Exchange4media

The fee structure is difficult to address. When people promise too much for too little money, it will fail. The problem does not solve itself. It is a fiercely competitive market out there and price undercutting is rampant. Unfortunately, there is no policing system in place. In that sense, India is the toughest place to do business in.

 

Anthony B M Good, popularly known as Tony or Tony Good, brings with him over 40 years of industry experience. Good has extensive experience in the Automotive & Aviation sectors, having worked with Silver City Airways Ltd and Air Holdings Ltd (British Caledonian Airways). Subsequently he moved on to set up Good Relations (late Good Relations Group Plc – the first public relations company to be listed on London Stock Exchange), whose portfolio of clients included Laker and British Airways.

Good has an in-depth knowledge of India, which goes back to the ’70s when as PR advisor to Grindlays Bank he played a strategic role in the incorporation of Cox & Kings. It was during this time, that Good Relations was awarded the mandate for turning this travel company into a leading tour operator to India. He was then appointed to the Board of Cox & Kings, and took over as Chairman in 1980. He serves as the Chairman of Cox & Kings, UK & India, Good Relations India and Good Consultancy Ltd, UK. He acts as a strategic advisor to the Board Members of Marks & Spencer’s and Scottish & Newcastle, amongst others. He is also a Director on the Board of the UK India Business Council (UKIBC).

In conversation with exchange4media’s Shanta Saikia, Good traces Good Relations’ long history, the evolution of the PR industry in India, opportunities and threats for the industry and more…

 

Q. Congratulations! What does the Lifetime Achievement Award conferred on you by the PRCI mean to you?
I feel very honoured on receiving this Award. It is a recognition of what I have achieved in my over 40 years in the industry. During this time I have seen the industry evolve and grow to be what it is today. I would say I was at the right place and at the right time when I entered the field of public relations.

Q. When and how did your association with public relations begin?
I started out as a management trainee with Distillers Group (now Diageo). I also had a spell in journalism and spent five years with the then largest independent airline group, starting as a Public Relations Officer and ending up with a group marketing role.

I have always believed in recognising an opportunity and seizing it. So, I set up Good Relations in the UK in 1961. At that time PR was an emerging discipline. For the government ministries, the PR was mostly handled by the PR departments. In the corporate sector, PR was either done in-house or by the PR departments of large ad agencies. So the opportunity was there for independent PR firms.

As for my India association, it began in 1970 when Grindlays Bank bought Cox & Kings Ltd. At that time I was PR advisor to Grindlays Bank. It was during this time that Good Relations was awarded the mandate for turning this travel company into a leading tour operator to India. I was appointed to the Board of Cox & Kings, and took over as Chairman in 1980.

Good Relations started its India operations in 1988. When we began our operations here, the situation was quite similar to what it was in the UK when I had started out there. So I had the advantage of being down that road before. The objective was to have a company that would be recognised as professional with high corporate standards. Maintain integrity in relationship with the media and integrity of the clients, as well as have trained professionals on board.

Q. How much is the PR industry in India worth? An estimate by the Associated Chambers of Commerce & Industry pegs the size at Rs 27,000 crore or $6 billion. But industry experts peg that figure far below at Rs 700-800 crore or about $140 million.
We can’t even attempt to guess the size of the industry. There is no accuracy in the figures floating around. Agencies do not reveal any figures, corporate will also not reveal any figures.

Q. One major area of contention for the PR industry has been the fee structure, rather the low fee structure. How is the industry addressing this issue? What do you think can be done to bring it to realistic levels?

The fee structure is difficult to address. When people promise too much for too little money, it will fail. The problem does not solve itself. It is a fiercely competitive market out there and price undercutting is rampant. Unfortunately, there is no policing system in place. In that sense, India is the toughest place to do business in.

We do not believe in indulging in such practices. When we approach a client, we quote say X amount, but the client may not agree to that amount and quote Y amount. In such a scenario, we ask the client to review our work say after three months and review the fees. The client, seeing the work that we have done, invariably agrees to our fee terms.

We prefer getting the best people in the business and getting the best work out of them. PR industry is a very price competitive one. And yes, there is a minority of clients who say that if not you then someone else.

Q. How does the Indian PR industry fare when compared to the global PR industry?

Development in India is very much similar to that in other parts of the world. Having had a long association with India, I can say that work ethics in this country are very high. The PR industry in India is professional and my time spent here has been extremely rewarding.

Q. What are the major challenges facing the PR industry today?

The major challenge facing this industry is manpower at a price that is affordable. If the client is genuine, he will review the remuneration from time to time. More and more companies need to realise that PR has an important role to play in managing their reputations and their businesses. At Good Relations, we address the manpower crunch by incentivising our staff to help bring more talent and business too. We take various measures to create greater job satisfaction. After all, no one wants to work for a press release factory.

Q. Where do the growth opportunities lie?

So many businesses in India are family-controlled. While the older generation has its own way of functioning, the younger generation is more open to new ideas, are more educated, widely travelled and more cognizant. It is this generation that is more open to bringing on board professional PR people. They are changing the way business functions here.

Q. What kind of opportunities is social media providing the PR industry?

Social media itself is undergoing transformation. There is use and sometimes abuse of social media. It is undoubtedly a fast developing area of media. Today, social media has become a priority, because it is on real time basis. There are various publics on social media who are saying various things about your company, your brands. And you need to keep tab on the conversations that are happening – both positive and negative. For us PR professionals this is very important as we need to address any negative criticisms on a real time basis, after all we manage reputations. So I would say ignore social media at your own peril.

Q. What makes for a skilled PR professional in today’s business scenario?

First and foremost, a good PR professional needs to understand the client’s business and also understand the media. He/ she needs to be a bridge between the client and media, provide the correct information, as well as advise the client on the right business practices.

PR professionals also need to be good learners, even better listeners and good at blending. And it always helps if they have a good personality.

Q. What has been Good Relations growth like in the last five years – globally and in India?

Good Relations has been doing quite well in India. Making its way in India in 1988, Good Relations India has been a pioneer of sorts when it comes to the Indian public relations scene. Since then, not only has the agency witnessed the evolution of public relations in India, but has also played an important role in giving PR the face it has today.

The major client wins for 2011-12 are Ajuba Solutions India Pvt Ltd, Aspentech - Priority Consultants, Baskin Robbins, Consulate General of Israel, Etihad Airways Ltd, Kamla Retail Ltd (Ethos), Multicolour Projects India Ltd, Divine Solitaires, Startrek Logistics Pvt Ltd, TimesofMoney, Suzlon – Maharashtra & Kerala, The Lalit Ashok, Communicate 2, Zee Learn Ltd, Cabot India Ltd, BC Expo India Pvt Ltd, MMI India Pvt Ltd, Essilor India Pvt Ltd, Orient Blackswan Pvt Ltd, SPR & RG Construction Pvt Ltd, Vivek Ltd, and Universities Press India Pvt Ltd.

Q. PR industry is not doing enough PR for itself. Comment.

PR companies are forgetting that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I agree that the industry is less good at promoting itself. We need to present a collective face and work together towards taking the industry forward.