Ganapathy Viswanathan
Guest Article

Why PR is still growing… and it will only grow more in the coming years?

Our guest author delves into the evolving landscape of PR, exploring global market dynamics and strategic shifts towards quality metrics.

Let me start with some hard data that points in a clear direction of why the PR industry is on the growth path. In one of the published data sourced from PRCAI (Sprint report 2022-23) the Indian PR industry is around US$ 260 million which is around 2100 crore INR. The global PR market is huge, amounting to US$ 20 billion and INR 1,60,000 crore. US firms account for 50% of the market.

The Asia-Pacific market is around INR 13,600 crore (US$1.7 billion) and Asia-Pacific accounts for 8.5% of the global PR market while India’s share is very negligible but the growth potential is huge looking at the developments that are taking place in the marketing and communication field and more and more clients realising the importance of PR. 

The statistics really paint a healthy picture of this industry and there is a light at the end of the tunnel it is still bright and it will only keep glowing as more brands have started to believe in PR as a powerful communication tool along with their other marketing and promotional tools.  In the last two decades or so the industry has grown with a growth rate of 13% in the year 2022 and is no longer seen as pushing only press releases. Today press releases have become a passe’ and the focus has moved more towards strategic direction.

Even the number of press conferences has come down unless there is something big and exciting to announce at a press conference. Even media relations and editor lunches are not happening at the same moment as in the past. Today there are big challenges in the field of communication and thrust is being given more to reputation management, crisis management and influencer marketing. 

Here are my views and observations on what could work for the PR industry to make it bigger in a consistent way and match the global standards though we are still a long way. Globally PR is still viewed and measured more from quality coverage and not giving any importance to the volume of clippings. 

Create belief in PR

Yes, while marketers have started to focus on PR, especially post-covid but it is the self-belief in marketers that will drive the importance of PR and how it will add value to the entire gamut of the marketing plan. When annual marketing budgets are planned PR should be included in the media mix right at the beginning and should be considered in the overall marketing strategy so that there is a perfect orchestration of what is being communicated, using the various communication tools. A proper and sizeable budget should be earmarked for PR and the team should continuously evaluate and gauge the effectiveness.  

Volume vs. value

For a very long time now Public Relations has been an endless chase for maximum coverage. But now more and more clients have realised that is the quality of coverage with the right messaging that matters. So, clients have become conscious and are making agencies accountable and ensuring that the key messaging is delivered once the story gets published.

Gone are days where volume is seen as the key measurement, new and better methods of measurement are being worked with agencies to get the right picture after the end of every PR campaign. The shift from volume to value has brought in a sea change in the way PR campaigns are being evaluated. 

Social media/influential marketing

With the proliferation of so many channels in the online space, the need for better thinking and being agile has become the need of the day. Today you need to stay relevant and with very little time available to grab the attention of your audience who is always on the go, so your content creation be it short or long should have a good narrative that will be sticky. This is where agencies need to focus to meet their client’s deliverables and build their reputation. 

Applying the right measurement technique

Measurement in PR has always been a subject of debate and till today there is no concrete solution between clients and agencies on what is the best practice for measurement. The most common measurement still prevalent is calculating the advertising value which presents a very inflated picture and one is not able to judge the true value of how PR as a campaign has worked.

While the industry is working to arrive at the best practice the sooner this is done and agreed upon the credibility gap will still exist on what PR is actually delivering. The industry should put an end to the measurement debates and work out a formula that is universally acceptable across clients’ agencies so that more clients will be motivated to look at PR in a big way for promoting their brands. 

Content will drive business

AI and ChatGPT have already brought in some disruption in the market. It is believed that ChatGPT is expected to change the way business will be approached both in marketing and PR. While AI and ML are great technology tools which are good enablers we still need the PR professionals to strategically think and be innovative in their ideas.

Remember, you still need great ideas to make your story narrative interesting and compelling which technology will only help you in further crafting your innovative content for your digitally driven audiences. This is where talent management and training will be very crucial for both agencies and clients to nurture and build upon to have a robust team.  

We have already finished 4 months of this year but the industry definitely has a good future to grow and establish a sound position in the communication industry. Healthy and relevant conversations should keep happening on PR and the industry bodies together with the client and agencies should collaborate and share knowledge and promote the value of PR at various forums.

We would need some global seminars and PR meetings to be held on PR from time to time to know what are the best practices that are working globally. With the importance of research and social media growing and becoming more relevant we would be able to witness more research-driven PR campaigns which will make many brands embrace PR and make them deploy PR regularly and not tactically. 

(Our guest author is Ganapathy Viswanathan, independent communication consultant)

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