#10YearChallenge: Overcoming the Old-Dog Challenge

By Gulshan Kaur Batra, Consulting Associate

Social media is currently trending the #10yearchallenge. You put up your current picture vis-à-vis your picture 10 years ago and let all be amazed with the drastic change in you. So cute!

Well, wish all challenges were so cute and simple in nature. But real life, especially your professional life will have a platter full of challenges in such tenure, which can leave you lost.

 Let me help explain this with a scenario.

So being a graduate in BMM (Bachelor of Mass Media), I conveniently started my journey into Public Relations 10 years ago happily learning, executing, dealing with challenges and growing at every phase. Changed multiple agencies, worked on clients in different sectors, and Holla! That’s enough for you to be termed as an ‘experienced professional’ in this industry. But never did I realise when this term ‘PR’ turned into ‘Communications’ (#Challenge1); and when did the definition of good media visibility move away from the coverage in the print copies of the Times of India, Economic Times, to Digital (#Challenge2).

The role of public relations professionals was confined to bridging the gap between media and their clients. They acted as mediators, of course meaningful ones, who ensured their clients’ work gets published and garners good media visibility. More the number of impressions, happier were the clients and thus the agencies. However, with the advent of digital media, the mediums grew beyond traditional publications and thus communication evolved. Storytelling was no longer one sided, but enabled two-way conversations, which led to the challenge of dealing with both, overall ‘communication’ as well as ‘digital’ media.

No doubt, digital media played a part in every individual’s life, over the years. But in no time, it started to hold a powerful position in every brand’s life too. Surprisingly, these are the same platforms that once enabled individuals to connect with each other, talk their heart out with random conversations; have suddenly turned thought-driven. Conversations still occur and the number is only rising, but there is a deep meaning and purpose behind every message out there. Such was the case only in very few traditional media, until a few years ago.

Agencies are evolving. Earlier termed as a PR agency, they now have a division for Social Media too. However, more often than not, as seasoned professionals in traditional PR, we tend to do our media bit and leave the latter half for social media experts. Our mind is usually stuck in the same old rat race – how many coverages did we achieve? But never did we try and think beyond – how many lives did we impact? How many conversations did we create? How much value did we achieve for our clients?

So, does that mean traditional media has no value? Definitely, not! It is still equally important. In fact, it is the strongest base of our communication tools. But how can we add relevance to the same old-school process, is what we need to quickly adapt to. And this cannot be achieved in isolation. High time, the industry realizes, the integration of both PR & digital, with a 360-degree approach can only add value to the client’s communication and business objectives.

Until my stint with Ideosphere Consulting, I never realized we can actually think beyond the mediums of communication I first started my journey with. Now working as a part of an integrated agency, who constantly thinks of providing value to clients, beyond coverage, I began to fumble and question myself, ‘what had I been doing for years?’ I realised what I did was just one part of communication and time is now demanding to look beyond. I am facing this challenge, and I am glad I did, before I could have literally felt outdated and irrelevant in the next #5yearchallenge. Today, I am the proud (and slightly lost) owner of my own Instagram account, I know how to #hashtag, and slowly, I find myself thinking about platforms I would have laughed off as silly, a few years ago. The thing is, this is where the people are, and so we must also join them. If you don’t, how can you aim to build meaningful, insight-driven, measurable conversations with them?

So, to all the traditional PR experts out there, it is time we start thinking as ‘consumers first’ to understand how we ourselves connect with a brand through multiple mediums. Similar outlook can help us chalk out effective communication strategies for our clients, helping them stand out in the clutter.

Let our skills not be outdated with time. Let’s embrace this challenge and club the expertise of both, traditional + digital communication, to be termed as real professionals of the communication industry.

And yes, this is not the end of this game. ‘Marketing Communications’ is already opening doors to adapt to a much larger horizon of communication – PR + Digital + Advertising + Marketing. Let us all gear up to meet the new age demands, constantly challenging today for a better and evolved tomorrow.