This is a good time to rewrite many PR practices: Varghese M Thomas, TVS

Varghese M Thomas, Vice President & Global Head – Corporate Communication, TVS Motor Company, talks about how TVS is dealing with the crisis, its emphasis on digital, the post-Covid world and more

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: May 15, 2020 11:11 AM

Manufacturing sector in India has steadily commenced after the ease in lockdown in some parts of the country. India is expected to come up as a major manufacturing hub post Covid, considering the flow of right policies and investments. The TVS group too has resumed operations at all of its manufacturing facilities across the country. The company has undertaken all the precautionary measures to safeguard the well-being of the workers.

The TVS corporate communication team has been extremely vigilant and on its toes when it comes to dealing with the medical emergency - be it ensuring the interests of internal and external stakeholders or leveraging the digital approach for better connect with the consumers or safeguarding the physical and mental health of the employees. The corporate team headed by Varghese M Thomas has played an indispensible role in the company.

In an interaction with Varghese M Thomas, Vice President & Global Head – Corporate Communication, TVS Motor Company, he shares how the group is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, the brand’s emphasis on digital and more.

Edited excerpts:

How is the TVS group dealing with the COVID crisis? What are your views of the current scenario?

TVS Motor Company’s core values of Trust, Value and Service are consistent across our dealings with customers, stakeholders, employees and community. The company has undertaken a three-pronged action towards supporting government initiatives for welfare of communities, ensuring well-being of employees and partners, and safeguarding interests of its esteemed customers.

The well-being of employees is of paramount importance to TVS Motor Company and a comprehensive preparedness manual has been designed for employees to ensure complete adherence to necessary safety guidelines and help minimize the spread of the virus.  At all its manufacturing facilities, the company has undertaken exhaustive measures to ensure safe workplace for employees with appropriate social distancing and highest standards of hygiene.  

What is the kind of emphasis being given to digital? What are the digital strategies or campaigns being run during these times?

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, digital consumption has increased manifold owing to the lifestyle changes brought about by social distancing and work from home. We live in a world where technology evolves more rapidly than our capacity to adapt to it. People are spending a lot of time online and there has been an exponential rise in acceptance of digital services. Companies have to evolve and step up the communication game to match the emerging requirements.

How does corporate communication manage internal and external communications and stakeholders?

The role of corporate communication has become more important in helping organisations navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. During this extended disruption, the stewards of corporate communication have been engaging all key stakeholders like employees, media, dealerships with more transparent, empathetic and positive communication through relevant channels. In today’s sensitive environment, in particular, where there is a high risk of messages being misinterpreted and causing negative impact on brand reputation, corporate communication professionals have to maintain credibility by knowing their facts, being informative and connecting authentically with internal and external audience.

As communicators it is imperative to create an environment of trust with communication that covers these aspects:

  • Providing factual, trustworthy information
  • Communicate with transparency
  • Maintain empathy
  • Maintain clarity
  • Keep employees and customers inspired

Successful communication is not only about information, but creating positive experiences, even under difficult circumstances. Amidst all the uncertainty, PR professionals have to keep employees and customers inspired with stories about how the organisation is facing the challenges and contributing to the well-being of the society it serves.

What according to you is the future of communication in the post-Covid world?

With the necessity of social distancing becoming the norm — rather than the exception — for the foreseeable future, PR professionals need to reimagine how they are going to effectively interact with the public and media to ensure that their messaging reaches the intended target audience.

The need of the hour is for organisations to focus on building and retaining trust. Empathy will lead the communication in the wake of COVID-19 and content will continue to be king. As all stakeholders are looking to consume only essential communication, communicators must evolve to cater to this requirement. Therefore, organisational milestones will be second to assurance-led conversations on well-being of key stakeholders like employees, media, customers and community. Communication teams can look at expanding the use of media to focus more on online and mobile. Teams must also work on speedy responses and showcase agility in the volatile environment to avoid confusion and enforce positive narrative. It is critical for teams to communicate the efforts tastefully without profiting from the pandemic.

Therefore, this situation requires PR professionals to bring experience, intuition and gut feel into play. There are very few rules to go by. No playbooks to refer to. If anything, this is a good time to rewrite many of the PR practices that have become outdated.

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