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Top priorities for PR consultancies in 2020

Guest Column: Nitin Mantri, President ICCO & PRCAI and Group CEO, Avian WE, lists down some of the crucial things that will shape PR in 2020

e4m by Nitin Mantri
Published: Mar 16, 2020 3:51 PM  | 9 min read
Nitin Mantri

The year 2020 is special because I have finally got down to writing my own blog which I hope will be consistent! Since it’s a new year, I’ll make my debut with a long-form essay on the top priorities for PR consultancies this year. I’m purposely not using the phrase "public relations trends" as much has already been written on that subject.

I believe that Technology, Digital Media, Corporate Reputation and Purpose will dominate our work in 2020 and the next few years.

Technology will drive the global agenda

There is no escape from technology. It’s the air we breathe in. And given the speed, breadth and depth of this technological revolution, we can expect more innovations and disruptions in the coming months.

Data and analytics should be on the top of consultancy lists in 2020. With technology throwing up so much information every single day, we will need big data to sieve through the ones that are relevant to our clients, interpret them, and create more niche and creative campaigns. Analytics technology has become incredibly sophisticated in recent years and agencies should take full advantage of it.

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will also change consultancy structures all over the world. We will employ data analytics, designers and more creative people to decipher exhaustive amounts of information and make data-driven decisions that would transform the customer experience.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will proliferate in 2020 as PR firms seek better creative ways to deliver brand messages to consumers.

Be human to the core

Consumer expectations from how brands will use technology are high. They are moving towards a more holistic understanding of the roles that technology and brands play in their lives. On the one hand, they want brands to use technology to innovate and make their lives better, and on the other hand, they want brands to harness technology in a human way and provide stability in a world that feels increasingly out of balance (Brands in Motion Study 2019).

So, it’s important to remember that we need both technology and people to engage and influence. While technology will make our work easier, human interface will always be at the heart of our business.

Ethical use of technology

Across genders, geographies and generations, consumers want innovations to simplify their lives, but are hyper aware of the trade-offs. Look at this data from the Brands in Motion 2019 report:

  • 69% of the people surveyed globally said change was happening too fast.
  • 97% said companies were responsible for using technology ethically.
  • 91% said brands could be adding speakers, cameras, and sensors to products to collect more data.
  • 92% said they would stop using a product or service due to the unethical use of customer data.
  • In India, respondents were more optimistic about the benefits of technology, but also more pessimistic about the downfalls.

Consumers want to respect the brands whose products or services they are using and in return want brands to treat their data and privacy with the same respect. If brands want to survive in this new world order, they must strike a balance between tech innovations and thoughtful accountability. As their strategic advisors, it’s our job to find ethical solutions that would help them to take advantage of the latest technologies without sacrificing consumer privacy.

Digital Media will further consolidate

In 2019, digital media was the top growth driver of the PR industry around the world. Year 2020 will be no different with influencer marketing, social media & community management, and multimedia content creation seeing maximum growth, according to the Holmes-ICCO World PR Report.

Clients will increasingly turn to PR firms to lead non-traditional services, with digital media topping the list. In this connection, I must mention an interesting trend which was brought to light by the ‘State of the Industry Survey 2019’, an annual study conducted by the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI). The study pointed out that while large PR firms in India are still getting more than 50% of their revenues from conventional businesses, the younger firms have reduced their dependence on conventional media relations in favour of digital, social media, content, and design services. This cultural shift is also visible in the increase in technology spend by all PR firms and their efforts to focus on lateral employment to expand service portfolios to cover more digital, social and data-related services.

The flipside of social media proliferation

With nearly three billion people active on social media channels, news spreads at an incredibly rapid pace. Social media has made it impossible to separate fact from fiction and brands are more at risk of being criticised or judged for their actions. In countries such as India, WhatsApp and Facebook are being used by a lot of first-time users who do not know much about verified news/information. Facebook has taken several preemptive measures to stop the spread of disinformation. But the problem of fake news persists.

With every piece of false news, consumers are losing their trust and the freedom of being human. The chilling effect of loss of trust is digital restrictions which will eventually thwart our creativity and imagination.

We cannot let that happen. As communicators, we must do our bit by speaking the truth, and ensure that our clients communicate with their customers and other stakeholders in a transparent manner. Only transparent communication can cut through divisiveness, build new levels of respect between brands and customers, and lead to stability and peace - two critical things consumers expect from brands today.

CEOs will take corporate reputations seriously 

Reputation has and will always be a strategic asset for every business and that is why managing it is vital to a brand’s success. More so in in today’s era of ethics where the identity or image of any company is synonymous to good reputation.

Corporate Reputation topped the priority list of agency heads surveyed for the Holmes-ICCO World PR Report in 2019. Over 70% of the agency heads said that they expected to see the maximum growth in corporate reputation over the next five years.

The new brand loyalty

Building a good reputation in this interconnected world is not easy. Consumer expectations are exponentially increasing. The new brand loyalty is not driven by a product or service, but by a shared understanding of humanity and respect. During the Brands in Motion 2019 study, 94% of the respondents said they would not hesitate to shame their beloved brands if they stepped out of line.

Bottomline: A company’s reputation must be a part of its business strategy; it cannot be visited only when a crisis rears its ugly head. Unfortunately, many companies are looking for quick PR hacks to build a good reputation. They are commodifying social and environmental causes to appear sensitive and human. This is dangerous for our industry as it threatens to destroy our credibility which we have earned after years of hard work. 

We must make brands understand that in this age of social media, consumers can see through such stunts. Even though it is an intangible concept, reputation gauges the degree of trust that the public holds for a brand. And this trust can be earned only if brands are authentic and genuinely purposeful.

This brings me to the final and most important priority of brands and communicators alike – Purpose.

Act with purpose and purpose alone 

Brands can no longer survive by being faceless entities that provide solutions through products and services and stay immune to the issues that are close to their customers.

Consumers want companies to care about social, environmental, and ethical issues and take meaningful action. This explains why over 70% of the agency heads surveyed for the World PR Report said that companies were now paying more attention to Corporate Purpose. There is a growing realisation that purpose drives reputation and reputation drives business. According to the World PR Report, sustainability & climate change, diversity and social inclusion, education, and healthcare are some of the issues that brands are most like to address in 2020.

Indian consumers, however, expect brands to prioritise local issues over global issues, differing from the global consumer base which prefers brands to address both local and global. For that reason, companies must demonstrate positive change at the local level before they can win consumers over with global initiatives in India.

Beware of woke washing

A brand’s purpose should be genuine and come from its soul. It must be at the core of everything the company does, and it should be lived by each of its members – from the interns to the C-suite. If that’s not the case, consumers will know, and they will shame and disown the brand. Sadly, several companies are trying to hijack legitimate social and environmental causes to seed their products.

As their communications partner, we must ensure that brands don’t piggyback genuine causes for personal gains. It’s our job to help companies define their purpose in a way that’s meaningful to society. Purpose must be the lens for all business decisions, it must be in the DNA of every company.

At WE, we believe that our purpose is to use our gift of communication to move people, businesses, and society into positive action in the world. We must use our ability to engage and influence to bring about systematic changes in society, environment and government policies. We have the power to build a better and purposeful world.

So, let’s not waste a moment being ordinary. I hope the above analysis will help you craft your campaigns better. If I have missed anything, please let me know.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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Blue Dart names Priya Zutshi as Head – PR, Corp Comm and Sustainability

Prior to this, she worked as Lead – Corp Comm with GreenCell Mobility

By Ruchika Jha | Dec 5, 2022 11:17 AM   |   1 min read

Priya Zutshi

South Asian express air and integrated transportation and distribution company Blue Dart has appointed Priya Zutshi as Head of PR, Corporate Communications and Sustainability.

At Blue Dart, her profile will encompass a wide range of activities across functions including working with C- level executives to define company messaging, developing strategic PR interventions, leading internal communications for the company and working on focused sustainability initiatives.

Prior to this, Zutshi worked as Lead - Corporate Communications with GreenCell Mobility.

She has 17 years of experience working with corporates and not-for-profit sector.

Earlier on, she had a six-year professional stint with the Mahindra Group in the corporate communications and sustainability functions. Zutshi has also worked with Larsen & Toubro as their sustainability communications lead.

Before her corporate stint, Zutshi was handling the media advocacy work for Child Rights and You for over five years. She began her career as a broadcast journalist for India Today Group and later on as a freelance journalist for the Times Group.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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'Digital disruption has changed the way we communicate with the audience’

Nimisha Limaye, founder and managing director, Pulse PR, was bestowed the ‘Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year’ award at the e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards

By Ruchika Jha | Dec 5, 2022 10:19 AM   |   3 min read

nimisha limaye

To recognise women leaders’ relentless pursuit of excellence in public relations and corporate communication, exchange4media PR & Corp Comm launched the Women Achievers Awards in 2020. The third edition of the awards in 2022 felicitated the women leaders who have been shaping the industry through their incredible work.

The awards recognised women who not only achieved major milestones in their careers but also brought a dynamic change in the PR and corporate communications industry.

In this series, we feature some of the women leaders who were felicitated at the event. Today, we feature Nimisha Limaye, Founder and Managing Director, Pulse PR. She was bestowed with the “Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year” award in the third edition of the e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards.

Excerpts:

Congratulations on your win at the e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards 2022. How do you feel?

I feel extremely happy that I have won this award. It really motivates entrepreneurs like me to do good work and push ourselves. Awards are all about celebrating your work and performance. Words cannot do justice to what I’m feeling at the moment.

What inspires you on your journey and endeavours?

I really love the work which I’m doing. This really inspires me to get up every day and work. I also see a lot of other female mentors, individuals who have carved out a niche in the industry and are working relentlessly. I know what my goal is and this really inspires me on my journey.

In what ways have you witnessed the PR and corporate communications industry change and evolve over the years? What global practices would you see implemented in India?

Gone are the days when PR experts mass disseminated emails to journos. Today the job of a PR company is not just press release disseminations.

Nowadays we do the research and design custom-made pitches as per the journalist, incorporate information to make the work of the journalist accessible and nurture mutually beneficial relationships.

In terms of global practices- Prominent scoring tools to measure coverage


Tell us about your most valuable learning from the industry. Where do you foresee the PR and comms industry in the coming days?

PR is all about relationship building. Be it with the media or your client. I have learnt that no 2 days are alike in the communication industry. There are days when your client can be featured on page 1 and there are days when you have to manage a crisis just because your client made some statement during an interview/ press conference. Every day is a learning and you evolve.

I feel in the last few years PR as a profession and industry has seen immense growth. People have understood the importance of PR and communications and is an extension of every core function of their client's business. Digital disruption has definitely changed the way we communicate with the audience and will continue to be there.

What would be your message to the future generation of professionals?

Don’t dream about success, work hard towards it. Be organised, though it seems like a task but making a to-do list, and planning your day the night prior really makes your life simpler and you can achieve quite a lot of tasks if you plan in advance. Stay active on social media. Follow relevant influencers. Read. A lot of people nowadays have stopped reading newspapers. Please read as much as possible.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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Would like to see more Indian PRs in Global PR forum: Farzana Baduel

Baduel, CEO of London-based Curzon PR, was honoured as 'Global PR Leader of the Year' at e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards

By Shrabasti Mallik | Dec 2, 2022 4:00 PM   |   5 min read

Farzana Baduel

To recognise women leaders’ relentless pursuit of excellence in public relations and corporate communication, exchange4media PR & Corp Comm launched the Women Achievers Awards in 2020. The third edition of the awards in 2022 felicitated the women leaders who have been shaping the industry through their incredible work.

The awards recognised women who not only achieved major milestones in their careers but also brought a dynamic change in the PR and corporate communications industry.

In this series, we feature some of the women leaders who were felicitated at the event. Today, we feature Farzana Baduel, CEO of London-based Curzon PR, who was bestowed with the “Global PR Leader of the Year” award in the third edition of the e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards.

Baduel is a passionate advocate of strategic communications, in particular its role in promoting international trade, cross-border investment and cultural diplomacy across the developed and developing world. A regular media commentator on PR and business issues, her views sought by leading broadcasters, newspapers and industry publications. Baduel’s experience and expertise have seen her appointed Resident Public Relations expert and Ambassador for the Oxford Foundry, the University of Oxford’s entrepreneurship centre, and formerly as Vice-Chair of Business Relations for the UK Conservative Party.

Excerpts from the interview:

Congratulations on your win at the e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards 2022. How do you feel?

I am thrilled at the award win and feel incredibly honoured to achieve the award, especially from my peers in the PR industry. I also am incredibly grateful for my team, both past and present, who have helped me in the journey to achieving the award. Without their hard work and talent, I would not be able to have the opportunity to learn from my colleagues; and I value their support.

What inspires you on your journey and endeavours?

Pursuing knowledge and honing my skills inspire me as I aspire to be the best PR that I can be.  I am constantly looking for ways to improve and PR is a dynamic industry that continues to evolve and bring new learning opportunities.

In what ways have you witnessed the PR and corporate communications industry change and evolve over the years? What global practices would you see implemented in India?

Over a decade ago, media relations was a core service within PR firms and now, demand for this traditional PR service has dramatically dwindled as content has grown into a dominant demand from clients. I have also witnessed the rise of our industry PR, which was previously seen as lower down the pecking order from brand and marketing. However, due to the rise of stakeholder capitalism, we are increasingly enjoying an elevation to the CEO's agenda, as the new way of doing business means looking after all stakeholders and not just customers. 

Data has revolutionised our approach to measurement and evaluation alongside digital channels, allowing PRs to demonstrate value more than ever. India is set to overtake China next year in terms of population. And as its growth trajectory increases with its political and economic power, I would like to see India-based PRs more visible in the 'Global PR' forums as they represent a significant part of the world population. Moreover, Global PR summits and reports cannot be seen credibly as global if they do not include the Indian perspective.  

Tell us about your most valuable learning from the industry. Where do you foresee the PR and communications industry in the coming days?

The most valuable learning from the industry has been to be aware of the mental health impact of working in the industry. Short timelines and managing multiple variables, some of which are beyond our control, can lead to stress. Recent surveys have spotlighted the PR industry as one of the most stressful industries to work in. Therefore, raising awareness of this vulnerability is key. Creating an environment that is conducive to building resilience is important, whether it is by building trust in teams or embedding well-being measures in your daily schedule.

AI is increasingly disrupting our industry as we already have tools like Grammarly, which has evolved from basic spelling and grammar checks to sentiment analysis and tone detection. Some articles and blogs are already written by AI and their sophistication is growing. Nascent deep-tech solutions are making inroads into our industry, where some tasks will be increasingly automated and, as practitioners, we will have to accept that change is the norm. Image generation powered by AI is becoming ubiquitous and its application can be extended to other formats. Crisis communications will continue to grow due to the acceleration of technology coupled with multi-power bases growing on the geopolitical landscape. Internal communications will also rise in importance as organisations grapple with hybrid and remote teams and use internal communications as a culture-building tool.  

What would be your message to the future generation of professionals?

Build your resilience and accept change as a constant. Follow your curiosity.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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Sumeet Chatterjee joins Larsen & Toubro as Chief Communications Officer

His previous stint was with RPG Enterprises

By exchange4media Staff | Dec 2, 2022 12:35 PM   |   2 min read

Sumeet Chatterjee

Sumeet Chatterjee has joined Larsen & Toubro as Chief Communications Officer.

His previous stint was with RPG Enterprises as Senior Vice President and Group Head – Corporate Communication.

He announced his move on LinkedIn where he said, “Today I joined L&T after spending a decade with RPG Group. It will be my privilege to partner some of the finest minds in the industry in telling the L&T story that is built on the foundation of integrity, smart manufacturing & engineering prowess, stellar corporate governance, sustainability, social responsibility and people-centric culture. I want to thank my friends in media who have supported me whenever I reached out to them, my stellar team in RPG, agency partners, my colleagues who were very generous with their words of praise during my farewell and last but not the least Mr. Harsh Goenka for his patience, mentoring and encouraging me to push the boundaries. Looking forward to new beginnings, new challenges, new relationships and many new goals at L&T.”

Chatterjee is a corporate communication specialist with sharp understanding of the building blocks of communication - media relations, crisis management, internal communication and digital marketing. He has been in the industry for over 25 years.

Throughout his career, Chatterjee has worked with organisations namely SE TransStadia Limited, Mullen Lowe Lintas Group, Radio Mirchi (Entertainment Network India Limited), Ogilvy & Mather, Lintas, Enterprise Nexus Advertising (WPP company), JWT and Eastman Kodak.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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Avian WE Group CEO Nitin Mantri inducted into ICCO Hall of Fame 2022

Mantri was the first ICCO President from Asia

By exchange4media Staff | Dec 2, 2022 9:55 AM   |   2 min read

Nitin Mantri

Nitin Mantri, Group CEO of Avian WE, has been inducted into the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) Hall of Fame for his extensive PR insights, accomplishments, contributions to the advancement of PR, and consistent leadership.

He was given the honour along with international communications expert, civic activist, and co-founder of the Ukraine Crisis Media Center, Nataliya Popovych, at the ICCO Global Awards in London.

The ICCO Hall of Fame was established in 2003 to recognise people who have made exceptional progress in the internationalisation of the public relations industry, and who have combined cultural sensitivity with commercial acumen to create agencies that share global reach with local relevance.

Nitin Mantri, who was also the first ICCO President from Asia, said: “I am deeply humbled and honoured to have joined this venerable group of achievers. I would like to thank ICCO for their support and generosity from the very beginning. This recognition gives me new impetus to promote purposeful, ethical, and inclusive communications around the world and foster hope, compassion and understanding in an increasingly polarised and complex world.”

Grzegorz Szczepański, ICCO President and CEO, Hill+Knowlton Strategies, Poland, said: “The ICCO Hall of Fame is reserved for the most outstanding ambassadors of our profession, those who lead, who inspire and who make an impact. Our two new inductees for 2022 do all of those things and more. I thank Nitin Mantri for his tenure as ICCO President, his work on countless new projects and initiatives drives our organisation and industry forward. And I thank Nataliya for her unbelievable work bringing communicators together in the efforts to save lives in the war in Ukraine. Both of these professionals deserve to be recognised alongside the best of our industry.”

Melissa Waggener Zorkin, Global CEO and Founder, WE Communications, said: “Avian WE and Chase India are an integral part of WE Communications and Nitin, as their leader, has always believed in the power of communications to bring about positive community impact, equity and inclusion, and environmental sustainability. We are incredibly proud of his achievements and this well-deserved recognition.”

He is currently a member of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA)’s Global Advisory Board and Co-Chair of PRCA Asia Pacific and PRCA Ethics Council.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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e4m's flagship PR community magazine PRCommune to launch Hall of Fame

This novel annual event will induct outstanding communications professionals who have displayed exceptional mettle in their line of work into the prestigious club

By exchange4media Staff | Dec 1, 2022 9:52 AM   |   2 min read

Hall of Fame
Undeterred dedication, unflinching focus and decades of hard work should be taken note of and recognised. And PRCommune's first-of-its-kind Hall of Fame does exactly so.

To be launched in 2023, this honour will induct remarkable professionals into the prestigious club. This novel initiative will honour and felicitate, annually, stalwarts and pioneers who have demonstrated exceptional skill in their line of work.
The selection process will involve an extensive internal evaluation where the deserving candidates will be screened and assessed. Some of the parameters that the jury will weigh on during the jury process includes the professionals' significant contribution in building a stronger PR ecosystem and will look at professionals who are true leaders, and empower and inspire those around them. The jurors will look for candidates who are decision makers, C-Level executives, agency heads and brand custodians along with thought leaders and game-changers who bring about notable change in the industry through their work, contribution and innovation. One of the most crucial criteria of the judging process is the nominees' career that should have spanned a formidable amount of time and demonstrated immaculate track records.
Exchange4media has been a pioneer in the space of media, advertising, marketing, public relations and communication for more than two decades. Early this year, the group launched India foremost PR and Communication community magazine “PR Commune”, adding to their success, the publication focusses on industry know-hows, nuances and trends of the communication community. PRCommune Hall of Fame will honour the professionals and leaders who have made an indelible mark in their respective fields.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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‘One of the most effective ways of communication is the method of digital storytelling’

Dr Ashima Singh, Assistant Professor, Amity School of Communication, was awarded the ‘Educator of the Year’ award at the e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards

By Ruchika Jha | Nov 30, 2022 12:24 PM   |   4 min read

e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards

To recognise women leaders’ relentless pursuit of excellence in public relations and corporate communication, exchange4media PR & Corp Comm launched the Women Achievers Awards in 2020. The third edition of the awards in 2022 felicitated the women leaders who have been shaping the industry through their incredible works.

The awards recognised women who not only achieved major milestones in their careers but also brought a dynamic change in the PR and corporate communications industry.

In this series, we feature some of the women leaders who were felicitated at the event. Today, we feature Dr Ashima Singh, Assistant Professor, Amity School of Communication. She was bestowed with the “Educator of the Year” award in the third edition of the e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards.

Excerpts:

Congratulations on your win at the e4m PR & Corp Comm Women Achievers Awards 2022. How do you feel? 

I would firstly like to thank the e4m team for conferring upon the award. It has been a long journey in this field of learning and teaching and every moment of that has been inspiring and exciting. This award has come as an inspiration to me as it reminds me to work with more commitment and dedication in the coming years.

What inspires you on your journey and endeavours?

My biggest source of inspiration is my students. Over the course of my professional career in academia, I have met several people who have become my mentors and they have always challenged me to push myself harder. As a teacher, my students have always been there for me and I have also learnt a lot from them. Apart from this, my passion for learning has kept me driven.

In what ways have you witnessed the PR and corporate communications industry change and evolve over the years? What global practices would you see implemented in India?

The PR industry has now become largely digitised. Tools of the digital media play a major role in disseminating information and fostering relationships. The new age is all about creating interactive content in order to engage people. One of the most effective ways of communication that we are witnessing right now is the method of digital storytelling.

Platforms like Substack have gained popularity at a global level in the world of communications. However, I feel that the Indian industry has not been able to make utilisation of such platforms yet. I would like to see the upcoming team of professionals make proper use of all these tools in an effective manner. 

Tell us about your most valuable learning from the industry. Where do you foresee the PR and comms industry in the coming days?

One thing that I have learnt from the industry is that one should never stop asking questions. The communications industry is an evolving one, you will spot changes every now and then, so one must ensure that they keep enquiring about and learning whatever’s new on the plate. Another thing that is key to success in the industry is the aspect of networking. Your antenna should always be active as the more contacts you make the better you get at work.

In the coming days of strong digital storytelling, PR professionals will have to up their game in regard to making use of social media. Everyone is there right now, from journalists to businesses, mastering the social media game can prove to be very helpful for PR professionals to reach their target audience. They should also keep in mind the growing strictness regarding the ethical margins in the corporate communications and PR industry.

What would be your message to the future generation of professionals?

I would keep saying that going digital is the key to keep oneself at par with the ongoing work culture. Learning the latest technology and digital skills and the art of digital storytelling will be my message to the future professionals of the communications industry.

 

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchange4media.com.

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