Understanding the Public Relations
Industry in India: Challenges,
Opportunities and 2012 Outlook
A report by MSLGROUP India, part of the Publicis Groupe
MSLGROUP India Razorfish, Starcom MediaVest Group and
ZenithOptimedia. Present in 104 countries, the
Comprising Hanmer MSL, 20:20 MSL and Groupe employs 50,000 professionals.
2020Social, the MSLGROUP India includes
16 offices, 575 staff and a countrywide Web: www.publicisgroupe.com| Twitter:@
activation network. MSLGROUP offers PublicisGroupe| Facebook: www.facebook.
360-degree communications solutions to com/publicisgroupe
a clientele comprising more than 150 top
Indian conglomerates and MNCs. Our range of From The Boardroom
services includes PR, creative services, events,
interactive/digital, financial communications The PR industry in India is suffering from
and rural marketing. the growth pangs familiar to every evolving
MSLGROUP Growth brings with it excitement, sparks
passion and creates opportunities. But it also
MSLGROUP is Publicis Groupe’s PR, speciality
communications and engagement group,
advisors in all aspects of communication The Indian PR industry’s stumbling blocks
strategy: from consumer PR to employee echo the challenges that other service
communications, from public affairs to industries have faced in the past, such as a
reputation management and from crisis talent shortage, the struggle to match fees
2 communications to event management. With to value delivered, measuring performance
more than 3,000 people, its offices span 22 accurately, to name a few. In addition, with
countries. Adding affiliates and partners into the global economic outlook looking bleak
the equation, MSLGROUP’s reach increases for 2012, how should the industry respond to
to 4,000 employees in 83 countries. Today the anticipated slash in budgets? What will
the largest PR network in Greater China and be the long-term impact on the PR industry?
India, the group offers strategic planning and Can India rely on its growth rate to bail out the
counsel, insight-guided thinking and big, industry, or should we be looking for new ways
compelling ideas – followed by thorough to innovate our business?
execution. Learn more about us at: www.
mslgroup.com + http://blog.mslgroup. In light of recent developments within
com + Twitter: @msl_group + youtube.com/ communications in India, many leading players
mslgroupofficial are asking these very questions. We hope that
this report puts the industry in perspective and
kicks off a frank debate on the roadmap that PR
Publicis Groupe in India so desperately requires.
Publicis Groupe [Euronext Paris
MSLGROUP India management board
FR0000130577, part of the CAC 40 index] is
the third largest communications group in Hanmer MSL CEO Jaideep Shergill, Hanmer
the world, offering the full range of services MSL founder Sunil Gautam, 20:20 MSL and
and skills: digital and traditional advertising, 2020Social MD Sunil Agarwal, 20:20 MSL VP
public affairs and events, media buying (operations) Chetan Mahajan, MSLGROUP Asia
and specialized communication. Its major president Glenn Osaki, MSLGROUP Asia VP
networks are Leo Burnett, MSLGROUP, (operations and client solutions) Josh Shapiro
PHCG (Publicis Healthcare Communications and MSLGROUP chief strategy officer Pascal
Group), Publicis Worldwide, Rosetta and Beucler
Saatchi & Saatchi. VivaKi, the Groupe’s media
Write to the MSLGROUP India management
and digital accelerator, includes Digitas,
board via firstname.lastname@example.org
TABLE OF CONTENTS Page
1. Introduction 04
2. The beginning 05
3. Challenges 06
a. We’re smaller than you think
c. We need a makeover
4. Opportunities 11
a. From traditional PR to integrated
b. Specialty communications
c. Hot on growth
d. Bridging the compensation gap
e. Performance measurement
5. What journalists want 16
6. What clients want, what the industry thinks 17
a. PR as a strategic communications tool
b. Low retainer fees
c. Talent shortage
d. Measuring performance
7. The future lies in our backyard 20
8. Industry landscape 22
The practice of public relations (PR) is roughly a century old, but it remains
an evolving industry in India.
Indeed, while the industry has notched up annual revenue growth of 30%,
this number tells only part of the story.
Galvanised by a booming economy and an explosion in media (spanning
traditional media, TV, digital and mobile), PR is gradually being employed
as a powerful, strategic tool. Nevertheless, recognition of the industry’s
potential has been slow, with many clients viewing it only in terms of media
The challenge is to hasten this change in perception, and help companies
adopt strategic, specialty communications in order to engage and influence
a savvier audience.
This is, however, only one of the challenges facing the industry – extremely
low fees and an inability to attract and retain talent are among the others.
A misconception amongst some clients on the flawed image of the
industry – in particular, a perceived lack of emphasis on training and a false
impression of inflated revenues – also remain concerns.
We spoke to industry thought leaders to understand the issues PR
companies and professionals are dealing with every day and to detail
possible solutions. We asked them for their views on what needs to be done
to make sure PR takes its rightful place in the strategic communications
arsenal of India Inc.
While the analyses and potential solutions are varied, there is consensus
that the PR industry needs to come together to set benchmarks for fees
and salaries and to partner with institutions to create training courses and
performance measurement systems that take into account the quality of
engagement, not just the spread of media coverage.
Unity, it seems, is the way ahead.
The beginning little more than media relations. Over
time, as brands found the need for broader
communications guidance, PR firms took
Professional public relations (PR) services the first steps towards becoming strategic
came into their own in India only in the early advisors.
1990s. Before that, the industry was largely
Some firms expanded their product
unorganised – with individuals offering
offerings, setting up creative and financial
media relations only, or advertising agencies
communications divisions. In recent times,
dabbling in PR on the side.
several PR agencies have set up digital
India had a few things going for it. First- communications divisions.
tier economic reforms had unleashed the
As more global firms – such as Edelman,
country’s growth potential. The PR industry
Ketchum and MSL – enter India by setting
was nascent, and newfound demand meant
up offices here or acquiring local agencies,
it too could grow quickly. The internet, the
the Indian PR industry is rapidly becoming
growth of media, 24/7 news cycles – and,
an important piece of the large global
in more recent times, social media – were
communications jigsaw. Not only are
powerful tools that could be exploited.
acquired agencies handling work for their
5 These factors compelled a number of parents’ international customers, but they
agencies, such as Hanmer & Partners, now also enjoy access to world-class training
Adfactors, Perfect Relations and Genesis, to and global best practices.
provide PR services as their core function.
The next decade is likely to be one of
The PR industry has travelled a long discovery – of new markets and strategies – as
road since then, helped along by Indian the economic centre shifts from West to East.
corporations going global and global firms
coming to India. These firms need to build
new brands and raise awareness of those that
exist, and PR firms are playing a crucial role
in this effort.
The last decade has been one of growth and
consolidation. Hanmer & Partners, 20:20
Media and 2020Social were acquired by
and integrated into the MSLGROUP, while
Genesis was taken over by Burson Marsteller.
Several new agencies were born, many
of whom specialised in specific sectors.
For instance, Text 100 focuses solely on
This is a far cry from the early to mid-1980s
when PR agencies started off small, often
not more than three or four people strong
and a few lakhs in billings, and offering
Challenges The income of smaller agencies and
independent professionals would likely add
on an additional Rs 200-300 crore (about
We’re smaller than you think $40 million). Overall, that’s
Rs 700-800 crore (about $140 million).
Confusion and misunderstanding plague
the PR industry in India. A recent Associated (See ‘Industry Landscape’ on Page 22)
Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Hence, there’s a vast gap between what the
India (Assocham) study pegged the size of
market says and what independent surveys
the industry at $6 billion (Rs 27,000 crore)
and predicted that it would grow to $10.56
billion (Rs 47,520 crore) in 2012. Assocham There’s more supporting evidence. Many
based its prediction on corporations independent surveys say the size of the
expected to invest in PR services to help Indian advertising industry is Rs 10,000-
bolster their brand image and bottom lines. 12,000 crore ($2.2-2.5 billion). This begs the
question, how can the PR industry, which is
While the reasoning is correct, the numbers
much smaller, clock Rs 27,000 crore?
are a gross exaggeration.
6 Our estimates put the combined revenue for Such flawed estimates take the focus away
India’s top 10 agencies – such as MSLGROUP from the real issues: the industry suffers
India, Adfactors, Vaishnavi (which recently from serious talent and infrastructure issues.
shut down), etc – in the region of Rs 400-500 Furthermore, there is a legacy of distrust
crore (roughly $100 million). between clients and agencies – the former
feel the latter can afford to charge less
Similarly, talent expects much more from
their employers than ever before.
Considered the poor cousin of advertising,
PR is underappreciated – the average
advertising retainer is Rs 2 crore ($400,000)
a year, while PR retainers are in the Rs 20-
lakh ($40,000) range.
The reluctance of many clients to recognise
the value of PR or paying for it is a long-
standing issue. That it’s still an evolving
industry is evident from the fact that there’s
no standard fee-per-resource norm and
under-cutting is rampant, which is partly
responsible for retainers not rising.
PR budgets tend to be static and are the first We need a makeover
to be slashed during bad times. This, in turn,
leads to demotivation and exacerbates the Most experts agree that the PR industry has
industry’s perception problem. As Jaideep a PR problem. Many stakeholders, including
Shergill, CEO of Hanmer MSL, says, “There media and businesses, think of the industry
as one large spin doctor.
is always a tussle with clients regarding PR
budgets. They are the ones controlling the The experts also point out that many clients
money. Whenever the markets are down, don’t recognise the wide-reaching analysis
budgets are slashed.” and research that goes into understanding
their needs and delivering what is required.
At the Holmes Report’s inaugural In-House
Roundtable in January 2011 – attended by Sometimes, clients see PR as adding less
communications directors from Microsoft, value than, say, brand ambassadors. These
Philips, Bharti Airtel, Nokia and Mahindra – clients are willing to spend millions on a
all attendees agreed that agencies need to brand ambassador but are unwilling to pay
be paid more. They pointed out, however, even a few lakhs to a PR agency.
that their own budgets were not increasing.
And, finally, many clients believe there are
The problem is that corporate gaps in the services on offer. According to
communications functions are a relatively Nicholas Archer, vice-president and head
recent phenomenon, and until PR is of group public relations and international
accepted as an investment rather than an government affairs for Suzlon Energy: “Most
expense, fees will continue to be a problem. PR firms are either strong on strategy or
tactics… Both would be wonderful!”
As one agency CEO wrote to her peers, “What
Here’s how PR helps businesses:
is the point of having all these international
it improves revenue, profitability, customer
brands set up shop in India when they
base, shareholder perception, competitive
continue to operate in the Rs 1.5-lakh
edge, media exposure and awareness. It is
a powerful business tool, but how often is it
While pointing out that the industry is multi- seen as one?
layered, with services offered at different
prices, Sudha Singh, former executive
director (operations) at Vaishnavi Corporate
Communications, said: “Most Indian agencies
short-sell their services for fear of not getting
the business. There is an opportunity for us
to review this as an industry.”
At the same time, costs are not falling.
Salaries and infrastructure are major cash
drains, impacting training, innovation and
Photo by Rickydavid on Flickr
There are, of course, problems within the retain talent. This affects quality of output,
industry. In November 2010, the media and until productivity rises clients are
alleged that Niira Radia – who headed unlikely to loosen the purse strings.
Vaishnavi Corporate Communications –
Organisation leaders play a critical
acted as a power broker during government
role here. It is up to them to create and
formation. This set back the image of the PR
maintain an atmosphere that staff find
industry, reinforcing negative perceptions.
supportive and to keep the vertical and
horizontal lines of communication open.
Talent Employees need to be told how they are
If you’re part of the PR industry, you’ll know contributing to the organisation. Their
how acute the talent shortage is. As firms goals and values need to be kept in mind
scramble for competent people, salaries get and their growth planned accordingly.
inflated. With fees already so low, profitability
This is still lacking in an industry that is
otherwise growing fast and adopting best
This demand-supply gap can only widen over practices from across the world quickly.
the next few years. If salary costs become
One critical factor that has been ignored
prohibitive, PR businesses will suffer.
almost across the board is mentoring.
“The biggest challenge facing the Indian PR Again, organisation leaders must ensure
industry is the rising cost of talent. If client that talented people, once hired, have
retainers increase by 5% annually, the cost of a go-to person within the firm. These
providing the same services rises by 20%. mentors can help starters find their feet in
No industry can survive this unless it the firm and share knowledge that would
innovates,” says 20:20 MSL and 2020Social otherwise take months or even years to
MD Sunil Agarwal. acquire.
• Attracting talent: With its rapid growth • The flight of talent: If the PR industry
and huge number of young people is to sustain double-digit growth, talent
entering the workforce, this problem is could become a make-or-break issue.
amplified in India. There is little in the way Some estimates say the industry will
of formal training (see next section), and absorb 10,000 to 12,000 professionals a
no benchmark for compensation. year. But industry sources say that over
70% of PR professionals at entry levels
Industry veterans agree that a
shift to greener pastures within a year.
standardisation of salary ranges is
essential. Incentives and benefits, such as This shift happens not just within the
stock options, also need to be worked into industry but also to the communications
compensation packages, and these need departments of corporations, which pay
to be communicated clearly. far more. The PR industry, quite simply,
cannot match the salaries or the benefits
• Managing talent: In an environment
offered. Many professionals choose the
of low fees and fierce competition, PR
money despite the PR industry offering
agencies struggle to attract, nurture and
greater job satisfaction and challenges.
“The migration of mid-level agency expands beyond traditional PR, the skill sets
executives to the client side is a challenge. required in communications professionals
There are very few new senior PR are also changing.
professionals in the pipeline today. Yet,
The industry needs a common approach to
the key differentiators amongst agencies
the retention-and-attrition problem.
are talent and experience,” said 2020
This needs to start from the interview stage
and continue throughout the professional’s
It’s up to the industry to take the initiative tenure with the agency. It should involve
to develop talent. talent management, career growth, guidance
and career development plans.
This brings us to the next challenge.
Training should be implemented across
all levels. (At MSLGROUP India, 2-3% of
Training total revenues are spent on training, which
Hiring is just one aspect of the talent issue; includes interaction with industry experts,
retaining it is the other side of the coin. hands-on training and the like.)
PR firms currently invest little in upgrading In the MSLGROUP, training is instituted at
employees’ skills. Indeed, most of the the local and organisation levels. At the local
learning is on the job, according to level, senior staff conduct training sessions
MSLGROUP India research. As the industry on their expertise. Practice heads of financial
communications, for instance, would share Rajesh Pandey, managing partner at Clarity
insights on the nuances of their field. IMC, points out that “fresh graduates are
attracted to the industry primarily due to the
Also, outside experts are invited to make staff
glamour and growth quotients. Some feel
aware of issues that might affect them – such
the gift of gab is good enough, while others
as the impact of the economic downturn on
think all they need is good writing skills.
business or how media houses are changing
The ‘scientific’ and ‘strategic-cum-analytic’
to adapt to the digital age. The group also
aspects are not prepared for. Some switch
offers a mobility programme that allows
professions early, which is good, but others
staff to spend time and train in other offices
stick around, thinking they will learn the
ropes in due course.”
Similarly, various PR firms invest differing
He added: “To correct this, we should engage
amounts in training their staff.
with communications institutes to develop
On the academic front, there are several industry-ready curricula and supervisors
institutions – with competencies ranging should spend some time mentoring their
from good to average – that offer PR courses wards.”
Many industries such as information
10 While some are reputed – such as the Xavier technology recognised the demand-supply
Institute of Communications (Mumbai) and gap of professionals and joined forces with
Symbiosis Institute (Pune) – the vast majority academic institutions to evolve courses that
are looking to cash in on newfound demand covered relevant subjects. This resulted in
for industry specialists, and offer little value graduate professionals that added value to
to students. Faculties are often weak and lack the industry. The PR industry needs to follow
industry experience. in these footsteps.
Opportunities many companies’ communications approach.
PR professionals can create tailored
communications strategies and content to
reach audiences and monitor the landscape
From traditional PR to for stakeholder sentiment.
integrated strategic The approach would, of course, vary
communications from client to client depending on their
communications. For instance, a fast moving
Clients in India will eventually look to their consumer goods company would prefer a
agencies for strategic communications, not combination of advertising and PR, while a
simply for media relations. This is already technology start-up would use targeted PR
happening. Companies such as Wipro ask for specific audiences.
their agencies to help them understand how
best to communicate their messages and This is also a significant opportunity to
present them in a context that is meaningful reposition the industry, from a traditional
for clients, analysts, investors and journalists. PR deliverer to a strategic communications
Since the Indian PR industry is still nascent,
there is an opportunity to offer integrated Meenu Handa, Microsoft’s director of
solutions, especially as the line between corporate communications, believes that
public relations, advertising and digital is PR will be recognised as a strategic tool
already starting to blur. for two reasons: “One, the implosion of
digital and social media – which is all about
As a result, many agencies have invested two-way engagement, and the PR industry
in creative and digital arms. Cost-effective has always operated in that environment.
communications plans – that span Two, the imperative need for organisations
advertising, PR and digital media – make – including government, businesses and
sense to clients too. NGOs – to be extremely transparent in their
With the growing adoption of social media, communication in order to build and retain
there is a combination of options available. trust. Again, that is a space PR has always
Social media is catching up fast with operated in.”
traditional media and is becoming part of
The ‘umbrella’ PR organisation is unlikely to
disappear, but it may need to develop special
skills to thrive. PR is as good as your product,
service or idea – not the other way around.
Here’s where service innovations will play a
• Niche PR: This involves the creation
of small, specialised teams within
organisations or as separate entities.
Niche PR can address the really small
segments or have a tiny-yet-unique
Photo by scottwills on Flickr
offering. For instance, specialists in Indian Niche PR provides better value than
languages or in developing content. general-purpose agencies since they
are more targeted. This makes the PR
The current economic crisis might spur
campaign more affordable.
the rise of niche PR agencies, offering
communications services in a single PR professionals with niche experience
sector or aimed at a particular ethnic are viewed as experts because they′ve
group. built up experience and made important
connections in that field.
While such agencies are rare in India, they
are making their presence felt abroad. For • Social engagement: Social networks
instance, Performance PR is a London- have become ubiquitous, and online
based sport and automotive PR specialist behaviour is having significant impact on
that launched its first office in Dubai a the behaviour of consumers and business.
couple of years ago. “We’ve got all the Rarely is a product purchased in urban
big agencies and this is the logical step India unless it is researched online and
forward, where you will get targeted public opinions sought on social media.
relations companies that give you an
Just as the Internet has made the media
expert view on a specific area,” said Noel
borderless, online media will become
Ebdon, managing director of Performance
increasingly important. Such a scenario
12 PR Middle East, in ‘The National’
would make PR more important, as
traditional advertising is reaching fewer
His company handles regional clients people, and the true value of online
such as Fast Rent A Car, ProTech and Alex advertising is yet to be calculated.
Renner Motors. Investments in digital infrastructure and
skills today will see a big payout in the
The news site also quoted Simon Moyse,
Finsbury’s chief executive for the Middle
East, as saying that the disruptive effects Implementing a social engagement
of the financial crisis have created strategy is now fundamental to a PR
opportunities for such firms. “Companies campaign.
are increasingly looking for strategic
Social media campaigns might focus
communications advice, given the effects
explicitly on connecting clients directly
of the global economic crisis,” Moyse said.
to consumers or even on building
This is a phenomenon likely to be relationships with influencers.
replicated soon in India.
We have already seen examples of brands
successfully using social engagement
to achieve different goals in India. For
instance, Indian Premier League cricket
team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)
ran a talent hunt to select three fans for
an online reality show where they had
full access to the players. The objective
was to build a highly engaged community
with regular content created by players,
experts and fans. Consequently, the RCB Since they already have the branding
community has more than 500,000 fans and brand management expertise, PR
across channels. firms are in a unique position to take
advantage of this opportunity. They
Variations of this model can be applied
simply need to adapt their expertise and
to campaigns for a variety of goods and
techniques to offer a service that spans
services, from fast moving consumer
employer branding, EVP and employee
goods to global events. This can be
engagement. The approaches could
achieved by becoming part of the
be online and offline to help talent
community of your clients’ consumers,
understand the brand experience.
joining the conversation to learn more
about their needs. Use the tools that The scope of employer brand
consumers are using, be it Facebook, management could go beyond
Twitter, YouTube, blogs, podcasting, QR communications to incorporate every
code technology or something else. aspect of the employment experience,
including the people management
• Employer branding: It’s not just the
processes that shape the perceptions of
PR industry that’s facing a talent crisis.
existing and prospective employees.
Attracting, motivating, developing,
rewarding and mobilising employees are
13 top priorities for all businesses. Hot on growth
The term ‘employer brand’ was first Despite the global economic troubles, India
used in the early 1990s to denote an continues to grow at 7%. Imagine the growth
organisation’s reputation as an employer. when the good times return!
Since then, it has become a buzzword
among global managers. ‘Employer Not only will the PR industry continue to
brand’ can be defined as the image of grow, it will become critical for established
your organisation as a ‘great place to work’ Indian companies and foreign firms looking
in the mind of current employees and to build brands here.
key stakeholders in the external market The industry is also discovering new verticals
(candidates, clients, customers, key – healthcare, for instance. A Rs 1,62,000
stakeholders). crore ($36 billion) industry today, it is
Just as a customer brand proposition is growing at a rate of 15% and is likely to be a
used to define a product or service, an Rs 12,60,000 crore ($280 billion) industry
employer value proposition (EVP) is used by 2022. With the advent of private players
to define an organisation’s employment such as Fortis, Wockhardt and Apollo – all
appeal. Organisations are increasingly of whom are conscious of their brands and
using the marketing techniques of the need to grow – demand for PR and
branding and brand management to an integrated strategic communications
attract, engage and retain talented approach will be felt strongly.
candidates in much the same way that Media and entertainment is another
marketing applies such tools to attracting promising industry, expected to grow at
and retaining customers. 14% per annum, according to Deloitte’s
Employer branding is rapidly becoming ‘Technology, Media & Telecommunications
integral to business strategy. Predictions 2011 , Indian Perspective’ report.
That apart, the public sector, the environment
and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are
all emerging as growth areas.
Globalisation will mean a need to develop a
global perspective. As clients look to expand
outside India, PR firms will find themselves
becoming global players. This widens the
opportunity in terms of customer base,
investors, coverage and acquisition targets.
Bridging the compensation gap
Many of the industry’s problems are
self-inflicted. If clients don’t understand the
value of PR, the industry is clearly not telling
the story well enough.
As mentioned earlier, undercutting and
poaching of talent are harming the industry.
14 One results in the retainer threshold Photo by just a hero on Flickr
remaining low, the other affects the bottom
a cost implication and results in high
There is an opportunity for industry leaders attrition rates. Industry leaders need to
to get together and agree on the road ahead. agree on a fair salary range. A strong
industry association could take the lead
• Agree on certain standards: on this count. While this would not solve
Agencies don’t need to undercut to the problem of the corporate world
survive. There are enough opportunities headhunting talent, it would establish
for all. Situations where a mid-sized firm an industry benchmark and would keep
responds to RFPs (requests for proposal) employee expectations real. It would
quoting Rs 3,00,000 or more and one of also help reduce the rapid intra-industry
the top five agencies responds to the same movement of talent.
RFP at Rs 1,50,000 damage the industry in
the long run. The frequent exit of team members
handling a particular account could turn off
We must demand transparency from clients and create an impression that the
potential clients about PR budgets at the agency they’ve hired is unstable. This could
outset. No business will want to pay more affect their decision to retain the agency
for a service they feel they can get cheaper once the contract ends or even create
elsewhere. The only way the industry can doubts that it can deliver on the brief.
tackle this is by standing united.
• Benchmark salaries: Performance measurement
The industry is grappling with a talent
shortage. This has resulted in a bidding The first step is to get an industry-wide
war for the talented. This, in turn, has consensus on standards, skills, requirements
and deliverables. We need a clear vision on • Media measurement is about
whether clients see PR agencies as vendors or quality: Measuring the number
consultants. of mentions in print or on the air is
generally meaningless. Instead, media
Clarity IMC’s Rajesh Pandey said the need to
measurement should involve audience
strengthen our evaluation models can’t be
impressions, quality of the media
emphasised enough. “Instead of talking the
coverage (tone, credibility and relevance
language of ad-value equivalents, we need to
of the medium to the audience, message
talk in terms of how a PR campaign changes
an entire viewpoint. The ‘creativity’ factor in
developing campaigns should be charged • Social media can be measured:
separately just like boutique advertising There is no single ‘metric’ for social media
agencies do,” he said. measurement. The parameters would
depend on the campaign objective. Right
There is a need for benchmarks and it is
now, it’s mostly about statistics such
through an industry-wide debate that a
as how many likes have been achieved
framework for performance measurement can
on Facebook or the number of Twitter
• Why it is needed: Goal-setting and
But it’s not about the numbers; it’s
measurement are fundamental to any
15 about managing reputations online.
service. Goals should be as quantitative as
The emphasis should not be on erasing
possible and the target audience defined.
negative comments or mentions,
Measurement should include traditional
but to respond quickly and engage.
and social media, effect on awareness
PR practitioners need to listen to
of stakeholders, as well as impact on
conversations and address the issues
raised thoroughly and honestly, not react
To measure business results for consumer in a knee-jerk manner.
or brand marketing, models that
Businesses need clearly-defined
determine PR’s effects on sales or other
goals and outcomes for social media.
business metrics, while accounting for
Evaluating quality and quantity is
other variables, are preferred choices.
critical, just as it is with conventional
• Measure outcomes, not outputs: media and measurement must focus on
Outcomes include shifts in awareness, ‘conversations’ and ‘communities’.
behaviour related to purchases, corporate
• Transparency and reliability:
reputation, employee engagement, public
PR measurement should be transparent.
policy and investment decisions. How you
For media measurement, mention
measure the effect on outcomes should
clearly the source along with analysis
be tailored to the business objectives of
the PR campaign. Quantitative measures
such as benchmark-and-tracking surveys For surveys, make clear the methodology
are preferable; qualitative methods (sample, margin of error, geography, etc),
can supplement them. Such research the questions (wording and order) and
can identify the change in purchasing, statistical methodology (how specific
purchase preference or attitude shifts metrics are calculated).
resulting from the PR initiatives.
What journalists want
While the PR executive-journalist relationship can mirror a simple marriage of convenience,
the irony is that it is deeply symbiotic – one cannot do without the other.
So, what exactly do journalists expect from a PR executive?
• Clarity, specifics: Most journalists work to a deadline and long releases that are all over the
place don’t help. A well-written, yet short press release is more valuable than one that says
in 1,000 words what can be said 200.
• Kept promises: Never promise what you can’t deliver, especially ‘exclusives’ that
mysteriously appear in every newspaper. This hurts credibility. If you can’t promise that
one-on-one with your client firm’s CEO, say so. Promising the interview and then making
excuses for why it can’t happen only intensifies the lack of trust that the PR industry
sometimes suffers from.
• Understand what makes for news: Journalists are tired of PR firms pushing stories that are
inconsequential. Yes, your client doesn’t understand this, but good journalists won’t fall for
piffle and bad journalists are of no use to you in the long run.
• Respect deadlines: Respect the journalist’s time. Your tardiness could lead to you missing
out on coverage and destroying your agency’s image.
• Be well informed: There’s nothing more embarrassing than calling up a journalist to
request coverage and then not knowing basic information about your client – size, location,
turnover, etc. It does your client a disservice, the exact opposite of what you were hired to do.
What clients Low retainer fees
How you arrive at retainer fees is usually a
want, what the business decision for an organisation. You
can either be a volumes player or you can
industry thinks be a strategic consultant, where you are not
just a post office but a consultant/ partner
to your clients by helping them define their
PR as a strategic
communications goals. There will always be
communications tool different kinds of players at different levels
Recognition for [PR as a strategic of the food chain. But, it is a fact that most
communications tool] will become more Indian agencies short-sell their services
significant for two reasons. One, the for fear of not getting the business. There
implosion of digital and social media – is an opportunity for us to review this as an
which is all about a two way-engagement, industry.
and the PR industry has always operated in Sudha Singh, former executive director
that environment. Two, the imperative need (operations), Vaishnavi Corporate
for organisations – including government, Communications (now shut)
businesses and NGOs – to be extremely
transparent in their communications in order Historically, PR grew from the shadows of
to build and retain trust. Again, that is the advertising and somehow it still looms. The
space that PR has always operated in. moment a PR person is asked to show value
or justify deliverables, the tendency is to fall
Meenu Handa, Director back on good old ad-value equivalents. We
(corporate communications), Microsoft need to strengthen our evaluation models.
PR will still continue to play largely the Instead of talking the language of ad-value
role of media relations. Communicating to equivalents, we need to show how a PR
the external world through the media has campaign changes an entire viewpoint. The
strategic value. It may not be very highly ‘creativity’ factor in developing campaigns
valuable from a strategic perspective, but it should be charged separately, just like
is moderately so. Also, today the distinction boutique advertising agencies do. Clients
between PR and other BTL activities are have tendency to get ideas from various
getting blurred. For instance, who owns agencies and finally sign on the basis of
sponsorship – PR or Marketing ? These are budgets/operational ease.
strategic questions that have no easy answers Rajesh Pandey, managing partner, Clarity
at this point. IMC, a PR agency
From a purely strategic perspective,
PR will have to be part of integrated
marketing communications at a product/
solutions marketing level. From a corporate Talent is the number one issue
perspective, it must work in partnership with [when it comes to what PR agencies lack].
Meenu Handa, director
Ravindran Subramanian, independent PR (corporate communications), Microsoft
professional; former DGM (corporate
communications), Tata Communications
I think [the talent pool] is growing in India, The problem with most PR agency personnel
but we need to keep in mind that it is a is their low level of knowledge. Most of
nascent industry and so it will take time to them come with the proposition that they
mature. know journalists. To be able to command
the respect of corporations, they must go
Nicholas Archer, VP/head of group public
beyond that and display a knowledge of
relations and international government
industry trends, an ability to read/interpret
affairs, Suzlon Energy Ltd
basic balance sheet numbers. Also,
The industry is faced with a serious dearth of basic knowledge of marketing is a must.
talent. There are several levels to this. PR agencies need to invest in training.
The answer lies in short-term training
At the fresher management trainee programmes and an MBA.
level, programmes in universities and
colleges are seriously inadequate. Who is Ravindran Subramanian, independent
designing the curriculum, who is teaching PR professional; former DGM (corporate
it, and what is the industry’s involvement in communications), Tata Communications
these programmes? Very little, as far as I
understand. This is the first gap.
Once the student has completed the
Take very, very specific challenges and
18 programme he/she is uncertain about how
deliver. Only then will it be seen as tangible
to proceed – because there are few graduate
employment schemes at PR companies.
Hence, the industry loses the opportunity to Krishna B. Mariyanka, director, Aikya Global
identify good talent and nurture it.
Innovation [is the key]. Every client
The second issue is the nurturing of existing has a different yardstick for measuring
talent. Most companies operating in this performance and the agency needs to adapt
environment do not have an institutionalised to the client’s business goals. There cannot
process for it through training and mentoring be a ‘my way’ of evaluation thrust upon the
initiatives. client. To raise standards, the seniors need
to be early on the latest technologies and
There is also no sharing within the industry –
on best practices, we can all learn from each
other Rajesh Pandey, managing partner, Clarity
IMC, a PR agency
The third issue has to do with who is
identifying talent for the industry, and how? Performance measurement is the key to
What are the parameters? There is a motley changing the industry dynamics. We are
bunch of recruitment consultants who have often responsible for the image that we
no idea what the industry needs? That part of promote (all fluff and no substance) – for
the chain also needs strengthening. instance, we are at pains to say that PR is
not quantifiable. There is a need for the
Sudha Singh, former executive director
industry to define standards of performance
(operations), Vaishnavi Corporate
and excellence and individual companies
Communications (now shut)
to show some initiative and innovation in
creating standards. It is possible and it can
be done. Every campaign has an end goal, servicing but on how we conduct ourselves as
and the output (performance) should be good corporate citizens, nurture talent and
measured against that goal, in the backdrop promote the industry
of established sops.
Sudha Singh, former executive director
Standards would be automatically raised (operations), Vaishnavi Corporate
when there is more engagement within the Communications (now shut)
industry on best practices, not just in client
By Sunil Gautam, founder,
HANMER & PARTNERS (now Hanmer MSL)
The future lies in our backyard
As clients slashed marketing budgets and Also, Asia is becoming increasingly important as
downsized on the back of the economic turmoil the wealth of its residents increases alongside
that set in a couple of years ago, several global the size and success of its companies.
20 PR agencies suffered enormous losses.
There are two trends, apart from the ones
As they battled to survive, they turned to higher discussed in this thought paper, that I see
growth markets like India and China. In many impacting our industry.
ways, India took a higher priority because of its 1. Media, marketing and technology are
large English-speaking base and stable political changing
Even five years ago, online research
With the entry of these players, the maturing of before a purchase, review blogs and
the fledgling PR industry began in right earnest. social media were unheard of. Today,
Today, corporations’ need for image building and they are ubiquitous. The internet is
strategic communications is well understood. influencing consumers.
According to the 2007 report on The State of This is an opportunity. The longer we
the Public Relations Industry by Paul Holmes, hang on to traditional PR tools, the
tougher it will become for us. It’s not
the growth of PR in the West has plateaued in
as if traditional PR practices – media
the 9%-11% range. India and China, however,
relations, events, etc – will disappear.
are growing four times as quickly. “The greatest But the definition of ‘mainstream’ PR
future in growth is expected to come in China and practices is changing for good. We can
India, with good prospects for growth in Eastern either adapt to this new world, or perish.
Europe (particularly those countries recently
2. The world is changing. And it’s not
admitted to the European Union) and in the
Middle East (albeit from a very small base),” the We have succeeded in meeting several
report said. challenges head on. But many age-old
ones remain. Rising prices, the rich-poor
gap, illiteracy… We can put a man on the That the rise of India and China will have
moon, but cures for diseases such as HIV a major impact on the global economy
and cancer remain out of reach. is known. But few understand how it will
impact communications professionals.
There are gaps in the PR industry
too, and there is an opportunity – We’ve already discussed how the last
partnerships. Perhaps it’s time to decade has been one of unprecedented
think of all stakeholders – clients and growth, consolidation and globalisation
employees – as ‘partners’. Our success (see ‘The Beginning’) for the PR industry
will depend on how we choose them and in India. This is a significant shift for
how we manage these relationships. agencies, the media and even clients.
This is where we can raise our skills We will need to understand how it
and standards, help clients provide impacts global markets and global
better PR briefs, raise the standards of companies. Clients will need global
measurement and source and manage thinkers with global mindsets. It’s time
talent better. we gear up for that challenge. The
opportunity is before us. It’s time to
reach out and grab it.
INDIA’S PR LANDSCAPE
Agency Started in Founder CEO/MD/ Offices, Staff Specialisations and additional Annual revenue Website Key Clients
country head network strength services
Acti Media 1998 Amitabh Benita Botany 3 >50 Lifestyle & Fashion PR >Rs 5 crore http://www.actimediaindia.com/ Puma
Saksena (>$1 million)
Adfactors 1997-98 Madan Behl, Madan Behl 40+ 300+ Finance, IPOs, real estate. Rs 60+ crore, http://www.adfactorspr.com/ L&T, Maruti, Aviva Life Insurance, Jet Airways
Rajesh Recently launched media and ($13+ million).
Chaturvedi entertainment, and consumer and Includes media
lifestyle practices commissions, etc
Avian Media 2004 Nikhil Khanna Nitin Mantri 5+ General PR with strengths in >Rs 10 crore http://www.avian-media.com/ Rolls Royce, Airbus, MTV, BP, Thomas Cook
aviation and lifestyle. Rumours are (>$2 million)
that BM is looking to acquire the
Concept PR Vivek Suchanti Vivek Suchanti 7+ 100+ Investor relations, IPOs, sports Rs 35+ crore http://www.conceptpr.com/ Rajasthan Royals, Oberoi Realty
marketing. They also have an ($7 million)
Corporate 2004 Atul Ahluwalia Dilip Yadav 5+ 200+ General PR Rs 25+ crore http://www.webershandwick. TATA GROUP, Hero Honda, Honda Seil , LG
Voice Weber ($5.5+ million) asia/ Mobile & Laptops, Whirlpool , Boeing
Edelman 2006; Roger Perreira Robert Holdheim 7 offices 80+ Public affairs, social media. Rs 25+ crore www.edelman.com Tata Teleservices, Jaypee - Buddh
launched established Network includes specialty firms ($5.5+ million) International Circuit
as R&PM, R&PM Blue (advertising), StrategyOne
taken over (research) and BioScience
by Edelman Communications (medical
in 2008 education and publishing)
Flieshman 2010 NA Yusuf Hatia 3 >50 General PR >Rs 5 crore http://fleishman.co.in/ Nokia, TCS
Hillard (>$1 million)
Genesis 1992 Prema Sagar Nikhil Dey 7 offices 200+ Public affairs, digital marketing Rs 30+ crore http://www.genesisbm.in/ Vodafone, Adidas, United Colors of Benetton
Burson- ($6.0+ million)
Good Relations 1988 Anthony B M Deepak Kanulkar 6 offices, >50 General PR >Rs 5 crore http://www.goodrelations.co.in/ Crossword, Cartier, Radio City
(Chime Group) Good 40 network (>$1 million)
Hanmer MSL 1999 Sunil Gautam Jaideep Shergill 8 offices, 350+ Integrated communications; has Rs 35+ crore http://www.hanmermsl.com/ Bharti Airtel, HCL Infosystems, Fortis
founded 35 network a creative division too. Has media ($7.5+ million) Healthcare, Star Movies, Star Gold, FOX
Hanmer & locations and entertainment, investor International Channel - India, Himalaya Drug
Partners, which relations, social media, events, etc, Company
was acquired by practices
20:20 MSL 1989 Sunil Agarwal Sunil Agarwal 7 150+ Technology PR Rs 18+ crore http://www.2020msl.com/ Canon, Volkswagen, Haier, Verisign, Google
MSLGROUP INDIA (Hanmer MSL + 20:20 MSL) COMBINED REVENUE: Rs 53 crore ($11 million)
Imprimis PR 1999 Aman Gupta Aman Gupta 2+ 25+ Healthcare and an offshoot of >Rs 5 crore http://www.imprimispr.com/ Apollo Hospital, Idea Celluar
Perfect Relations (>$1 million)
Integral PR 1999 Deepak Talwar Sharif Rangnekar 6+ 100+ Public affairs, general PR Rs 15+ crore http://www.integralpr.com/ Reckitt Benckiser , Barista Lavazza, Deloitte
($3 million) India, Imagine Channel
IPAN Hill & 1988 Radhika Vinod Moorthy 5 offices, 150-200 General PR Rs 20+ crore http://www.ipan.com/ Microsoft , Hyundai, Rolls Royce, Sony Set
Knowlton (WPP Shapoorjee 20+ network ($4+ million) Max
LINOpinion PR 2001 Aamer Ismail Kavita Lakhani 3+ 150+ Lifestyle PR. Lintas is the sister ad Rs 15 crore http://www.linopinion.com/ Polaris, Force Motors, JP Morgan, Sodexo,
(Interpublic agency ($2+ million) AXN
Madison PR 1988 Sam Balsara Veena Gidwani >5 25+ General PR, also has specialised >Rs 5 crore http://www.madisonindia.com P&G, Cadbury, Marico, ITC, Britannia, GM,
functions in the form of advertising, ($1+ million) SpiceJet
Mutual PR 1995 Pravin Dubey Harsh Wardhan 7, including >100 Public affairs, corporate >Rs 10 crore http://www.mutualpr.com/ Yahoo! India, Reebok
and Priyadarshi network (>$2 million)
Percept Profile 1992 Shailendra Rahat Beri 5 >100 General PR >Rs 10 crore http://www.perceptprofile.com Percept Picture Company, Universal,
Singh, Harindra (>$2 million) Sahara One, Cholamandalam
Perfect 1992 Dilip Cherian, Bobby 14 300+ Public Affairs, healthcare, celebrity Rs 35+ crore http://www.perfectrelations. Carrefour, Coca-Cola, Diageo India, Marico,
Relations Bobby Kewalramani management ($7.5+ million) com/ Godrej, Mercedes Benz, Skoda, Fiat,
Kewalramani Condenast India
Practice 2000 Nandita Nandita 3 offices 80+ Technology PR Rs 10+ crore http://the-practice.net/ Qualcomm, Oracle, Infosys
(Omnicom Lakshmanan Lakshmanan ($2+ million)
Sampark- 1994 Bela Rajan NS Rajan 6 offices, 150+ General PR Rs 20+ crore http://www.ketchum.com/india/ HDFC Bank, Siemens
Ketchum 100 network ($4+ million)
Text 100 1996 Rowan Benecke Sunayna Malik 4 offices 150+ Technology. Sister company Vox PR Rs 20+ crore http://www.text100.com Samsung, Nasscom
(APAC Head) focuses on lifestyle and luxury ($4+ million)
* Sources: Company websites, industry estimates. Agencies sorted by alphabetical order, not size
Copyright: MSLGROUP India