The centrality of PR & Communications will be more relevant post-COVID, say experts
On e4m’s webinar, industry experts opine that the post-COVID world will open up possibilities and challenges for firms & communicators with credible media being the route to go
Keeping the spirits high amidst the gloomy backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, e4m hosted another insightful PR and Corporate Communications webinar on 29th April on the topic “World beyond COVID-19: A boon and a bane for the Media and Communication industry”.
The webinar was graced by stalwarts of the PR and Corporate Communications industry including Paresh Chaudhry, Group President - Corp Comm, Adani Group, Dilip Cherian, Consulting Partner, Perfect Relations, Ashwani Singla, Founding Managing Partner, Astrum, Roma Balwani, Director, Brand & Communications, Vedanta Group. The dais was moderated by Dr Anurag Batra, Chairman and Editor in Chief, BW Businessworld & Exchange4Media group and Nawal Ahuja, Co-Founder & Director at Exchange4Media Group.
The webinar commenced with the panellists sharing insights on the economic implications of the pandemic, the impact on the industry and what role will the communications industry play to combat the situation.
Dilip Cherian in his introductory remark said, “I won't be surprised if the businesses shrink by 30% as of today and 20% impact for the whole year". He added, ”Communication has become crisper. Same content for different sources/portals won't work anymore. This lockdown has shown everyone that a lot of what happens in the digital space is no longer credible. Contrary to current opinion, thick and traditional brands will recover their place".
Paresh Chaudhry responded by saying that "This is all a blip that will turn around very quickly. It is like the 1991 magic movement. All of us are on the same level playing field." He also highlighted the need for brands and companies to focus on climatic changes and the need to realign with being socially and sustainably credible. He added, “Climate change and doing things right is going to be the focus of all big companies and brands. All companies will rally behind sustainability and CSR on a bigger level.”
“We have to look at India 2.0. We have to take this opportunity and play drastically. This playbook will have different parameters", added Roma Balwani. She also emphasised on looking at different ways of doing businesses.
Ashwani Singla pointed out how in a few weeks, COVID-19 has wiped out decades of progress. He added, “Safety will now have an extra premium to see what companies are going to do to ensure that there are safe practices being followed”.
On being asked whether PR budget allocation should be shrunk amidst the crisis, Balwani responded "Many firms have done a 30-35% reduction in their budget allocation but we have restrained ourselves yet. We take it as an opportunity for the PR firms to perform”.
Agreeing on similar lines, Singla affirmed the emergence of a plethora of opportunities for the PR firms to outshine in the dark clouds. He said, "The centrality of PR is going to be more relevant post-COVID and communicators will become champions of change with the purpose being central idea”.
The webinar kept the audience engrossed with the panellists speaking about how media consumption will change post-COVID. Chaudhry explained that there will be a decline in print in the next 15-20 years, at least in the urban section of society. He said, “The entire budget for traditional media has shrunk to 40-45%. It is being diverted to digital and influencer marketing.”
The panellist also had a fruitful discussion on the drastic shift towards digital and how digital and AI are becoming the perfect protagonists for brand communications. Balwani also highlighted the importance of maintaining a balance between traditional and digital media. She said, “There is a balance. Things will keep changing in the future as everything is uncertain".
Talking about fighting fake news and sharing of information through credible media, Dilip Cherian replied, "Credible media will actually be the route to go. You will look at media and agencies as being partners with you in the dissemination of truth”. Paresh Chaudhry too agreed on the statement and said, ”Media is going to fight tooth and nail to take their fair share of space from Google and Facebook". He also added, "The domination of so-called 'Big Daddys' in media houses is going to come down. Youngsters can see campaigns that are advertorially credible.”
Singla deliberated towards another important aspect. He said, “We have to look at addressable audiences which include Gen X and Gen Y. There will be the use of traditional and new media. We have different formats and sizes. We have to choose which works best.”
Cherian also advised mid-sized and small PR firms to focus only on cost-cutting ruthlessly. He said,” At this point, focus on how to give freely and work extra for the clients. Stand up for them & with them. Recognise that there's no Sunday or an off day”.
“Out of our client portfolio, we need to see what else can be done to increase revenue. What more can be done, eg: multitasking or upskilling our own people", illuminated Singhla.
Summing up the session, the panellists gave their concluding remarks on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead of us post-COVID. Chaudhry mentioned that this a testing time and the real value of your work and character is going to show now. “There will be a lot of opportunity coming up. It is not going to be a disaster. We just need to have some patience", argued Chaudhry.
Balwani also agreed that post-pandemic, new things always come up. She advised, “We should be ready for a layered economy. When that settles down, that's where we begin the new normal".
In his parting statement, Singhla said that transport, socialising, live events, concerts, large sports gathering, all will be seen in different lenses and dimensions. He pointed out at millennials and said,” Millennials are adaptable and can come up with great ideas. They actually have more opportunities now as this is the time to groom themselves and come in the limelight".
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