"If we do not embrace digital, PR will go out of fashion"
PR agencies need to absorb digital to have category leadership, say leading communication experts
As the world goes online, with challenges of managing the volume, velocity and variety, is PR ready to own management of conversations in digital domain? Are other functions – marketing or advertising or operations taking a lead? Should PR own the function and drive all other functions or should the functions be left alone to manage on their own on the same digital platforms.
The industry needs to re-invent the strategies involving the right mix of talent for enhanced growth in this highly competitive digital scenario. According to Ashwani Singla, CEO, Asia, Penn Schoen Berland, in this age of conversation, PR needs to be relevant. Internet and mobile is emerging as a predominant tool to access information. “If you want to be relevant in this era, absorb digital in every form – whether it’s online marketing or social media,” added Singla. He believes that if one wants to grow, then digital cannot be ignored.
Roma Balwani, Chief Group Communications Officer, Mahindra & Mahindra shared that half of the time, the reputation is built online, so social media has to be embraced. “One has to adopt the space to the extent that it impacts the reputation of the organisation while there are brands custodians who would specifically look at it from a marketing perspective,” she said.
According to Sharif Rangnekar, CEO and Director, Integral PR, social media marketing is not specifically a domain for PR people, that is owned by digital agencies. “What we must own is the area of communications and engagement both of which are crucial to social media. PR consultancies can surely branch out into the technical aspects of digital marketing, but not without owning the communications space,” he added.
Rangnekar further said that PR professionals need to establish engagement by getting out, understanding the consumers and having the conversations with people. PR can be reshaped through technology, analytics and measurement indices. There is a need to invest in a lot of tools to achieve it.
Pradeep Wadhwa, Director, Corporate Communications, PepsiCo India said, “I would prefer to go to my PR agency because there is a long partnership and they understand the business. PR agencies need to invest a lot into talent and getting the expertise right to provide solutions. I don’t think PR has missed the bus but if the investments are not done at the right time, then they might be at loss.”
Prateek Chatterjee, VP, Corporate Communications and Marketing, NIIT agreed that PR needs to take ownership. He said, “I would first want my company to scale up and provide the inputs and then I would look out because one has a working relationship with the agency.”
Hence, it becomes extremely important to invest in the right kind of talent to provide good communication solutions to the brand.
Rathindra Basu, Sr Director – Corporate Development, Corporate Communications and EMG, ESPN STAR Sports India said, “The key word is buzz. Managing and creating buzz, designing communication in times of crisis to ensure the corporate objectives are navigated in these stormy waters is very essential. In this complex world, we are still grappling with it but the positive thing is that it has shaken us out of our comfort zone. If we do not embrace digital, PR will go out of fashion.”
The experts believe that best days are ahead. Social is becoming important because it is imperative for business because of measurability in real-time, deep customer insights and interactiveness. Hence, PR agencies need to absorb digital to have category leadership.
The experts were speaking at the annual IPRCCC, 2013. The session was moderated by Aseem Sood, CEO and Director, Impact Research and Measurement, Director, AMEC VP, FIBEP.
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