PRCAI’s Deeptie Sethi & Atul Sharma decode future growth trajectory of Indian PR

In the last 10 years, PR has taken a different dimension, especially after the entry of social media and the rapid shift to digital during the pandemic period. At the same time, the industry has been facing stiff challenges, moreover client expectations have also increased, with more emphasis being given to digital and online reputation management. The industry has undergone a radical shift and the current times have pushed the industry to change gears.

In this interaction with Adgully, Deeptie Sethi, CEO, PRCAI, and Atul Sharma, CEO, Ruder Finn India and Head - Middle East and PRCAI President, speak about some key findings of the just released annual report of PRCAI, ‘SPRINT 2022-23’, the current size and the y-o-y growth registered by the Indian PR industry, the big transition to digital and new technologies and how they are impacting the PR practice, and much more.

What is the current size of the PR industry in India today and what has been the year-on-year growth like?

Deeptie Sethi: Data establishes a clear growth as the PR industry stands at Rs 2,100 crore today. Despite the first year of COVID-19 being tough, but the bounce-back shows that the projected growth was about 13% in 2022. An analysis of the data shows that there has been a double digit growth in the PR industry for the last 8 to 10 years. The Indian PR industry is now as developed and a proper disciplined sector as it is in the global and Asia Pacific markets. As we go deeper into the details of the report (PRCAI’s annual report – ‘SPRINT 2022-23’), we see how sectors are shaping up as well as how the unicorn economy is shaping up the whole industry.

Atul Sharma: If you look at the overall share of revenue of the PR industry in India, we are almost 1% of what the global industry is. If we look at the Asia Pacific setup, we would be around 13-14% of what Asia Pacific contributes. Given the size of our economy, which is now the fifth largest economy, think of how much scope there is vis-a-vis the global counterparts and in Asia. When we look at Rs 2,100 crore, it is a very organised space that we are talking about. There are lots and lots of small agencies, who possibly don’t even come in the organised space. So obviously, if we take those into account, the number is much larger.

For decades traditional PR has mostly been about media relations. How do you see the PR industry as well as the operations evolving today? And what are the factors bringing on the changes?

Deeptie Sethi: The biggest factor bringing in the changes is the whole mindset about digital rights. When consultancies ask for proposals, it is a very integrated digital-first approach that they are looking at. But what’s also evident in the SPRINT report is that while the share of media relations may show a dip, it is still very prominent – around 68%. Thus, earned media and media relations will continue to be an important pie. Also, eight out of ten consultancies, for instance, do outsource media relations to the clients. So, its prominence continues. But in the holistic environment of technology and digitalisation, we would see a lot more that will be coming in from consultancies and from this whole communications piece – whether it is content, social media or digital media. So, all of them will play a very significant role going forward.

Atul Sharma: When I started my career more than 20 years back, our outreach largely was to traditional media houses and there was nothing beyond that. But if I look today, the mediums have evolved a lot – right from traditional media to social to influencers to policy advocacy – which are a big part of every integrated PR agency. With new developments in the Web 3 space, I am sure there will be more avenues for us to tell our stories. But what has definitely changed is that we have become the master of the message. So, it’s not about butchering the mediums, but also about what the message is. Just as this industry is evolving, the mediums, too, are developing. There are way more mediums than traditional media now on which the story is being told. I am quite hopeful that there will be many more mediums that are going to evolve in the next few years.

Could you shed more light on the digital integration happening in the PR industry? How do you see newer technology like AI, Big Data, ChatGPT impacting the PR industry?

Atul Sharma: I think it’s a reflection of what people are consuming and where people are consuming today. If you look at the majority of Indians, close to 60% of the Zoomers are millennials, and they are actually consuming information on social media on these digital forums. Thus, it is obvious that we have to start evolving our methods of storytelling on these forums. While there are a lot of conversations around ChatGPT and Web3 right now, we don’t see proof of concepts yet. But I strongly feel that once people start spending time on Web3 and ChatGPT in their daily use for anything and everything, we will have to make sure that we start using it more and more.

Deeptie Sethi: According to the SPRINT report, we have almost 77% of people agreeing to the strand of integration of digital and traditional. 75% of the respondents said that adoption of technology and automation will only bring in more efficiency. We are all experimenting with what’s coming and what technology is throwing, but I think there is also an adoption that’s definitely happening. If you look at five or ten years back, we had just started measuring the traditional media and looking at more science in that data. Now, we have started looking at how technology can come in to look at digital measurement; how they can look at traditional measurement; how we can do automated reports. Therefore, there is a lot more that is being experimented with.

PR is at the center of exploring those technologies and seeing how that helps us become more skillful and more efficient, especially in this era when time is essentially breaking news and there many more mediums to manage. So, technology will help and aid in building that for the future.


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