From Bollywood to Boston – One Globe Trotter’s Adventures in PR

By Puneet Sandhu (@puneet86)

At the beginning of 2008, I was on the other side of the world, pretty content with my life at home in Delhi, India. By fall, I was on a plane that would get me to Boston—my first international flight, and one that would kick off my new life here in the United States. And it all revolved around one thing: public relations.

A large part of my experience with PR in India involved growing up under a father who practiced it—and got it right. But when I started doing internships, I saw that, for the most part, the Indian PR industry was years behind U.S. PR. And my judgment was based on what I had seen my father do, and any books on the subject that I found only in the one bookstore that was known for selling rare books.

But that wasn’t the only thing that was different about PR in India. Now that I have been here two years, and have a sense of the PR industry back home thanks to my family, I have more clarity on some of the essential differences. Of course, these are all generalizations but here are the major differences between India PR and American PR, in my opinion:

  • There is NO “Cision.” Yup, you read that right. Even with this very helpful tool, PR is hard enough to do, but a lot of the work I did on this front in India was done manually. I would call each publication on a list and try to figure out the most appropriate contact. Of course, that also increases your chances of hostile conversations with the outlet, of which I have had more than my fair share. More on that below!
  • Media hostility. That’s a big one. A lot of countries, including India, lack a thorough understanding of what PR does, and it seems to have earned a reputation for being “shady and deceptive” (– words spoken by none other than a senior faculty member who taught me…communications. Sad, I know). This does carry over into the media circle, which is sometimes annoyed by our kind J. The result: more media-PR friction than you witness here in the U.S.
  • Press releases. Back home, I would first email the press release to my media contact, and then I would follow up regarding whether or not they would carry it. What we do here is the reverse: we try to get them interested in a briefing, and then supply a release. This is the biggest illustrator of how PR follows a two-way communication model (remember that from school, anyone?) in the U.S., but in a lot of PR markets that are still catching up, there seems to be a one-way flow.
  • Press conferences. This is changing, but what I’ve seen a lot of agencies in India do is call press conferences, whether or not their announcement warrants it, regardless of the type/size/reputation of the client they represent. Now that 24/7 news cycles and vicious competition have become the norm in Indian media, PR pros understand that no one has time to come to a press conference for your health clinic client, launching a new cream (Yes, I attended that).

These are just some of the differences that I have come across in my time here, at school and at work. While even in the U.S., we have lots more to do to help shape the future of PR, it is safe to say that this country’s industry remains a good example to learn from for currently developing markets.

Someday, I’ll make it back home. And I’m going to take Cision with me. 🙂

And, because I can’t author a post on India without it, here is one of my favorite Bollywood videos, for your enjoyment!

3 Responses to “From Bollywood to Boston – One Globe Trotter’s Adventures in PR”

  1. 1 Heidi Sullivan September 24, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    What interesting observations, Puneet! It always surprises me how the practice of PR differs around the world – and it will be interesting to see if regional differeces wane in the future as the Internet continues to globalize our communications more and more every day.

    Delighted to hear how useful Cision has been to your PR efforts.

    My bags are packed, so just let me know when we’re headed to India! 🙂

    -Heidi Sullivan, VP, Media Research, Cision North America

  2. 2 Shruti Vashist September 28, 2010 at 9:12 am

    “no one has time to come to a press conference for your health clinic client, launching a new cream (Yes, I attended that)”… hahaha.. I attended something similar too! But Katrina Kaif had come to launch it 😛 Looks like you are all set to manage your own firm, woman 😀 As an ex-journo I would love PROs like you :*

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