Arati Rao
Oct 07, 2010

Double Standards: Is paid media making things tougher for PR?

Campaign India’s Arati Rao asks Sonia Huria, senior manager - communications at Colors, and Yash Khanna, president of CMCG India, if public relations is getting more challenging with the increasing incidence of paid media and whether the latter is ethically sound

(L)Sonia Huria, Senior Manager- Communication, Colors (R) Yash Khanna, President, CMG India
(L)Sonia Huria, Senior Manager- Communication, Colors (R) Yash Khanna, President, CMG India

Do you think PR is getting more difficulty thanks to the increasing incidence of paid media?

SH: Not necessarily. Working closely with the client and their media buying agency can actually help you as a PR person to understand the kind of stories a particular publication is working on. Moreover, even though paid media is increasing day by day, the primary function of a newspaper/media vehicle is to report news, a prime quality that will never let PR go out of fashion.

YK: Getting editorial coverage is actually easier with paid media. However, the editorial coverage in certain media is being referred to the department looking after the paid editorials. That way it is certainly an issue to manage.

Do you think clients are less inclined to use PR agencies since they have a paid media option?

SH: Paid media mentions and PR both serve a different purpose. PR can get you for free what you will have to pay for otherwise. Also the credibility factor is high! having said that, paid articles are a form of advertorial and functional like one too. PR works at many different levels and also assist in building a brand's image. A client would be unwise in investing in paid mentions alone.

YK: That is certainly not the case. Even for the paid media, clients prefer to use the PR agencies to ensure the right messaging, placement and style.

Do you think paid media is good for PR agencies/bad for PR agencies? Why?

SH: Paid options allow you to negotiate for editorial space in the publication, especially true in the case of magazines, most of the time. However, marking news happen is just one of the many functions a PR firm has and paid mentions help sometimes.

YK: It is not a question of good or bad for the PR agencies. It is an additional service that the agencies need to gear up to provide to clients.

Do you think paid media options are ethically OK/bad?

SH: I don't think there's anything unethical about paid options, as long as paid mentions are used for lighter stories, it's fine.

YK: Paid media is ethically fine if the articles/TV show mentions that fact that is a client sponsored editorial like the Impact feature in India Today. However, certain media houses do not follow this policy. That, to my mind, is unfair to the reader or the viewer.

Do enough clients understand the role of PR agencies and the scope of services that they offer?

SH: Not really. Most clients believe PR gets you featured in prominent newspaper and that's it. PR as a field has innumerable functions and if used correctly can be a very powerful tool in the process of building a brand and creating a positive image. A lot of PR firms hence indulge in sessions with the client in helping the client understand the importance and effectiveness of PR strategy.

YK: All clients do understand the value a PR agency brings to the business. However, the issue is about how do you measure that value. We believe that the clients will progressively understand the difference between 'media relations' agencies and the communication consultancies.

 Is it getting easier/more difficult to justify the retainers that PR agencies charge?

SH: It is getting increasingly easier to justify retainers as today PR has grown to accommodate a lot more than offering media services. With the emergence of social media and the need for buzz marketing, PR has assumed a lot of importance and can be one of the key ingredients that makes or breaks a marketing plan.

YK: It is certainly a challenge to get clients to pay for the value of your work. This is more so not because the client is unwilling to pay, but due to the agencies who are offering services at a low cost to sign up clients. This is a sort of land grab that is hurting the PR industry.

Campaign India