Monday, May 31, 2010

PR boom in 2010 with accent on ethics: Shergill

Jaideep Shergill, CEO, Hanmer MS&L India, has taken the lead in addressing reputation issues associated with the PR industry.

“Current research supports a historical trend of associating public relations with all things unethical – lying, spin-doctoring, and even espionage,” he says in an exclusive interview to Pallavi Goorha Kashyup of exchange4media. “But today, there are concrete strides made in modern public relations toward becoming ethical advisors in management... A PR professional is in some ways a very important brand manager for a company, brand meaning in this case, a promise a company gives to a customer and keeping that promise. If a PR professional determines that a company is doing something against their promise, it is their role to speak out within the company and ask the company to address that issue. And this trend has been consistently increasing with PR consultancies becoming more structured and process driven.”

Shergill also urges PR professionals to revisit their obsession with media for message delivery. “Public relations has changed significantly over the last few years,” he says. “Even if you don’t buy into the idea that online communities and relationships are part of the public relations function, it’s hard to deny the rising importance of blogs, the gradual decline of traditional media and the impact that online conversations can have on brands.”

Considering the rapid changes in the industry, there is a need for public relations professionals to upgrade their skills while acquiring new ones. “PR pros still need the basic attributes and skills that they’ve always needed such as writing, communications skills, an eye for detail and pro-activeness, and of course, media relations,” he says. “But going forward, we will require talents and personality traits somewhat different from today. It is all about relationships. A PR person who approaches the market from a relationships standpoint will win. Decisions need to be based on data, not gut feelings. Listening and absorbing what the customers, media, influencers, analysts, employees, neighbours and community are saying is important. Professionals should have the ability to understand and design strategies based on the needs and perceptions of the target audience, and value truth and transparency above all.”

Shergill says that “recession has forced PR consultancies to get their houses in order, and evolve or they will be in deep trouble... The challenges the economy had posed for our profession in 2009 was quite bad. Clearly, revenues in our business dipped in 2009, but the news was not all bad. Generally speaking, public relations performed better than other communications disciplines in 2009.”

The Hanmer MS&L CEO is bullish about the Indian PR industry in 2010. “The size of India’s public relations industry is poised to be on a substantial growth curve due to increasing competition among companies to build brands,” he says. “The year has started well for everyone, but going forward, it is important to continue to create value beyond just providing media relations.”