The reputation of a firm holds huge importance for a business: Sameer Bajaj, Discovery
Sameer Bajaj, Director – Corporate Communications & External Affairs – South Asia, Discovery shares about his journey, the importance of crisis management and insights on the Modi- Bear Grylls show
The excitement over PM Narendra Modi's appearance with Bear Grylls on Discovery's Man vs Wild was at its peak, as the show aired on August 12, 2019. Discovery Channel's ‘Man Vs Wild' episode with Bear Grylls and PM Modi has helped the channel achieve an all-time high viewership since Week 8 of 2017, as per BARC data. Heading the corporate communications for Discovery is Sameer Bajaj. He is currently the Director – Corporate Communications & External Affairs – South Asia.
Bajaj has over twenty years of significant, demonstrable expertise in strategic communications, advocacy, public relations, internal communications and CSR with global organizations across different industries. He is a result-oriented and forward-thinking communications professional serving as a trusted advisor and business partner to the Executive team. Prior to this, Sameer was heading the Corporate Communications and CSR for Amway India. Before Amway, Sameer led Corporate Communications for ESPN STAR Sports. He is a sports enthusiast and a cricket fanatic.
In an interesting interaction with Sameer Bajaj, we cull insights on his journey in the corporate communications industry, the importance of crisis management and details on the Modi- Bear Grylls show.
How has your journey in corporate communications been?
It has been an exhilarating journey that started with a corporate sales job at an airline, a stint that made me realize what I didn’t want to do. I consciously shifted to the field of communications, a stream I loved. Then, my stints with two PR agencies gave me an understanding of what it actually takes to be a communication professional. Now, after having led three different corporates, across 3 different industries – sports, direct-selling, and infotainment, I can only say – it couldn’t have been better. The learnings, along the way, have been innumerable, and have helped me in becoming a more rounded personality today.
How important is reputation management for a business?
The reputation of a firm holds huge importance for a business. Essentially, it means, how people see you. It may not necessarily mean – who you are, but instead, it is the subjectivity with which a third person thinks about you. Simply put, if people trust your business or your brand, it is likely that they will consume it and/or recommend it to their friend. The chances of repeat business increase too at the same time. Very importantly, a good reputation means that you will be able to attract the best talent and have a better chance of holding on to your client in case of a mishap. A bad reputation can prejudice stakeholders against you and that can often be detrimental for businesses.
What is your take on crisis management? How does one go about solving it?
During my career, I have confronted several crises – some I can talk about in public, others I would refrain from mentioning. For example, the managing director of the firm that I worked for, was arrested, and that led to the front-page spectacle. Managing communications during that crisis – from varied stakeholders’ perspective, including media, helped me realize the true power of communications. And, I have not looked back since!
The key tenet from a communications perspective is being ready for it. Especially in this social media age where issues can explode very fast. There is no standard rule for handling a crisis as it can change from a case-to-case basis but listening to the chatter, understanding the fluid situation and being responsive, being human in your approach, is the baseline for solving a crisis. The most important aspect is winning the trust of the stakeholders while the crisis is unfolding – it is easier said than done, as skepticism seeps in. It is here that the transparency with which you engage helps in winning the battle inch-by-inch.
The Modi Bear Grylls show was a landmark show on TV this year? What are the interesting insights there from a communication perspective?
We got together two global icons, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the world's most recognizable face of survival and adventurer Bear Grylls, to feature in the iconic and hugely popular franchise Man Vs Wild. We knew this is a winning combination and would generate huge buzz. By harnessing the power of the two global icons, we were targeting to create awareness about the importance of conservation of wild animal species.
Our communications strategy was to create shock and awe with an out of the blue announcement on social media. The announcement was done via Twitter and Instagram immediately followed-up with a formal press statement. The results were astounding - #PMModiOnDiscovery emerged as the most trending topic not just in India, but across the world. #PMModionDiscovery received over 1.2 billion impressions worldwide on Twitter within 24 hours of the announcement. Overall, 3.6-bn impressions in the 2 weeks from announcement to the premiere.
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