Clear communication is the bedrock of a brand’s success: Dilip Yadav, First Partners

Yadav, one of the founders of First Partners, talks on his journey in the industry, key learnings through his long career, changing paradigms, challenges in the industry and more

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Feb 24, 2020 4:07 PM
Dilip Yadav

 Dilip Yadav, one of the founders of full-service communications consultancy First Partners, is a business leader who has been converting market insights into tangible business outcomes with strategic communication. He is a veteran in the industry with a career that spans 25 years. He continues to take on some of the toughest challenges brought on to the table.

Dilip was amongst the 100 people named in the recently released “e4m Top 100 Influential Game Changers” list.  Exchange4media had a candid conversation with Dilip Yadav on his journey in the industry, key learnings through his long career, changing paradigms, challenges in the industry and more.

 Edited Excerpts:-


How has been your journey in the communication industry?

In a career spanning more than 25 years, I have held senior leadership positions in global public relations brands, have guided business leaders of Fortune 100 companies on communication issues, built award winning public opinion campaigns and helped accelerate start-ups.

Before co-founding First Partners, I was Managing Director Client Services for Weber Shandwick and Managing Director for Creation (now called Current Global). Prior to that I had stints in marketing and the media industry.  Today, I am proud that at First Partners, we are bringing years of insights into action by developing disruptive consulting models and delivering creative outcomes as endorsed by industry recognitions received by our firm.

In the past too, public relations campaigns conceived and managed by me won coveted international awards for their creativity and impact, such as India’s first United Nations Grand Prize for PR Excellence, IPRA Golden World Award, several SABRE Awards, Gold and Silver in the Media Lions category at Cannes, etc.

What have been your key learnings throughout your career?

A good professional is the one who keeps learning. In communication consulting, where one straddles across industry sectors – say technology, healthcare, B2C, B2B regularly, this becomes even more relevant. You need to blend communication insights with a sharp understanding of the industry challenges to create solutions.

One key learning for me is the changing equilibrium between reputation building and business success. It is well established that reputations can take a long time to build. On the other hand, in a fiercely competitive environment, businesses today are struggling to be successful in the short run. So, the role of communication must evolve from its historical mainstay of reputation to helping executives drive business results. This is what we are focusing on at First Partners.

Another learning for me is a direct connection between communication and success. I live by the belief: “Whatever cannot be communicated effectively, cannot be a business success”. Clear, unambiguous communication is often the bedrock of a brand’s success.

Lastly, in a hyper fragmented media environment, brands biggest worry is the lack of control on the message. I believe, we need to bring the focus back from trying to manage the medium to taking responsibility for the messages we emit. This can be done by using insights and coming up with communication which is relevant across multiple media forms.

 What was the idea behind starting “First Partners”?

The foundation of “First Partners” was laid on the back of our mission to reorient communication to deliver business outcomes. In a cluttered market, a firm that offers the legacy expertise of managing reputations, which is a medium to the long-term game, and brand-new model of driving business results through communication in the short run would be unique. Today, our proposition has been vindicated by the trust that several blue-chip international and Indian brands have put in us. 

 With brands becoming very competitive in maximizing the reach of their campaigns and stories, how do agencies cope up with the pressure of performing?

It is a competitive world for both brands as well as the agencies. Under pressure, brands pursue new agency partners offering new solutions. Agencies under pressure go hunting for superior talent. However, challenges remain for both.

 I believe the best results get created when both the brands and the agencies collaborate to attack the common culprit –the competitive forces, and work like a team. To succeed, any campaign needs multiple skills and best minds to come together and operate like a well-orchestrated army. Even the most infallible brands today are pitted against forces of activism and sustainability and competing with non-competitors for the same resources. Cohesion is the only shield against such competition.

 What are the biggest challenges being faced by the PR industry?

The biggest challenge I find is in the knowledge domain. There is an uneven distribution of knowledge with respect to communication, its role and potential, among stakeholders within brand organizations, and in brands and agencies. For the corporate brand, this could lead to unproductive interactions between business ownership and the communication function. A fall-out would be underutilisation of communication’s potential or placing excessive demands on it while the problem lies elsewhere. For an agency, a gap in understanding would mean challenging interactions between the client and the agency.

To address this, there should be investments in upgrading the knowledge base of communication professionals. If you compare various management functions, communication would be among the most underinvested, with fewer learning and knowledge exchange forums on the academic and industry sides.

 How does it feel being a part of the elite list of “Top 100 Influential Game Changers” list and how does it add value to your profile?

Personally, it is a humbling experience. Professionally, I think such recognitions provide an inspiration for the younger generation, who would like to see themselves in a similar spot down the line. They are good for the industry.

 I would like to take this opportunity to thank the exchange4media team and Anurag Batra for the recognition and wish to see more similar initiatives in the future.

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