Traversing through a massive global crisis like this was never a part of any business contingency plan. PR industry being largely dependent on the brands and events was made to face a unique challenge; it was not just about survival but about maintaining its vitality in a crisis like this.
The industry was predicted to grow 12% and touch Rs 1,600 crore in FY19, as per the fourth ‘State of the Industry Survey 2019’ by the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI). Only two months went down the year 2020, and nearly all countries suffered from the malignant Coronavirus. PR agencies were made to face the brunt of retracting retainers, canceled events, and withdrawn brand tie-ups. Working with real estate clients kept us on our toes, as real estate firms propel by a trust. Crises situations like these are a clarion call to revisit yearly plans and alter them as per the current market sentiments.
The complete lockdown made the world go on a snooze mode, staying relevant in media without talking about sales and expansion was opposite to already laid out PR strategies. Having a varied clientele in real estate from luxury, mid-segment affordable housing to retail and office spaces; the challenge was to offer innovative and sustaining media plans that will help them sail through this crisis seamlessly. As real estate touches people’s lives by helping them in realizing their dream of owning a real estate asset, it needed to remain in touch with people during this pandemic and assure them the sector is still working towards their dreams.
Creating right news
The biggest hurdle was the fact that outbound activities like press conferences, project launches, felicitations, media interactions, project visits were not an option anymore. When the entire media universe was reporting about just one thing, it was a unique challenge to create news peg for the clients that ensures the right positioning on relevant media platforms. News pegs were designed in sync with the overall environment of the country and modeled to portray real estate clients not only as thought leaders but also to reinstate their legacy in the business.
It was also the time when digital platforms saw a multifold increase in the number of visitors as there was the near absence of print options for the readers, the opportunity was utilized by us to provide them as much digital footprint as possible. One such successful attempt by us was the Realty Webseries, which was our attempt to go big in terms of digital positioning for all our real estate clients. It was a prestigious platform conceptualised by us (ICCPL) in collaboration with Realty & More, India’s leading Real Estate magazine. The webseries was an array of webinars hosted with sector’s stalwarts from RERA, WTO, CREDAI, reputed developers, and journalists along with other stakeholders. The series showcased discussions and sessions by industry experts, policymakers, and other dignitaries on varied topics like market mapping, insights, industry reports, and government’s relief policies introduced. The series was live-streamed on our Facebook channel and it garnered coverage in leading national publications and views up to 50k; the webseries saw close to 1000 registrations on Zoom and hundreds of viewer questions pouring on our feeds during and after the live session for our panel of experts. (https://www.facebook.com/107048249362282/posts/3079037505496660/)
The lockdown period has been daunting, where several businesses could not survive the cruel stroke of the pandemic. The PR agencies that sailed through it have established themselves as stronger than ever in the business, which even helped them in acquiring new clients post lockdown. A positive word of mouth from reputed clients has more power than a creative business pitch.
It is a mixed bag of feelings when we look back at our ventures and meetings during the lockdown. Each client that stood with us knew the role and significance of PR during unprecedented times like this but still needed something over the top. We are glad that such demands were made, as it pushed us to breakthrough our set boundaries and discover new facets of communication, expanded our horizon of media relations, and made us realize that perseverance saves the day.
The cooperation and support from my team made the times less intimidating and more embracing. Trials and tribulations were there but strong media relations, having a knack for core news values, flexibility to adapt with the changing paradigm, were some of the beginning steps that brought us this far, as we are about to complete 9 years in the business of Public Relations. As we trace our journey over these years, one thing is crystal clear that the role of PR is not just for initiating sales and promotion. Our attempt always remains to build the brand and create a niche for it in the market.
Authored by Mr. Dushyant Sinha, Founder Director, ICCPL