A published story in newsprint or television that cost nothing, compared to crores of the sum spent in advertising, was once perceived as, ‘free’. Thanks to the growing clutter of information, media competitiveness and smart people around in our industry, it takes a lot more to get the same share of visibility today. It is that share of ‘earned’ space, that no money can buy. And Public Relations (PR) does exactly that.
It’s taken years to shape a progressive role in public relations, tapping into its true potential, offering value to many businesses and building credibility for a zillion brands! There are some great success stories to showcase, and how PR can influence public opinions. It isn’t necessarily about selling coffee, and it isn’t always about pitching to a newspaper. From engaging stakeholders in the ecosystem, addressing an issue, changing or impacting policy to C-suite profiling, the operating system for public relations offers a wide range of service capabilities.
It all started with people thinking it to be purely media relations. Finally, now, we are moving in the right direction. What was once said to be frivolous and inconsequential, is now emerging to be a key capability in integrated communications, worldwide. There is seen to be a major evolution in this space over the last decade. As part of an agency or corporate function, it clearly stands to gain a position of respect. It is the ‘first chair’, as I like to call it.
By way of understanding, it is all about driving ‘earned influence’, that rests on the merit of content with the ability to impact or influence the desired position for a brand or a business. The good thing is, that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. Constant innovation backed by research, insight, planning and creative integration, makes way for great ideas. And if applied well, it makes for some winning cases! Creativity is at the core of it, and the backbone of everything we do at Ogilvy. The talent pool is therefore highly consequential to our success. People with scientific thinking and creative strengths are sure to excel here.
What remains to be a challenge, is the measure of success of what we do in PR. How do we realize the tangible value that it brings to you? Just as we would do in advertising or digital, evaluate the impact on sales targets, market shares, the share of voice, etc to measure what has been achieved, the success of PR must also follow the same principle. Eventually, it all must tie in with the company or brand’s marketing objectives, and that in turn must align with the overall business targets. That’s how we are looking at outcomes. Counting news clips and the number of page views is simply an output, the impact has to be studied. The AVE (ad value evaluation) method is hereon totally redundant, but still, some like to believe that the quantum worth in money terms makes sense to them for the lack of a better way of measurement. At Ogilvy, we are developing scientific tools and benchmark studies to support the operating system. And so, the use of data for us is increasingly gaining importance as we extrapolate market opportunities, develop measurement tools or plan for campaigns.
This is also changing the language architecture in communications. What we have been referring to as Advertising, PR and Digital functions, is now a confluence of earned, owned and paid media. That explains nothing should work in isolation, it must get all integrated. In everything we do, there is a role of each function, just the extent varies, but the scope is definite. The ‘earned influence’ domain figures horizontally, it is all-pervasive and cuts through opportunity in almost everything I see. This is the future of PR. There is no ‘free publicity’!
About the Author
Arneeta Vasudeva, Senior Vice President and National Head, Public Relations & Influence, Ogilvy India. She spearheads the Influence and PR domain of Ogilvy in India and supervises its business growth and devices development strategy for the agency. She also steers large-sized global mandates and client management in the company. Arneeta’s key roles in the firm include promoting cross-category experience and network capabilities in Public Relations. She also facilitates its support to 360 ideation and drives for integrated marketing solutions. She achieves this by active collaborations and working with stakeholders across verticals/functions in India, APAC, and Global network.