India PR Industry: Challenges, Opportunities & 2012 Outlook by fuatakgul


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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:| 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
                                                       presents challenges.
    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. + http://blog.mslgroup.               In light of recent developments within
    com + Twitter: @msl_group +           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

  TABLE OF CONTENTS                                 Page

  1.   Introduction                                 04
  2. The beginning                                  05
  3. Challenges                                     06
       a. We’re smaller than you think
       b. Fees
       c. We need a makeover
       d. Talent
       e. Training

  4. Opportunities                                   11
       a. From traditional PR to integrated
          strategic communications
       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
    service quality.

                                                                                  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
    is affected.
                                                          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
       Social’s Agarwal.
                                                        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.”
     in India.
                                                        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
                                                                  Specialty communications
                                                                  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
                                                                  critical role.

                                                                  •	 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
     be evolved.
     •	 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
        business results.
                                                         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/
                                                     Talent shortage
     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].
     investor relations
                                                     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.
                                                      Measuring performance
     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.


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    Puma
                                Saksena                                                                                          (>$1 million)

Adfactors        1997-98        Madan Behl,      Madan Behl        40+          300+       Finance, IPOs, real estate.           Rs 60+ crore,       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       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         Rajasthan Royals, Oberoi Realty
                                                                                           marketing. They also have an          ($7 million)
                                                                                           advertising division
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                   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           Nokia, TCS
Hillard                                                                                                                          (>$1 million)
Genesis          1992           Prema Sagar      Nikhil Dey        7 offices    200+       Public affairs, digital marketing     Rs 30+ crore          Vodafone, Adidas, United Colors of Benetton
Burson-                                                                                                                          ($6.0+ million)
(WPP Group)
Good Relations   1988           Anthony B M      Deepak Kanulkar   6 offices,   >50        General PR                            >Rs 5 crore   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       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
                           the MSLGROUP
                           in 2008
20:20 MSL         1989     Sunil Agarwal     Sunil Agarwal      7              150+      Technology PR                           Rs 18+ crore         Canon, Volkswagen, Haier, Verisign, Google
                                                                                                                                 ($3.5 million)
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      Apollo Hospital, Idea Celluar
                                                                                         Perfect Relations                       (>$1 million)
Integral PR       1999     Deepak Talwar     Sharif Rangnekar   6+             100+      Public affairs, general PR              Rs 15+ crore      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            Microsoft , Hyundai, Rolls Royce, Sony Set
Knowlton (WPP              Shapoorjee                           20+ network                                                      ($4+ million)                                     Max
Group)                                                          locations
LINOpinion PR     2001     Aamer Ismail      Kavita Lakhani     3+             150+      Lifestyle PR. Lintas is the sister ad   Rs 15 crore      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     P&G, Cadbury, Marico, ITC, Britannia, GM,
                                                                                         functions in the form of advertising,   ($1+ million)                                     SpiceJet
                                                                                         media, out‐of‐home
Mutual PR         1995     Pravin Dubey      Harsh Wardhan      7, including   >100      Public affairs, corporate               >Rs 10 crore        Yahoo! India, Reebok
                           and Priyadarshi                      network                                                          (>$2 million)
Percept Profile   1992     Shailendra        Rahat Beri         5              >100      General PR                              >Rs 10 crore   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        Qualcomm, Oracle, Infosys
(Omnicom                   Lakshmanan        Lakshmanan                                                                          ($2+ million)
Sampark-          1994     Bela Rajan        NS Rajan           6 offices,     150+      General PR                              Rs 20+ crore   HDFC Bank, Siemens
Ketchum                                                         100 network                                                      ($4+ million)
(Omnicom                                                        locations
Text 100          1996     Rowan Benecke     Sunayna Malik      4 offices      150+      Technology. Sister company Vox PR       Rs 20+ crore          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


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