MD, Edelman India, whose company gets 15%-20% of its business from non-traditional PR, says, “Nowadays, a good or bad brand experience is shared instantly by people on social media which has become the new channel of communication; and technology has enabled direct engagement with consumers. Voice, creative and video have thus become important and it is imperative that companies like ours use these new channels. So, we are curating a talent pool with these skills and to help us do the story-telling with these new elements. Today, about 20%-25% of our workforce is from these new domains, like creative, digital, planning, research experts, content specialists and sector experts. Our offering is earned-centric at the core, and social by design. For our corporate work as well, digital reputation goes hand in hand with media relations.” So the need of the hour in PR firms is a workforce which understands the new business and can do the story-telling using these new elements well.

CHALLENGE OR OPPORTUNITY?

In an era where Game of Thrones is the most awaited series and 70 million viewers watched the FIFA World Cup on SonyLiv, traditional media alone is not equipped to push the boundaries of the PR industry which is estimated to grow to a size of Rs 2000 crore by 2020. The question is, has the digital push made the PR agencies much more important in the marketing ecosystem today, or has it just added to its challenges?

Amit Misra, CEO, MSL Group says, “We are competing with the whole bunch of non-traditional PR players as opposed to the past. This includes content marketing firms, digital marketing firms and even creative firms. I think the boundaries of creativity are definitely blurring and nobody can say that only one profession has the right to create, broadcast or amplify a story. For instance, we have a 25-member creative team and 100-plus people in Digital. We are perhaps the first PR agency to have invested in a super-specialized skillset like a Chief Video Officer two years ago. Today, that part of our business is growing by leaps and bounds. We want to own conversations, and conversations are driven by visual content today as opposed to just the old traditional long form content, because nobody has time for that.”

Giving an example of a video made by a PR agency which became quite popular, Tejal Daftary, Founder & CEO, Alphabet Media says, “We ran a ‘Colours of life’ campaign for our client Tangerine, which was entering the textile market. To highlight their expertise in colours, we identified eight social media influencers in different fields and shot their take. This digital campaign was completely handled by us, from strategy to scripting to video direction, execution and finally putting it up on social media. And it really went viral.”

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September 16, 2018