The role of PR in building a brand in Indian context
Structure as follows:
- Research Methodology
- Value of Research
The Role of Public Relations in Building a Brand in Indian Context- Healthcare Sector
India’s healthcare sector is fast-growing because of the increased coverage, expenditure and services. The healthcare system of India is divided into public healthcare and private healthcare. India has a highly skilled medical workforce and offers fairly affordable healthcare services. For instance, surgery in most Western countries costs approximately ten times as much as it costs in India. Indian companies generally have a high success rate in acquiring Abbreviated New Drug Application approvals. Add this to the country’s enhanced medical tourism and the result is stiff competition for success (Theaker and Yaxley 2017). The increased competition in the healthcare industry has led businesses, and indeed hospitals, to explore avenues, trends and practices that will make them most preferred to customers (Kasthuri 2018).
Public Relations strategies are increasingly used in the healthcare sector to build brand image. Thanks to the development of media and technology, the PR industry in India is booming. Traditional advertising has morphed into Public Relations (PR) which is used both as a branding and marketing tool. Businesses have embraced the use of corporate websites and social media to push their agenda to the public. The healthcare sector is rife with competition and businesses are struggling to remain ahead of the curve (Theaker 2016). PR is fast becoming recognized as a strategic tool particularly in India’s healthcare industry where products and services have flooded the market. While quality is important, businesses must first build a strong brand image if they are to succeed. This research paper therefore seeks to study the role of PR in building a brand in India’s healthcare sector.
Purpose of the study
The purpose of the study is to assess the role played by Public Relation in building a brand in the healthcare sector in an Indian context.
- To find out PR practices and policies embraced by hospitals in India
- To examine challenges facing the use of PR in the healthcare sector of India
- To examine the extent to which hospitals in India use social media engagement to market themselves
- To study the active PR coverage of hospitals in India
Public Relations in India
According to Hunt and Grunig (1984), public relations is the “management of communication between an organization and its publics. Some scholars argue that the aim public relations is a manipulation tool, others believe it to be conflict resolution and yet others think it is to enhance understanding (Ferguson, 2018).
Public Relations in India began in the early 1990s. Before the 1990s, there were several companies with a background in journalism offering only media relations. PR companies at this time focused mainly on advertising; the PR industry flourished regardless. In October 1986, Chandigarh Singh opened one of the earliest independent PR companies in India. By the mid 1990s the economy of India had begun to stabilize and companies such as Lexicon PR began to spring up, focusing solely on PR. IPO companies began to offer PR services as a free bonus to their IPO clients (Dhanesh and Sriramesh 2016)
The early 2000s marked the era of growth for the Indian PR industry. In 2002, specialist PR agencies sprung up that focused on industries such as Technology, Healthcare and Finance. The Blue Lotus Communications was one such agency. During the same period, Cabsford PR was founded by Nurul Islam Laskar to be the first PR agency in the North Eastern part of India. By 2008, there were at least 19 communications agencies in operation. These agencies now expanded their focus to Brands, Hospitality, Lifestyle and entertainment.
During this period, the world suffered a recession that crashed PR agencies all over the world as clients tried to cut down on marketing expenses. International PR agencies shifted their focus to India not only for its high economic growth but also its political/legal stability and English-speaking community. In 2007 a report by Paul Holmes indicated that India’s PR industry had a growth rate of 9-11%.
According to the Holmes report, “The greatest future in growth is expected to come in China and India, with good prospects for Western Europe”. The recession saw the adoption of the phrase “Regional PR”. Regional PR focused on Tier II and Tier III cities. Since then, India has become preferred by international PR firms who acknowledge the fact that India has more potential for growth than China. The post-recession era marked the establishment of Sparkling Stones which made great strides in the PR industry within a very short time.
Today, Public Relations has expanded to cover some aspects of advertising and marketing. A number of Indian PR agencies have embraced digital innovation and image management as part of their portfolio. The Assocham report of 2010 revealed that India’s PR industry was worth $6 billion.
According to the Assocham study According to the Assocham study According to the Assocham study According to the Assocham study According to the Assocham study the PR industry suffered the following limitations as at 2010; poor perception by stakeholders, media and corporations; PR professionals are constantly poached for better pay in other fields; general misunderstanding of the PR profession and scarcity of experienced leadership in PR (Weinstein 2018).
Public Relations in Healthcare
Public Relations in healthcare is referred to as Life-sciences PR and varies greatly from Public Relations in other sectors because it features a lot of medical jargon. India’s healthcare sector is a fertile ground for PR as India combats the communicable and non-communicable disease burden. The Government as well as the private sector has been forced to focus on providing healthcare solutions to the population. The healthcare sector is complex and has a diverse target market which companies must be able to tap into.
The market is full of alternatives and today’s consumer is very informed about the kind of healthcare services that are either right or wrong for them. Companies and hospitals are faced with scandals that drive away clients in seconds; people are more conscious of their health. All these have created the need for effective and engaging PR campaigns to help organizations control the narrative. PR is no longer a mere after-thought; it is strategic and deliberate.
The Republic of India is located in South Asia. It is the 7th largest country in the world covering approximately 3,287,263 km². India has a population of 1.3 billion people making it the country with the 2nd largest population in the world (Cassen 2016). It is surrounded by China, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, Pakistan, the Maldives, Bhutan and the Bay of Bengal. The capital city of India is New Delhi and its largest city is Mumbai. India has two official languages; English and Hindi.
The most popular religion is Hinduism but Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism and Sikhism are also practiced to a lower extent. India is governed by the Federal parliamentary (Kothari 2016) republic and has a GDP of $2.69 trillion (the 6th largest in the world as at 2017). The country’s currency is the Indian Rupee abbreviated as INR. Thanks to the 1991 economic reforms, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Still, India faces major challenges in terms of healthcare, poverty, education and corruption. This study will focus on key hospitals in India with a view to understanding how PR has helped them build their brand.
The study will employ a descriptive research design. According to Gay (1981), descriptive research is a process of collecting data in order to test hypothesis or to answer questions concerning the current status of the subjects in the study. This type of design determines and reports the way things are. The design is appropriate for this study as it will report on the PR policies and strategies used in India’s healthcare industry hence provide valuable information that will be used to ascertain the role of PR in branding in the healthcare sector of India.
Diverse methods of data collection will be employed at various stages of this study. The study will triangulate methods of data collection where possible so as to acquire reliable data. The data collection methods will include the following:
This will be the main method of data collection. This method is most suitable because of the following reasons: Large amount of information can be collected from a large number of people in a short period of time and in a relatively cost effective way; the results of from the questionnaires can usually be quickly and easily quantified by either a researcher or through the use of a software package; when data has been quantified, it can be used to compare and contrast other researches and may be used to measure change; can be carried out by the researcher or by any number of people with limited effect to its validity and reliability; can be analyzed more scientifically and objectively than other forms of research. There will be sets of questionnaire which will be issued to the respondents. The study will use both open and closed ended questionnaire on both county officers and the general county employees. The questionnaire will be used to generate both quantitative and qualitative data and it will provide a basis for generalization given the fact that it will obtain standardized results that will be tabulated and treated statistically.
According to Nyamongo (2002), key informants constitute the oral sources of information; they are repositories of knowledge from which researchers retrieve information. The key informants in this study will include hospital board members and members of hospital PR departments. Based on the nature of their training and knowledge, the above respondents will provide vital qualitative information and in-depth understanding concerning gender mainstreaming.
Before administering the questionnaire to the respondents, the researcher will make prior arrangement with them on the date and time to administer the questionnaire. They will be informed of the purpose of the study and coerced to give their responses but will be allowed to participate voluntarily to the study. The aims and objectives of the research will be explained before and after undertaking the research. This will help in attaining an informed consent from the respondents. The researcher also will maintain utmost confidentiality about the respondents’ responses by way of keeping all responses secure and using them only for academic purpose. Before embarking on the field, the researcher sought permission from the county public service board secretary. Also, prior arrangements will be made with the respondents to administer the questionnaires.
Value of research
The study is necessitated by the need for companies in India’s healthcare sector to build strong brands so as to survive the wave of competition brought about by increased technology, innovation and consumer awareness. Public Relations in this study seeks to ensure that companies consider PR as a branding tool. The research agenda is important because choices made at this stage shape the opportunities available at the implementation stage. The study aims at collecting data that would be used to accomplish the following goals;
To come up with a postgraduate PR research proposal that will contribute knowledge to Public Relations handbooks and journals.
To make recommendations and suggestions with a view to:
- Consider how companies can use PR to build a better brand in the healthcare sector.
- Understand the PR industry of India.
- Understand consumer preferences when it comes to choosing a healthcare provider.
- Develop a framework for PR practices and policies in healthcare businesses operating in India.
- Debunk the myths surrounding Public Relations in the healthcare sector, particularly in the context of India.
Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), RNCOS Reports, Media Reports, Press Information Bureau (PIB). Retrieved from: https://www.ibef.org/industry/healthcare-india.aspx
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