'Personalization coupled with good research will reshape the communications industry'
Shivalika Malik, Senior Manager- Communications, PepsiCo India, on featuring in 'e4m PR and Corporate Communications 40 under 40' list, speaks to us about new trends in the communications industry
An astute communications professional, Shivalika Malik has seen both sides of the communication business; be it working for clients on the agency side or working along with the brand as part of the corporate communications team. With over 15 years of experience in developing and executing result-oriented communication strategies and public outreach campaigns, Shivalika is currently associated with PepsiCo India as Senior Manager, Communications. She is a proud member of ‘e4m PR and Corporate Communications 40 under 40’ second list, who firmly believes in digital innovation and creativity.
To talk more on new trends and skills in the ever-evolving communications industry, Shivalika Malik interacted with exchange4media in the latest episode of ‘e4m Next Gen Series’.
How do you feel being a part of the elite list?
Being featured in e4m’s '40 under 40 list' has truly been a very humbling experience. Exchange4Media’s list is a coveted platform and I feel privileged to be recognized amongst some of the best communicators in the industry. I was definitely stoked and acknowledgments such as these do make you feel delighted, but they also motivate you to do better going forward. Having said that, it has also made me look back and realize that a lot of people – mentors, colleagues, peers are and have been part of my professional journey and they have contributed to who I am today. Hence, gratitude is what I felt mostly post being part of the list.
What are the key skills/attributes required in the prevailing market?
Today the world has changed a lot, especially post the global health challenge and communicators have an integral role to play in the post-COVID era. Communicators are witnessing an increased level of engagement and hence, responsible communications is a key criterion in the prevailing environment. Some of the key attributes that are need of the hour today are:
- Being Emotionally Intelligent – Today it’s important for the communication professionals to be able to understand emotions, understand behaviors based on those emotions, and in this process be able to empathize and to be able to create messaging that would hit the right chord amongst its audiences.
- Being Collaborative – The communications function is also at many places called the support function. The logic here is that it is responsible for uplifting what others do and ensure that it helps functions/businesses tell their story in a more compelling way to create impact. However, to be able to do that, the communications team/ person needs to work with different personalities, different functions and therefore collaboration is the key. One misunderstanding, missing piece of information, or misconception between teams can make one lose the whole plot. Being a good listener and open to different points of view is a must in the field of communications.
- Being Agile and Nimble –The world around us is evolving rapidly. A successful communicator needs to be on his/her toes and be ready to deal with crises, challenges, pick up the right trends to play on and identify moments and opportunities to help enhance reputation, at any point in time. Communications is a 24/7 job in a volatile environment, and one needs to be prepared at all times to act for the benefit of your company/ client.
- Being Fearless –A successful communicator is the one who is fearless - asks questions, has the passion to unlearn and learn new things, is inquisitive, and is ready to take calculated risks if he/ she really believes in his/her story. Therefore, this attribute is very important for the communicator to evolve in the industry.
What trends have you witnessed in the past 10 months in the PR and corp comm domain?
2020 has been an unprecedented year which was challenging but nonetheless full of opportunities as well. Purpose-driven communications took precedence over business-driven communications. It was heartening to see that brands were focusing more on how they can innovate and creatively help the ecosystem that they operate in rather than just trying to make profits. At PepsiCo India, the core philosophy that we live by is “ Winning with Purpose” and it came alive during various campaigns this year, be it Pepsi Salaam Namaste campaign to encourage consumer behavior change through social distancing or Pepsi save Our Restaurants Campaign, where competitive differences were ignored only to help 2.5 million marginalized restaurant workers. Similarly, hope, trust, and fun emerged as three key pillars (these became the cornerstones for PepsiCo India) to drive communications – for example, be it showcasing gratitude towards the unsung heroes by brand Lays or celebrating the resilient spirit of Indians through the Mountain Dew anthem during Independence Day.
Another key trend that the industry witnessed was digital acceleration. Digital media/ platforms picked up pace during COVID 19 while consumers increasingly consumed content there. 2020 saw communicators exploring newer avenues and experimenting with social platforms to create compelling and relevant messaging for their audiences.
How technologically ready and skilled are the PR and Corp Comm professionals to move to the next level of digitization?
While the year 2020 has given a huge push to digitization in terms of how businesses operate or how communicators communicate, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The journey has just started and just like any skill set, this needs to be learned and honed with practice. This does not mean that we do not have specialists in the industry but as a whole, cross-skilling, continuous focus, and investment of time coupled with data and analytics, will only help communicators explore and exploit this powerful platform to its true potential.
According to you, what innovations will reshape the PR and Corp Comm industry?
Personalization coupled with good research/ insights is what will reshape the PR and corp comm industry. Communicators are basically storytellers and no story is impactful if it doesn’t create a connect with the audience. While figures and data are important ingredients to make one’s story relatable, the humane and emotional aspect that a communicator brings will drive purpose and profits.
How has the sentiment of the industry changed over 10 years? Where will the industry head in the future?
Today, communications, as a function, has a seat on the table. It is seen as an integral part of the business strategy unlike many years ago. Businesses understand that telling your company/ brand story is not enough, how you tell that story is equally important, and hence, communications as an industry has a lot to gain in the prevailing environment. As the industry grows and evolves, we will witness that Purpose will lead the way for communicators in the times to come. In addition to it, accountability and responsibility for the function will increase manifold. With this increased responsibility, measurement of success and transparency will play a big role in the way how communicators pave the way for times to come.
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