We have discussed a lot about how Bollywood PRs operate and how they hold complete sway over a group of journalists.
To be honest, the universe of those articles is very small. It includes only a handful of top Bollywood PRs and journalists working in leading media houses.
Though it is true that a handful of PRs and journalists rule over the entertainment news-space, there is a larger universe that I haven’t spoken about.
This time we will talk about this larger universe and purely from the point of view of PRs who (or the company they represent) don’t belong to the top five bracket.
Being a rookie PR in the Hindi film industry is wrought with hurdles. The challenges of Bollywood PRs working in Mumbai is so intense that every month I hear PR executives quitting Bollywood for corporate PR.
Here are five reasons why you should avoid Bollywood if you are stepping into the PR industry.
1. Most Bollywood stars have a fixed set of PRs
The foremost problem is to get work in Bollywood. Convincing an actor or a production house to hire you is the biggest challenge. On the other hand, the Hollywood studios are strengthening their in-house PR departments so that they don’t have to hire external PR agencies.
Most producers won’t agree to change their PRs that they have worked with for so many years even if you are far better than them.
Even if a producer decides to switch, PRs are not hired through a bidding process or public announcements inviting sales pitches.
They are mostly recruited based on recommendations from lead actors or directors. So, if you don’t have ‘connections’ in Bollywood then trying to get a foothold in the industry is almost impossible.
Let’s assume that you have still managed to overcome the odds and bagged a PR portfolio (which is usually of a film or an actor), it does not mean that your job is done; the job hasn’t even begun!
2. No one buys logic in Bollywood
Most actors or producers, who will hire you for the first time, will have unrealistic expectations from you.
If you have promised them the moon during your sales pitch then after you start working, they will start expecting their names to be written across moon’s surface.
If you are promoting a film then be informed that most leading media houses are aware that a film is a brand and hence won’t let you promote the film for free.
Most journalists will only agree to mention the title of the film during the course of an interview or an article. But if you are looking for articles and interviews that only revolve around the film you are promoting, then that’s not going to happen.
While on one hand you will have to deal with the pressure from producers asking you to promote only the film, most journalists would just make passing mentions about it in their coverage.
In short, promoting a film for free through journalists will take you to the brink of insanity.
3. Unrealistic expectations of actors
So you thought that it’s better to promote actors instead of films because most media houses are open to featuring actors than movies.
Then my dear friend, it’s an even tougher task.
Most actors insist on talking about their acting assignments, while journos are mostly interested in their sex life.
They will ask the actors who they are sleeping with, why they broke up or even how they are exercising to increase their stamina during romp sessions, but not about their films.
Their acting assignments are again mostly extra information that pad up an article. It is never the focal point.
This is the reason you will find that most actors won’t be happy after an interview and will hand down orders to rein in a journalist when it comes to questions about their sex lives.
They will behave as if all journalists listen to you like their mummies!
4. It’s a small universe of journalists
If you have had enough of handling producers and actors, then here’s the species that is perhaps the most difficult in the whole world – the filmy press.
The biggest problem is that the universe of Bollywood reporters and writers is very small. Your producers and actors will care for only five publications and five channels. You figure out that it means that your performance basically depends on how you get to liaise with 10-odd journalists. How you have performed will depend on how these 10 journalists react to your ‘pitch’.
If you are not able to convince this important set of 10 then the others too won’t pick up your stories because they follow these 10 journalists. Even if they pick up your stories, then it will be of little consequence to you because it wouldn’t be regarded as good work. At best your client will consider those media exposures routine jobs.
5. Handling top entertainment journalists
That brings us to the topic on how to handle the top 10 entertainment journalists in the country. If they write or agree to report on something, you will get your required media coverage. This is the most difficult part of your job.
Some among the top Bollywood journalists have traits that will scare the living daylights out of you. Here are some of them.
- You will have to pitch a story and forget about it. The journalists will always be interested in what ‘stories’ you have in your kitty and once you let the cat out of your bag, it’s a torturous waiting game. You will be lucky if the story comes out sooner.
- Remember, once you pitch a ‘story’ to a journalist, you cannot pitch it to another because all leading journalists only write ‘exclusives’. So, even if they come to know that you have spoken about the story to a tree across the road, forget about it getting published.
- Be prepared for an endless list of demands from the journalist regarding the story. In other words, you will have to do all the research for the story. It includes quotes, pictures, confirmation quotes and exclusive information. Failure to deliver anything while the story is being developed will result in the story getting junked.
- You will need endless patience while dealing with the journalist. If 20 phone calls and 50 text messages go unanswered, you will have to tell yourself that the journalist is very busy. You cannot even show an inkling of aggression if you are losing patience. If you do, that’s the end of your career.
- Last but not the least, be prepared to show some extra care and affection when you are meeting the journalist at an event or the party organised by your client. It doesn’t matter if the journalist has landed up with a coterie of his friends, which includes a sozzled-to-the-gills friend as he couldn’t resist the sight of free-flowing alcohol. You cannot speak ill about the journalist or his friends. It’s a Code of Omerta.
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