'Engage frequently, communicate with empathy & dismiss fake info during this tough time'

Purnima S Mohanty, Director - Communications, Microsoft India, talks on challenges & opportunities created by coronavirus, her contribution as a woman leader, paradigm shift in communications & more

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Jun 5, 2020 6:20 PM
Purnima Sahni Mohanty

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been a chatter around women leaders at the helm of various organisations showing the path to deal with the pandemic. One such name featuring prominently in these converations has been that of Purnima Sahni Mohanty, Director - Communications, Microsoft India.
Mohanty has over 27 years of experience in the industry, spearheading and executing world class communications programmes. With a strong blend of global and local expertise, she has led strategic communications, reputation management, and citizenship programmes for Fortune 100 Companies. Mohanty has received several prominent industry recognitions for her exemplary work in Communications and CSR.
e4m interacted with the leader on her journey, challenges and opportunities created by coronavirus, her contribution as a woman leader, paradigm shift in communications and more in today's edition of Women Achievers Series.

Edited Excerpts:-
How has your journey been in the industry? If you look back, what would be the most defining moment of your career?
It has been an interesting and enriching journey while building my career as a communications leader. There have been not one but several defining moments, and perhaps the most important one was learning early in my career about the strategic role of communications in impactful leadership.  

The coronavirus pandemic has presented a plethora of challenges and opportunities to businesses. How has it impacted the communication business?
COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis that has brought in its wake several changes in the way we live and work. With work-from-home becoming a new reality for a part of the population, communications teams across sectors are playing a critical role in helping organisations navigate the challenges posed by the pandemic. Establishing clear communication guidelines and processes for employees, customers, and other key stakeholders has become crucial. Communicating through the right channels and digital platforms is equally important.
At Microsoft, we are developing consistent communication strategies to engage both internal and external stakeholders. Our objectives are updating employees on pandemic-related company guidance, enabling business continuity and addressing customer & partner needs efficiently while aligning with evolving government guidance.

How can one leverage communication to elevate their businesses during the time of the pandemic?
During this time of uncertainty, organiations are facing unique challenges. Communications teams across industries are adapting to mobilize their COVID-19 response.  Here are a few key aspects driving effective communications:

Engage frequently: Communicate with stakeholders on a regular basis regarding ongoing company developments. First-hand, transparent communication from the organization instills and strengthens trust.

Communicate with empathy: Understand that these are tough times for everyone, express genuine care for employees, customers and communities.

Dismiss misinformation: At a time when everyone is looking for answers, it is crucial that communicators equip stakeholders with accurate and trustworthy information. Brands must ensure they are communicating credible, useful information and actively discourage spread of misinformation.

Why do we observe attrition in women leadership as we go up the ladder?
There are several reasons for this. Balancing work and family roles is a predominant one. For more women to be in leadership positions, home and parenting responsibilities need to be shared by both men and women. Organizations must refrain from bias and offer senior positions to deserving talent, regardless of gender.
At Microsoft, flexibility to work from home is a part of our culture and is a huge enabler especially for women as they balance their personal and professional lives. It is not surprising that there are several senior women leaders at Microsoft India.

Women leaders are paving the way forward now. How have you contributed to this?
I have been involved in many diversity and inclusion programmes throughout my career. One of the examples is setting up women leadership networks in companies where I have worked. For the last few years, I have been mentoring young women entering the workforce. 

What paradigm shift will the communication industry witness post Covid?
Communications will play an increasingly significant role in organisations. Covid-19 has added new dimensions to the function. Digital platforms will become more relevant across industries. Brands will need to invest to become digitally strong and build a deeper connect with audiences.

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