The PR industry needs to embrace AI to enhance effectiveness: Sujit Patil, Godrej Group

Sujit Patil, Vice President & Head of Corporate Brand & Communications, Godrej Group, shares his views on the role of AI and newer technologies in the PR and communications industry

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Nov 14, 2019 5:27 PM
Sujit Patil

Sujit Patil, Vice President & Head of Corporate Brand and Communications of Godrej Group is the definitive guide to PR industry’s most influential operators around the world. He has been listed as India’s top ten men in corporate communications by Reputation Today and featured on the PR Week Global Power Book.

Patil has been consecutively (2018 and 2019) listed on the Holmes Report’s Influence 100 research and listing of the world’s most influential in-house marketing and communications professionals and is among the few IABC accredited business communicators in India and a three-time winner of the IABC International Gold Quill award. He has built a team that has been consecutively ranked number one among Reputation Today’s top 30 corporate communications team in India. 

Patil is responsible for building and sustaining the Godrej Group’s reputation across diverse stakeholders.

Apart from being a speaker and jury at various national and international bodies such as the World Communication Forum, Davos, AMEC, ICCO, PR Newsweek Asia, etc., Patil is a part of the prestigious Arthur W Page Society. He is the past chair of CII – Young Indians, Mumbai, volunteers as a guest faculty at various B-Schools, is a weekend farmer, loves travelling, understanding cultures and experimenting with new cuisines.

 In an interesting interaction, Sujit Patil shared his views on the role of AI and newer technologies in the PR and communications industry.

 Edited excerpts:

 How has your journey been in the PR industry?

 My entry into the PR industry was by serendipity! I started my career as a sales and commissioning engineer in the field of Instrumentation and Process Automation. It was a job rotation into the marketing and branding function that made me fall in love with communications. Over the past 20 years, I have had satisfying stints in sales, marketing, branding and strategy in some of the best organisations such as Emerson, L&T, Tata’s and now Godrej group. I chose to pursue a career in the area of corporate branding, PR and communications and have had the good fortune of working with some of the top CEOs our country has produced. It’s been an awesome journey full of learning, connections and accolades on the way.

 How important is the amalgamation of traditional media and new age media for the PR industry?

It is indeed very important. I believe traditional PR can no longer be a lone ranger to make a campaign successful. Going forward, PR professionals will find themselves increasingly doing work that transcends the traditionally rigid boundaries of paid, owned or earned media across traditional and new media. Today, digital is a great enabler for reaching out to audiences and in the parlance of PR, Digital PR as a vertical is emerging strong. Having defined it as 'Earned Social Media', we have rolled out over 100 digital PR projects at Godrej in the last 2 years.

How do you make sure that the stories you create reach the right audiences and are able to make an impact?

Digital PR opens up new vistas of content packaging. Videos, infographics, text, images, GIFs etc., can be effectively used to make an impact. The key is repurposing. It is such a beautiful concept. A uniform message manifested through different formats and modes is much more effective to establish a narrative. We have set up a central hub that constantly curates brand or corporate-specific content on a regular basis. The biggest advantage of a content hub is that one can create content that suits the needs of traditional, hybrid and digital media. A holistic approach to PR that amalgamates POEMS (Paid, Owned Earned Media Strategies) is the key to ensure that the right audiences are reached.

 With the coming of the Internet, communication has undergone a massive shift. Can you tell us about the challenges and opportunities that the Internet has brought along for PR professionals? 

New media and the Internet have been a boon on the majority of the fronts when it comes to the number of avenues that opened up for PR professionals to tell stories of their organizations. It has enabled two-way communications, sharp targeting of audiences, creative modes and most importantly increased the reach. However, the key challenges that it has posed are around the potential online crisis situations. Negatives fly faster and more so on digital platforms where everyone seems to know everything. Fake news has compounded the issue further. This has however led to new concepts like online reputation management and listening which have brought brands closer to the consumers. The need to be customer-centric has become prime. In terms of challenges, authenticity has been a topic of conversations.

How has technology evolved in the PR industry?

I realize that the role of PR to influence perceptions has evolved significantly in the last five years as compared to previous several decades and further change will only be exponential. This is predominantly due to technology and new age media. However, story-telling to influence audiences has remained a solid common thread.

What is your view on the impact of AI and new technologies on PR and Communications?

The impact on PR could be huge, mostly positive or I would say, the way you adapt and look at it.

 While there would be many positive impacts, the top three that come to my mind are:

  • Data-driven decision making
  • Realistic audience sentiment analysis during crisis and brand health
  • Bespoke messaging with micro-targeting

Can AI fully redefine the way PR and organisational communications is done currently?

With AI in the PR operations, a lot of good things can happen. Professionals would be able to do more meaningful, intellectual work (of course, if they chose to!) as mundane repetitive tasks would be taken care of by AI.

I still firmly believe that storytelling, authenticity, empathy and trust are four pillars of PR and cannot be ignored. While AI will be a great enabler for improving effectiveness, the human touch can only be felt when humans tell the story of their organizations in a compelling manner!

My strong belief is that going forward, we as the PR community will have to embrace AI for enhancing effectiveness!

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