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Public Relations: An Effective Combination of Curiosity & Faith

By Jasleen K Makker, Director – Corporate Communications, HARMAN International

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Jasleen K Makker, Director – Corporate Communications, HARMAN International

Last week, I was in a review meeting with our PR agency – a well-known national agency that manages dozens of renowned brands, from automobiles, consumers to new age startups. We were discussing what it takes for ‘traditional tech companies’ as we are now called; to make it to top national white and pink papers. What is making news these days and what just isn’t?

It’s obvious, for PR people to understand that unless you are a new age super hero, a promising start up, a “guy who left a good comfy job at a tech company to start on his own”; or a CEO of a multibillion dollar, doing innovative work out of R&D centers in India; chances are you will never get an editor interested in meeting you.

To be fair, that’s fair. Newspapers are in the business of news. They only publish what their readers want to read. In fact, it’s good idea to be an agile newspaper. To continuously change the format to match the taste of the audience.

However, it does make the job of PR people in the ‘traditional business companies’ to get our message out. There is not one solution for this problem. It’s about having a set of tools that can work in your favor. Here are a couple of instances that come to my mind.

Savor the relationship: If there’s one thing I have savored in my decade and a half experience of doing communication is that you just can’t replace the importance of building relationships with media. They are our partners in progress; they will come to your rescue and help you out of a messy spot if they value you as a professional and as a friend. Build the relationship, there’s no replacement for this fundamental.

Make the news interesting: Everyone has a story to tell. Usually for tech companies, it’s the same old story. It’s the same ‘innovation’, same people, same processes and same work. But, having worked in top MNCs over the years, I recognize that there is still something different in every company’s DNA and the nature of work they do. Our work is to recognize and spot the difference and communicate that. Mind you, it’s not that easy and may take months and years of experience and relationships with teams to understand this, but it’s worth it – it makes you an interesting ‘story teller’.

Learn from youngsters: In the same meeting with the PR agency, we were discussing how to launch a new set of speaker system in India. The USP of the product was it looked like a large suitcase and makes a party come alive for a gathering of 200-300 people instantly.

The youngest team member of the agency came out with an idea of doing a ‘non-traditional’ route to launch it to the press. “Let’s make a video that can go viral; let’s do it at the airport or a train station or better do a flash mob. And, if the new age media like Scoop Whoop picks it up, then the newspaper will pick it up next day too!”

"Only two things are required to ace the profession of PR: Curiosity to learn and faith to move along."

Seems like a great idea and why not? We need to learn from the youngsters on their consumption of media. How they are getting their information and if they watch Scoop Whoop rather than reading a newspaper, we should take a note of that.

Enjoy while you are doing it: I often recall my first manager’s mantra for a successful PR professional. She told me ‘the day you stop running out for the newspaper in the morning, to see if your story is out or not; you should leave PR that day”. I couldn’t agree more.

PR is ‘one of the most stressful jobs in the world*” today; but all the people who enjoy it seem to have one thing in common: their passion for the work and for their clients/organizations. There are a lot of colleges who are teaching the art of communications these days. I think only two things are required to ace the profession of PR: Curiosity to learn and faith to move along.

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