Image consultancy is a more of a corporatised version of public relations. As an image consultant you need to plan a focused image makeover for your client and slowly progress towards it by achieving defined milestones over a period of time. Relationship management with the client, media, industry bodies, NGOs, celebrities and political parties are part and parcel of the job. You must be able to understand the industry environment panning across sectors to be able to advise clients. Be in sync with the changing market dynamics in the field of communications and develop the ability to network with a wide spectrum of people. It is also important to be a good salesperson to excel in this field.
What do they do?
When tennis legend Andre Agassi powered his way into the tennis arena he was known to be boyish and aggressive. Today, after a well thought out image makeover exercise, his is the image of a family man and he’s respected around the globe for his charity foundation.
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was advised to change the tone of her voice, to wear a jacket and skirt of the same colour so that no one realised that she was only 5 ft 3. Her wearing the colour blue was a master stroke - not only was it the colour of her Conservative Party but it became a shade associated with her.
Closer home, the rise of actor Shah Rukh Khan from a small-screen actor to Bollywood’s badshah, is an example of a carefully planned public persona. His public appearance, media exposure, promotional tours etc have all been tailored to enhance his image as a screen idol.
Welcome to the world of image makeovers, where an image consultant’s magic wand does not only change a celebrity’s personality but also dictates how the world looks at and adores him or her. Creating a public identity for public figures such as actors, singers, politicians and even models is an important aspect of image management. An image manager’s job involves advising them on every aspect of their personality, including dress code, statements to the press and public appearances - all aimed at changing the perception of their personality in the public domain.
Image consultancy is a more corporatised version of public relations. As an image consultant you need to plan a focused image makeover for your client and slowly progress towards it by achieving defined milestones over a period of time.
Managing the image of an individual is all about ideating and creating a brand image for a celebrity so that he or she is able to address the right target group. The media plays an important role in building and maintaining that image. An image consultant’s job begins with identifying what image an individual or the personality needs to portray and to whom it needs to be communicated. The next step involves identifying the right communication medium and the tool.
Also, once the image is built, the next step is to maintain it. It also involves handling negative publicity in a clever manner.
Take the case of Shashikant Someshwar, director, western region, Perfect Relations. A graduate in statistics and a post- graduate in mass communication, Someshwar jumped into image management because he thought there was more creativity involved in ‘creating’ individuals and one way in which he could put his networking skills to good use.
“My choice of this field dates back to when I was in college and public relations was at a nascent stage and still gaining exposure. Professors in college within the wide bucket of communications would render cases to us in this realm and the dynamics used to fascinate me,” he says.
He has had an opportunity to advise NBA on their market entry strategy in India, support the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee in the recently held state elections with media relations, and does celebrity management for a number of retainer clients. “The similarity that I have noticed while working with such renowned personalities is that they all are very receptive to the changes they need to bring about in their public lives in order to supplement a desired image management or makeover. However, what most people do not realise is that it is an evolving process and it takes time to build a particular public image. Hence, the greatest challenge has been to change the mindset from short-term gains to an ever-evolving effort to achieve the desired reputation and further manage it,” he says.
Apart from this, there are the usual issues. From starry tantrums to incompetent briefs to pure respect for one’s time… but one has to learn to deal with these and achieve set targets. At times the job in hand can get very frustrating with results dependent on the perfect symphony between multiple allies and that’s when your patience and skills are put to test, he adds.
As for basic requirements, it is essential to have excellent communication skills to be able to deal with the constant pressure of managing expectations from your clients as well as the media.
. Communication skills (oral and written)
. Interpersonal skills
. Ability to multi-task
. Tactical and strategic planning
. Creative aptitude
How do I get there?
One can opt for Bachelor’s of Mass Media (BMM) after higher secondary certificate (HSC). These are three-year degree courses, with six semesters, managed by a full-time and visiting faculty drawn from the industry. During the final year one can specialise in either journalism or public relations.