Masterstroke Interview with Mr Ashish Jalan- Director and CEO, Concept PR

Mr Ashish Jalan- Director & CEO, Concept PR
Mr Ashish Jalan- Director & CEO, Concept PR

This time in our Masterstroke Interviews, we bring to a veteran of the Indian PR
Industry Mr Ashish Jalan – Director & CEO, Concept PR. Vikypedia.in had an opportunity to have a discussion with Ashish Jalan about the current trends and the future of Indian PR industry, excerpts of the interview given below:

1. Tell us about yourself and the exciting journey you have had over the years in the field of Public Relations?
I would have loved to tell you that I had planned my career in this exciting field of Public Relations, but the truth is that I was entrusted this responsibility when the erstwhile CEO decided to move on. I used to be the CEO of Concept Communications, the advertising arm of the group. But yes, the journey has been very fulfilling and the growth of the organisation has been exponential both organically and inorganically. From a small team of 15 people and a handful of clients, now we are more than 200 professionals servicing around 100 plus clients. We have added different verticals regularly, from being just a corporate and finance PR firm to real estate and infrastructure, education beat, sports, technology, health care, brand communication, investor relations to media analytics – the entire gamut.

2. Where do you see the Indian PR industry heading in the next 5 years?
The primary change that has happened in the past five years, which will continue, is the perception of PR industry. Corporates have understood the significance and the need of a good PR strategy and campaign, and have started valuing the importance of PR professionals. Hence, from just a press release dissemination agency, a PR agency is now looked upon as experts who can add tremendous value with the right communication. This communication has to be holistic covering all platforms – print, electronic and digital. To me this is going to be the most significant change in the next 5 years – the PR industry will be expected to deliver comprehensive and holistic solutions rather than vanilla coverage expectations.

3. What are the new trends/innovations shaping the PR industry?
I think 3 things have clearly emerged within the PR industry
a. PR professionals playing the role of consultants and offering holistic solutions
b. Increasing use of the digital platform – social media, blogs, newswires, forums
c. Media Analytics to strategise the PR campaign as well as measure the success of the same

4. What according to you are the biggest challenges today facing PR businesses? And what solutions you would propose to combat them?
Availability of skilled personnel, according to me has become a serious challenge. With the rapid growth of the industry, this is a concern and increasing awareness of this industry amongst the youth is the need of the hour. Secondly, intelligent content creation is also a challenge. The ability to write as well as the ability to do meaningful and relevant research to create the interesting materialis imperative to the PR industry. And finally, the expectation setting with the clients both in terms of deliverables and the turnaround time is important. Increasing competition has led to this; the agencies need to put their foot down which would result in quality work rather than just finishing work.

5. What makes Concept PR uniquely different from other agencies in India?
Our focus on deliverables. This is our USP. We have a system of committing to minimum deliverablelevel, measured on a quarterly basis, and an internal system of measuring the delivery on a monthly basis. This helps us to take corrective action at an early stage.

6. Do you have any minimum criteria of selecting a client?
Our only criteria in selecting a client,is to see where we can have a long term relationship. Our focus is to have clients who are long term players and then the endeavour is to retain them. Today I can proudly say that we have corporates who have been our clients for over a decade and this in the PR world is a rarity.

7. Can you share with us some interesting PR campaign that Concept PR has carried out for a client?
There are a lot of instances but the two that are top of the mind is the campaign carried out for IDBI Federal and for Campa Cola Compound. Incidentally, we won awards for both these. I must also add the campaign for the International Premier Tennis League, this was a campaign which spanned four countries across 6 weeks and the result was there for everyone to see.

8. What does Concept PR do to keep their employees happy and motivated?
This is an area wherein we need to really step up our efforts. Though we have been doing the regular training programs, team building activities, off sites, celebration of festivals, but I believe this is an area we really need to learn from the multinational agencies. I can only say that this is the focus of the management in the coming year.

9. How are you tackling the current issue of skilled talent?
Like I mentioned earlier, this is a challenge being faced by the entire industry. We are actively participating in on campus recruitment, this helps in two ways; it helps us hire academically qualified professionals and also helps to spread awareness of the PR industry itself. Secondly, we have an in house training program with a focus on improving the writing skills of the employees. This entire program is supervised by B N Kumar himself, a veteran in our industry.

10. What are the key skills that you think the PR professionals will need to acquire to stay relevant in the industry?
The ability to adapt oneself in this dynamic world is very important to stay relevant in any industry and the same applies for the PR industry too. But specifically for this industry if I have to point at one skill set that the professional will need to acquire is a keen understanding of the online world. Any PR campaign is incomplete without a digital presence. And this relevance of the digital platform is only going to grow further.

11. What advice will you give to youngsters planning to enter the profession?
There is no substitute to hard work, but work smart is equally critical. In this era of communication and smart phones, expected response time has shrunk. Everything has become instant. But my serious advice would be to also have a personal life, pursue a hobby that will be the stress buster, else a burnout could take away quite a few years of your working life.

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