PR industry lets compassion take centre stage in the pandemic

Let's take a look at the steps prominent PR players have been taking towards creating a sustainable work culture in the industry during this crisis

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Published: May 26, 2021 5:20 PM  | 8 min read
PR

Leadership across industries has been pretty grounded when it comes to employee engagement and welfare, especially during the second wave of Covid-19. With empathy and purpose at its core, the Indian public relations agencies have gone the extra mile to reassure their colleagues in unprecedented times.    

The fraternity has been lending ears to employees, empathizing with their concerns, frequently communicating with them and being flexible and supportive to meet their needs as part of the steps taken to revive employee culture in the communication industry. 

In the second story of the series, let us have a look at the efforts taken by prominent industry players to enhance employee culture and rejuvenate them with positive energies to work with full concentration and productivity.

Mechanisms adopted to share/reduce the workload of colleagues

The second wave has further taught us to show care and support in managing the workload of colleagues. As fear and stress loom large everywhere, it was important to communicate the challenges with everyone, including the clients. 

Weber Shandwick has stepped up to support its local market both on a regional and local level. A volunteer program was set up by the CEO of Weber Shandwick Asia Pacific to encourage colleagues from across the region to step up and fill in for local Indian colleagues who are stretched and may need help. Numerous colleagues stepped up for the cause. 

Local and regional Weber Shandwick leadership also came together to solve people issues, reassess priority work with clients, reassign deliverables and continue to connect to ensure consistent assistance and support is provided. This has been done to ensure teams have enough time to address any personal or family commitments. 

ON PURPOSE believes that transparency with clients is the first step to trust-building. With 7 team members testing positive, the firm was working on 60% capacity for the past two months. This was communicated to clients proactively (via three emails, over two weeks) along with plans of reducing work hours – starting the day at 11 am and making Friday a non-working day for the last week of April and all of May.

This was done to help the team reprioritize their life over work with a promise to deliver but with new timelines. Some of the clients have also offered to include the team in their firm's vaccination drives and others have been helping to get immediate medical support for team members.

Teams at MediaValueWorks (MVW) are known to thrive on their internal policies of staying happy and maintaining a sane work environment. As a policy, the PR firm does not support unrealistic growth targets at work. Projects planned in advance ensure a smooth workflow and not chase deadlines each day. The firm believes that if it can take off the chaos from our work, then the load auto-settles.

Concept PR teams that were earlier structured around a vertical, are now built around clients. A process was put in place that monitored the level of outcome delivered for each client, before the pandemic. Each client servicing team was then encouraged to keep the same level of deliveries without compromising the safety of its team members.

The senior team members met with each team, looking at deliverables for their clients. Any resource that was needed was provided. All centres were then aligned according to a client’s needs and the level of expected deliveries discussed. All these measures helped the agency maintain and some cases exceed service standards. Teams are also working together to achieve targets that they had set for themselves.

Since a majority of the clients at Teamwork Communications Group are healthcare clients and hospitals, the nature of their work cannot slow down particularly. The mechanisms that have been put in place basically revolve around greater work-sharing by team members as well as providing cross-team support. The employees have also shown remarkable team spirit in such circumstances and have come forward to support team members who are unwell with COVID or are facing health challenges concerning family members, asserted the company.

Checking upon the mental and physical health of employees

Trying times like these have a profound impact on mental as well as physical wellbeing. So, it’s high time organisations revisit and relax their HR policies.

The employees at ON PURPOSE are encouraged to understand their body and mind’s reaction to the pandemic. The firm has a mandatory team meeting once a week where they share experiences, celebrate big and small wins, deliberate on critical topics, and have open discussions. Under the existing Mental Health Policy, if any employee wishes to seek mental health assistance, the sessions are 100% reimbursable for May and June. Employees can avail of COVID paid leave of up to 17 days and COVID caregiver leave of up to 9 days (including weekends), informed the firm.

Under its ‘Employee Assistance Program’, Weber Shandwick has a free helpline number that gives people access to a counsellor. Regular Leadership Connects & Townhalls for all employees have been provided across the country. The agency has also tied up with the Doctor 24/ 7 mobile application that helps people connect with doctors across specializations within minutes, from the comfort of their homes. This service can be extended to up to 5 family members. An Insurance Policy – ‘Covid Kavach’ has been allocated for additional medical coverage.

Before the complete lockdown was announced by the authorities, Concept PR implemented a monthly town hall with its CEO. This is held on the last Friday of each month. The CEO gives an overview of the happenings and developments that took place within the month. It is an informal interaction. The HR Dept has been at the forefront of making sure that the company was interacting and not feeling left out in the WFH. The firm has also given health cover to all the employees. 

MediaValueWorks (MVW): Screening process on the selection of staff has heavy weightage on the candidates’ family background and psychological stability. Regular discussions with teams on family whereabouts and casual chat-ups are carried out. These sessions ensure the momentum of the team is maintained. One-on-one conversations are scheduled and counselling sessions are organised. 

The HR Manager, as well as Team Leaders at Teamwork Communications Group, are ensuring a constant touch with every team member, particularly the ones who have suffered the illness or have had family members affected. A dedicated COVID leave Policy for team members has also been implemented. Mental health workshops with experts are also being regularly organized to guide the team members on dealing with stress, trauma, and isolation.

Technology playing a significant role in being digitally connected

"Of all things we are grateful for, technology tops the list! The past month challenged us in ways we never imagined. Media platforms have further stitched omnichannel communications. Social media was abuzz with SOS calls from teammates and we were on a war footing with the HR team and a few senior team members maintaining databases to help the team with immediate resources," informed ON PURPOSE.

The team also volunteered for a social media initiative called ‘Covid Relief Purpose Project’ where it shares updates about COVID under three themes:
- Care (verified medical resources, hacks, how-tos)
- Comfort (uplifting stories, music, videos, mental wellbeing tips, cool recipes, exercise hacks) 

-Community (amplifying relief efforts by credible, verified NGOs and resource groups working on the ground)

Weber Shandwick took advantage of the various technological platforms available to ensure to continuously stay in touch with its employees. National, regional and global town halls are held regularly online to enable a sense of community. Using LinkedIn Learning and knowledge sharing from colleagues across the region, the firm conducts online learning and development training to ensure the learning process continues and to also keep teams engaged and motivated.

A step towards sustainable work culture in the overworked/overwhelmed communications industry

As aptly said that seeking help takes courage, all a communication agency needs to be sustainable is ‘communication.’ Letting employees know that it is ok to ask for help and then giving them the confidence that their team will support them. We are facing a humanitarian crisis that was not procrastinated about before and now more than ever, we need to adopt a people-first approach. 

ON PURPOSE seconds the idea and has been getting people on board (as freelancers, interns, on a contract basis and full time) to manage bandwidth and resources. 

"Communications industry of India is one of the most competitive sectors. With scintillating ideas, being flown in by members in forums, groups and community Whatsapp / telegrams, sharing of information and updates is taking place regularly. It’s imperative, to develop a sustainable ecosystem all members of the fraternity need to come together, discuss, deliberate, and draw up a set of rules safeguarding the interests of freelancers, professionals, smaller agencies," noted Media Value Works.

Despite the hectic and demanding nature of our work, Teamwork also realizes that employee burnout doesn’t help anyone –neither the employees nor the company. However, it believes that the industry has now realized that more sustainable work culture can be achieved in the future by better amalgamating digital and real-time processes. 

Now that the industry has a system in place to ensure adequate productivity even through remote working, going forward in the future new policies can be adopted where more people are allowed remote working, asserted Teamwork Communications.

Being advocates of sustainable work culture, Weber Shandwick has taken several employee-friendly measures which include ‘Employee time off’ (a compulsory 4 day leave for the month of May), adhering to regular office hours – 9:30 am – 6:30 pm to ensure a healthy work-life balance and promote wellbeing. 

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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‘PR industry will have to create frequent pieces of engaging content that can be online’

At e4m PR & Corp Comm 40 Under 40 2022 summit, Sanjeev Handa, Sr. Vice President and Head of PR & Communications, Maruti Suzuki Ltd, shared trends in PR and communication industry

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 2, 2023 3:15 PM   |   3 min read

Sanjeev handa

At the e4m PR & Corp Comm 40 Under 40 2022 summit, Sanjeev Handa, Sr. Vice President and Head of PR & Communications, Maruti Suzuki Ltd, spoke in-depth about how millennials and GenZ play a crucial role for a brand. He also spoke about the evolving trends in the PR and corporate communication industry. Handa delivered a keynote address.

Emphasizing on the importance of adapting and evolving to the new trends which revolve around Gen Y, Sanjeev Handa said, “For the past two extraordinary and challenging years that we have faced, we have transcended from the Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. The world as we knew to us is fast transitioning into BANI world, which is very ‘Brittle’ as people are more ‘Anxious’, systems and processes are ‘Non-linear’ and situation of the ground is ‘Incomprehensible’ (BANI).”

“Therefore we need to learn to be more resilient, attentive, adaptive and transparent. The world is changing and the customer is adapting to the change. The needs and desires are also fast evolving.”

Talking about millennials in detail, Handa said, “One of the most significant changes we are seeing in the marketing and PR circles is the impact of the Y generation. Millennials are the largest percentage in a workforce and are shaping digital face of communication at several spaces. They are fast in embracing in new technology such as Instagram, Snapchat, etc and are using them to connect with the audiences in more authentic and engaging ways. This is leading to the shift away from traditional one-way communication strategies towards the need to two-way and interactive communications strategies.”  

“The future of communication therefore needs to be carefully constructed with thoughtful content that engages readers and deliver information quickly and very concisely. Long features, click bait articles and paywalls will be shunned by future audience. PR industry will have to place more effort in placing and creating frequent pieces of engaging content that can be driven out online rather than through long case studies or feature-led articles in publications and dailies.”

Describing the importance of technology and the need to create an impact via content, Handa explains, “We better understand the new generation needs, wants and desires. We would need to embrace new technologies and formats. Therefore creating a system to deliver content digitally to masses and audiences will be the most effective way for promoting the reputation of brands. Primarily through blogging and supported by social media strategies this will result in audiences being offered with snackable content. This will be of huge impact.”

 

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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Intellectual capital is the new wealth of organizations: Dr Navneet Anand

In his keynote address at the e4m PR & Corp Comm’s 40 Under 40 Summit, Dr Anand, Founder & Director, GreyMatters Communications talks about his own experiences in the communications profession

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 2, 2023 2:59 PM   |   2 min read

Dr Navneet Anand

The world of PR and Corp Comm has evolved a lot over the years. It has become an integral part of a support system for brands. At the e4m PR & Corp Comm’s 40 Under 40 Summit, Dr Navneet Anand, Founder & Director, GreyMatters Communications & Consulting gave a keynote address and talked about the integrity and intricacies of being in the communications profession.

Through examples of his own experiences and how he began his journey in GreyMatters, he explained the challenges that come along in this profession and how you find meaning in what you do.

Anand talks about intellectual capital and how it is an extremely important part of the PR and Corp Comm industry. “The intellectual capital is the new wealth of organizations. There are many who look down upon our industry as something which is frivolous. We do come across many people questioning the integrity, the methodology, the ideas, and the campaigns. They think we only go to journalists, pay some money, and then come back and make merry with our partners (clients). That's not true."

"This gentleman called Carl Eric created a theory of knowledge capital, in which he spoke about customer capital, structural capital, and human capital. We have to realize that we are the human capital. It is our capital, our competence, our knowledge, our pride and our ideation, which will make organizations grow.”

He cited examples from his youth, his political campaigns and associations with companies like DuPont, which have shaped GreyMatters and brought in them a sense of integrity, confidence and pride for the communications profession.

Lastly, he says, “As millennials, you must understand, where we come from: starting with the classical PR, which was more people to people, personalized, defined audiences to conventional PR organization to organization and media-centric. And now today, in contemporary PR where your audiences are diverse, they want to communicate with the brand directly and so on and so forth. You have a huge challenge in front of you.”

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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Kaizzen elevates Nikhil Pavithran and Prashant Subramanian

Pavithran has been promoted to Group President and Subramanian to the Head - North India

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 2, 2023 12:33 PM   |   3 min read

Kaizzen

In a bid to strengthen its leadership, Kaizzen, a leading integrated communications agency, announces the elevation of Nikhil Pavithran as Group President and Prashant Subramanian as the Head - North India. The announcement comes as the first step towards accomplishing the vision of expanding the agency’s national and international footprint. Earlier, Nikhil, based in Mumbai, was in-charge of operations in Western India while Prashant handled the Delhi market for Kaizzen. 

Nikhil and Prashant will continue to work closely with Vineet Handa, CEO, Kaizzen. Announcing the new leadership, Vineet Handa said, “I am delighted to announce the elevation of Nikhil Pavithran and Prashant Subramanian as Group President and Head North India, respectively. Both have been instrumental in Kaizzen’s meteoric rise, and I know that they will do everything in their power to grow Kaizzen to greater heights. I wish Nikhil and Prashant the very best for their new roles.” 

With Kaizzen for over 5 years, Nikhil joined the agency as Vice President in the Mumbai office and rose to the position of Group President in 2021 holding the global mandate for Kaizzen. 

Commenting on this development, Nikhil Pavithran said, “It is a matter of great honour for me to have been a part of Kaizzen’s growth over the last couple of years. I look forward to leading its talented team in increasing the company’s national and international footprint. As the Group President, I am excited to work towards Kaizzen’s holistic expansion, providing opportunities for its people, and diversification of the agency’s client portfolio across varied sectors.” With over 18 years of experience and working with various agencies across sectors, Nikhil brings with him a wide range of experience in brand communications and integrated marketing. 

On the other hand, Prashant joined Kaizzen in 2018 as Director Client Servicing and rose to become Vice President in 2021. In his current role, Prashant will hold the mandate for strengthening Kaizzen’s presence in Northern India. 

Speaking about this announcement, Prashant Subramanian said, “As the communication industry is subject to constant evolution, we aspire to leverage new-age technology and communication platforms to create newer opportunities Kaizzen’s Stakeholders. Their trust in us has been integral in this journey, and we look forward to their support in helping Kaizzen achieve greater heights in the future.” 

“It has been a privilege to be part of this journey with Kaizzen and I look forward to working closely with the management and team to expand our portfolio across North.”, Prashant added. 

Prashant has 17 years of experience in brand & product marketing and communications across various sectors.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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Meet e4m PR & Corp Comm's Top 100 Influential Game Changers 2022

The achievers were chosen from over 250 nominations

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 1, 2023 9:30 PM   |   1 min read

e4m

The 4th edition of exchange4media’s ‘Top 100 Influential Game Changers 2022’ list was announced on February 1, 2023, in a grand event at The Leela Ambience Gurugram. The list recognised and honoured 100 + people from the PR and Corp Comm industry who have changed the dynamics of the industry through their hard work, vision, leadership skill and clout. 

The PR and corporate communications industry is an ever-evolving one. It navigates not only changing trends in communication and technology but also strives to roll out strategies that cater to a wide spectrum of audience. It is, therefore, only just to recognise and acknowledge how PR and corporate communication professionals have helped fire up brand images in the time of crisis, led by examples and are role models in their respective areas of expertise. 

The top 100 awardees were chosen and shortlisted from over 250 nominations received following a robust internal auditing process by exchange4media’s editorial team. 

This is a list and not a ranking. 

Here are the Top 100 Influential Game Changers:

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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Announcing the trailblazers of e4m PR & Corp Comm’s 40 Under 40 2022

The winners were chosen from over 120+ nominations

By exchange4media Staff | Feb 1, 2023 9:30 PM   |   1 min read

40 under 40

Exchange4media group has unveiled the winners of the 4th edition of the e4m PR & Corp Comm 40 Under 40 Awards. These awards identified the next-generation leaders (professionals, entrepreneurs, game changers, achievers) - under 40 years of age – in the communication industry who, with their undaunting zeal and unflinching dedication, overcame all odds to become trailblazers.

Braving the odds and rising above has been the mantra that Public Relations and Corporate Communications professionals have sworn by during time of crisis. This prestigious and elite award is an attempt to recognise the fundamental role played by communication professionals in order to firewall a brand’s image.

The winners were chosen from over 120+ nominations and were selected by the members of the jury based on a number of parameters, including leadership/ mentorship skills, such statements of accomplishments as growth and recognitions, future potential and proven contribution to the industry.

This is a list and not a ranking.

Here's the complete list:

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Gear up for the 4th edition of e4m PR and Corp Comm 40 Under 40 Summit & Awards 2022

The day-long summit will be followed by a glittering award ceremony on February 1, 2023

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 31, 2023 10:31 AM   |   2 min read

PR & Corporate Communications 30 Under 30

The wait is over! On February 1, 2023, over 40 professionals (under the age of 40) of the PR and Corp Comm industry will recognise and honour the next generation PR and Communication leaders, who are shaping the industry through their forward looking vision. The 4th edition of the annual e4m PR & Corp Comm 40 Under 40 Summit and Awards 2022 that will be held on-ground at Leela Ambience, Gurugram, is going to be an event to remember.

The day-long summit will bring together stalwarts and experts from across the PR and Corp Comm fraternity to deliberate, discuss and engage in enlightening discussions and discourses on relevant topics, issues and subjects. The theme of this year's summit is “The Era of Millennials in PR” and the agenda features four panel sessions and five keynote addresses.

Adfactors PR is the event's 'Presenting Partner'. The 'Powered By' partners of the event are Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Kaizzen and Candour Communications, and 'Gold Partners' are Concept BIU, 80 dB Communications and Godrej.

 The panel sessions will delve into topical topics, like:

 

  1. Importance of Digital PR in brand promotion – Speakers: Anand Prakash, Senior Group Head, Adfactors PR; Akanksha Jain, Head- Public Relations & Corporate Communications, Bharatpe; Kritika Padhy, Account Director , 80 dB communications; Bhawna Gupta, Director, Client Relations, Hill+Knowlton Strategies; Moderator: Ruhail Amin, Sr. Editor BW Businessworld & Exchange4media

 

  1. What has been the success of PR agencies when they expand into regional market – Speakers: Nikita Nanda, Vice President, Adfactors PR; Karishma Sain, CEO, Goodword Media; Naina Jha, Associate Director, Grey Matters; Moderator: Rishu Singh, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, Fortis Healthcare Limited

 

  1. How to make the youth industry ready? - Speakers: Ayushi Arora, CEO and Founder, Media Corridor; Madhvi Chaudhary, PR Manager, Media Mic; Neha Gupta, AVP, Value360Communication;

Moderator: Shrabasti Mallik, exchange4media

 

  1. Rules of engagement between PR and the brands, managing each other expectation – Speakers: Gehna Sawhney, Director - Communications, India & Europe, Pitney Bowes; Lovina Gujral, COO, Candour Communication; Tehseen Zaidi, Head Communications, Syngenta; Moderator: Ruchika Jha, exchange4media

 

The keynote speakers will include Dr Navneet Anand, Founder & Director, GreyMatters Communications & Consulting; Pooja Pathak, Co-Founder and Director, Media Mantra; Atul Raja, Executive Vice President, Global Marketing. Wadhwani Foundation; Sanjeev Handa, Sr. Vice President and Head of PR & Communications, Maruti Suzuki Ltd; and Atul Ahluwalia, Founding Partner, First Partners. There will also be a firside chat session featuring Rohit Bansal, Group Head of Communications, Reliance Industries Limited.

The event will simulcast on YouTube and exchange4media's social media handles.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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Cuemath appoints Lipika Kapil as Director & Head of Global PR-Comm

Prior to this, Lipika managed communications for Koo

By exchange4media Staff | Jan 23, 2023 2:55 PM   |   2 min read

Lipika

Cuemath has announced the appointment of Lipika Kapil as Director and Head-Global PR & Communications. Based in Bengaluru, she will set up the communications function and lead the PR and communications efforts for Cuemath across key markets - India,  MENA and the US. She will report to Varun Jha, Chief Marketing Officer, Cuemath.

Prior to joining Cuemath, Lipika  managed communications for Koo.

On the appointment, she said, “EdTech is one of the exciting industries in the startup sector and I am thrilled to be part of a mission and vision driven brand like ‘Cuemath’. What excites me the most is Cuemath’s sharp focus on teaching math as a life skill, beyond academic excellence and its ‘student-centred’ learning approach which offers a unique opportunity for storytelling. Another exciting aspect of the role will be to anchor communications across international markets and power the brand’s marketing initiatives that aim to take Cuemath closer to our customers across the globe. It's my pleasure to join the business at this juncture and play a critical part as Cuemath commences the next phase of its journey.”

Varun Jha, Chief Marketing Officer, Cuemath said, “As Cuemath aims for global expansion, we see Marketing and Brand Communications as one of the important business pillars for the company. Therefore, the role of PR and communications becomes more important than ever. With Lipika’s experience of managing PR and communications for a variety of brands across industries, her role will be beneficial in designing and implementing PR strategies for Cuemath across markets. She, along with her team, will also support strategic brand and marketing initiatives as the organization expands further. I am delighted to have Lipika on board and wish her a fantastic stint at Cuemath.”

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