Evolution of the PR Industry

Neha Bajaj, Founder & Director, Scroll Mantra Headquartered in Gurgaon, Scroll Mantra is a Marketing and Advertising consultancy which employs experienced public relations professionals to offer seamless execution and delivery of path breaking campaigns through traditional and digital media.

Public Relations is a term known to many but understood by some. The term largely deals with integrated strategic communication between the client’s organization and their key publics through effective media management. The basic role of a public relations officer is to project a favourable image of one’s client to the masses through the most sought-after media channels and increase visibility via legitimate sources. The term Public Relations was founded in the 20th century, however, techniques that it entailed to convince people to see the authority of the government and religion in a positive light has been used throughout history.

PR techniques, such as making use of news conferences, traditional media, and interviews were used by prominent politicians, presidents, corporations to develop support for their agendas. However, since the 20th century, the world has changed immensely; we have evolved in the ways we dress and the way we communicate amongst other essential things. In turn, PR as a field, due to its dynamic nature has also evolved tremendously and has made it imperative to adopt the latest trends and keep up with the changing times.

In the 1990s, reputation or perception management were the main areas of expertise in the industry, which meant that PR professionals were tasked with the responsibility of maintaining their client’s credibility and ensuring affective crisis management. In the 21st century, the concept of Public Relations has evolved and now emphasizes on the additional goal of relationship management. This focuses on building and fostering relationships between the organizations and its various 'publics' such as internal, media, community, government, non-governmental relations.
Earlier, the basic job of a PR professional was to use interpersonal communication, literature, art and public events to persuade people to see their client’s services and programmes in a positive light. These techniques are still used today; however, there are now more complex tasks that a PR professional is required to perform. The emergence of a digital landscape in the 21st century is the main reason that can be attributed to the ever-evolving PR industry. Today, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and influencer outreach initiatives are important networks to reach out to the masses. In comparison to other fields, PR is not a formula driven industry, a professional needs to adapt to the changing times to maximise their client’s potential reach. Before the advent of information communication technology, Public Relations was confined primarily to the use of traditional media such as newspapers, posters, pamphlets, radio and television.

PR techniques, such as making use of news conferences, traditional media, and interviews were used by prominent politicians, presidents, corporations to develop support for their agendas

The industry is now headed towards a new direction that combines traditional and digital media. Planning and executing content-driven campaigns on social and digital media platforms comprise of a major chunk of what the industry has to offer. It is crucial for professionals to expand their skills especially when it comes to communication tools, to account for which media or a combination of them would have the most effective impact reaching their client’s key audience.

Along with the emergence of a digitized world, there are other trends impacting the industry. At present, women PR professionals constitute more than 70 percent of the industry in comparison to erstwhile pioneers of the industry comprising predominantly of male practitioners. Also, there is now a new trend of organizations practicing 'transparency'or corporate social responsibility, in rise to the demands by external publics for corporations to be more open and accountable to the society. PR professionals have to now strategize and develop CSR campaigns due this demand by institutions. The other new trends emerging in this field is the development of a 24/7 news cycle where PR practitioners are required to constantly update information, be accessible at all hours of the day to journalist and client queries.

According to a report by the Public Relations Consultants Associations of India, the industry is expected to reach Rs.2,100 crore by 2020. New services such as digital & social media communications have contributed extensively to the growth of the industry. Moreover, corporate social responsibility along with crisis management also have accounted for the rise of the PR industry. There is a strong growth trajectory in this field, but there are still challenges present which the industry needs to overcome. Rampant competition, lack of resources, retention, and concrete measurement tools are some of the key challenges affecting the industry. Nonetheless, experts believe that the future of the PR industry is optimistic with an estimate of 16 percent growth rate in the upcoming years. It would now be interesting to wait and see what new trends are in store for PR in the near future.