Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Evolution of the PR trainee & executive's role...

Over the last decade I've seen the role of the junior most trainees and executives in PR change substantially. The first rung in the ladder in the years of yore of the PR profession would start with the mundane task of cutting, pasting & filing news clippings for clients and their competition.

The agency would typically reason that since this was the most essential grounding that any PR professional needed, the longer they spent time in this task, the better the professional's media knowledge and understanding would be honed. This was also the time when the executive was to 'observe' all other activities and get a feel for media relations, client servicing and reporting.

The other task the junior executives were assigned was to do with reporting. An onerous task at one point, where each of the clipping details had to be painstakingly entered into an excel file with the headline including title, page, journalist and size. Often the poor executive would spend 3 to 4 days per report and if there were 3 or 4 clients, the whole month would be consumed.

The junior executives who were smarter got some better work too. They would be asked to scout for events relevant to specific clients so that that could be presented in the monthly reviews. If the executive was presentable (and not looking like a teenager!), they may be invited for some client meetings as a reward for their hard work.

While life has changed for a few agencies over the years, many antiquated PR agencies still make the junior (and sometimes the senior executives as well) clip and source the media clippings. Many a client servicing executive would remember when they've been asked to get up at 7:00 am to sms the list of appearances to clients.

For the fortunate few, there are some extremely high-end technology services (like bluebytes for instance - see www.bluebytes.info) available to PR agencies which not only take away the mundane work of news clippings, but also provide potent information in the hands of the executive to be able to do some real consultancy.

Services such as bluebytes cover over 450 print publications across the country to give you client, competition and industry news by email and through proprietary search engines. Not only does it cover print, but it also covers all major online media. Today many PR agencies are already outsourcing their media monitoring to ensure more effective work to be extracted from their executivies.

It would be a crime to waste the time of any executive (junior or senior) to spend time monitoring publications and reading papers to search for client and competition articles.(Whereas they should read the publications to understand them better of course!) The same is true for scanning for events as well. There are many such services available that track all potential events for clients as well.

So, for the PR executive to graduate in role, PR agencies should graduate in mindset. They need to begin to use modern technology to do the mundane, and let the intellect be used for true consultancy. In fact, if one were to follow Gandhi's maxim of 'become the change you want to see'; the only way PR executives will be able to drive their own future is by choosing to work in agencies which only use technology for all clippings and event scanning.

If they do not make the right choice of agency the first few years of the executive starting his or her career are sure to be completely wasted in the antiquated agencies.