Hemant Gaule, a corporate and brand communications professional was until recently a part of the team that spearheaded Prime Minister Modi’s national election campaign. After graduating from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad he spent two years with a leading Indian conglomerate in brand management. Currently he is the Deputy Dean of Indian School of COmmunication and REputation (SCoRe).
With an intent to gain some insight on the PR talent pool’s current status and scope in India we interviewed Hemant Gaule. Following are the excerpts:
Q. What is the status of PR specialized manpower requirement and availability in India? Your view on their future?
A. The profession of PR has grown substantially over the last decade. The most influential milestone in this journey has been the point at which India Inc. acknowledged it as a must have rather than a good to have. This has also increased the quantum and nature of the workforce that goes into building effective PR services, which is already a highly human resource intensive field. From generic media relations skills earlier to skills that are more complex and specific to products and services,media platforms, audiences, industries etc. are being expected.
Unfortunately this requirement is not being met at the pace at which it is being created. A major influx of professionals into PR practices are youngsters who have limited knowledge of what PR is about in the first place and no dedicated training on the subject. In the coming days the growth of the profession will be fuelled by extremely well trained and effective talent.
Q. PR is taught as the most honest form of communication in institutions which offer courses on PR, does it match the industry practices?
A. Ethics are at the core of PR as a profession. The stakes of PR professionals being lax with their ethics can be really high. Therefore PR practitioners perform under extremely well defined and uncompromising ethical guidelines, percolating down from highly experienced leaderships and/or their clients. Most entrants undergo dedicated sensitisation programmes on the topic. In a world where information spreads like wildfire, PR practitioners with flexible ethical standards become well known easily, which has curbed this flexibility fairly well recently, and continues to enhance the overall attitude of the profession towards ethics.
Q. Tell us about India’s first independent school of PR, SCoRe. How do you aim to train the Indian youth for the PR industry through this institution?
Being in the PR fraternity for years, we observed a few gaps in the way the talent pool of PR professionals is built. Firstly, there are no educational platforms dedicated to a study of PR, as most cover PR as one of many other disciplines of communications. Secondly these programmes are rarely updated to include study of latest trends, practices and happenings, not nearly as frequently as the profession is dynamic. Thirdly, as most of academia lacks, these programmes do not provide insights on practical skills and techniques that are needed to perform well.
SCoRe aims to bridge that gap, by building an industry assisted education platform that creates highly effective PR professional of tomorrow. Our curriculum has been designed by PR practitioners ensuring immediate relevance of content that is taught. These practitioners bring case studies and best practices being deployed in the present era. They also build in skills and techniques that a young PR professional will need to be effective soon after they join. Such hands on expertise combined with a comprehensive set of courses ensure that the youth get the training that their (future) employers need them to have.
Q. What all is needed to be ‘THE PERFECT PR PERSON’?
A perfect PR person is:
- Street-smart (for a tough world),
- Courageous (for a rough ride),
- Outstanding (in everything they do),
- Restless (for excellence), and
- Ethical (no matter what).
These are the core values that SCoRe envisions to impart to all our participants. Additionally, the perfect PR person is always entrenched into their profession, and likes to stay well informed on theoretical and practical nuances of the profession. But most importantly, a perfect PR person will know how to deploy these qualities effectively
Q. According to you, how much change has the PR industry seen after the addition of the digital space?
The advent of digital media has brought about perhaps the most significant transformation in the way that PR is practiced. Besides adding new dimensions to disbursal, formats and consumption of information, it has evolved the process from a monologue that is long drawn to a dialogue that is incredibly real time. While digital space was in its infancy, it was seen as an additional media that can be used alongside the traditional vehicles. Now it is acknowledged as the ubiquitous media that must be used. This has drastically enhanced the nature of skills and expertise that are needed for effective PR professionals today that are expected to include a basic knowledge of the space. We are trying to address that by offering an 18 hour MDP called ACE Digital, that equips participants with such skills. Soon however, that need will continue to become more essential and complex, and PR professionals of tomorrow will have to be inherently digital media experts before honing any other specialisation.
Q. In the end, could you please stress on the importance of PR in the growth of every company.
Paid and owned media are largely under a company’s control, and their reach and impact can be regulated with influx of resources. Hence audiences and stakeholders tend to take them with a pinch of salt; and over a period of time tune them out. Their contribution to a company’s growth stops right there.
On the other hand, impact of Earned media – PR, is only created when it is deserved, and hence builds real and large credibility for companies with their audiences. In a competitive world it seizes to be a question of who has more resources to influence people through paid and owned, since that is a battle that anyone can fight. It becomes a factor of earned media, which can create a differentiation. Some of India’s largest business conglomerates have fuelled their growth on the back of carefully crafted PR efforts that have lasted decades. PR is also the language that transcends geographical boundaries unlike their paid and owned counterparts, and therefore has been instrumental in helping these conglomerates grow globally. It is therefore essential for corporations to embrace and invest in strong PR practices.
Hemant can be reached at @HemantGaule on Twitter