Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Rise in Regional Public Relations: A study of the public relations scenario with rapidly growing regional journalism in India



My research paper presented at the international conference AMIC 2011: Taking Stock of Media and Communication Studies



Abstract

Public Relations in India advanced only in the 1980s and 1990s when businesses felt the need to compete and address their audiences. Public relations agencies started growing in this environment the late 1980s.These agencies would work in association with the in-house public relations departments in companies which is still the norm even today. Some even mushroomed into larger firms with associations internationally. During the same time advertising agencies also added public relations divisions in their businesses. Since then public relations agencies in India have only grown and have been known to conduct media relations with the print and the broadcasting media personnel. With the regional press showing rapid growth in terms of readership and circulation, and at the same time the English language press in India showing a decline, it has been observed that investors are keen on investing in the regional language publication houses. With a rapidly growing neo-literate population, most of it in the vernacular medium, the number of people who would be reading vernacular language newspapers will only rise. Robin Jeffery states that vernacular medium newspaper readers not only become better informed, but also tend to actively participate in the political and democratic process. The researcher intends to study:-
Ø  R1. Will the rise in regional journalism lead to rise in regional public relations?
Ø  R2. What kind of communication skills and personality traits will have to be acquired by future practitioners keen on joining regional public relations?
The research will be qualitative in nature and will use in-depth interviews of public relations practitioners, academicians, journalists. The researcher intends to find out the impact of the growth of the regional media on the development of regional public relations agencies. It will also throw some light on the communication skills and personality traits to be acquired by students intending to do public relations specifically catered to the regional audience in India. This study is expected be useful to teachers, researchers, the current and future public relations practitioners.






Introduction
Statistics indicate that the regional language media is growing much faster than English language media in India.[1] In such a scenario, public relations practitioners will have to cater to this growing number. There would be an increasing need for more public relations practitioners to service the regional language media as a result of this growth. Future public relations practitioners may have to prepare themselves to manage media belonging to different languages and cultures. The public relations practitioners could be working in public relations agencies or in companies. Their offices could be in big cities or located in smaller regions. They would have to manage not only a growing regional media but even regional audiences too. The cultural and linguistic differences that exist in India would have to be understood to avoid any pitfalls while communicating with the publics. This makes it even more imperative for present and future public relations practitioners to keep themselves well-read and well informed about regional differences. The researcher was curious to investigate as part of this study the skill set and overall persona required by a public relations practitioner catering to the regional media and the overall impact of the growth of regional media on regional public relations in India.

Literature Review
Definitions of Public Relations
Public Relations definitions have been broadly recognized into two categories, one being a communication function and other as stated by American scholars, a management function (Kiranjit, 1997).[2] Bentelle (1998) described public relations as the “management of information and communication processes between organisations on the one side and their internal and external environments (publics) on the other side. Public relations serves the functions of information, communication, persuasion, image building, continuous building of trust, management of conflicts, and the generation of consensus.[3]

Meaning of regional
Regional is “of or pertaining to a region of considerable extent; not merely local”.[4] It also means “of, relating to, characteristic of, or serving a region”.[5]
Public Relations in the World
The origin of public relations was seen amongst publicists who specialised in promoting circuses, theatrical performances and other public spectacles. Public Relations began in the United States and many practices in the field were developed by the practitioners working in the railroads. The first documented use of the term “public relations” appeared in the 1897 Year Book of Railway Literature. A lot of public relations practitioners were originally journalists which is a trend observed even in current times.[6] The First World War quickened the pace of the development of public relations as a profession. Public relations professionals like Edward Bernays and Carl Byoir, got a beginning with the Committee on Public Information also known as the “Creel Commission” which organised publicity on behalf of the U.S. objectives during the World War I. Ivy Lee also one of the public relations practitioners during the same period, is regarded as the first real public relations practitioners by many historians, though Bernays is considered the founder. Lee is credited with developing the modern “news release” (or “press release”).[7] According to Cutlip the first Publicity Bureau was started by James Drummond Elloworth in 1902. He also states that Ivy Lee, in his Pennsylvania Railroad duties (1912), was "the first known instance of a public relations person being placed at managerial level." [8]
Public Relations in India
The earliest use of public relations was seen in the reign of Emperor Asoka in around 320 BC where rock tablets was used as means of communication. Modern public relations saw its origin during the British colonialism in India.[9] The systematic and organised practice of public relations in India started with the Indian Railways. A Central Publicity Board was set up during the First World War (1914-1918), which was the first organised PR/Information set-up of the Government of India under the British rule. It was later called as the Central Bureau of Information, then as Bureau of Public Information, functioning as a link between the Government and the Press. One of the items on its agenda was to find out the criticism of Government policies.[10]
After Independence public relations profession emerged as a co-ordinator as multinationals in India felt the need to extensively communicate with the Indian audience such that their corporate policies where in sync with the democratic scene. Thus public relations as a function emerged to fulfill the role of the ‘coordinator’. The Tatas in the private sector was amongst the first to set up their public relations department in 1943. Soon the government owned companies of India such as HMT, BHEL, Bhilai Steel Plant, NTPC, Indian Oil, VSNL, NHPC and ONGC also started their public relations departments in India. The early image of the public sector public relations officer (PRO), or for that matter the profession itself, was perceived as a ‘fixer’ prone to achieving objectives through ‘wining and dining’ (Kaul 1988; Sriramesh 1992), the job profile of a PRO was mostly in charge of bandobast (making arrangements) activities (Mehta 1997). Publicity through press relations was an important aspect of PR and many early PROs were former journalists (Singh 2000; Sriramesh 1992, 1996). [11]
 Public relations in India is practiced using the personal influence model of public relations (Grunig et al., 1995, Huang, 2000, Jo and Kim, 2004, Park, 2002, Rhee, 2002, Sriramesh, 1992).Researchers found that in this model the public relations practitioner tries to establish personal relationships, friendships, if possible amongst important individuals in the media, government or political and activist groups. These relationships with these significant people were known as contacts from whom favours could be taken. Sriramesh (1991) identified a technique which led to the further development of the personal influence model, and named it hospitality relations. The main idea behind hospitality relations was to build a strong bond with journalists or other individuals which could later help in important decision making situations.
Economic policies of India in 1991 went through a massive overhaul with the advent of liberlisation in India. It brought with it capitalization and globalisation which also affected the public relations industry giving it recognition and acceptance in the country as a management function. A major surge was also seen in the area of news and entertainment channels, which started coming up in plenty through which companies could disseminate messages to its stakeholders. Internet and other new communication technologies became new mediums for messaging. [12]

During the same time many advertising agencies added public relations service to their operations. Some even went into associations with international public relations agencies. Consultancies or public relations agencies in India soon began mushrooming. [13] To name a few, there were Burson-Marstellar Roger Pereira Communications Private Limited in Mumbai and Hill & Knowlton (Indian Public Affairs Network, New Delhi). Today there are large firms that have offices in all the metropolitan centres of the country providing consultancy in public relations.[14] The services provided by these agencies include media relations which are often done with the English language and regional/vernacular language press as observed by the researcher in her tenure at a PR agency.

Public Relations as a Communication Function
The researcher is focusing on public relations as a communication function and the changes to be included in a scenario where regional press in India is spreading its wings. “Communication is about meaning rather than about information. It comprises of attitudes, social relations, and individual feelings, social positioning of sender and receiver, as well as those things normally thought of as information -- statements about the physical and social world. Anything that has cultural significance is part of communication.” [15] The term “culture refers to the complex collection of knowledge, folklore, language, rules, rituals, habits, lifestyles, attitudes, beliefs, and customs that link and give a common identity to a particular group of people at a specific point in time.”[16]
The function of communication is observed via different tasks a PR practitioner executes in her or his tenure in public relations.
Broom, Dozier, and their colleagues have broadly classified four roles practitioners tend to play in public relations:
Expert prescriber: The practitioner as an expert prescriber is considered an authority by the top management of the client or the organisation for which she or he works as an authority on public relations problems and solutions. The practitioner is responsible for research in the area of public relations, develops programmes and is majorly responsible for implementation.
Communication facilitator: The practitioner here is a liaison officer, interpreter and mediator between an organisation and its publics stressing on maintaining a continuous flow of two-way communication. A key role is played in removing any barriers to information exchange and ensuring open channels of communication.
Problem-solving process facilitator: The role of the practitioner is to act as a guide to the manager and the organisation, and solve problems in planning and programming rationally. They are also responsible to maintain management involvement in implementation.
Communication technician: They are responsible primarily for proposing and producing public relations materials. The entire gamut of writing, editing, designing, visual messages and working with the media is their concern. Emphasis is on communication and journalistic skills.[17]

Public Relations and Culture
When one is studying regional differences and its impact on public relations, the reference of culture become very important. Sriramesh (2002) observed that “PR practice in the 21st century has, and will continue to, become multinational and multicultural in nature” (p.54). So public relations practitioner’s understanding of cultural diversities in a country would be necessary, to better communicate with the media and its publics. As also put forth by Wakefield “Multinationals need to understand the nuances of public relations between countries, or even in different regions within countries, and how misunderstandings of those nuances can bring problems on a global scale.” (Wakefield, 2001, p.460).[18]
Anderson (1989) introduced the terms international and global public relations to distinguish between these two kinds of practice. According to him, international public relations practitioners usually implement unique programmes in many markets, each of these programmes are designed to meet the peculiarities of the individual geographic market. Global public relations on the other hand applies an overall view of a programme, executed in two or more national markets, keeping in mind the similarities among audiences while adjusting to regional differences (p. 413).
For public relations practices to be effective, they will have to share standard principles across cultures, but their specific applications will be different in different cultures. This reasoning was based on Brinkerhoff and Ingle (1989) theory of "structured flexibility" in the management of development organizations. The theory states "melds a planned structuring of action . . . with a concern for creating the capacity for flexibility and iterative learning. . ." (p. 490).[19]
 Huxham and Vangen (2000) further stress that as group membership and organizational contexts form interpretations; differences in language will only add difficulty. Thus knowing the language of the community will become pertinent for a public relations practitioner. A study on regional public relations was conducted in Australia which examined the nature of public relations in regional settings and peculiarities of public relations practice in non-metropolitan settings.[20]

Cultural and linguistic diversity in India
Cultural diversity of a country is attributed to factors such as ethnic origins, religions and different languages. India is a rich source of all of these. People have been fascinated by its natural sources and this has brought them to this country from different places. This naturally has led to the growth of varied human cultures. It has been observed in other lands that the dominant human cultures have seem to have either absorb or eliminate others but in India diversity is cherished (Gadgil and Guha, 1992).[21]
Post-independence, the states in India were re-organized on the basis of language. The country lists 14 languages in its constitution and recognises at least 16 other official languages. There are more than 200 hundred other languages. However, English is used as a language of business. Mostly a person can speak three languages; Hindi which is the official language, English and the regional language of the state she/he lives in. Added to this the person may also speak the dialect of the place of her/his birth.  Due to this diversity, it becomes a challenge for the public relations practitioners, to prepare messages in different languages to accommodate such varied regional preferences when they have to cater to media pan India.[22]

The Rise of the Regional Language Press

Robbin Jeffery studied the developments that have characterised the Indian language press in his book India’s Newspaper revolution: Capitilism, Politics, and the Indian Language Press 1977-1999, this set against the milieu of Indian politics. He observed that the daily circulation of all Indian newspapers increased four times between 1976 and 1996 and by 1996 there were five times as many newspapers published as in 1976.It was the regional language newspapers that emerged as winners experiencing the newspaper boom then. It was seen that by the 1990’s the circulation of the Hindi newspapers were almost three times that of the English language press (p.46).
There are specific two reasons cited by Jeffery that brought about this increase in the circulation of the regional press. The first he cited was literacy, as number of people in India learnt to read and write, more budding newspaper readers increased. The second reason he explains is improved technology and computers that made it easy to produce and distribute newspapers in the Indian script. Further, he argues that other than the two points mentioned, newspapers “grew because entrepreneurs detected a growing hunger for information among ever-widening sections of India’s people, who were potential consumers as well as newspaper readers. A race began to reach this audience.”(p.48).[23]

Richard Ohmann states that advertising is both “a symptom and motor” of capitalism and it reached the people living in the US through its press.[24] Citing similar views as that of Ohmann, Jeffery says that newspapers which were supported by advertising were used as a medium to reach the Indian audience and transformed these readers into consumers, at the same time fulfilling their increased needs for information and political participation.[25]

Hindi newspapers are catering to local needs and are thus creating new audiences and "a different kind of public sphere" in towns and districts in the Hindi belt, says media critic Sevanti Ninan.[26] She explains in her book “Headlines from the Heartland: Reinventing the Hindi Public Sphere" an instance, where she says "I encountered village store-keepers both on the road to Jagdalpur (in Chhattisgarh) as well as in Udaipur and Banswara districts in Rajasthan who called themselves news agencies, they would request for handouts from the local masses about functions, felicitations and events, solemnly stamp these handouts with the name of their news agency and send the items onward to the newspaper which had asked them to supply such news.”[27]

Regional media in India has never looked back and has always grown since the time it was observed by Robbin Jeffery. According to Mr. Akhil Gupta, chairman and managing director of Blackstone Advisors India, Statistics show the regional media is growing much faster than (the) English (one). People want to first read in their own language. That is the reason we have been keen to invest in this growth story and Jagran has scale that others cannot match. So, we are very pleased with this investment.” This is citing the case when Blackstone, a private equity fund, paid Rs 225 crore for an undisclosed stake in the Rs 846 crore Jagran Prakashan, the publishers of Hindi daily Dainik Jagran.[28]

Following are the top ten daily newspapers in India, according to the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2010 Quarter 1 released recently by the Media Research Users Council (MRUC). The survey was conducted by Hansa Research.[29] Refer to Appendix at the end of the research.
The above data reaffirms the point that even Vanita Kohli-Khandekar[30] states that in India, language media has always been bigger than English in terms of audience size. She cites an older data of the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) 2008 data, where the top-four Hindi dailies had more than thrice the number of readers of The Times of India, the largest-selling English daily. 
As regional media is increasing in India, its impact on public relations will have to be seen. Will this increase lead to adaptation of different cultural components in the practice of regional public relations practitioners? The following research questions were the result of this inquiry:-

Research questions

The researcher intends to study:-
Ø  R1. Will the rise in regional journalism lead to rise in regional public relations?
Ø  R2. What kind of communication skills and personality traits will have to be acquired by future practitioners keen on joining regional public relations?


Aim
To document the effect on regional public relations with increase in regional journalism in India.

Objectives:
  • To check the growth of the number of regional PR practitioners.
  • To note the need for understanding of culture and specific language skills required for a regional public relations practitioner.
  • To note the requirement of certain behaviour, mannerism, attire and personality traits etc. which are specific for doing regional public relations?

Research Method and Sampling

The research was exploratory in nature and the researcher conducted in-depth interviews of public relations practitioners, academicians, and journalists via-email. Emails were sent to 22 respondents and 18 responded with their detailed views. Convenience sampling and snowball sampling was used to select respondents. The respondents were from different parts of India and have varied experience in their respective area of work spanning a minimum of 2 years to a maximum of 30 years.

Utility of the Research
This study is expected be useful to teachers, researchers, the current and future public relations practitioners for a clear picture of regional public relations practice.

Findings and Discussions

Category: Public relations practitioners

Eight public relations practitioners responded to the email interview. The public relations practitioners in their tenure observed certain qualities that needed to be followed by future public relations practitioners intending to practice regional public relations. The respondents were asked their views on managing regional language media as compared to the English language media. One of the respondents said It is very important to understand the cultural dynamics and regional mindset of local publication before dealing with them”.[31] All respondents agreed that having regional language communication skills can be of great help. One of the senior respondents explained that “Multilingual communication skills are most crucial in PR communication. It is difficult to have written skills, but if you at least acquire spoken skills, that helps in a big way”.[32]  A New Delhi respondent said “Himachali or Pahari is a mix of Punjabi and Hindi with a slightly different dialect. So if I don’t know himachali, I will have to use Punjabi as a spoken means of communication to break the ice. When dealing with vernacular press – verbal communication may differ with use of dialect of language but it is imperative to provide written communication in regional media’s preferred language”.[33]

The respondents were asked their views on the behavioral attributes and mannerism of the regional public relations practitioner. These were the following pointers: politeness, straightforwardness, attitude to learning, personal rapport with key decision maker in regional publication, sensitive to cultural differences. One of the practitioners differed in his views accordingly to him regional and English journalists were not much different, they both are humans and have the same ego, they both are looking out for news. If one treats the regional press in the same manner as the English press, they can influence the regional press to a large extent. [34]Two respondents said that to begin with learn the local greeting of the place, this helps in establishing relationships with the local media.

The respondents were asked to sum up the personality traits of a public relations practitioner practicing regional public relations. They said that confidence, multilingual skills, sensitive to regional and cultural differences, professional in attitude, patient, adaptive to changing environment and receptive to client’s apprehensions, at least possess reading skills in the regional language. A respondent from Mumbai said that one should at least be able to read a regional language if not speak it, as if one could read different materials in those languages it would help in getting ideas for story opportunities.[35]

Most of the respondents felt that there was an increase in public relations practitioners servicing the regional media, though the trend for all organisations to hire more practitioners was only slowly rising, and as of now no additional investment was being done. Mr. Siddharth Baad said that companies have multi-location offices and public relations agencies were hiring dedicated public relations executives to service regional language news media and to specifically keep them informed about local events and activities and address any communication requirements of publications.

Four out of the eight respondents said that there was an increase in readership of the regional media and they see an increase in multilingual PR executives managing both regional language and English language news media. All of them were not clear about agencies only catering to regional public relations practice, though they don’t rule out the possibility of it happening in the future. Some of them did mention that there were local affiliates in regions which catered to the companies directly for regional public relations services. Public relations practitioners with multilingual skills and other diversified skill sets were stationed at site offices that took care of regional public relations practice.

The respondents were asked if any training was given to new trainee in the organisation for regional public relations to which almost all replied that the training is on the job, where the trainee is given tips on searching for story opportunities in media and generating new ideas. The training continued at events or conferences organised by the agency or organisation. One respondent said that the reporting manager of the trainee went for a media round along with she/he and gave tips on interacting with the media and provides addresses of the media.

Finally the respondents were asked to summarize the qualities a public relations practitioner doing regional public relations should possess. Everyone unanimously agreed that having multi-language skills was extremely useful. At least knowledge of two languages was essential and the zest to keep learning more was important. In fact when one did public relations for politicians it was the regional language skills that mattered more than proficiency in English, said one respondent. Learning accents of different regions is important other than the language. One should be a careful observer of culture of different places. Building a rapport with the media was a must, which included being in touch with them even without any work.

An anecdote was shared by Mr.Shivshankar Surukund, it is an example when one does know a language. “I had to organise a press conference in Rewa, a Hindi speaking area of Madhya Pradesh. My Bank CEO, a Parsee, knew a little of ‘mubaiya’ Hindi (Mumbai dialect) and I advised him to speak in Hindi as far as possible. Since the topic of his speech was promoting self employment with the bank's help, the Parsee CEO all the time emphasizing 'potano dhando' (means self enterpreneur) which the Hindi reporters did not understand. For them 'pota' meant grandson and so what was 'grandsons business "? They were puzzled. Later I  had to explain that in Gujarati 'potano dhando' means ' a person doing his own business - or self employed'. They all had a hearty laugh.”



Category: Academicians
Four academicians responded to the email interview. The academicians were asked their views on the educational qualifications required of budding students interested in servicing the regional language media as compared to English language media. They were also asked the language skills required by students to know when planning a career in regional public relations. The academicians were in addition asked their views on the need for understanding of culture, behavioural attributes, mannerisms and complete personality traits by budding public relations practitioners.
Two academicians said that a graduation was necessary as part of educational qualifications required to service the regional media, a mass communication degree or an equivalent related to communication, public relations or corporate communications would suffice. Two other academicians were of the opinion that a post graduate degree or a post-graduate diploma would be even better. Only one academician said that no educational qualification was required but a “rapport with a journalist” was supreme.
The academicians were further prodded on any particular skills was needed in servicing the language media as compared to the English language media. To which most of them had to say that knowing the regional language and in fact possessing multilingual skills would be essential. Both written as well as spoken. One of the respondents said that “Regional media is sensitive to the way they are approached. Spoken language is the most crucial in dealing with regional media. Culturally I think we tend to respond better or strike a conversation with people speaking the same language. For e.g. When working in Gujarat, I realised the importance of knowing the local dialect, it is much easier to communicate if one knows the regional language. Also the media prefers the knowledge of their language.”[36]  Two of the respondents said that when servicing any regional language media the local needs, aspirations, customs and culture have to be kept in mind. As one academician said “quick response, local understanding, sharp human relations skills, and ability to take abuse” was something that future practitioners getting into this profession should learn.[37]
Most of them said that one had to be a fine person first. The academicians said that as India is a huge country with varied cultures, the students needed to understand and respect these cultures and the languages of different states. One of the academician said that “one cannot be preoccupied with his or her own idea while delivering PR solutions. Understanding the cultural aspects will make him or her know how people conceive the ideas being spread and how culture of that particular region acts as accelerator.”[38]
One of the academicians also pointed out that understanding the cultural environment of a media organisation was also crucial as “every regional media organisation came with its own cultural background. So one had to look and behave the part”. When asked to sum up the total personality traits required by students for regional public relations practice, they said that subject knowledge, creativity, initiative, good judgment, language skills, research skills, understanding and adaption of local culture, mannerisms, attire and good human relations skills were extremely important.[39]

Category: Journalists
Six journalists responded to the email interview. All the journalists noticed an increase in public relations executives specifically servicing the regional language news media. One of the respondents said that public relations agencies have started paying attention to regional languages as they have started understanding growing importance and influence of regional languages.[40] A respondent points out “Yes, there are many public relations firms who only serve the regional media. Mainly we can find this trend in southern states.”[41]  One respondent remarked that “There has been an increase in PR executives ‘targeting’ regional language news media on behalf of clients.”[42] A younger respondent observed that there will be an increase in the number of websites in other regional languages other than Hindi.[43]

When asked about any specific skills required for servicing the regional language media as compared to the English language media, all the journalists had similar views. They felt that being multilingual and having good written and verbal skills has become a necessity with changing times for a public relations practitioner servicing the regional media. Mr. Milind Kokje stressed the need for public relations practitioners to go beyond language too and also focus on their appearance, appearance, clothes, gestures and mannerisms. As English speaking and too western-dressed public relations practitioners can be a put off to regional media. Speak in English only when it is a must with either client or the media.

The respondents were asked their views on the behavioural attributes and mannerism of the PR practitioner to which politeness in behaviour and friendliness were the key points that emerged. Most of the respondents feel that understanding of cultures is a must for public relations  practitioners practicing regional public relations and as one respondent said that the region where the public relations practitioner works she/he should understand the culture and know the local language of that place, as that is when they will be impressionable with the publics they are communicating with.[44] It is not only about servicing regional media but the regional publics at large.

As Mr. Sanjay Ranade put it “PR executives must be multicultural and multi language”. Mr. Kokje discusses an anecdote of a multinational company “A palkhi (procession) which passes through the company land for generations was not allowed to pass when the company took possession of the land. The foreigner site manager did not understand its importance of the palkhi route (which never changes) for local people. Next year when an Indian manager took over, he allowed the palkhi to cross company land by making way after breaking a part of compound. This brought in change in people’s attitude towards company”.

When asked to sum up the personality traits required by public relations practitioners practicing regional public relations they come up with the following:
Polite, punctual, understanding, professional, well informed, pleasing personality, client-first attitude, command over language, convincing skills, good reading skills and should be able to impress intellectually.

The respondents were asked to give their advice to future public relations practitioner in the regional area; they had to say that being sensitive to the regional media and command over language were the vital factors to be kept in mind.


Conclusions
All the respondents including public relations practitioners, journalists and academicians said that having regional language communication skills was most crucial for anybody practicing regional public relations. As Hugh M. Culbertson and Ni Chen explain that for public relations to be effective, there will have to be a common set of principle across cultures but their specific applications will differ according to changing cultures.[45] If one of the important functions of public relations is communication and language is one of the important components of culture, then mastery of this component is crucial. Other than language the respondents have also pointed out to understanding other aspects of culture, which included rituals, habits, lifestyle or anything symbiotic of a culture of a place. This helps in becoming friendlier to the regional media and in understanding the regional audience as well. This amounts to two things: first all future public relations practitioners should make efforts to learn at least two regional languages; reading, writing and speaking it fluently. The second point to be noted here that public relations education could introduce in its syllabi the component of Indian regional language and culture studies. Academicians have suggested that a degree/post-graduate degree or diploma in public relations could help future candidates in understanding the field of public relations. If this is done public relations as a subject could be well-understood. The respondents pointed out that being sensitive to regional and cultural differences is a must when practicing regional public relations. The only training as of now given is on-job as explained by respondents, which is more about executing job in public relations. Maybe companies could introduce regional culture and language training for employees in public relations which could sensitize them the subtleness of the profession.  According to the respondents companies and agencies are as of now are not hiring too many public relations practitioners for regional public relations but the trend of servicing regional media is on the rise. Even the journalists say that they have seen an increase of in public relations practitioners specifically servicing the regional media. Maybe in the near future this may change and if that change is coupled with training it could help in regional public relations practice.
According to Sriramesh and Vercic (2003), in India public information campaigns could be done using folk media such as such as “docudramas, dances, skits, and plays in rural areas” (p. 15). The reason being local conditions would restrict the use of media such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines for conducting public relations. According to Botan (1992) “Clarity in writing is always desirable, but the assumption that is primary may not hold in all situations" (p. 155). It is interpersonal relationship which becomes important depending upon the culture of the place or country. According to Sriramesh (1992), public relations practitioners in India have to cultivate good interpersonal relationships with external publics in order to get governmental support and ensure positive press coverage. When the personal influence model is deeply practiced, interpersonal communication skill, takes precedence over writing as the most important skill for public relations practitioners.[46] In both the situations we observe that knowledge of local language and culture can be very useful to a public relations practitioner to build an affinity with publics.
Regional public relations and global public relations are similar as both have to adjust to regional differences before executing a programme. American culture is individualistic, but many Asian cultures are collectivistic. In collectivistic cultures, building good interpersonal relationships is paramount for a business to succeed.[47] India shows a vertical collectivistic culture where sacrifice for the group is considered righteous. Here the group is all-important, not the individual.[48] Asian countries seem to score low on the individualism index. In India even though industrialization is picking up pace, it still remains a collectivist culture.[49]
So if a multinational from a foreign country wants to practice public relations in India, they would have to focus on building relationships with the publics. To build communicate and build relationship with regional media and the regional publics they would have to be sensitive to culture of the country.
The impact of the growth of regional media is definitely there on regional public relations. It was also observed from data of the respondents that skill set to service the regional media is similar, whether the media is from Maharashtra, Gujarat, New Delhi or Pondicherry. Difference is the typical culture of these places which one has to adapt to. If future public relations practitioners gain adequate training in regional languages and sensitizing of cultures through education, it will help develop better interpersonal relationships and servicing the regional language media as well as regional audience will yield better results which will in turn be beneficial to the organisation.





Appendix            

Note: These are all readership figures (in lakhs) and not circulation numbers.

TOP 10 DAILIES
Rank
Newspaper
IRS 2009 R2
IRS 2010 Q1
1
Dainik Jagran (Hindi)
160.96
163.13
2
Dainik Bhaskar (Hindi)
128.8
133.29
3
Hindustan (Hindi)
93.36
99.14
4
Malayala Manorama (Malayalam)
91.83
95.94
5
Amar Ujala (Hindi)
82.99
84.91
6
Lokmat (Marathi)
71.04
73.61
7
Daily Thanthi (Tamil)
75.17
73.53
8
The Times Of India (English)
71.42
70.35
9
Mathrubhumi (Malayalam)
66.78
66.98
10
Rajasthan Patrika (Hindi)
64.86
66.85
(All figures are in lakhs; IRS 2009 R2: IRS 2009 Round 2; IRS 2010 Q1: IRS 2010 Quarter 1)

References:-

·      Abhineet Kumar, I. (2010, April). 'Regional media is growing faster than English'. Retrieved April 06, 2011, from Business Standard:


·      Bhushan U., “Unleashing the business potential of communication management services: A 10-Point Action Plan”, K J Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, University of Mumbai

·      Business Standard. (2010, April 8). Retrieved April 30, 2011, from Business Standard website: http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/regional-media-is-growing-faster-than-english/14/50/391228/

·      C.K.Sardana. (n.d.). Press Information Bureau, India. Retrieved April 20th, 2011, from Press Information Bureau, India: http://pib.nic.in/feature/fe0999/f1509991.html


  • Caywood, C. (1997). The Handbook of Strategic Public Relations & Integrated Communications, ISBN 0786311312. New York: McGraw Hill.



·      Gunther Kress, ed., Communication and Culture: An Introduction (Kensington, N.S.W.: New South Wales University Press, 1988) 4, Questia, Web, 22 Apr. 2011.

·      Heath, R. L. Culture. In  Encyclopedia of public relations, Volume 1. Sage.


  • International Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis, ed. Hugh M. Culbertson and Ni Chen (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996) 3, Questia, Web, 23 Apr. 2011.

·      India: Hindi newspapers on the cusp of a media revolution. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2011, from Publicitas: http://www.publicitas.com/en/global/press-news/media-news/publicitas-media-news/?newsid=18806


  • Jeffery, R. (2000). India’s Newspaper revolution: Capitilism, Politics, and the Indian Language Press 1977-1999. London.

·      Krishnan, S. A. The Role of Media Relations in Corporate Public Relaitons, Universiti Sains Malayasia.

·      Krishnamurthy Sriramesh, D. V. (2009). The global public relations handbook: theory, research, and practice. Routledge.

  • Krishnamurthy Sriramesh, N. B. (n.d) Public Relations in India Review of a Programme of Research, Journal of Creative Communications 2006; 1; 39, DOI: 10.1177/097325860500100103


·      Luthar, V. K. (2002). Using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions to explain sexually harrassing behaviours in an international context. International Journal of Human Resource Managment , 268-284.

·      Ming-Yi Wu, "Can American Public Relations Theories Apply to Asian Cultures?," Public Relations Quarterly 50.3 (2005), Questia, Web, 2 May 2011.


·      N.K.Das. (n.d.). Bangladesh Sociology. Retrieved April 27th, 2011, from bangladeshsociology.org: http://www.bangladeshsociology.org/BEJS%203.2%20Das.pdf

  • Ohmann, R. (1996). Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century,.Verso.


·      Spielberger, C. D. (2004). Cultural Syndromes. In Encyclopedia of applied psychology, Volume 3. Academic Press.

  • W. Howard Chase, "The Unseen Power: Scott Cutlip's History of Public Relations," Public Relations Quarterly 39.3 (1994), Questia, Web, 20 Apr. 2011.




Interviews
The researcher would like to thank the following professionals from the industry and academia for their invaluable views.

·      Ms. Jyotii R. Rathod is a free-lancer and has been managing regional public relations for the past 6 years.
·      Mr. Manoj Varade has been working with BEST transport, Mumbai in public relations and administration for the past 22 years.
·      Ms. Reena Sharma is Group Head, Lin Opinion and has experience of 7 years in public relations.
·      Mr. Siddharth Baad, Manager, Corporate Communications with Anil Limited, Ahmedabad is having 5 years of experience in the field of public relations.

·      Mr. Shiv Shankar Surukund is a retired public relations manager from Union Bank

·      Ms.Khyati Malhotra is working in New Delhi with a public relations agency.

·      Mr. Moses Gomes has his own entrepreneurial set up in public relations. He has experience of 5 years in the field of public relations.

·      Mr. Pramod Sawant is working as a regional public relations practitioner in Mumbai.

·      Ms. Avina Taneja is Assistant Professor at Usha Pravin Gandhi College, Mumbai and also has field experience in public relations

·      Ms. Mira Desai has 13 years of academic experience and is Associate Professor at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai.

·      Ms. Radhika Khanna has academic experience of 12 years and is Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication at Pondicherry University.

·      Ms. Seema Narendran has worked with Ramnarain Ruia College (from 2008 – 2011) and has academic experience of 3 years.

·      Mr. Milind Kokje has 30 years of experience in the media industry and is currently Executive Editor-Languages with India Webportal Ltd.

·      Mr. Narendra Bandabe is a senior producer with the news channel IBN7 and has 10 years of experience in the media industry.

·      Mr. Sanjay Ranade  has 14 years of experience in the media industry and is currently Reader at the Department of Communication & Journalism, University of Mumbai.

·      Mr.Keyur Seta is a free- lance journalist writing for Trade Guide magazine and few other websites and has media industry experience of 3 years.

·      Dr. Ashok Kumar Mishra, Chief Sub-Editor with Amar Ujaala, a Hindi Daily at Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. He has media industry experience of 23 years.


***


[1] Business Standard. (2010, April 8). Retrieved April 30, 2011, from Business Standard website: http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/regional-media-is-growing-faster-than-english/14/50/391228/


[2] Krishnan, S. A. The Role of Media Relations in Corporate Public Relaitons, Universiti Sains Malayasia.

[3] Krishnamurthy Sriramesh, D. V. (2009). The global public relations handbook: theory, research, and practice. Routledge.

[4] Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19th, 2011, from Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/regional

[5] Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19th, 2011, from Merriam-Webster.com: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/regional

[6] Caywood, C. (1997). The Handbook of Strategic Public Relations & Integrated Communications, ISBN 0786311312. New York: McGraw Hill.

[7] Public Relations. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20th, 2011, from New World Encyclopedia: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Public_relations
[8] W. Howard Chase, "The Unseen Power: Scott Cutlip's History of Public Relations," Public Relations Quarterly 39.3 (1994), Questia, Web, 20 Apr. 2011.
[9] Krishnamurthy Sriramesh, N. B. (n.d) Public Relations in India Review of a Programme of Research, Journal of Creative Communications 2006; 1; 39, DOI: 10.1177/097325860500100103

[10] C.K.Sardana. (n.d.). Press Information Bureau, India. Retrieved April 20th, 2011, from Press Information Bureau, India: http://pib.nic.in/feature/fe0999/f1509991.html

[11] Krishnamurthy Sriramesh, N. B. (n.d) Public Relations in India Review of a Programme of Research, Journal of Creative Communications 2006; 1; 39, DOI: 10.1177/097325860500100103
[12] Ibid

[13] ibid

[14] Bhushan U., “Unleashing the business potential of communication management services: A 10-Point Action Plan”, K J Somaiya Institute of Management Studies and Research, University of Mumbai

[15] Gunther Kress, ed., Communication and Culture: An Introduction (Kensington, N.S.W.: New South Wales University Press, 1988) 4, Questia, Web, 22 Apr. 2011.

[16] Culture and Communication - The Relationship Between Communication and Culture, Characteristics of Culture, Glimpses of Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2011, from http://encyclopedia.jrank.org: http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/articles/pages/6491/Culture-and-Communication.html

[17]  International Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis, ed. Hugh M. Culbertson and Ni Chen (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996) 3, Questia, Web, 23 Apr. 2011.

[18] Heath, R. L. Culture. In  Encyclopedia of public relations, Volume 1. Sage.

[19] International Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis, ed. Hugh M. Culbertson and Ni Chen (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996) 3, Questia, Web, 23 Apr. 2011.
[20] Kirby, B. (2007/8). Country Practice: A case study of regional public relations practice. PRism 5(12): http://praxis.massey.ac.nz/prism_on-line_journ.html


[21] N.K.Das. (n.d.). Bangladesh Sociology. Retrieved April 27th, 2011, from bangladeshsociology.org: http://www.bangladeshsociology.org/BEJS%203.2%20Das.pdf

[22] International Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis, ed. Hugh M. Culbertson and Ni Chen , (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996) 108, Questia, Web, 24 Apr. 2011.
[23] Jeffery, R. (2000). India’s Newspaper revolution: Capitilism, Politics, and the Indian Language Press 1977-1999. London.

[24] Ohmann, R. (1996). Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century,.Verso.

[25] Jeffery, R. (2000). India’s Newspaper revolution: Capitilism, Politics, and the Indian Language Press 1977-1999. London.

[26] Sevanti Ninan is a columnist on media, is founder-editor of the journalism centric site TheHoot.org. She began her career at the Hindustan Times and worked for several years at the Indian Express.

[27] India: Hindi newspapers on the cusp of a media revolution. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2011, from Publicitas: http://www.publicitas.com/en/global/press-news/media-news/publicitas-media-news/?newsid=18806


[28] Abhineet Kumar, I. (2010, April). 'Regional media is growing faster than English'. Retrieved April 06, 2011, from Business Standard:


[29] Desk, N. (2010, August 13). Retrieved April 06, 2011, from newswatch.in: http://www.newswatch.in/newsblog/7981


[30] Vanita Kohli-Khandekar  is a contributing Editor at Business Standard. Her area of expertise is the Indian media and entertainment business. The third edition of her book The Indian Media Business has been released earlier this year.
[31] Mr. Siddharth Baad, Manager, Corporate Communications with Anil Limited, Ahmedabad is having 5 years of experience in the field of public relations.

[32] Mr. Shiv Shankar Surukund is a retired public relations manager from Union Bank.

[33] Ms.Khyati Malhotra is working in New Delhi with a public relations agency.

[34] Mr. Moses Gomes has his own entrepreneurial set up in public relations. He has experience of 5 years in the field of public relations.

[35] Mr. Pramod Sawant is working as a regional public relations practitioner in Mumbai.
[36] Ms. Avina Taneja is Assistant Professor at Usha Pravin Gandhi College, Mumbai and also has field experience in public relations.

[37] Ms. Mira Desai has 13 years of academic experience and is Associate Professor at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai.
[38] Ms. Radhika Khanna has academic experience of 12 years and is Assistant Professor, Department of Mass Communication at Pondicherry University.

[39] Ms. Seema Narendran has worked with Ramnarain Ruia College (from 2008 – 2011) and has academic experience of 3 years.

[40] Mr. Milind Kokje has 30 years of experience in the media industry and is currently Executive Editor-Languages with India Webportal Ltd.

[41] Mr. Narendra Bandabe is a senior producer with the news channel IBN7 and has 10 years of experience in the media industry.
[42] Mr. Sanjay Ranade  has 14 years of experience in the media industry and is currently Reader at the Department of Communication & Journalism, University of Mumbai.

[43] Mr.Keyur Seta is a free- lance journalist writing for Trade Guide magazine and few other websites and has media industry experience of 3 years.

[44] Dr. Ashok Kumar Mishra, Chief Sub-Editor with Amar Ujaala, a Hindi Daily at Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. He has media industry experience of 23 years.
[45] International Public Relations: A Comparative Analysis, ed. Hugh M. Culbertson and Ni Chen (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996) 3, Questia, Web, 23 Apr. 2011.

[46] Ming-Yi Wu, "Can American Public Relations Theories Apply to Asian Cultures?," Public Relations Quarterly 50.3 (2005), Questia, Web, 2 May 2011.
[47] ibid
[48] Spielberger, C. D. (2004). Cultural Syndromes. In Encyclopedia of applied psychology, Volume 3. Academic Press.

[49] Luthar, V. K. (2002). Using Hofstede’s cultural dimensions to explain sexually harrassing behaviours in an international context. International Journal of Human Resource Managment , 268-284.

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