Lines between digital, social & traditional media blurring: Sonia Huria

Huria, Head - Corporate Marketing, Communications & Sustainability, Viacom18 Media, talks about her journey with Viacom18, role of women in the industry and more

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Nov 11, 2019 4:13 PM
Sonia Huria

Sonia Huria, Head - Corporate Marketing, Communications & Sustainability, Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd. is a young professional in the corporate communications industry with an aim of driving work in alignment with the company’s benefit and leading from the front.

Huria began her journey with Viacom18 in 2008, as part of the team that nurtured Hindi GEC – COLORS during its launch. Her understanding of television, the entertainment domain and the consumer space via her previous stints at Genesis Burson Marsteller and Weber Shandwick, helped her create a distinctively strong image for the channel.

Huria has not only spearheaded the launch of some of the biggest shows known to Indian television audiences, but has also supervised sustenance of their interest by adopting innovation every step of the way.

An interaction with Huria on her journey in the industry, role of the millennial and women in the industry.

Edited excerpts:

Being a young corp comm professional, how has been your journey in the industry?
When I started out as an associate at PR advisory firms, more than a decade and half ago, I hadn’t quite envisioned being here. My journey has been quite transitional from launching Viacom18’s flagship channel COLORS to now driving the brand and corporate communication for the media conglomerate across all its five lines of businesses. With the expansion of the network both vertically and horizontally, I expanded my portfolio to add more skills and responsibilities. My journey has motivated and challenged me to gun for more. Building brand communication strategies, implementing them at scale, bridging internal communication across a geographically and demographically diverse workforce, managing end consumer relations, crafting the identity of a ‘network with a humane purpose’ through partnerships with various government and industry bodies, and social impact organizations have been the most important aspects of my Viacom18 journey.

Since your inception in this industry, what are the changes that you have observed in the working of this industry?
The communication landscape is transforming with the lines between digital, social and traditional media blurring with newer areas of influencer marketing and customer engagement. With businesses now thriving on digital transformation, there has been a focus on communications, as the industry has traversed a long way. In my journey so far, I have seen the media and entertainment industry move from being focussed on traditional media to now integrating communication across platforms both within the organization as well as outside the organization. Cause-led communications are now driving the consumer connect. Data is revolutionising the approach towards communications.

As majority of the industry is occupied by women, what do you feel about the role of women in this industry?
PR and communication calls for empathy in understanding situations, multi-tasking and strategizing creatively – these are skills that are inherent in women – and using these skills help deliver best results. With gradual development of positive measures in the corporate sector, increased participation of women has pointed out to multifarious benefits, including improved financial performance of the organization, greater tilt towards corporate social responsibility and better organizational climate. Women lead to more productivity and better problem-solving.

How important are millennials in the field of communication?
Millennials are turning out to be crucial to communications. Leadership skills, willingness to work as a team, optimism, being tech savy and goal orientation are some of the positive skills shown by the millennial today. This generation is largely comprised of motivated, competent professionals looking to gain the experience and knowledge necessary to ascend to higher roles within their field. Understanding this generation of employees and working with them to develop their talent and modernise traditions in the workspace will train strong leaders for the future of PR and communications.

How are the CSR activities of Viacom 18 different from the activities of PSUs?
Viacom18 is one of the fastest growing and most successful networks in the country. However, we do this with a focus on the triple bottom line of social responsibility, economic value and environmental impact. We are aware of the power that the media wields and the endeavour to grow with our values of giving back to the communities we serve.
Our projects are primarily focused in the areas of Education, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Art & Culture and Women’s Empowerment.

In 2019, we strengthened Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan with the launch of a 26-episode finite series ‘Navrangi Re’ in association with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and BBC Media Action. This show created awareness on the problem of sanitation in India. We also championed the cause of youth empowerment by bringing international behaviour change show MTV Shugga to India. A 13-part fiction series, the show will focus on sensitive yet important areas of youth sexual health, consent and abortion as core themes and is being supported by USAID, CIFF, Janssen, BMGF and UNICEF.

What are your 5-year growth plans?
While we continue to leverage the power of story telling, we aim to make our every story reach its audience. Hence, from a communication point of view, we will continue being the enabler that bring our stories to its audiences while also leveraging our brand promise.

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