Why PR Must Play The Long Game For Digital, But Quickly - Paarul Chand

PR firms don’t do enough to profile and promote their work in digital says Paarul Chand and this is not good. She talks about the bad and good in Digital PR In India

Editor’s Note: At LI we are inviting some of the best digital marketing minds of the country to share their opinion on how the market has evolved and the different facets that have attracted or distracted them in 2015.

This is the seventh in the series from Paarul Chand, Editor PRmoment India - an online magazine for the PR sector in India. You can connect with her on Twitter – @paarulchand

(Click here to find the entire coverage of this year end series)

One of my favourite digital campaign from a long, long time ago (yes, 2012 is a long time in digital as in politics!) is this World Alzheimer’s Day campaign by Ogilvy and Mather. It asked users to PaarulChand‘donate’ their Facebook timeline, in support of Alzheimer’s which would then be ‘wiped’ clean to show how it feels to lose your memories.

This campaign crafted by an iconic advertising company, could just as easily come from a PR firm, WPP which owns O&M certainly has PR firms in it’s kitty. If PR had any contribution to this idea, you may not know about it. And this is where I come to my first ‘Bad’ bit about Digital PR in India.

The Bad!

We don’t talk about us!

PR firms don’t do enough to profile and promote their work in digital PR – or PR for that matter. Advertising will make that awards entry video, spend time, effort and money on winning them, it even has a Mad Men to further build the mystique of advertising.  PR not so much. PR companies should be beating their digital drum as much as their counterparts in advertising do. And this extends from not just profiling work but also showing the impact of work done. 

Show us the ROI stupid!

A  2015 study, ‘India Strategic Communications Report 2015: Inside the CMO’s Mind’, by PR firm MSLGROUP, shows that only 29% of Chief Marketing Officers’ (CMOs) surveyed in the same study believe that PR delivers greater returns than advertising. The advertisers are trusted more than PR because the marketers surveyed feel that they’ve delivered greater return on investment in the past. This perception is certainly truer for digital PR, where the competition also is with the nimbler digital firms.

CMOs also feel that it is advertising agencies that are adapting to integrated communications more quickly.

CMOs definitely want PR agencies to show their commitment to digital and make greater investments in data driven insight and analysis, content and digital:


Industry insiders share that it becomes more obvious that digital PR is not being given its due lies in the fact that most of the digital PR conversations and sales happen with the in-house corporate communication leads and not with the CMOs, which would take the procurement to a different level.

Video, Virtual Reality Video on the digital wall!

2016 is going to be the year of video- The 4G rollout in India will certainly push the demand for video as will Netflix.

But more specifically 2016 is the year of virtual reality and 360 video views. This video of Star Wars published by YouTube, is an early pointer to the VR trend.

In order to tap in to the PR value of this, clients need to be able to produce 360 video via options such as ‘Jump’ or Google Cardboard. Right now, PR firms in India, barring scattered examples such as SPAG Asia which is doing work with Oculus Rift, are yet to substantially look at VR and 360 video.

The Good! 

The Ad block and tackle! 

Ah, the bane of digital publishers, the ad blocker. However, for high quality branded content this may be a blessing. PR firms, with their skills in writing strategic content and storytelling are very well suited for crafting stories that will not be stopped by ad blockers. Content, of all kinds, is what Indian digital PR practitioners are very good at.

Creativity is the Word!

There is excellent creative talent in India and the opportunities for them are huge. Integrated communications firms like Zeno (part of the Daniel J Edelman group) have worked on large accounts such as Motorola and managed APAC markets acting as hub out of India. A regional PR hub like this out of India is quite unusual.

Zeno India has also worked on Du Apps from Baidu, where they created a holiday season digital game in India that was activated for Du Apps global communities. Global firms such as these and brands are now open to using creative talent sitting out of India on global and regional creative campaign strategy & development giving them tremendous opportunities and exposure.

Insiders say the new age integrated communications agency has arrived in India - agile and scrappy, adept at storytelling keeping their PR DNA at the core.

That’s not all, even home grown companies have committed to long term investments in digital. Some firms estimate that it would take them at least 5 years to establish a digital practice that would need to include creative, media buyers, coders and developers - but they are there for the long haul.

Digital or bust! 

Finally, if the PR business has to survive and thrive, there is no choice but to embrace digital PR. And for the young ‘Gen Z’ population, this also means many more job opportunities beyond the weary media rounds.

Digital might finally make PR cool for young professionals.