As the chief executive officer of Coffee Communications, a public relations (PR) company, 34-year-old Meeta Bajaj is an example of what she believes in: “PR is a profession for the young.”
Public relations is about building the image of a brand, a company or an individual. It involves designing and executing publicity campaigns and strategies for clients.
A post-graduate in commerce, Bajaj entered the PR industry because she “wanted to convert products into brands”. She got a diploma in Social Communications Media from Sophia Polytechnic at Peddar Road. “I started working almost immediately after the course. I worked for two large PR companies but soon realised that I had my own requirements from the job,” Bajaj says.
“The things I wanted to do could not have been possible because I was a small fish in a big pond.”
In 1999, at 23, she decided to start her own PR company. She called it Coffee Communications. “I was young and wanted something light-hearted. I discussed my company plans with people over coffee,” she says, explaining how she chose the name. “It is also in memory of my father. He loved coffee and would often have long chats over a steaming cup.”
Luck was on her side, she says, and that helped her get the right contacts to start with. “Some clients such as ITC and
Olive, who had liked my work stayed with me after I started Coffee Communications," she says.
Bajaj initially worked out of her father's office. "I got my clients through word-of-mouth publicity. Even now, as I deal with the leaders and CEOs of companies, I rely on our performance to build a good relationship with them," she says.
Bajaj’s company has worked on brands ranging from Eureka Forbes and IDBI Principal Group to Gucci, Bluefrog, Olive and the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. "I make sure my employees like or are interested in the products or the clients they are working with," she says. "I also ensure that I have clients from fields that provide an intellectually stimulating environment, are socially inclined or work for women’s empowerment."
Bajaj says it is important to know what makes a good news story. "This is not a dummy’s job as many perceive it to be. It requires alertness and the ability to know what will make news for the media," she says.
A regular day for the young CEO begins at 6 am when she wakes up and goes for a walk. Once home, she spends at least two hours reading six newspapers and watching the news on television while she grabs breakfast. Her work demands that she be in tune with current affairs and trends. At office, it is a series of meetings with clients and her 15-member team.
"Interacting with the media and following up on news about the clients we handle takes up a good part of the day," she says.
The biggest challenge, Bajaj says, is retaining talent. "I employ young people, who now have many choices in terms of jobs. I need to hold their interest and dedication," she says.
A job as a PR executive offers a healthy work-life balance. The day usually ends at 7.30 pm unless an executive has a meeting with a client or has an event coming up. Most agencies work from Monday to Saturday so that gives PR executives the weekends off to pursue other interests.
For Bajaj, a foodie, this means experimenting with food. "I am very fond of eating. I am always on the lookout for new cuisines,” she says. Weekends are also for catching up on reading. "I also try and watch a cultural programme or a music
concert whenever possible," she says.
A five-day week does not mean Bajaj can completely switch off from work. "Although PR agencies are generally closed on Saturdays, I meet clients over lunch," she says.
Choose this field if you are patient and enterprising, she says. "And if you are willing to do something to build the image of a company or product."