We are looking to tie earned media to social commerce: Barri Rafferty, Ketchum

On her first trip to India, Rafferty, CEO of Ketchum, shared insights on PR strategies for digital vernacular platforms in India and plans for the Indian market

e4m by Noel Dsouza
Updated: Oct 1, 2019 2:42 PM


Barri Rafferty

Barri Rafferty was appointed as the global CEO of Ketchum in 2018. She succeeded Rob Flaherty as CEO and is the first woman to lead a top global public relations firm. Rafferty has rebranded Ketchum since she became CEO and re-launched Ketchum Digital under the agency’s first shareholder model. She has counselled varied client organisations such as Gillette and Pernod Ricard.

During her first trip to India, Rafferty, shared insights on key factors for successful PR campaigns, building PR strategies on digital vernacular platforms for communication in India and plans for the Indian market.

Speaking about the key takeaways she has garnered for over 23 years at Ketchum and what has changed Rafferty shared, "When I started in the business we were much more about the written word. We were clipping stories and glueing them on for clip reports. It has come a long way to now understanding the analytics and audience segmentation. Where audiences are getting their information is so much more diverse than when I started off. Visual storytelling has become a key factor today and making sure we communicate through video content and infographics is essential. The amount of communication and short attention span we have makes it important to create digestible quick sound bytes that will engage and get the consumer sucked in really fast.”

Ketchum has evolved its communication strategy for their clients. Speaking about the change in communication Rafferty remarked, "We are evolving as an agency to be equal parts 'left brain and right brain'. Today, we need to have a deeper understanding on the front end of audience insights, analytics and the path to purchase. That creates 'Evidence-Based Creatives' which means we want a brief that is going to come out with really great differentiating creatives but also speaks to the audience and the segmentation. We then have to measure it and see what's working and what messages are resonating. Then go back and revise it. We need to create daily relevance and engage our clients in stories. For our agency that means diversifying our talent. We need more social experts, copywriters, graphic designers, and video producers.”

Rafferty had launched Ketchum Digital eight years ago and now it has become the core of what Ketchum does. When they first launched it was a separate unit. "Some clients want us just to do social or digital. Even in India, we have some clients that want social only solutions. Other clients want us only to do the full integrated 360-degree communications. Last year, I re-launched Digital Ketchum to make sure that we have equal parts and deep industry expertise in financial technology, food, etc. Making sure that speciality experts can work with all of our clients", said Rafferty.

Talking about Ketchum's plans for India Rafferty shared, "We are excited to be continuing to diversify. We have always been strong with  financial services and banking clients. But we are starting to add more diverse clients and we are really doubling down on social and digital talent to create a Ketchum Sampark Digital offering that rounds up what we are doing in this market."

Rafferty sharing how PR agencies can communicate to the Indian audience that has a lot of vernacular languages said, "The great thing about visual storytelling is that you have strong visuals that often communicate things without words. It is universal. So there is an opportunity for us to continue to get better at photography, video, and storytelling. There is now a technology that helps you take videos and translate it. Leveraging technology to get mass personalization and the ability to do that is going to help us in this market."

The key factor for a successful PR campaign according to Rafferty is to enhance the brand's reputation and drive sales. "The key is to understand the business outcome that we want to deliver and create a campaign that has that. We are looking at taking earned media and tying it to social commerce. We now use influencers that might direct you to a direct link to purchase a product or get more information, thought leadership that will take you back to a website. In India, our newest client, Master Card is focused on Influencer engagement specifically. We are using AI-powered technology to find micro-influencers that impact a brand or a topic", signed off Rafferty.

Ketchum's mission is not only to help local brands in India but to help international brands create a bigger presence in the country.

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