A hybrid work model for PR agencies will be the new normal: Kiran Ray Chaudhury

There are several lessons and takeaways from 2020, a momentous year of major disruptions, global shutdowns, and an economic rollercoaster due to COVID-19. Adgully brings its annual review of the year gone by, wherein industry experts analyse the most significant developments and trends of the year and their implications on the coming year as well. 

For Kiran Ray Chaudhury, Co-founder and Joint MD, 80 dB Communications, there have been several important lessons for the PR industry, some of which included – the importance of over communication, being transparent and authentic in both intent (words) and action and making decisive moves. 

Key learnings of 2020

Lessons are not static. While one learns all the time, the difference is that one has thought very deliberately about these lessons during this time.

Some of the learnings that came through in a big way was the importance of over communication, being transparent and authentic in both intent (words) and action and making decisive moves, even if they were unpopular. The pandemic fatigue has also taught one about the importance of transitioning between work and the personal and to paying more attention to one’s schedule.

What you consume in terms of information tends to define your thinking. Focusing on consuming information that lifts and enthuses and seeking such conversations has also been very important. While it has always been important, the value of the human/ social connection has got re-emphasised in its very absence.

Lastly, I cannot over emphasise on the importance of habits and rituals. Having always been a fitness buff, my personal focus on fitness has been a life saver during this time in continuing to be and feeling positive and focussing on what’s going right.


The PR industry has been in a sweet spot during the pandemic. While business was impacted initially, the growth trajectory since has been promising and strong.

Brands have been committed to building a strong reputation realising its criticality in weathering a storm such as the one we’re going through. Communication – both internal and external – emerged as key as companies split their attention between crisis and long-term corporate reputation in a challenging and fluid environment.

While storytelling on social has been an important trend, its urgency in this environment has forced both brands and its leaders to use owned platforms to engage ‘consistently’ with their network and stakeholders. Social media has emerged as a standalone news outlet in its own right and an indispensable part of the PR/communication ecosystem.

Crisis preparedness has also become essential in the wake of the pandemic and PR teams did essay the role of strategic consultants during this time.


Building a long-term sustainable brand that evokes trust will continue to be a focus in the new year and beyond. This will be even more important on social media, where brands will need to build a relationship with their audiences versus being transactional. Being ‘social’ has fundamentally changed as a consequence of the pandemic. Today, brand reputation is also driven by word of mouth on social, where it gets defined by the voices and conversations of customers.

Boundaries between the various functions of marketing will become more fluid.

What’s going to be important is the central ‘idea’ that helps brands connect and engage with its customers, other stakeholders and achieve its objectives. The idea can originate from any of the various marketing functions and its expression across mediums will then be owned by the different functions.

There’s also going to be a higher focus on ROI of all activities and spends and while this can be tricky for PR, brands will need to be strategic with PR to help deliver on short term goals while having a long term brand building view of the function.

While there is going to a huge focus that is matched by commensurate spends on building a brand digitally, traditional media will continue to be important as a trusted medium. Newer platforms, such as podcasts would see hyper growth.

PR would invest more in the quality of storytelling. There is an incredible opportunity for PR practitioners to show our strategic stripes and be trusted advisers. To counsel brands in what newer and relevant narratives should look like and to help build good communication habits which will serve well in war times.

A hybrid work model for PR agencies will be the new normal. There would be a surge in demand for talent and those with skills in storytelling, research, analytics and social media would be in high demand.


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