PR industry has become more focused on content: Valerie Pinto, Weber Shandwick

Valerie Pinto, CEO, Weber Shandwick India, talks about her advent in the industry, professional journey and future ahead

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Nov 1, 2019 2:47 PM


Valerie Pinto

Valerie Pinto, Chief Executive Officer at Weber Shandwick India says, “You never stop learning, the moment you say I have finished learning, you are dead!” One of the youngest CEO’s of an Indian network agency, Valerie’s efforts have led to shaping communications’ professionals. As the Head of Weber Shandwick India, Valerie works closely with clients across the country to change traditional models of communication towards more integrated offerings.

A solutions – driven mindset, with a focus on solving client problems through creativity, and content, is at the foundation of Weber Shandwick- hence the tagline ‘We Solve’. Weber Shandwick is uniquely suited to bring diverse talents, global insights and pioneering instincts to deliver industry-defining work.

It was an interesting interaction with Valerie Pinto, CEO at Weber Shandwick India about her advent in the industry, professional journey and future ahead.

Edited Excerpts:-

How hasyour journey been in the PR industry?

Over 20 years of experience in the field of communications and image management has been exhilarating, to say the least.

As the CEO of Weber Shandwick in India, I have been closely working with my diverse team to build a  differentiatedprofile for the brand with a content first approach. The key focus is to change the game and raise service standards not just within the company, but in the PR industry as a whole. We have clearly set our standards for being one of the most creative agency in the country where our work is fully integrated and our teams are trained to drive integrated campaigns. We have created new communities of specialists within the organization who work across teams to strengthen client deliverables and present a new fresh perspective to PR planning and outreach.

We are focused on learning and growing along with our clients as the PR industry evolves and have created platforms for sharing and learning. ‘Chai Talk’ with PR moment is one such initiative. We have also launched the ‘Creative Sandbox’ which captures new thinking and opens minds in the industry and allows for more sharing learning and growing.

Our clients value the time we spend with them and invest in presenting their work better to their senior management with our new Creative TOOLKIT launch.

My journey has always been aimed at how to beat industry standards, grow people who work with me to become global professionals, and lead them to thinking new ideas, and shaping their careers that they can truly be proud of. I am conscious of leading with purpose and driving the organization towards a common outcome and goal. We call ourselves entrepreneurs at work, leading, shaping and growing the industry each day. 

We as a team are geared to take the risk and try new things with a client, and even if we fail we learn and try again. We are never scared to go a little out of the ordinary and explore new grounds.

Prior to joining WeberShandwick, I was with Perfect Relations, which was my foundation where I learned the ropes of PR. Even during my years at Perfect Relations we always strived to achieve new milestones and challenge the industry by trying new things. Even though we were an Indian company we were as international in our systems, processes and team talent with the highest quality of service standards. While at Perfect Relations, we grew to becoming one of the largest PR agencies in the country with the strongest practices in Consumer and lifestyle, corporate and finance, technology, litigation management, crisis communications and digital PR. We were one of the first agencies to launch a digital PR practice with the launch of the Movie Taal in 1999.

Prior to working with Perfect Relations, I held a communications role in UTV India. I had started my career as a sales and marketing professional with Taj Group of Hotels, Cadbury’s India and Standard Chartered Bank.

With over 20 years of experience across varied industries, practices and geographies I was nominated as top 40 under 40 professionals by Campaign Asia Across media, advertising, digital and PR, and was also the jury president for Cannes Lions and Spikes Asia. This experience of participating in international awards gave me a perspective on how the world of PR is evolving and helped shape our teams to think campaign planning differently.

Tell us about Weber Shandwick.

Weber Shandwick is one of the leading global public relations firms in India, with over two decades of diverse experience. The teams capabilities and areas of expertise span a range of sectors and disciplines, including consumer marketing, corporate reputation, B2B, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate social responsibility, financial communications and crisis management – all supported with fully integrated digital capabilities.

Weber Shandwick India is one of the top 5 agencies from a revenue point of view,  with a client retention ratio of 90% and serves clients across the spectrum.

Our campaignshave been recognized and rewarded across local and international platforms and have been truly path breaking. We don’t enter a campaign for the sake of winning an award but only if it’s been a game changer or has been a new approach to communications.

Weber Shandwick, is truly proud of the varied business offerings that the clients have enjoyed, ranging  from measurement, analytics, strategy and planning, integrated communications, crisis management, messaging and training,internal communications, employee attraction programs, to digital marketing initiatives, public affairs, executive equity and CSR.

In fact we have been extremely successful in helping clients navigate the 2 % mandatory CSR spend with our interesting models to link CSR back to purpose and business outcomes. Our Social impact practice is unmatched in the industry today where we work across governments, partners, stakeholders to lead and shape conversations around, maternal health, education, sanitation, agriculture and healthcare.

Weber Shandwick leads the market with its CXO advisory services such as messaging, crisis, brand positioning, training, coaching and overall CEO communications initiative.

Our team of partners and specialists work closely with over 150 clients in the country to shape, and grow their overall communications needs.

Our organization is built around our core promise of being able to solve any communication problem the client is faced with. From predictive creativity, to integrated media thinking, to data and analytics that informs strategy, we have covered a range of services through our partner acquisitions over the years.

What can you trace your growth over the years along with the firm’s growth?

Weber Shandwick has had a double digit growth from the last 5 years of my joining. It has grown 200% in digital practices, 100% in the consulting business and public affairs, 80% growth in the training division , 65% growth in CSR activities and 50% in internal communications.

Weber Shandwick has 35 new clients every year.

In terms of personal growth, I had started really early in the industry. Ive been handling a leadership role for a long time now and I try my best to bring out the best in people, helping them reach their potential. Being a CEO of a multinational firm is a task and I take immense pride and responsibility in it.

What paradigm shift have you noticed in the PR industry since your inception?

The public relations industry has become more focused on content. The way of storytelling is changing. Data and technology are driving the PR industry but the focus on strategizing content has increased.

What do you think on the role of women in the PR industry?

In my view, women are multitaskers, ambitious and make great leaders- all a pre-requisite in the PR industry. Diversity is important in any system and women bring that to this industry as well.

What are your 5 year growth plans?

Over the next five years the industry is going to definitely see a paradigm shift. Content will continue to lead the focus with a stronger channel management strategy. But most importantly data and analytics will be the key driver that informs strategy and direction of a coms approach.

We need to brace ourselves as an industry to move very quickly and shift our thinking and approach to solving new client problems.

Our task as a company would be to train and upgrade our teams to this new thinking. Ensure that integrated becomes a habit, and data is their driver. Along with this our task will be to lead clients into new directions, open their minds to taking some risks, and power them with tools and analytics that can inform their internal and business strategies.

We aim to acquire new skills, learn new approaches, and align with partners so that we can grow and change with time and stay relevant and fresh each day.

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