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Trending Now: PR needs to look at the smaller markets more seriously

Shailesh Goyal, Founder-Director, Simulations Public Affairs Management Services, takes a look at the emerging trends that will dominate the Public Relations industry in 2020. He also talks about the growing spread of digital and how it is impacting the PR business. 

What changes do you see in Public Relations in 2020?

We are already seeing a huge change in the Public Relations industry in the last 5 years, with digital space becoming predominant. There has been a paradigm shift, and I expect this trend to gather further pace in 2020. Digital is the future. Actually, the shift in PR mirrors the transformation we are seeing in media, where digital media is becoming increasingly dominant at the cost of print media. Media is offering a whole bouquet of text, audio, and visuals, and becoming more interactive in a bid to retain audiences. PR, too, will have to adapt and evolve. This does not mean that traditional PR will cease to exist or not be relevant any more, but in my opinion, there will be a distinct shift towards digital medium going ahead. There are going to be rapid changes in the way PR works. Communications professionals will have to opt for an approach that integrates PR tools as well as technology. PR professionals will have to become well-versed with the latest technology and tools, and excel in interpreting data, for effective results. 

Do you think PR consultancies and corporate communications professionals are equipped for the changes?

The entire media spectrum has been changing at an unprecedented pace due to technological advances, which has opened up new vistas and means of reaching out, connecting, and communicating with the audience. Public Relations has grown beyond issuing press releases and organising press conferences, and plays a key role in building and shaping a brand’s image. The manner in which digital media is evolving, coupled with the emergence of social media, its wide reach, and its critical role in media and communications industry, has made Public Relations increasingly challenging as a profession. 

In my opinion, PR agencies and professionals had anticipated some of the changes that are unfolding before us, and were preparing for it by upgrading their skillset and capabilities, keeping in mind the new requirements. The PR industry has been receptive and responsive to the challenges that have cropped up from time to time over the last 30 years or so, and I am confident that it is ready for the future challenges too. 

In the changing scenario, how can PR agencies create better engagement?

At the risk of sounding clichéd, Content was, is, and will always remain the king. The only change is the medium. There were limited mediums earlier to communicate, but there are a plethora of options available at one’s disposal to reach out to the target audience now. Powerful storytelling has been the key to successful PR, and I believe that it will continue to be a prerequisite for effective PR going ahead too. 

However, the approach of “One size fits all” will not work anymore – it is neither practical nor feasible. The content will have to be suitably tailored and synchronised as per the medium, and keeping in mind the audience one is targeting to reach. The content must be compelling, and must also ensure that the consumer is at its heart to have any chance of earning engagement. The communication exercise is unlikely to be effective or serve any purpose if it fails to meet either criterion. This is something that PR agencies and professionals must invariably aspire to achieve in every single assignment they take up. 

Where will the future growth of PR come from?

Until some years ago, PR was limited to the four Metros, and the four or five Tier 1 cities such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, etc. These cities will remain the key markets even going ahead, and continue to account for bulk of the industry’s business. However, I believe that the future growth and expansion will come from Tier 2 and 3 cities. These markets are more or less unexplored as far as Public Relations is concerned, and this is where the next wave of growth will come from. Organised retailers, FMCG companies, and e-commerce companies – all are among the businesses that are betting big on Tier 2 and 3 cities in view of a burgeoning middle class, rising income levels, better quality of life, and other factors. I am of the firm opinion that the time is ripe for the Public Relations industry to start looking at the smaller markets more seriously.

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