Brands that stay authentic, empathetic & purposeful will emerge stronger: Sunayna Malik
Malik, Managing Director, India & Senior Vice President, APAC, Archetype shares her journey, the importance of communication during COVID, challenges to women leadership, value gap and more
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Communicators across the board are keeping up with the volatile period with their impeccable capabilities of crisis management. Women are leading the way forward. Sunayna Malik is one name that resonates with talent, effective communication and leadership.
Sunayna Malik, Managing Director, India & Senior Vice President, APAC, Archetype (formerly Text100) is a diversely experienced communication professional who has seen the light both from the cliental side and from the agency side. She has always proven that communication is her claim to fame. With an experience of more than two decades, Malik proudly boasts of implementing brand positioning, market strategy development and reputation management of brands across sectors. She is a reliable professional when it comes to brand campaigning and crisis management.
In today’s edition of Women Achievers Series, we talk to Sunayna Malik on her journey, the importance of communication during COVID, challenges to women leadership, value gap and more.
How has your journey been in the communications industry? What are your key learnings?
It’s been a great journey as I’ve worked both in the house as a corporate communications lead and as a consultant on the agency side. I’ve seen communications evolve as a discipline from megaphone marketing to purpose-led reputation building; witnessed the increased respect for the corporate communications function as more and more of the C-suite have experienced its phenomenal power and reach and given its due importance.
Having worked for more than two decades in the industry in different avatars, in sum I would say that I have seen PR evolve immensely, especially with the explosion of digital, social, creative, advocacy and integrated solutions becoming an integral part of the discipline. There has been disruption and transformation on so many fronts, entailing considerable unlearning and relearning to stay relevant and be a strong partner for business leaders. Today, communications have earned its seat at the table and is seen as a business enabler and partner.
How has the Covid19 changed the communication process? How crucial has communication become in these times of despair?
The Covid19 crisis is a first off - unanticipated, unplanned for, with no playbook, no earlier reference points and worst of all, with no end in sight. So, the importance of honest, genuine communications at this juncture when everyone is locked in and depending on diverse channels for information, is probably higher than ever before and given so much of uncertainty, we probably need to over-communicate. From staying connected, to curbing the spread of misinformation and fake news, to driving authentic brand narratives that are relevant to the situation, the role of communications simply cannot be undermined.
The communications paradigm has had to be flipped because it can no longer be business as usual with opportunistic, brand centred messaging. The opportunity this crisis offers brands is to demonstrate their relevance in the face of adversity, whether it is by way of helping the community and society navigate through the crisis; find new ways of reaching their consumers and wider stakeholders or just be a beacon of hope and resilience.
Brands that stay authentic, that have empathy at the core of their narrative and demonstrate a purpose, will emerge stronger.
What are the risks or challenges to women leadership? How to tackle those challenges? What are the main causes of attrition in women leadership at the senior level?
The biggest challenge to women leadership is the stereotypical gender role that has been defined for women by society. At every critical milestone in her life, a woman is expected to adapt and conform, at a huge personal cost and many brilliant women succumb to these social and emotional pressures.
The glass ceiling does exist, pay disparity does exist and unstated societal norms do create biases. My personal advice to all women is to not give up because if you are determined to make a career you will find a way- and it is possible to balance the two roles, though it’s not easy. What we all need to do is attempt to change stereotypical ideologies and inspire change with every small step we take.
How has the business of Archetype revamped itself from Text100? What have been the major changes and developments?
Last year, we rebranded ourselves as Archetype with the global merger of Text100 and Bite, another Next Fifteen group agency with a strong play amongst new-age brands. By definition, Archetype means an original model or prototype that others imitate. Our objective, therefore, is to set the standards for the next generation of global agencies – where marketing and communications converge seamlessly, where technology is at the core and where being global means being finely tuned to local markets. With our strategy of “best people, best work, best clients”, we will be the archetype for the reimagined global agency - a communications & marketing organization where each office around the world is a pioneer in its local market, finely tuned to the region in which they operate, but supported by consistent client standards globally.
How can the culture of an organization promote equality and inclusion?
Historically, Text100 and now Archetype has been acknowledged for its work culture and we are really proud of the work environment in our offices. Diversity and inclusion have always been intrinsic to our ethos - we strongly promote equality and inclusion across all our offices globally. Interestingly, when you look at our executive leadership team at the APAC level, nearly 7 out of 10 leaders are women. However, diversity and inclusion at work are not only about women at work. It goes beyond that to providing equal opportunities, compensation, accountability and learning prospects to everyone who works with us. At Archetype, we treat everyone equally irrespective of gender, background, community, race or sexual orientation.
A lot has been talked about the pay gap. Is there a value gap that needs to be addressed now?
It’s an interesting question, considering that we are once again back to the debate of a gender-defined gap. I don’t think competency and the value associated with it have anything to do with gender. Any gap is a capability gap, irrespective of gender and women have successfully stormed male bastions repeatedly over the decades, in diverse fields, clearly establishing that they are second to none.
The pay gap is still a layered fact, but the perception of a value gap would truly take us centuries back should it manifest itself as a bias to be dealt with at the workplace. Thankfully, I have been in the industry and worked with leaders where this fallacy has not raised its ugly head at any level.
What would you advice to other women leaders across the industry?
My advice to other women leaders would be to first, be uncompromising with your work because that gives one confidence and conviction; second, aim high – glass ceilings are meant to be broken and nothing is impossible; third be thoroughly professional but build a personal connect with your people and teams and lastly, be comfortable with yourself and the way you are. Believe in yourself!
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