Corp Comm side has always benefited from agency talent: Abhishek Mahapatra, Nissan India

VP and Head of Communications, Corporate Affairs at Nissan India talks about the shift that corporate communications has witnessed in the last few years

e4m by Ruhail Amin
Updated: Sep 3, 2018 8:56 AM

The communications space has transformed drastically over the years. From managing media to giving strategic direction to companies, the role has become more complex and demanding than before. While the proliferation of technology has given communications professionals a better grip on brand communication, it has also thrown at them a plethora of challenges, the biggest being the threat of brand dilution.

Speaking about this shift that the communications domain has witnessed over the years, Abhishek Mahapatra, Vice President and Head of Communications, Corporate Affairs at Nissan India said, “Communications domain has evolved in various ways over the years. If we break the communications space into three parts, it is essentially based on people, processes and product. The advent of technology has played a huge role in this evolution in corporate communications and everything is now 24X7. Moreover, media relations used to be the core of PR firms and corporate communications functions, and now it is one of the many things that we do.”

The Indian corporate communications history is not too old. In fact, the domain started getting noticed in a big way post the liberalisation era in 1991 when offshore companies set up offices in India and professional people handling it became the need of the hour. Almost three decades down the line, the industry is still grappling with some basic issues.

According to Mahapatra, despite this transformation, there are still big challenges that need to be tackled and one among them is talent crunch. “The corporate communications side has always benefited from agency talent. Most of the corporate communications heads today have an agency background. Earlier, even the quality of talent in the industry was - I won’t say better, I would say different. Dynamics are now different. Earlier we used to do stakeholder engagement. Today we add another important layer of influencer engagement to it and that makes stakeholder engagement more holistic. Moreover, the industry has grown manifold in the last 10 to 15 years and a lot of great talent has come to this industry. But is that talent trained? Well may be not. But I would blame ourselves for this because we have to ensure that we train them.”

Mahapatra also believes that the communications industry is moving towards a very strong zone where its practitioners have great experience in understanding what is earned media and they are thus able to push that understanding to the whole pay for play model. “Earlier we used to measure PR and Communications in EAV (Equivalent Ad Value), now all mature firms have moved away from that. Nobody assesses your success through the thickness of your docket anymore. So, measurement and laser sharp focus on analytics have come into communication, which was in its infancy few years back. Communications is also benefitting from right use of Big Data and hence analytics is playing a key role to define impact, ROI and decision making ,” stated Mahapatra. 

Speaking about how content creation and new mediums have added to the transformation of communications function, Mahapatra said, "Earlier, content was limited to print documentation (articles, releases) but now it has evolved to include visual storytelling and communications is playing a joint lead with marketing. For example at Nissan we have a 'content factory' set up inside communications function that's leading the content strategy and partnering with marketing. We are no more the distant seconds and are playing an equal or sometimes leading role in creating engaging content that's relevant, topical and contextual."

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