MSLGroup India has released a report on “Understanding the Public Relations Industry in India: Challenges, Opportunities and 2012 Outlook”. The report can be viewed here.
The report delves into the challenges faced by the industry, namely that of fees, estimated size and talent, and earmarks opportunities, like repositioning PR firms as strategic communications consultants. The report has been prepared with inputs from clients, journalists and other PR firms.
We asked Hanmer MSL chief executive officer, Jaideep Shergill, and president of MSLGroup Asia, Glenn Osaki, about the report and the way forward.
CI: Why did MSLGroup India decide to make this report?
Jaideep Shergill (JS): It’s the first time we’re doing this. We worked with an international research firm, to understand what the market is like. The reason we wanted to do this is because there are a lot of misconceptions about the industry – as PR people, we do communicate on behalf of other industries, so I thought it was time we also did it for our own selves. Co-incidentally the Vaishnavi Corporate Communications matter happened at the same time, and there were clearly a lot of perceptions going back and forth about what’s going on. It’s easy to know about the opportunities – it’s more important to bring out the challenges; for example, there is a lot of misrepresentation about numbers. There is some myth that the PR industry is worth billions of dollars, which it isn’t in India. Measurement is an issue, a lot of people haven’t come up with differentiated offerings other than media relations, and there are the issues of talent and compensation as well. We’ve spoken to a lot of people – journalists, Microsoft, Suzlon, freelancers, people from other PR firms who aren’t connected to MSL. There was also a survey done across the top eight markets.
CI: The challenges described are the exaggeration of the industry size, performance measurability, talent and fees. What are the possible solutions, and are you seeing them in other markets?
Glenn Osaki (GO): Of the challenges, the low fees that we receive here in India is a profound issue. It’s an issue that affects many other things, like our ability to hire talent, to make the industry competitive and raise its credibility. I think in order to increase the fees, we need to provide more strategic services. Here in India, there is a focus on publicity (or traditional media relations). At times, those types of media relation services become commoditised. When it’s a commodity, it goes down to the lowest price. In order, to eliminate that we need to provide more strategic services and execute integrated communications campaigns. We need to offer services such as financial communications, investor relations, public affairs. Some of the markets like China aren’t much more developed than in India, and even there we can get much higher fees.
CI: How would you go about repositioning PR as a strategic communications consultant in India?
GO: I believe that we can achieve that in India, because it has been achieved in every other market. If we bring in the right talent, from a diverse background, and train them well, it elevates their capabilities. In that case, we can provide more strategic services and charge more for them.
CI: Once the conversation starts about the findings of this report, how do you hope to take it forward?
JS: We don’t see this report as being a one-day or two-day phenomenon. We want it to be a discussion point. How we’re going to do that is a part of our plan over the next few weeks.