Public Relations: A Career Choice

I was thinking about issues to write in PR education when this question struck me “How do people make the choice of pursuing a career in public relations?” Is it accidental or a well thought off option? If it is accidental then how was the experience of entering this profession? If it is by choice, do you regret it? Or you are happy and comfortable in this profession and would love to grow in this job.

These questions popped into my head, as this is something I ask a candidate planning to join this course. Sometimes I have been told by these candidates that we have had public relations as a subject and advertising as a specialisation while pursuing their graduation, so I would like to do this course. Or there will be some working professionals saying that it helps in promotion so they would like to do this course. Or yet others, simply decided to plunge into a new field. Like I have had candidates, who have done a graduation in Economics and who would like to join Public Relations at the Master level.

So these choices are tough. Either if you have simply come to into this profession either with a journalist, marketing, administration background without any academic knowledge in this subject or you are a student with or without previous knowledge of this subject in his/her graduation or post-graduation tenure.

But I am sure all of you would agree this is one subject which is still gaining recognition, at least in India, and it is definitely not something you dreamt of becoming, when you were a child. Cannot blame you, you didn’t know, that it existed or what it was.

So I am sure whatever the reason of the plunge into this profession it would be great to share your experience in this field whether as a student or as a practitioner as to how has your journey has been? Would you like to add your bit to make this journey for you and for others a better one? So that hopefully a child tomorrow may dream of becoming a public relations practitioner, the way h/she dreams of being in other professions.

Would love to know your views.

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3 comments on “Public Relations: A Career Choice

  1. Dear Ms. Meenakshi,
    To answer your question as “How do people make the choice of pursuing a career in Public Relations?” I will have to roll back a few years. I apologise in advance to take this platform to vent out my frustration.
    I finished my engineering (Computer Sciences) in 2007 and had a few backlogs to deal with. To make best use of the time, I joined a local NGO for a Computer Literacy Program. The objective was to raise awareness and generate some buzz about the program so that the local population is sensitized and parents encourage their children to enroll for the program. We tried putting up posters and distributing pamphlets of the program in addition to a many more activities but the response was very poor. Accidently, I met a religious leader who used to go to many homes to teach the children. I explained to him in detail about the program and our vision behind starting it. I was able to convince him and he in-turn presented my case to the parents. The results were positive and slowly but surely our program gathered momentum. The project lasted for 2 years and the success can gauged from the fact that about 240 students got certification for basic level of Computer fundamentals.
    At the end of the project , the Chairman of our NGO asked about my future plans and I told him that I wanted to go for MBA. He probed further and asked what specialization will I opt for. I had no clue, may be finance or IT. He suggested that I should do something in PR. I was surprised at hearing PR. “What is that?” I asked. He smiled at me and said “ All that you have been doing for last two years. Find a Post graduate course in PR, get polished and you surely will go a long way”. I still was not convinced but I started to explore the PR domain. More I read, more interested I became. By November I was convinced that Communications is a domain for me. I had shortlisted a few leading institutes and applied for them. By April I had qualified the entrance exam and was raring to go for MBA in Communications Management with specialization in PR from one of the premier institutes in India. One question that I still remember from my interview that I would like to share. “ Where do you see yourself five years from now?”. A part of top level management of Corporate Communications in an IT firm, I replied and I meant it.
    The course started in June 2010 and slowly reality started to set in. “You don’t get paid well in PR”, “You have to start at entry level in PR”, “Your previous experience doesn’t matter in PR” became the daily verses. I did my first internship with an International NGO and second internship with a PR agency in Bangalore. Both the experiences were enlightening, to say the least. I learnt a lot but also realized that I have a lot to offer but unfortunately scope to do things is just limited to column-centimeters. By the time we finished 3rd semester in October 2011, placements were on top-of-the-mind and lack of ‘acceptable’ offers had made things a bit desperate. By March, most of the batch had been placed and still was looking for that ‘One’ good offer. It is not that I wasn’t shortlisted but the fact that my expectations were on the higher side. Leading PR agencies came for placements but offered in the range of 2.4- 3.0L and entry level positions, both which were not acceptable. My previous experience with NGO as Program Coordinator was nullified. By end of March, I had no option but to disappointingly accept an offer of 3.6 L at an entry level position in a mid-sized corporate.
    Six months down the line, I still am the same level. Many of my batch mates from college who specialized in PR have left the profile and have moved to marketing or Sales and I AM JUST A FEW DAYS AWAY FROM DOING THE SAME. I have introspected a lot and talked to many people, both from PR and non-PR background, and I have concluded that for evolution of PR in India, PR needs a change of guard. I know I am making big statements and might hurt a few ego’s as well but I am convinced on what I am saying and I have a rationale to back my arguments.
    Elaborating on what I said above. PR in India is still evolving and so is PR education. People handling the PR profiles across organisations, be it PR firms or Corporate Communications departments in Corporates, generally come from journalism background and most of them don’t have any formal education in PR. They have risen through the ranks which makes them believe that PR can only be learned through experience. Generally a Corporate Communications-Head in a corporate has spent close to 10-12 years in PR agency. He / She can’t imagine a person with advanced degree and skill set can reach their place in much lesser time. To support my conviction, students pursuing MBA in Marketing from the same university as mine, were offered mid-level management positions in leading organisations. Having spent two years with them and analyzing the course curriculum I didn’t find any reason for us not being able to fit into mid-level management profiles in Corporate Communications, other than the mind set of people heading these divisions.
    To answer your question directly, I chose PR after a lot of research but unfortunately I didn’t find anything about the mindset of the people running PR firms. A person with two years of work-experience and a Master’s degree starts his/ her career in PR at the same level at the same salary as a graduate in any specialization with no experience. I don’t know of any field where the same happens. Ironical but true!
    My advise to people who want to pursue advanced degree in PR would be to join a PR agency instead. They will pay you around 2.4 L and in two years (duration of master’s) you will have two years of work-experience with a package of around 4.5L (after master’s your pay would still be 2.4 to 3.0). Decide for yourself.
    I apologise again for venting it out and being very rude. But this is my point of view and I believe that if PR in India has to evolve and move away from just being Column-Centimeter centric, fresh talent has to come in and as they say “ Nothing comes for free”
    “Nikalna khuld se aadam ka sunte aaye hain lekin
    Bahut be-aabru hokar tere kuuche se hum nikle”

    • Dear Anonymous
      I cannot even imagine the ordeal you have been through.But I guess you have been tough and have dared to venture into an area which is as you have put it is developing and has a long way to go. Public Relations will take long time to grow in India as long as we don’t consider customer/consumer feedback.seriously.period.Hope the future has something better in store for you. All the best.

  2. Hi
    I did my graduation a year ago and now I have plans to pursue my post graduation in PR and corporate Image building? Can anyone guide or suggest me which institute should I apply in?

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