09 July 2015 14:27:53 IST

Public Relations as a career

The growth prospects are excellent and there is a shortage of quality talent

The only reason many of us go to management school is to get the sort of job that will give us a head start in our career and hopefully in life as well. Of course, certain careers tend to be the “flavour of the season” like software a few years ago, dot com earlier, retail for a short while and now e-commerce. Yet sadly the tendency for many of us is to “follow the herd” even if some of us conveniently tend to fool ourselves at least by thinking we are smartly riding the wave and ensuring we don’t miss the bus. And yet the reality is that certain industries are ignored by some of us as we don’t know enough about them to make a considered choice.

So what exactly is Public Relations?

Sadly, Public Relations has a fair amount of myths around it, aided and abetted by some of our seniors in the profession, who did little to dispel those myths. Many Public Relations professionals in the public sector spent a lot of time doing hotel bookings and air tickets for their bosses and moaned about it.

This is not what Public Relations is all about. Some others spent a lot of time “wining and dining” the media mistaking that to be Public Relations. Whilst good relations with the media is an integral part of public relations, my view is that irrespective of what happened in the past today these are professional relationships and don’t need to be lubricated with food and drink.

What it actually is

Having discussed what public relations is not, let us move on to what it actually is. Public Relations is all about managing your image with the relevant publics -- whether they be customers, investors, employees (both present and prospective) or activists and a host of others like opinion makers. And the reality is that people wish to work for companies with a better image, people will invest in companies that are written about and customers will buy from companies that are better known. And a better image does not happen by accident or mere good fortune but usually does with a clear, well articulated public relations strategy and effective execution.

And finally what is the difference between advertising and public relations? Advertising is paid for. I tell the world I am good through my ads but there is a lot more source credibility when “ BusinessLine ” rates my company as a great place to work. And this is the industry which in my opinion needs management graduates.

Is a communication school better for Public Relations?

The reality is that communication schools do a much better job of preparing young people for jobs in public relations as they expose them to the theory which is a good starting point and also give them exposure to the related fields of communication like advertising, events, journalism, etc all of which prepares you for the job.

Sadly management school does not teach any of these subjects and that is the challenge that many MBAs do not even wish to take and it is to this breed that I am reaching out through this column. Remember when you do management you learn so many things that will help you bridge the learning gap quicker. But why must you consider public relations as a career when so many others are there welcoming you with open arms?

Why Public Relations?

The greatest thing about Public Relations is that you won’t get bored in it as you learn about different industries. One day you will be launching expensive lingerie whilst on the next you will be fighting the crisis of a CEO of a client leaving to join the competition. Of course you do have the scenario where you could specialise in certain verticals like technology for instance. Of course do not even consider the profession if your written or oral communication skills are not of a high standard. Remember this is part of the communication industry and these skills are what we describe as “hygiene factors” or the minimum requirement.

So what is the problem?

The problem is that a Public Relations job like advertising does not pay well at the early stages and to some of you who have taken a bank loan to do your management it will hurt. But the growth prospects are excellent. Also the very nature of the business seems to attract women and you will find a lot of women holding very senior positions in this industry. But I have a clinching argument which may upset some of my peers in the industry. Sadly the industry has such a paucity of talent presently that bright young things like you will give us a run for our money and teach us a thing or two.

So what’s the verdict? Keen on a career in it yet?

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