'Every stakeholder is your storyteller'
Janet Arole, Sukanya Chakraborty, Pooja Khan, Atipriya Sarawat and Nikky Gupta discussed the myriad challenges and opportunities presented by the pandemic
At the second edition of PR and Corp Comm Women Achievers Summit & Awards, a power-packed panel of women leaders spoke about the ways in which communication helped in crisis communication in the last year and half. The discussion was centred on ‘Covid adversity, what opportunities and challenges lie ahead for us.'
On the panel there was Janet Arole, Aditya Birla, AVP & Head - Corporate Communications; Sukanya Chakraborty, Global Head - Corporate Communications & CSR, VFS Global; Pooja Khan, Head, corporate communications Panasonic India; Atipriya Sarawat, Director Branding, Communications and Corporate Citizenship, Fiserv; and Nikky Gupta, Director (Media Operations) at Teamwork Group.
Taking about how the Covid crisis was an unprecedented crisis that had to be handled in the best possible way to minimize impact on businesses, Khan said, “There was no readily available playbook to help communicators navigate this unchartered territory. In the first wave, the conversations started with Life vs Livelihood and navigated towards Life & Livelihood – both are equally important – whether it is the government or corporates, we all have had to align our actions and narrative to manage both pillars of the economy.”
“Looking at the current environment from a communicator’s lens, pandemic further reinforced management’s belief on ‘effective communication’. With traditional ad campaigns taking a back seat, PR and social media gained prominence becoming the centerpiece for strategic communication. As I said earlier, every industry had its unique set of challenges – for Panasonic, being a B2C and B2B organization with consumer durables, energy, integrated solutions with multiple factories across the country, it was a huge challenge to resume operations. So in the process of resuming operations and bring people back, communication was the key,” she added.
For Chakraborty, the crisis was a period of learning and un-learning.
"The pandemic has been an eye-opener for individuals, businesses, and communities at large, disrupting and creating new ways of adapting to everyday situations. Since March 2020, it has been a learning in many ways, setting a new normal in every step, emphasizing the need to be agile and flexible to make shifts whenever required. The pandemic has moved the needle for communications as function too, from being seen as tactical function to a more strategic unit of thinking. As we move ahead, success lies in being dynamic and adopting an approach guided by the new sensitivities of the world we live in,” she said.
Spotting the positives in the challenging times, Arole said, “To sum it up, the pandemic has made us resilient to overcome the ongoing challenges thrust upon us. One could choose to look at the bright side of life and take into account the widespread disruptions that have swept across the work front, education, healthcare, etc. Moreover, Digital transformation has touched every aspect of our life which got further accelerated due to the pandemic. It has also made us take stock of our overall well-being and nurture our relationships in a holistic manner.”
Similarly for Gupta who handles over 45 clients in the healthcare industry, the covid crisis has been all about innovations. “The clients no longer wanted a long term plan we had to make short term plans which could be for 15 days or even a week sometimes. Since healthcare was at the centre of everything in this last year and half we didn’t just stop our communication at targeting new customers. We also designed communication so that it could spread awareness and handhold the ones who needed guidance. That’s the kind of communication our clients were looking for,” she said.
Sarawat who deals in fintech believes that culture and digital shifts will drive transformation. She said, “While we adopt new ways and models of working, delivering a stellar workplace experience through the life cycle of an employee and defining an organisation's value proposition to stakeholders will take centre stage and drive market differentiation. The role of communicators as a strategic enabler will be seen in cultural transformation - building campaigns that can fuel behavioural change or mind-set shift, and influence. Every stakeholder is your storyteller, brands are no longer built in isolation. In fact, storytelling and narratives will shift from factual to inspiring and meaningful. The closer communication is aligned to enabling business goals the more successful we will be in our roles.”
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