Are you good at communicating with others; do you have a passion for creative events? Then you should be in Public Relations.

Elvin Jacob, Senior PR-Executive, Aim High Consulting, loves his job. His long stint as TV news producer trained him to analyse news and advise his clients based on those observations, he said. “I work with entrepreneurs who speak with conviction on their ideas despite the risks and challenges involved. Working on their behalf lets you be part of the action and is an adrenaline high! If you're scared of bungee jumping, try PR!”

Dilip Yadav, Executive VP-India, Corporate Voice, Member, Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI), finds PR intellectually stimulating. Freedom to deal with variables is a big draw, he said. Being in consultancy affords opportunity to traverse diverse industry sectors — healthcare in the morning, aerospace in the afternoon, lifestyle brand in the evening. “The best thing is you're never out of action, it's as much as you can handle.” Meeting interesting/inspiring personalities is a big high for Kunal Kishore, Director, Value 360 Communications. “I am part of the news-making fraternity, empowered by being aware of all that happens around me.”

Training

One place for training could be the Indian School of Public Relations (ISPR) by Fourth Estate, an Image Management Advisory firm that handles clients across sectors. “It's the first to introduce PR in regional/political areas, brands/products, promotional/festive schemes,” says President-Founder Sunil Khosla. The ISPR, he said was the country's first standalone PR, Journalism & Mass Communication school to offer several 3/6 month courses that include certificate-specialised PR programmes and beat-specific journalism courses. “PR is one of the 10 fastest-growing professions in the next 10 years (Fortune), PR skills have never been more relevant or greater in demand, there is dearth of trained PR professionals,” he said. “PR education allows you to become an entrepreneur in less than 3 years.” It opens doors to journalism/marketing/event management/advertising, while a journalist, event-manager or marketing professional may not be good at communication. Student-applicants with excellent command over English, a strong vocabulary, computer knowledge, positive attitude, pleasing personality and readiness to be a team-player can be trained to be thorough PR pros.

While any basic degree is accepted for PR specialisation, a UG/PG in Journalism, Masscom or English (Hons) is a safer bet, says Kishore. But “no college/institute in the country teaches PR as a marketing tool,” said Khosla. “It comes in bits and pieces under Masscom. Students are not trained to be field-specific. ISPR courses include practical work to prepare industry-ready professionals.” Yadav, who started as MBA (marketing), “did a short-term course with IIMC, to transition to PR as a career of choice.” Simple graduates have risen to significant PR heights, he argued.

Prerequisites

Clearly PR goes beyond a paper certificate. “A communications degree only helps lay the foundation,” said Elvin. “You then build on it. Learning is a daily affair in PR, you are as intelligent as your last mistake.” A PR person must be a good story-teller, said Yadav. He needs good understanding of the target audience (the recipient), the source (the brand you represent) and the medium (print, electronic and online). “Good PR professionals have strong verbal-written-visual communication skills. Since the biggest consumers of PR expertise are corporates, thorough understanding of business environment and related social dynamics are added expectations.” Training can be had as part of course project, said Gopu, Blue Lotus Communications. His firm has an exclusive internship policy to train 100+ students a year, he said.

Professional approach

Gopu, who took the MA (admin) and journalism route emphasises attention to detail and pro-active work ethics. Can you blog, micro-blog, are good at SEO/social media, he asked. “Adapt to team-work, be prepared to handle different human/organizational problems,” he suggested.

Anu, Corporate Communications professional gives an overview. “At a PR agency you service clients from all sectors liaising between the company and journos. If you're on the client side, you direct the internal/external communication — whether you handle PR functions yourself or through outsourcing. My job includes promoting our products, organising press releases, keeping track of leadership summits.” Adds Elvin, “Corp-Comm conveys coherently the organisation's activities and creates the right image to “people who matter” — employees, customers, clients to shareholders. Community Relations refers to how a company engages with the community/communities it exists in - thinking beyond profits. Most companies have woken up to this fact. Image Consultancy helps individuals (specially opinion leaders) create the right perceptions of their professional/personal/social lives. It helps managers dress/speak to portray confidence and capability.” Crisis Management is clearing the air about an issue. It requires the skill to spot, analyse and solve crisis using communications. “Firms like Genesis BM and Good Relations specialise in crisis management,” said Anu.

“Crises could spring from natural calamities, lawsuits, competition, migration,” explained Kishore. “Organisations cannot have multiple people talking to the new/old media.” A law/media-savvy PR-exec steps in to channel the communication that goes out. “Internationally, full-fledged organisations are employed for this.”

Women in PR

Women do very well in PR. PR would top charts among equal employment opportunity sectors, countered Yadav. The crème de la crème of the industry in India and overseas are a well-balanced mixture of men and women. We do prefer women, admits Gopu, perhaps because many PR functions require soft skills commonly associated with women. “After 18 years, it remains a challenge for me to recruit men to join our team.” Both men and women are suited for this job, said Kishore, but PR industry is dominated by women.

How tall is the corporate ladder? “Speedier chances,” said Gopu. After executive level, it's senior-executive, accounts-manager, accounts-director, team leader and well, CEO. The learning curve during the formative years is the sharpest in a PR consultancy, said Yadav. The highest position in a corporate is function-head. In a consultancy, it's head of business with profit/loss responsibilities. “He/She can take up International Relations for a country,” said Kishore.