A PR professional not only needs good writing and communication skills but also the ability to think on one’s feet.

Do you know what is common between Johnson & Johnson, Coca Cola, McDonald’s and the British Monarchy? They have all effectively used (and still do) PR to build and reposition their brand and image over the years or during crisis situations.

Public relations, also referred to as corporate communications, has existed for many decades but in India it is just taking shape into an organised sector and gaining leverage with business and people realising its importance.

“The public relations industry in India is on the cusp of a profound change. As it finds itself speeding past the Information Age and into the Conversation Age, its scope is expanding well beyond media relations. Its strategic value is finally being acknowledged,” reads a report by MSLGROUP India on Public Relations in India 2013.

Technically speaking, public relations is the practice of communicating information from an organisation/individual to the public. In the corporate communication sense, the communication also reaches out to those with vested interest in the company like employees, share-holders, agents, vendors, etc.

Powerful tool

In the former, traditionally, the communication is carried to the public through the media between whom and the organisations, PR lays the communication channels. “PR is not just about media management. Looking at the larger picture, it is about perception and reputation management and it does not happen overnight. PR is a planned and sustained campaign and when used rightly is a powerful tool,” explains Hemant Kenkre, a senior PR professional.

And this powerful tool lacks talent, was his observation, at a recently conducted education conference Edutainment 2013. “In many colleges, PR is an additional subject. There are not enough people who are specialised in PR. To be a PR professional one has to have good written and communication skills and an ability to think on your feet backed by an understanding of the current political and social scenario.”

This view is endorsed by Arun Arora, Group Head and EVP - Corporate Communications, GVK Power and Infrastructure Limited. From his experience of having interviewed several candidates for his department he says, “All our candidates are asked to write two essays on the current political and economic scenario. This is because people are forgetting how to write.” He also says Media, Corporate Communications and PR form an inter-linked sector where people move from one to another. But not being a closed one, even MBAs and engineers opt for a career in corporate communications because the technical knowledge comes in handy while handling clients that need to send out relevant technical information to niche media or sectors. Doing a specialised PR course always helps as you gain an understanding of how the industry works and makes you better prepared rather than learning it all on the job, which can be done, but could turn out to be a longer process. “While choosing a college you need to consider what kind of practical training is being offered, do they go beyond theory, who are the guest lecturers, scope of internships and where, the faculty and the case studies offered,” suggests Kenkre.

With events and celebrities waking up to the importance of good PR strategies, the scope for these communication professionals just got bigger!