The changing face of PR – Are brands listening?

Public Relations has evolved tremendously over the years. Gone are the days of simply doling out press releases to media houses. PR today effectively plays a significant role in a brand’s storytelling, opinion building, shaping a brand’s image and creating impactful connect with the customers. 

At a recent PRCAI Engage event held by the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI), Paresh Chaudhry, Group President - Corporate Brand Custodian, Adani Group, spoke on ‘Creating Meaningful Campaigns’, while Cornelia Kunze, Global Communicator and Brand Strategist, Founder & Partner, I-Sekai, dwelled on ‘How creative is our profession?’ 

Founded in October 4, 2001, PRCAI was a brainchild of a group of seven likeminded PR firms – Corporate Voice | Weber Shandwick, Genesis BursonMarsteller, Hanmer MSL, Text 100, Good Relations India, Ogilvy PR, 20:20 Media (now 20:20 MSL) – with the aim to further the cause of the PR industry in India and support budding communications professionals across the country. 

Creating greater engagement with PR driven campaigns 

Speaking at the event, Paresh Chaudhry affirmed that “India is two steps ahead from the rest of the world”. Adding further he said, “We are far more diverse and complex, which adds up to the attributes we work with.” He also emphasises on the fact as to how consumers should be termed as citizens. 

While stressing on how impactful and important PR driven campaigns are, Chaudhry also noted that creative agencies got more budget from the brands and clients and also received more awards at Cannes. 

He cited the examples of Whisper ‘Touch The Pickle and Lifebuoy’s ‘Haath, Munh aur Bum’ campaigns to demonstrate the high impact of PR driven campaigns. 

Talking about ideating on the Whisper ‘Touch The Pickle’ campaign, he recalled, “I asked my team to find out everything about menstruation and the myths around it – like women can’t pray during their periods, etc. There was an integrated presentation with the creative and PR teams. A young member of the PR team pointed out a myth about ‘women not allowed to touch a bottle of pickle during their periods as it would spoil the pickle’. This point was not known to the team. We took this up for the campaign and came up with a PR plan within 24 hours. It became a PR driven campaign, which integrated the creative and outdoor teams, eventually leading to a big consumer campaign. Whisper generally targets women, but this campaign also focused on men to change their mindset about menstruation. 

Chaudhry claimed that the campaign led to increase in sales by 200 per cent. It also won the Glass Lion at Cannes. According to him, the best part of the campaign was that it encouraged people to talk openly about what is considered a taboo subject and scrap the myths surrounding it. Thus, a PR-led campaign also took the lead in changing mindsets. “This can never be done by a simple creative led campaign as it just a visual game,” he maintained. An integrated campaign has much more research and involves more engagement with the people. 

Similarly, Lifebuoy’s ‘Haath, Munh aur Bum’ campaign also sought to bring about a behaviour change – inculcating the habit of handwashing after using the toilet and promoting the importance of hygiene. The PR driven campaign, too, conducted extensive on ground research and reached out to 145 million people within a month, claimed Chaudhry. He further affirmed that PR driven campaigns had the power of creating more engagement and be the reason for social change. 

PR is not the underdog of the industry 

Meanwhile, Cornelia Kunze highlighted how PR can play a strategic role in campaigns and creativity and just not be the underdogs of the industry. She said, “As PR, we have a basket case of skills and talents, while we still let others boss us around. We don’t take ownership for our work. They (brand or client) take away the creativity away from us, while I think we can be very creative.” 

Referring to a campaign by Budweiser, which gained huge numbers in engagement, Kunze said that the question was whether these numbers were just the result of the film being good or whether PR responsible for the engagement. She further pointed out that the strategy laid out by the PR resulted in high engagement and people talking about it. “PR isn’t only about amplifying the work of a creative agency or brand, but can contribute in creativity too and be an important factor in the success of a campaign,” Kunze affirmed. 


Kunze offered 7 tips for an impactful campaign:

  1. Dramatise a solution
  2. Be bold, build in controversy
  3. Address a societal tension
  4. Humanize, empathetic storytelling
  5. Be truly local
  6. Merge data and human truth
  7. Create a product campaign ambition

The event summed up the fact as to how the Public Relations industry is being associated with just getting media coverage, earned media and maintaining a public image. With changing times, organisations are realising the importance of reputation more than ever. PR can be more creative and contribute a lot to a campaign. The main challenge for a PR firm is to be more creative in planning integrated campaigns.


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