Thursday, 21 April 2011

Why I love working in PR ?

Most people often curiously ask me what it means to work in PR.  What background or specialisation is needed?   I respond by saying that anyone with a keen interest in communications and open mind can work in PR. For us the sky is the limit and in-depth knowledge about a range of subjects is a real asset.

The public relations industry has been in the heart of the capitalistic structure in most democracies from the early days of 20th century.  The birth of the industry is often associated with ‘yellow journalism’- a spinoff, when the bosses of America’s coal mining hobnobbed with the press to get their point heard to score over the staunch trade unions, which repeatedly went on strike.

However, since then the industry has grown rapidly and has been a driver of media relations for businesses and governments.  A report in the Economist last year said “PR Man has conquered the world. He still isn’t satisfied.” This clearly shows the role of PR in the modern world and its future prospect.

The outburst of social networking sites and the globalisation has added new value and glamour to the industry. Today the issue is not about telling your story to the public in one way communication but it is more about engagement with the global population.

But coming back to the question of what is so exciting about being a PR man. As professionals we work in an industry that draws talent from all sorts of background. We use our knowledge and experiences to work with our clients to ensure that their messages reach the right audience. Part of this comes from our experience, flexibility and diversity of our team, which constantly allows us to enter new sectors and markets.  For example my present company is made up of people who have great experience of  the event industry and international affairs. And as and a team of globe trotters, we have great understanding of the travel and hospitality industry. Our passion for cultures and global affairs helps us to understand the emerging markets.

A PR career requires flexibility and adaptability.We are not defined by geographical boundaries. We love to embrace the world, analyse the requirement of our clients and the need of the audience to deliver credible creative messages. There is another beauty of the PR world, given the diversity of work we do, everyday is a new day at work.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Students and immigration: where is Britain going wrong?

I strongly agree with David Cameron’s view that immigrants that wish to live in the UK should at least be able to speak English.  I feel that unless a person speaks the language of the adopted country, his prospects of making economic contribution are very limited.  What I also find annoying is that while there is hue and cry over net immigration (which I think is a legitimate concern,), why doesn't Britain tap the best talents from its large pool of international graduates to fill the high skilled jobs?
I came to the UK to do my post graduate studies in Scotland. I am now working as a reputation executive in a public relations agency.  Throughout my stay in the UK, immigration has been a heated political topic. When I was in the university, I was often asked by many outside the university if I ever wanted to go back to my country. I was disappointed and felt I wasn’t welcome here. I had come to the UK in the pursuit of a successful global career. I was paying an astronomical fee for my university degree. I also had to meet number of educational and financial criteria to be able to qualify for my chosen programme and to get a student visa. 

Most people in the UK are not aware that the British universities themselves abuse the admission process.  They aggressively market themselves  hand in glove with greedy overseas agents and admit students to some courses on their ability to pay the tuition fees. In my university, majority of the foreign students were Chinese, and their standard of English was exceptionally low. It amused me to see that they still managed to pass the exams. I quickly realised that British universities had two groups of foreign students: one, who are really serious about their career and second, wealthy students who made it to the university because they were paying a lot of money, and in some instances, couldn’t make it to a good university in their own country.

When I got into the job market in the UK, I not only had to compete with the best students but had to demonstrate strong skills and knowledge across a wide range of areas. Obviously my past experiences and the UK degree allowed me to have a strong understanding of the British culture and the media environment. The point that I want to make is that international graduates who manage to get good jobs in the UK are already integrated with the mainstream society. The competitive job market naturally puts in place a system that only allows the best candidates to get through. Most of them have a cosmopolitan outlook and look for a career in major global cities because they want to plug into the global network in whatever profession they are in. International students are an asset to Britain, and are least of concerns on the issues raised by David Cameron in his first major speech on immigration last week.

If there is an abuse of students’ visas, it is the universities, overseas visa offices and the lack of laws to monitor the system that are to be blamed. Britain should allow foreign students in the country not on their ability to pay fees alone, but it should put in place a mechanism that allows genuine and serious students to get in. For this to happen, the universities have to tighten the admission process and the government needs to give bright graduates a scope to grow and work by putting in a place  a rational income and other eligibility criteria.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Why winning the cricket world cup means so much for India?

Like all Indians, I was elated to see India win the Cricket World Cup in Mumbai. I caught up with the final moments of the match on a terribly slow and scrambled  live stream on the internet. Writing from a serene evening here in England, where it won the cup for the first time at Lords 28 years ago, I can well imagine the euphoria and the pompous celebrations that must be sweeping across India.
Ever since India first won the world cup in 1983, cricket in India assumed a quasi-religious status.  Like most members of India’s winning squad, a vast majority of India’s massive young population were not even born when it first lifted the world cup. However, they grew up in an era, where cricket became the heart and soul of India’s public consciousness, serving as a unifying force in a vast and culturally diverse country. It is in cricket that ordinary Indians from different regions and backgrounds find a common language and also respite from the hardships of daily life.
Cricket’s rise as the most popular sport in India was also propelled by the economic forces. As India liberalised its economy in the early 1990s, the inflow of multinationals were quick to cash in on cricket by promoting a culture of endorsements. Soon cricketers became glamorous figures, equated with or even considered taller than Bollywood stars, endorsing almost every product. The brilliant advertisements involving cricketers that littered the then India’s evolving satellite media landscape appealed to the masses, and to become a cricketer became a dream of every child.
In many ways, cricket in India is a symbol of the country's emergence as an economic power.  It metaphorically reflects India’s growing wealth. The multi - billion dollar Indian Premier League is an example of that. During this period, India also produced the greatest batsman in the history of the game, Sachin Tendulkar. One reason  why this tournament meant so much to Indians is because everyone wanted to see India lift the cup while Tendulkar was presumably playing his last world cup. Sachin Tendulkar in India is almost a mythical figure, who not only entertains the fans with the willow, but in a country that is often beleaguered by high level scandals and corruption, he serves as an inspirational role model for millions for exemplifying  exceptional humility and integrity in public life.
The cricket saga in India will continue for years to come, but it is difficult to predict if it will be characterised by the same hysteria. This victory for India goes beyond the boundaries of sport. For the last two decades, cricket with all its glitz and glamour became almost a pulsating force of the nation so much so that the national passion for the game and the expectations from its team to win another world cup almost reached a tipping point. This is the first major international tournament India has won in a generation, and for Indians it is a matter of immense pride. The triumph is a momentous occasion, but it could also be the beginning of a new era of renewed confidence of a young and fast growing nation determined to be a force to be reckon with in the 21st century.