The public relations industry has been in chaos since the lockdown. We tend to focus on national PR agencies or the agencies in metro cities that have suffered at large. However, PR agencies in the non-metro cities or regional PR agencies who are a large part of our community have also faced the brunt of this global pandemic. They are the backbone of a lot of national agencies that rely on them to represent them in different cities. They often represent multiple agencies with ease. It is a relationship that is based on trust. This community often takes more risks than metro based PR agencies and often on just the basis of a phone call/email for the work.
At Nucleus, we have a strong affiliate market presence in 50+ cities along with 100+ LC1 towns. We work closely with our affiliates to understand the market and develop content for them from our clients that works for them. We work together to succeed together. We spoke to them and decided to share with you their perspective on how they see the market shaping up, the cost of recovery, and lockdown impact.
Rajesh Hingu, Founder of Ahmedabad based SETU Media Management Pvt. Ltd, a well-known agency in Gujarat shares, “We only had 20% of our overall monthly volume of work coming to us and the news was related to COVID or CSR activation by the brands. The biggest challenge in this lockdown has been the financial crunch that brands and metro-based PR agencies have been going through. This has made them step back from PR activation especially in non-metro cities. It has had a direct impact on our revenues and has put us in a tough situation. During the lockdown, we have actively kept in touch with the journalists who are also working from home and have tried to create more engagement through our social media platforms. With a lot of print editions not in action and shutting down of bureau offices it is a challenge for us to achieve press coverage like before. We do hope the lockdown eases up a bit to allow us to get back to work.”
The lockdown has been particularly difficult for Tier 2 market PR agencies as they are heavily dependent on affiliate work and with the brand coffers drying up the domino effect has been huge.
Raju Nikam, Founder of Pune based Maharashtra Media Services & PR Pvt Ltd who is known for his work all over Maharashtra also shared, “During this global pandemic apart from the obvious business impact, the loss of jobs has been immense in the industry. We have however managed to retain all my employees across cities with some smart money management but had to make pay cuts as the business flow was less. I made sure I paid them on time so they could fulfill their needs during this situation. Since the lockdown has eased a bit and the papers are trying to increase their volumes, we have also started getting a few tracking projects slowly. It was a very challenging time for all of us – not only me – but other agencies across the globe and I only hope that we can support each other and survive this situation together.” The loss of business has impacted all of us and the resulting loss of jobs in Tier-II cities has made it difficult for a lot of agencies in these cities to retain staff.
Rajnish Kumar, Founder of Chandigarh based Bingo Media having an extensive network across Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, JK and Ladakh shares, “This lockdown, while a lot of the PR work for entertainment, retail and lifestyle work dried up quickly, healthcare brand PR has seen an upswing. We did some major press releases around COVID and CSR activations along with product launch notes on hygiene products. Clients also understood and acknowledged the challenges faced by the print media and hence we took the focus also on online portals. This lockdown has changed the strategy and ways of working of many brands – we have started seeing more inclination and acceptance towards the digital platforms now. We will also be renewing our focus on the same.” While print is here to stay, digital has seen an uptake in the Tier 1 cities and the trickle-down effect is being seen in Tier 2 & 3 cities and infact in rural markets too. Most of India has chosen to go digital in this lockdown. In fact, both Digital and Print are now going to coexist more comprehensively, and this trend seems to be here to stay.
Rita Jhingran, Founder of Lucknow based Avadh Update Media Management had a different perspective. Her key vertical is entertainment and she told us that “Undoubtedly, there was a dip in business, but we had a continuous flow of information from our clients. Yes, the pages of the newspapers decreased, but we had educated our clients in advance on the scenario. April and May were particularly tough months with regards to revenue. But with television and OTT platforms getting a new lease of life because of the lockdown we expect more business to come in from them in the coming months. Now that things are opening slowly, we are hoping to recover the losses we suffered. We are also making sure that the employees are safe and working from home.”
Sandeep Khedekar, Founder of Indore based Harsh Communications who has a vast network across Madhya Pradesh and few other states as well also added “Managing finances have been a major cause of worry as business has taken a massive hit. Madhya Pradesh is still a very print heavy market. With the reducing of print newspapers, less pages in existing newspapers, less editorial space that can be explored and most covered with only COVID news getting brand visibility is an uphill task. We are now looking at newer ways of evolution as an agency. Though now we see the situation slowly coming back to normal as the papers have started resuming but circulation will be an issue as people are still scared of buying newspapers and maintain social distancing. We will have to wait and watch how things unfold.”
Maintaining the safety of team members and educating clients on the fast-changing media landscape is of paramount importance for all the agencies. With the reduction of editorial space and fewer newspapers, the erstwhile print heavy market all the Tier 2 market agencies now must innovate and find a new way to evolve to not just survive but thrive. Since the situation is uncertain for the foreseeable future and can change at any point, all the agency heads we spoke to are busy expanding their media universes and finding unique and newer ways of communicating a brand message. This will be an interesting time to innovate for them as well as most of the clients are now willing to move on to digital and explore more unique ways of communicating.
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About Nucleus PR
The 12-year old firm has clients across multiple verticals. With an already established presence in 4 major metros, they have successfully created a strong affiliate network across 88 towns across the country via a team of trusted professional experts. With its inclusion in the exclusive and prestigious worldwide collaborative network of PR firms – PRBI Boutiques International, it adds brilliant minds from over 40 agencies across 14 countries to their resource pool. As the first members from the Asian sub-continent, they represent the entire region in the prestigious international PR network. Their current portfolio includes entertainment, lifestyle, media, hospitality and corporate clients across MNCs, SMEs, and Startups.