Public relations in India
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Public relations, despite being over a century old across the world, began in India in the early 1990s. Though there were several individuals and small companies which started even before that, they offered PR with the limited scope of media relations only. It was only natural that the entrepreneurs who began these services came from a background of journalism, seen as a natural hunting ground for the nascent PR industry.
- 1 Agencies that started in India in the 1990s
- 2 Agencies that started in India in the 2000s
- 3 PR Crisis in India and its mitigation
- 4 Crisis in the Indian PR industry
- 5 PR Education and academics in India
- 6 Books, Blogs and reports on public relations & branding
- 7 Growth of Public Relations in India
- 8 PR Agencies - Awards and Accolades
- 9 References
Agencies that started in India in the 1990s
India came with many advantages in the context of PR - it showed a consistently high growth rate of the economy; the initial penetration of PR had been low leaving much scope for growth, the internet & traditional media also penetrated exponentially giving rise to the quick rise of PR in India. Though some international PR agencies (usually offshoots of advertising agencies) like Ogilvy PR set base in India in the mid-1980s, they floundered to find a firm footing especially since their core focus remained mainly in advertising services. One of the first independent PR agencies was set up in Chandigarh in 1986 October by a PR professional Charanjit Singh, who resigned from a German company to set up CorePR under the mentorship of the then PR stalwarts like KS Neelakandan of Pfizer, Ajit Gopal of Air India and Anil Basu of Goodyear. By the early 1990s, after the opening up of the Indian economy, several other PR agencies started with a core focus on PR alone like Lexicon PR in 1996. This decade also saw the advent of Indian IPO agencies offshoots like Ad factors PR began to offer PR services as a freebee along with their IPO services. These recent past b2p relations has been emerging as a best PR practice in Chennai. And media monitoring across South India is now made possible through b2p relations.
Agencies that started in India in the 2000s
If the 90s were the starting block for the Indian PR sector, the next decade was the growth era. Significant in this time was the full buyout of Genesis by Burson Marsteller, and the investment in [Hanmer & Partners] by MS&L, a Publicis company. Edelman entered India with by taking over Roger Periera, the grand old man of PR. In 2002, specialist agencies like Blue Lotus Communications took birth with a focus on specialized sectors like Healthcare, Technology, Finance and Brands. With the decade almost coming to a close, 2008 saw the birth of i9 Communications, as a specialist in consumer communication, with special focus on Brands, Lifestyle, Entertainment and Hospitality PR. Several such boutique agencies also started in other parts of the country.
After the economic slowdown and the resultant market crashes worldwide, several international PR agencies suffered enormous losses when clients cut back marketing budgets. This forced these agencies to turn to higher growth markets like India and China. India naturally took a higher priority due to its large English-speaking base, stable political governance and consistent legal structure. The color of the market has flowered from grey to blue in this decade and the corporate's need for image building and strategic PR is very well understood and accepted.
According to the 2007 report on The State of the Public Relations Industry  prepared by Paul Holmes (author of the Holmes Report), the western growth of PR has almost plateaued to a stable range of 9% to 11%, with the growth geographies being India (as too China) growing at four times the Western pace. To quote the report, "The greatest future in growth is expected to come in China and India, with good prospects for growth in Eastern Europe (particularly those countries recently admitted to the European Union) and in the Middle East (albeit from a very small base)". However, in 2012, the PR market has slowed down due to the overcrowding of the market. The recession of 2008 &2009 gave birth to another terminology in India -Regional PR and the companies who were once upon a time hooked to pink papers, looking for presence in regional dailies. Regional Public Relations set up country's first such agency where core focus was on Tier-II & Tier-III cities. Naturally then, India and similar paced economies have become favored destinations for global PR firms keen to extract their share of growth from this market. The late realization by many global majors that India has an equal or superior potential than China, has left quite a few panting in the race for market-share. However, in 2012, the PR market has slowed down due to the overcrowding of the market with too many fighting for too few. year 2009 again witness the rising of this industry but more over in tier II markets. Some regional specialist came up very fast to serve the vast PR business in secondary markets. Regional Public Relations was first such PR agency who rolled down from tier-II market only.
Atul Malikram a well Known Name When it's Comes to Public Relation, He also built his dream and named it PR24×7, in Early 2000s. PR 24x7 is among the Top PR Agency in central India. Specialized in Regional & Vernacular PR. Core Services Provided by PR24x7 are Press Release Dissemination, PR Analysis, Online PR & Media Monitoring.
Sparkling Stories, a well known Pune based PR agency was also founded in this decade. It started with a vision to give more exposure to talents and businesses with great potential. In a small time it took a giant step in the movies, sports and consumer products area. The founder Prachi Dharap, along with being featured in various publications about Fashion and Media was also awarded with an Achievement Award by a leading Woman Entrepreneur Channel.
The first Public Relations agency of North East India, Cabsford PR, was set up in 2002 by Nurul Islam Laskar, former Chief Manager (PR & Community Services Banking) State Bank of India. Life's Purple is now among one of the big agencies operating from Guwahati, working across Northeast India.
Now PR has started touching the boundaries of advertising & marketing. In early 2016, digital consulting company #ARM Worldwide started their dedicated PR unit and within a year emerged as an organisation for executing most creative PR stunt apart from getting various accolades from reputed organisation like IPRCA 2016, Fulcrum Awards 2017 & IAMAI. There is a list of top PR agency which started in 2000s, APCO Worldwide India, Concept, H+K Strategies India, Golinopinion, Cohn & Wolfe Six Degrees, Communincate India, PR Pundit, Aim High Consulting, Madison Public Relations, Integral, Fortuna PR are few of them.
PR Crisis in India and its mitigation
On January 7, 2009, Ramalinga Raju, the erstwhile chairman of Satyam Ltd., India's leading IT firm, made an admission of conscious fraud & misreporting perpetrated by him over several years. The media who had eulogized him till then, suddenly turned on him with a vengeance, conscious that they had also failed in their duty as watchdogs of businesses. This crisis, coincided with the peak of the global crisis and held the potential to snowball into a credibility & trust issue for brand India and its IT firms, where several billion dollars worth of services were being outsourced every year. The crisis also impacted several companies associated with Satyam including EMRI (Emergency Medical Response Insititute ), a not-for-profit endeavour (for running free ambulance services) in which Satyam had committed 5% of running costs with the balance 95% coming from various state governments.
However, the Indian government took quick action and set up an interim board consisting of industry stalwarts for the company to assess the true worth of Satyam and to seek a suitable investor & management. The swiftly conducted and fiercely contested bid was won by Mahindra & Mahindra and Satyam was merged with a group IT company.
Crisis in the Indian PR industry
After the global slowdown that hit Indian Public relation agencies in 2008, it took a further hit in November 2010 due to what has come to be known as the 'Radiagate' scam. Open Magazine in an exposé, covered the story of Niira Radia's nefarious power-dealings. An Income Tax phone tap collected more than 5000 tapes and hundreds of these tapes were leaked and found their way into Outlook magazine's website. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) interrogated Radia several times and as a fallout of the tapes, the Telecom minister, A. Raja, with whom Radia had close links was also forced to resign. Several prominent journalists like Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi were also in the middle of the quagmire, caught in power-lobbying conversations with Radia.
PR Education and academics in India
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Public Relations has been taught as a curriculum for the last decade or so in India.
School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe)
School of Communications & Reputation (SCoRe) is India's only public relations institute endorsed by the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI). It is the brainchild of communications professionals and veterans who felt the need for a school that offers a practice-oriented programme for graduates entering the profession. SCoRe has an Advisory Board and an Academic Council comprising eminent global and India PR professionals.
Post Graduate Programme in Public Relations & Corporate Communications
The 10-months programme commences from July with sessions running full-time and is designed to cover both fundamental and advanced aspects of Public Relations (PR) which includes Brand management, campaign planning, media relations, strategic storytelling, client servicing and business development. Political Communications and Public Affairs are also covered as disciplines. From case studies, live projects and workshops SCoRe offers candidates a complete overview of the Public relations and communication discipline. Once enrolled for the programme, the candidates will get a chance to be a part of India's biggest Communications conferences and seminars including PRAXIS - the world's largest Public Relations summit.
In June 2015, it became the only institute in India to be endorsed by the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI). As a part of this endorsement At least four representatives from PRCAI member firms become part of the Academic Council of SCoRe, along with PRCAI scholarships, where the seats are offered at half the fee.
In 2018, SCoRe launched The ‘PR Talent Hunt Scholarship in association with PRCAI’ to identify scholars to the programme, who possess exceptional abilities and commitment towards building a career in Public Relations. Under the ‘PR Talent Hunt Scholarship in association with PRCAI’, 15 ‘PRCAI Scholars’ will qualify for a 50% scholarship to the Post Graduate Programme in Public Relations by SCoRe. In addition to that, scholars receive certificates endorsing this achievement along with access to several learning and networking platforms co-created by SCoRe 
Some of the leading PR firms that have tied up for placement with SCoRe include Adfactors PR, MSLGROUP, Genesis Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum Inc. Sampark, Golinopinion, ZenoGroup, Madison Public Relations, Kaizzen Communications, Value 360, PR Pundit, Ideosphere and Mavcomm among others. The school will assist in one internship per student in a PR firm, or a corporate house or the office of an elected political leader. However, students have the choice to secure a second internship and do two internships of two months each
Stella Maris College (Chennai) a well known women's college in Chennai provides with a full-fledged Masters in Public Relations for two year's, the department has completed ten years.
University of Mumbai's Department of Communication and Journalism offers a two-year (full-time) Master of Arts (M.A) degree course in Public Relations. Whistling Woods International's School of Communication (SOC) in Mumbai has a post graduate program that allows one to specialize in PR and Corporate Communications along with an MBA(global) degree in Media and Entertainment. Stella Maris College provides with a full-fledged Masters in Public Relations.
Loyola College, Chennai's Department of Visual Communication that has been offering PR related classes for a semester at PG level where PR campaign is considered as an annual venture for students. Some of the notable PR campaigns conducted by Loyola PG students are Road Safety, Right to Vote, Cybersafe, FOBO an internet addiction campaign, Detox -a Media Education and Nithra a sleep awareness Campaign.
Bharathidasan Institute of Management, Trichy - also offers a course elective - Public Relations & Corporate Communications. The PR campaigns here are woven around social concerns and on public awareness.
NIMCJ - National Institute of Mass Communication and Journalism, provides specialization in Public Relation. PR helps in building confidence while dealing with media people, whether verbally or in written form which helps in drafting press releases.
The Delhi School of Communication (Delhi), Xavier's Institute of Communications (Mumbai) and Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (Pune and Bangalore), most of the courses are combined with Journalism or Mass Communications. The Mudra Institute of Communications (MICA) is mainly focused on advertising and AICAR (Asian Institute of Communications & Research) started with an MBA and communication which soon became limited to advertising only. Makhanlal Chaturvedi National University Of Journalism and Communication, Bhopal offers a two-year MA in PR course. Also, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB) spread across the country offers PR courses. BVBs are located in all major cities that includes New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.
Books, Blogs and reports on public relations & branding
The Brand Trust Report, India Study, 2011 (ISBN 978-81-920823-0-1) and its subsequent reports in 2012, 2013 and 2014, published by Trust Research Advisory (TRA) was designed to give unique insights to brands on messages of communication. The report is a result of a syndicated primary research on Brand Trust that generated 10,00,000 data points and 16,000 unique brands, from over 10,000 hours of fieldwork conducted in 9 cities. The subsequent reports were a result of a primary research conducted in 16 Indian cities.
The basis of the study is the proprietary 61-components of Brand Trust, and the 2310 respondents targeted in this study have an influencers’ profile. The report has a detailed analysis the 50 Most Trusted Brands in India and has listings of the All-India 300. This first edition of this study, published in January 2011, has listed Most Trusted Brands out of 16000 unique brands that were generated. A 2012 book titled Decoding Communication authored by N.Chandramouli, covering the theories and practice of communication was launched.
Growth of Public Relations in India
With several initiatives and boost support taking into account the rise in Digital Innovation many Indian PR Agencies started expanding their viewpoint via integrating more expertise with respect to Image Management needs of Indian Corporations seeking PR Support. The Assocham report released in March 2010 shows the growth of the PR industry in India to grow to US$6 billion by end of 2010 with a CAGR of approximately 32%. The study reports the biggest challenges of the PR industry to be the following:
- Lure of better pay: Skilled manpower is scarce, professionals will be poached for higher salaries.
- Leadership crisis: Not too many established players, presenting a crisis of leadership in middle & smaller firms, which makes people move to larger, more reputed PR agencies.
- Lack of understanding of PR: Most people, even from sibling professions, don't understand PR.
- Perception issues: Many stakeholders, including media and corporate organizations, consider PR to be similar to that of a spin job.
Considering this, for this fledgling, but fast growing sector to flourish, the need of academic rigor and theoretical pedagogy is essential
PR Agencies - Awards and Accolades
The Holmes Report also awarded the consultancy of the year award for 2011 to Corporate Voice | Weber Shandwick. Corporate Voice Weber Shandwick's campaign for Gillette India won India's first PR Lion at Cannes in 2010.
In 2011, IPRCCA, India Public Relations and Corporate Communications Awards (IPRCCA), instituted an award for PR agencies.
In 2016, IPRCA awarded S.P.A.G for ‘Time to Un'burden' - Commitment to reduce the NCD burden in India through a multi-sectoral approach’ for Partnership to Fight Chronic Diseases, ARM Digital Media Pvt. Ltd. for “A hilarious attempt by TE-A-ME to "Purify" Donald Trump" for TE-A-ME, 20:20 MSL for Saffolalife's “Saffolalife Walk together to #protectherheart”, Value360 Communications for Paytm's “Building a National Leader - Vijay Shekhar Sharma”, Golinopinion for Lifebuoy's "Help a Child Reach 5" and Text 100 for Telenor's Webwise Programme.
In 2017, Marketing Interactive awarded "Most Creative PR Stunt - South East Asia" in PR Awards 2017 to an emerging Indian origin digital and communication consulting firm, #ARM Worldwide for executing "Tea for Trump" campaign.
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