Public Relations

Should we define a new PR JD?

It’s 2024, a new year with a new outlook and a lot has changed in terms of approach, audience, mandates, and expectations.

Today, PR is not just about storytelling or managing media, but it is pretty much defining and establishing narratives, it is the heart and center of a campaign. Expectations are no longer restricted to brand awareness but slowly have gone towards generating effective ROI, especially with the lines of marketing and PR being blurred now.

Add to this, technology and digital disruption, inflation, talent and skillset challenges there is a massive shift being seen which has revived our profession.

Does this mean our profiles have changed? Is it all blurred in PR? And does this change justify the current remuneration?

To unravel, these critical questions, at the middle of appraisal season we speak to three exceptional leaders – Minari Shah, Priya Bendre, and Sonali Sokhal and here is a quick summation:

  1. Changing definitions need us to have a different approach to PR now:

Reputation management has a different meaning now with areas of ESG, DEI, Policy interventions coming in. Apart from being a reputation custodian PR now connects the dots with an entire ecosystem as the changes happen in policy decisions, geo-political changes and corporate decisions are dynamic.

With changes in consumer behaviour and consumption seen, the impact of social media and technology this has also changed the audience outreach, topics and channels have changed so pretty much the entire scope has been rewritten and a 360-degree view of the perception and PR and communications is at the heart of what a company’s reputation is perceived.

2. Mandates, RFP/SOW changing with times:

In addition, the RFPs/SOW from brands have also drastically changed in view of the new-age consumer which is digitally savvy. So, the new consumers like GenZ and baby boomers having different platform consumption choices has led to different patterns of traditional and digital content consumption which is an important change.

3. Pay parity needs a revisit

While there is an enhanced scope, there needs to be a refresh of benchmarking done on salary structure as traditionally, hiring process only had the salary history in consideration which is not the right way of evaluation. This leads to the earnings gap in a big way. However, there are many new ways and metrics that are being introduced for pay parity both within the organization (e.g.- Adobe and Intel internationally) and across sectors.

4. Gap of skillset and the need for communications academia to bring more practical use case based curriculum for youngsters to get a hang of the real work on brand campaigns as currently the theory and practical knowledge is a complete mismatch so we need the academia, government and the communications leaders to come together in bringing a more pragmatic , case study based curriculum which will definitely help in bridging the gap of a newcomer’s skillset vs expectations of the comms employer.

5. Upskilling an utmost need: Education system needs to undergo changes and agencies who hire freshers in large number also have a responsibility to ensure that training happens effectively at that stage, and this should be a genuine effort by leadership for the workforce.

6. Blurring lines of marketing vs PR/Comms

There’s a huge pay gap that exists today between marketing and PR function although in the current times, the entry level skillsets on both sides are almost similar whether it is data analytics, social platforms, thinking visually and AI related. It’s time for organizations to stop the artificial differentiation between the two streams and rather effectively utilize the strength of both.

7. What’s the middle ground for talent retention.

Leaders of both agencies and Corp comm must combine an experience for new-age talent. They must bring in a middle ground where there’s horizontal level of learning across verticals just like a PR agency yet provide an opportunity to deep dive into a brand’s journey. This will allow them talent to keep an eye on the industry development and competitive landscape yet understand the nuances of messaging for their client/brand.

8. Change needed to have clarity in expectation from the comms team

✔ Ensure a sharp RFP is crafted in discussion with the business leaders.

✔ In-house communicators must get their stakeholders to understand the real role of the communication team’s, of how their contribution of messaging dissemination and solving perception problem is an essential role for a corporate.

✔ The detailed scope and the clarity in charting that can then help define mandates for both the external agency role as well as what’s the expected responsibility from the in-house team. This will help reduce the chicken and egg situation and the related blame game on both sides of table.

✔ Trust is the biggest factor that needs to be nurtured. Corp comm leaders must trust their agency members to provide access of information, leadership voice at one end whilst the PR agency must genuinely have the intent to provide people support and be passionately trying to cater to the brand communication needs. The problem exists because agencies are mostly shallow and don’t invest time in getting their people to learn more because resources are purely allocated based on the monthly retainer. Thus, this agency-brand issue continuously also contributes to the people problem both in the agency/comms roles and is a vicious circle to solve.

9. What’s the leadership intervention like?

✔ Only select brands have evolved leaders who understand and collaborate with communications.

✔ Founders and established brands work differently but when it comes to the value and credibility of communications being a strategic priority, it still hits the nail with leadership; however mostly valued during/after crisis hits.

✔ Struggle and comparison with other practice areas like marketing has started and thus there is an immediate need to have clarity in roles, mandates, expectations as well as related remuneration.

✔ More so because the goals of marketing and PR/Comms are very different however working in collaboration is undeniable.

10. Key factors for the Future of PR

1. Setting expectations and Feedback to the management – Comms problem vs business problem should not come only during crisis or during positive time because that won’t work.

2. Need for PR professionals to look at holistic perspectives, focus on sustained effort and expanding purview to community building going beyond just media.

3. While the critical pyramid or base is the traditional ways of engagement still in PR, in the new digital age, there is a need to also gain immersive experiences to understand the context of end user/consumer.

4. Relooking at reporting structures: Communication teams must either report to the CEO or to a defined c-suite leader to be more involved in the journey as there’s a need to know how can PR be a problem solver – CXO’s left hand or right hand

5. Clarity of roles: What can comms solve and what we can’t solve as it’s a business problem; important to have clarity

6. For all the above, build a tangible metric of how the results will come out and of that how long will the perception change. Return on objectives (ROO) vs ROI – defined by audience

So, what will the new PR JD look like?

✔ A candidate with a flair of digital/tech knowledge.

✔ Someone who adapts to change and is resilient

✔ Someone who has clarity of the job and the smartness of spinning moment marketing

✔ Someone who thinks data and is metrics driven

To conclude, the panelist emphasized and urged PR professionals to constantly look for an opportunity to enhance their profiles – for instance being part of the policy team and working towards advocacy. (influencing).

PR professionals need to know the end-user story and not restrict themselves to the scope of work.

Lastly, while learning and embracing new streams of work is good, it is also important and learn to say No in communications.

Are you clear about your objectives and personal goals this appraisal season?

Mou Chakravorty

Director – Marketing Communications

Deloitte India

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