PR should stand up to scribes – Column in DNA


Found this column in DNA. Felt it’s worth sharing.. Read on :D

Surekha Pillai: PR should stand up to scribes

Surekha Pillai | Sunday, August 28, 2011

One of the most exciting — and sometimes nerve wracking — events in the life of a PR fresher is when s/he is first assigned to an outstation project. I got my break a year after I joined a PR agency, when I was sent to Calcutta to coordinate three media interviews for an overseas client. I prepared well for the project, and the media outlets I had pitched to readily agreed to the interviews. I sent extensive briefing material to the journalists, reconfirmed the meetings, and finally reached Calcutta after enjoying what was my first flight experience.

After meeting the client, I reached the first media outlet — a leading newspaper in Calcutta — to pick up the journalist. I walked into the bustling business bureau where I was taken to the correspondent who was busy tapping away at the keyboard. I flashed a big smile, introduced myself and told him that the car was waiting outside. He looked up at me and casually said: “Oh I can’t make it. I’m busy, something has come up.” I froze for several seconds while he went back to his tapping.

After what seemed like an eternity, I managed a weak smile and reminded him that I had reconfirmed the interview the previous evening and the client who was waiting to meet him at the hotel had travelled from the US just for these meetings. Nothing happened. In a last-ditch effort, I requested him to send a colleague. “No one is free.” I walked out, sat on a bench and wept, battling visions of a furious client and a boss morphed into one fire-breathing dragon enveloping me in flames. I am not sure what made me do what I did next — perhaps it was fear — but I walked into the chief of bureau’s room and, in between tears, narrated what had happened and pleaded with him to assign someone. Luckily he did and the day was saved.

I experienced different versions of this event throughout my PR career. Once a trainee reporter was sent as a replacement to a business magazine editor to interview a global CEO, and asked him questions about competitor brands, assuming them to be from his company’s portfolio. A reporter once showed up over 90 minutes late for an interview with a company chairman after assuring me every five minutes that he would be reaching in the next five.

Then there was this time a TV journalist, after confirming the show she wanted to interview my client for, walked in without the camera crew and said she just wanted an informal chat. On another occasion, a show producer repeatedly assured me a journalist was on her way to meet my client — an Ambassador — as I continued to wilt under his glare. The journalist didn’t show up and I saved those SMSes for years as a reminder of how some journalists could deliberately mislead.

Another memorable incident comes from a time when a reporter from India’s top news daily demanded I leave the room in which the interview I helped set up (with a much-in-demand music director who hadn’t yet won an Academy Award) was being held. I refused to leave my client’s side. The interview took place and was soon followed up with a call from a shrieking editor of the entertainment supplement to my boss with an order that I call her up and apologise within the next 10 minutes. My boss was kind enough to pass on the message and leave the decision to me. I didn’t make the call mostly out of anger and partly from fear — the editor was known to be a terror.

The PR industry is replete with stories about journalists’ appalling levels of arrogance and unprofessionalism. While a large part of it could be attributed to their cocky assumption that the PR community needs them more than the other way round, much of it is also a result of PR professionals taking this impudence without protest. If no solution comes to mind, dear PR industry, a hunger strike to get media to accord due respect to PR might not be a bad idea. Anybody?

Pallavi Palan
Blogger at The Color Purple

Are the new T&C of the Service Tax not an issue for the PR Industry


I want to check something with the forum members.

I am sure all of you are aware of the rules that have changed in the
service taxes for the service industry. (For those of you who don’t
know about the issue please read :

Link : ) ;

I want to know from the forum members how they are dealing with this
issue as the payment for most (99.9%) of the clients is a standard of
30 working days and there is even a bigger chaos on project 50%
payments. Earlier one had to pay the tax after the payment has been
cleared by the client. Now according to the new rule that was enforced
from 1 July 2011, you need to pay the service tax within 30 days after
you raise the invoice or the 5th of the month, whichever is first,
irrespective of the payments status from the client.

According to me, this rule is highly detrimental to the growth of our
industry . On one end the client expectations are rising everyday and
the payments are delayed by a standard couple of weeks and on the
other end the vendors will now not work with you till you pay them in
advance. To top it off you might just end up taking loans to pay just
the service taxes !!!! .

While the outdoor and advertising industry has gathered arms and
gotten together to write to the relevant authorities and have already
begun the process of lobbying for a change. (Read today’s ET for more
on the service tax rollout progress and please note that we are not
the ‘essential’ services) I think it is high time that we from the ‘PR
Industry’ as a whole take up the initiative to do so too for everyone
in the industry.

I do not have the know-how to take this up but I am sure we have
enough people on this forum who would have the relevant expertise and
know how to give some direction to this. I am willing to be a part of
this or take up this initiative at best.

Any advice from the forum members on how to go about this or do we
even need to take this up ? Is there a loophole that can be explored
in the clauses that will help circumvent the ridiculous terms and
conditions of this tax ?


Public Relations Division


By Abhijit Sengupta, CEO of Outdoor Adevrtising Professionals (I) Pvt.
Ltd.) & Touchpoint

Except for death and taxes nothing is certain. We all have heard it
several times isn’t it? When we look at the current changes in Point
of Taxation (POT) rules with respect to SERVICE TAX, we realise that
though the taxes (we are talking about service tax in particular)
certain the incidence of tax and its administration could keep
changing time and again. When it happens we keep complaining,
shouting, protesting and so on. And later on we realise that the best
thing would be to adapt and start following it. I am sure something
similar would happen in case of leapfrog changes in POT that would
come in effect from 1st July 2011.Without getting technical aspects of
those changes let us understand what has changed specifically for
media and advertising companies.

Till 30th June 2011 whatever invoice service provider raises, she has
to pay service tax thereon only once that amount is being collected
from the customer. From 1st July the tax has to be charged while
raising the invoice as usual and it has to be deposited to the
treasury on or before 5th of the subsequent month, irrespective of the
collection, In case, you operate in monopoly market and are privileged
to be able to collect the same in advance or in less than 30 days, you
need to pay tax element on or before 5th of the subsequent month.
The immediate reaction of many people has been, “oh in that case i
would raise my invoice only just before the collection and manage my
cash-flow.” People in finance ministry are very smart enough to take
care of the situation. The rules say that the invoice has to be raised
by service provider within 14 days from the “completion of the
“The completion of service” has to be a part of written contract and
cannot be left to the imagination of the service tax auditors. There
task is not to “imagine” anything but to increase revenue for the
What if any service provider fails to collect? In other words after
the payment of service tax on the invoice if the same turns bad, then
there no recourse for the same. The service tax paid on subsequent bad
debts is a cost any service provider has to bare.
What are the implications for outdoor advertising agencies in

Average collection period for any outdoor advertising agency is in the
range of 70 to 170 days. On a monthly billing you need to pay the
service tax within 5 days from the end of the month. For every agency
managing this cash-flow would be a nightmare. Some of us will have to
borrow only to pay the tax, which means there cost implications as
well by way of cost of funds.
The documentation with respect to the contractual obligations ahs to
be water tight to the extent possible and there should be as less grey
area as possible, to be left for the interpretation of the service tax
auditors. “Completion of the service” would give rise to all kinds of
disputes and litigations with the department.
The above measures are within the purview of the agencies and they
would be internal controls. The following should be done by forming
industry association:

Media owners have become aggressive and they have already decided what
they want and what they would do for the same. Agencies’ association
has to deal with it work towards preserving their own interests.
While competing within they need to define basic hygiene factors and
stick to them. For example
Today there are agencies that go out and get the business at ZERO
agency commission and on top of it they offer certain percentage of
saving in media buying to that customer (sic!).
Some agencies while pitching for business offer crazy collection
terms to the clients.
If such practices continue unabated they would turn out to be
destructive for the entire business as a whole.

Agencies association needs to create a mechanism to define aspects as
to what constitutes the “service” and what would amount to the
“completion of the service” to avoid the potential are of litigation.
Even after doing that when dispute arises with the department it
should be represented and dealt with at the association level.
While an individual agency will have no bargaining power with the
department.  Senior officers in the department are instructed to lend
an ear to trade associations and forward their grievances to the CBEC
and finance ministry for resolution.
The moment the new Service Tax rules were brought in, the first two
steps OAP took was first to write to the industry body to come
together to understand the implications. The second step was to
immediately realign and partly redesign our internal systems and
processes to narrow gaps on billing, documentation and collection. Our
ISO QMS was already in place. We are extending this QMS system with
new provisions that would facilitate speed. We have taken this
unfortunate ordeal as an excuse and also an opportunity towards
meeting OTP (On Time Performance) and top quality QMS.
“We would love to see our competitors as well adopting to this system
since it would help the entire industry to stay afloat, survive the
onslaught and thrive in times to come.”

Twitter Benefits for your Business

20 Benefits of using Twitter for Business

Twitter is the perfect platform to keep you updated with the latest happenings in your industry, market or domain.  You would be able to trace what people are talking about, the buzz of the industry, trends, and insights to build your business.  Twitter helps you to stay connected with the world in real-time.

Twitter has more beneficial to business over FaceBook, LinkedIn, blogs and other social networking sites. One of the reasons Twitter is so popular is due to its flexibility to support many other existing technologies and business strategies.  The benefits of using twitter for business listed below would be leveraged by most of the businesses that are active on the social media platforms.  Twitter would give you a priceless way to share your content and get connected with the world.

Benefits of using Twitter for Business

  1. Increase your online presence & build a global network of contacts for your domain
  2. The aim of all social media site is to engage with your target audience
  3. It’s a perfect social media platform to engage your customers and with twitter communities
  4. Reputation Management: Helps you to create and maintain your online reputation through quality tweets and engagement
  5. Brand awareness: It can bring the awareness of your brand globally since 51% of Twitter users follow various brands against just 16% in other social media networks
  6. You would be supported by your network when you are looking for answers; besides you would get new opinions and thoughts from like-minded people in your industry
  7. You can gain competitive advantage and knowledge from your audience by watching, listening to them on your timelines. Listening to tweets can identify market trends
  8. A perfect platform to promote your blog or website content
  9. Directing your tweets to the landing pages help to bring more traffic to your website and enhances conversions
  10. It connects you in a new way to existing members of your network on other networking sites
  11. It helps you to keep an eye on your competitor and on the competitive market at all time
  12. It can be used as a forum. Ask a question and someone will surely return back with an answer to guide you further
  13. You can share your expertise and knowledge globally
  14. Present your promotions on twitter.  Promote your deal of the day to the world through twitter
  15. Most effective word of the mouth marketing where your audience are global rather than local
  16. It helps you to collect feedback from your customers and help them serve better with the right customer service
  17. Following a company/brand on Twitter will keep you informed about what’s going on and upcoming with them
  18. The good thing about twitter is it always keeps you posted with the latest links and updates in your domain
  19. The content on the tweets make your life a little bit easier by giving newer ideas about business and market insights
  20. Following someone you know very little about, would return you getting to know them better

Nikhil Kashyap

Deccan Herald to launch Delhi edition – Mint , 25 Aug 2011

Mint – 25 Aug 2011

Deccan Herald to launch Delhi edition


Karnataka’s English daily Deccan Herald is venturing out of the state for the first time to enter Delhi for a share of its estimated Rs 1,500 crore English print advertising market.

The market is dominated by two major national dailies Hindustan Times and The Times of India, published by HT Media Ltd and Bennett, Coleman and Co. Ltd, respectively. They have a combined circulation of more than 2.2 million in Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR). HT Media also publishes Mint.

The Printers (Mysore) Pvt. Ltd, the company that publishes Deccan Herald, has invited applications from journalists in Delhi for various posts in advertisements in The Hindu and the Hindustan Times.

A launch was imminent and hence it was difficult to comment on plans, said a Deccan Herald executive on condition of anonymity.

“But we are firm in our intent to launch. There is no dithering on that,“ he said.

The newspaper will take at least six months to start its Delhi edition and will launch with at least 15,000 copies, another executive added. K.N. Tilak Kumar, editor-in- chief of the Deccan Herald, remained unavailable for comment. Emails and phone calls to his office remained unanswered.

An executive at a leading advisory firm said “a successful launch in New Delhi should at the very least have 50,000 copies“. If correct, the initial print run is minuscule in comparison with the Hindustan Times and The Times of India, media buyers said.

As per 2010 Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) figures, the Hindustan Times has a circulation of 1.2 million in Delhi, while The Times of India has a circulation of 1.11 million.

“Delhi is a very matured market with not just HT but several strong publications… So it will indeed be a challenge for a new entrant,“ said Shantanu Bhanja, vice-president (marketing), HT Media. He added, however, that the market was very robust.

“Delhi is the largest market in terms of readership as well as revenue. It is also the fastest growing, making it highly attractive,“ he said. The total English readership in Delhi is nearly four million.

Rahul Kansal, chief marketing officer of Bennett, Coleman, said the Delhi market posed challenges to new entrants. “The loyalty of readers to the two leading newspapers is already very strong. Also, most advertisers can’t look beyond the market leaders,“ he added.

The Deccan Herald, a 63-year- old family-owned paper, has a circulation of more than 250,000 and editions in Bangalore, Mysore, Hubli, Mangalore, Gulbarga and Belur. Currently, it is the second most read English daily in Karnataka with an average issue readership of 423,000 next to The Times of India’s average issue readership of 535,000, according to the Indian Readership Survey for the first quarter of 2011.

Janardan Pandey, associate vice-president at Mudra Max, the media arm of the Mudra Group, sees potential for new entrants, considering Delhi and NCR are growing rapidly in terms of population and literacy. The 2011 census recorded Delhi’s literacy rate at 86.34%, a 4.67 percentage point jump over 2001. “Delhi has long needed a strong third newspaper brand.“

According to Mona Jain, chief executive officer of VivaKi Exchange, the centralized buying agency for Publicis Groupe, Delhi’s print market is interesting because the readership potential is varied and high. Of the total print ad market size, 80% is with the market leaders.

Independent media consultant A.S. Raghunath said a market does not get saturated when there is a steady growth in population. There is still a large gap to be covered by English papers in Delhi and NCR since the base of people who can read English is 9.7 million and all English dailies have together been able to reach only four million readers.

Sumit Jain

Tech PR in India, now an International Game – Watch out

William Mills Agency, the largest independent public relations firm focusing on technology in the United States, announced it has opened a new office in Mumbai, India and appointed Saba Kazi as vice president for William Mills Agency India. 

William Mills Agency India serves technology clients targeting the Indian market as well as Indian technology companies interested in offering their products and services within the United States.

Kazi leads William Mills Agency India’s operations throughout India from the Mumbai office. Her responsibilities are focused on leading the organization’s expansion plans and conducting public relations activities for clients. 

Kazi has been in public relations since 2001 and has served several major brands such as Experian Credit Information Company of India, Reliance Telecommunications, Reliance Infrastructure, CNBC India, Sony Entertainment Television, Bharti Airtel and FINO. Prior to joining the agency, she worked with Corporate Voice Weber Shandwick, Genesis Burson-Marsteller and represented Intercraft Trading and

 Kazi earned a degree in English literature from Mumbai University and studied journalism at K. C. College in Mumbai.

 “William Mills Agency India’s Mumbai office was opened to meet the need for communications services that are focused on India’s growing technology industry,” said William Mills III, CEO of William Mills Agency in a press release. “Working together, Saba Kazi and the William Mills team are leveraging their skills and experience in the tech industry into a competitive advantage for companies interested in selling their products and services in India, as well as Indian companies seeking to grab market share in the United States.”

 This is the second pure technology communications agency starting operations in India after Waggener Edstrom, which has its office in BKC, Mumbai headed by Madhuri Sen.

 Also heard that even Webber Shandwick is also in the process of strengthen its technology practice. This sends a clear message to other pure tech communications’ agencies or tech practices in the larger agencies of an alarming competition. Innovation and more value add will be the clear differentiating factors. Rationalizing ROI will be now the norm

While for Tech PR practitioners it is a good opportunity to move out of their comfort zones and learn some international best practices, but at the same the hike up their servicing skills as well as domain knowledge.


Best Regards,

Vikram Kharvi
Reputation Management Consultant

Mobile: 9930143550  |  Email:   |   Twitter   |   LinkedIn   |   Facebook  |   Indian PR Forum


Gifts & Vouchers – as good as bribing / influencing the journalists

Hi Team,

So from now are we stopping ourselves to pay any gifts or Vouchers to journalists as a Bribe or as an Influencer for a good or a positive story as a TRUE Mr.Hazare’s Supporter?
this is part of our profession?
we understand a souvenir from the brand (eg. logitech launching headphones and giving those headphones as gifts or for reviews, car companies giving scale models, Disney giving small cartoon characters etc…..)

but giving a Big Bazar/Shopper stop Voucher or cash or anything not related to the brand is as good as bribe right??

Nikhil Kashyap

Debatable: What makes a good PR pro: A degree or a journalism background?

Hi All,

Came across this debatable article about what makes a good PR professional, a degree or journalism experience. It is authored by Debra Caruso is president/owner of DJC Communications, a media relations firm in New York City. Please read on the article to know the authors view.

It will also be interesting to know your views on the same. Let us discuss and educate the budding PR professionals on which path they should follow. 


What makes a good PR pro: A degree or a journalism background?

This former journalist (hint, hint) posits four reasons that experience trumps a degree. Do you agree?

By Debra Caruso

3 August 2011

In my experience, I’ve found that the most successful PR people are those who think and act like reporters. Anyone in sales will tell you that you have to know your customer base. For those of us who toil pitching stories to reporters, it certainly helps—and may be imperative—to have the journalistic background that tells how to define a story, write it and present it. PR is sales, and reporters are the customers.

When I was a journalism student at Fordham University, one of my instructors was a news director at a New York City radio station. He told us repeatedly to use the “who cares?” rule to decide which stories to choose for that night’s newscast. Who cares if a guy drove off the George Washington Bridge? Who cares if the price of oil went through the roof today?

The answer to “who cares?” would determine the order of the stories. If more people care about the price of oil than the poor guy who drove off the bridge, then oil is the top story. Journalists know this viscerally. PR people who have never worked in a newsroom may not have that kind of news judgment.

Here’s a quick recap of four key reasons why journalists make the best PR pros. If your department or hiring manager is debating whom to hire—a former journalist versus someone who has never worked the newsroom—offer this list.

 1.   A nose for news will help drive client coverage.

First and foremost, it’s our job as PR pros to advise clients on what stories to send out. We’re successful if we can do this with authority. There’s no use letting a client believe that a ho-hum story will sell; we will only look foolish when we can’t sell it. With a reporter’s nose for news, we know to offer the proper advice. If the client knows our background as journalists, he or she will take it.

 2. Press releases and company/client copy will be more clear, compelling and accurate.

It is likewise with the writing of a news release. Write your release as well as the stories in newspapers (on websites, etc.), and without the back-patting, peddling and verbosity some would include. Releases should also include data to support what’s presented. Who better to write a release than the former journalist who has written a thousand stories, and to whom writing comes naturally? Yes, there may be messaging slipped in and a quote attributed to the client, but a good release will be solid news that a media outlet will be happy to share with readers.

 3. Hit rates for client or company pitches will increase.

A former reporter knows not to call reporters when they are on deadline—harder these days because of around-the-clock-news—and to make it quick. It is best to avoid these phone calls, but if necessary, include only pertinent information.

 4. Media connections will increase and reporter rapport will improve.

Journalists know how to follow a reporter and get to know what topics the person is most likely to report on. Good PR people, like journalists, scour news outlets and read everything they can get their eyes on. They know who’s covering what.

 If PR pros are really good, by the time they make a pitch they are able to offer other interview subjects (even if they don’t represent them) and other angles to a story. Former journalist PR pros think like reporters and do everything in their power to help them put together a piece they can sell to an editor.

 My background is in radio news; I worked on constant deadline in a busy New York City newsroom. I had to interview newsmakers, cut tape, write stories and package a five-minute newscast, often in fewer than 30 minutes.

There is no better training in decision-making, writing, interviewing and presenting. I learned that there was no such answer as “no.” If there was a story that required an interview from a certain politician, that person had to be found. Deadlines were immovable, and there was no excuse for dead air—not even a split second for a pause or misstep.

This is the way it is in PR, especially when working with journalists at major outlets. If you want your clients to be in a story, you have to make the interview happen per the reporter’s deadline. It helps to beat the deadline so the competition doesn’t snag it first.

 There is a potential downside to all of this. Former journalists generally have a number of friends and colleagues working as reporters or editors at the outlets they pitch. Some would say this is an advantage, and they’d be right. But it can also be a disadvantage.

 When we are close to someone, it can be difficult to approach him time and again asking for coverage. We don’t want to damage friendships. For me, this was the most difficult part of the transition from the newsroom to the agency. Though I’ve bitten the bullet hundreds of times to make those pitches, I have winced on many occasions. Having these contacts is helpful, but good businesspeople must be judicious.

 Also, I will admit that there are good public relations programs at some very good universities. I wouldn’t shy away from hiring someone who came to me with a PR degree and the skills described above, but I would prefer a seasoned journalist.

Debra Caruso is president/owner of DJC Communications, a media relations firm in New York City. She is a former reporter and producer for WHN Radio in New York, and former news director at WFUV Radio. A version of this article originally ran on PR Café.

Best Regards,
Richa Seth

PR Consultant
Mob: 9930143531
Email id:
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Survey says… PR firms (still) the no.1 source for journalists

Interesting and heartening read…

US survey says… PR firms (still) the No. 1 source for journalists

By Kevin Allen
A new poll suggests that journalists are increasingly relying on social media for their sources, but it’s still not as influential as PR.

Oriella PR Network polled nearly 500 journalists, and learned that 47 percent are using Twitter (up from 33 percent a year ago) and 35 percent are using Facebook as a source (up from 25 percent a year ago). 

Still, social media isn’t the first thing they’re going to—only 4 percent said they use Twitter, Facebook, or blogs as their first source in researching a story. 

The No. 1 resource that journalists in this study are using for sourcing was PR agencies, with a whopping 62 percent. 

As for the first port of call when researching a news or feature story? PR again! Nearly 22 percent of respondents say their initial stop is a press release. 

One striking stat in the article suggests that journalists are working harder: 


Almost half (45 percent) admitted they have to produce more content and a third (34 percent) work longer hours. However, despite this added pressure, 44 percent of the respondents said they enjoyed their job more, compared with 34 percent in 2010 and just 27 percent in 2009. 

So, keep those press releases coming—apparently they’re still working on many of my colleagues. And don’t be surprised when the number of journalists going to social media first increases to the 70 percent range by this time next year.

Aarif Malik
Mumbai. INDIA.
Cell: +91 9833934002

Of Speak Asia & PR

This story on an alleged scam involving Speak Asia makes a disturbing reading and raises several questions on the functioning of PR agencies.
While Perfect Relations says it snapped its links the moment it got to know about the criminal cases, the issues like doing a through homework about clients, the credentials of their business etc., need to be looked into before PR consultants take on assignments.
There is a very thin line that separates Pr from advocacy.
Request the forum members to share their opinions in the interest of the credibility of the profession.
Thanks & Regards
BNK 24×7
Hand phones: