“As PR professionals, our storytelling needs to build the brands’ equity wealth”

As part of our series on ‘PR Conversation’, we at Adgully are speaking to some of the industry leaders from both PR agencies and the corporate communications world about how PR as a business and communication tool has evolved and grown over the years. In the last 10 years, PR has taken a different dimension, especially after the entry of social media in a big way. While the PR business has grown, some of the challenges that the industry is facing have also multiplied as clients are becoming more demanding and are expecting their consultants to be on their toes to manage their brand reputation, as news today travels fast and clients are expecting quick response and action in case of a crisis situation.

In conversation with Adgully, Pooja Trehan, Founder, PRestaurants and Co-Founder, PRPOI, speaks about how technology has enabled the blurring of traditional roles and new skill buckets, where PR professionals need to keep learning, adapting and upskilling.

How has PR evolved in the last 10 years? Going forward how will the Industry shape up as the dynamics of the PR is changing with digital transformation?  

Today, it’s all about speed, where generalists and niche-queens, both have to collaborate. Technology has enabled the blurring of traditional roles and new skill buckets, where PR professionals need to keep learning, adapting and upskilling. With the whole planet adapting a digital lifestyle (thanks to COVID-19), it’s unbelievable how one needs to think on their feet, stay strategic, have the right words communicated at the right time to the right audiences! As a communications professional today, one needs to look at the whole brand building exercise and design an integrated and collaborative approach.

At a recent panel discussion on PRPOI, hands-down everybody agreed that PR is a conversation starter and digital media builds those conversations. Digital media today has become a strong enabler, helping one take their voice out there, irrespective of deeper pockets or not. The ultimate focus should be to ensure that both platforms – Digital & PR – come together to collaborate and use each other’s strengths!

You were in the corporate world in your early part of your career. How did the entrepreneurial bug bite you and what prompted you to float your own PR consultancy?

The shift from the corporate universe to the “jugaad” entrepreneur world was purely by chance. But what enthused me to take up that path was the ability to choose my work, learn with every challenge and build my own sweat equity! PRestaurants is a boutique team working only for F&B brands, through strategic communications. With no technical background or experience in the hospitality industry, this journey definitely pushed me to learn a lot, from ground up.

The thrill of identifying brands and how to create a unique narrative for them, can keep me awake for days together (with excitement of course!). The reality that communications as a profession has so many shades to learn and grow with is a happy space to be in. It is incredulous that as an entrepreneur or a consultant, one has to multi-task and play so many roles, and most of the times the need to forget any ego that comes with being a founder. The fact that a brand will always choose the best for themselves, made me realise the need to highlight how I can add value.

How has been your journey as a PR entrepreneur so far? And what are the challenges you encountered as an entrepreneur? How is the road ahead looking for your company as the need for PR is becoming more and more important?

Designations don’t matter. No work is big or small, just because you are the founder. You might be the boss, but then sometimes you need to close the work of a support staff as well. All glass ceilings are shattered when you choose go the entrepreneurial route. And you are as good as your last story or last campaign.

At PRestaurants, we have been working exclusively with the F&B industry to build brands through digital and traditional forms of media. We have worked with over 55 brands in the categories of Chefs, artisanal snack brands, B2B equipment manufacturers, Hotels, restaurants, Home chefs, launched cafes as well as curated regional food festivals. For three consecutive years we have been quoted in the Godrej Food Trends Report, as well as interviewed on Radio for the brand’s storytelling. Additionally, we have collaborated with Robin Hood Army to feed needy families through the restaurant network as well as collaborated with Nabhangan Foundation to raise funds through an e-cookbook for building schools in the interiors of Maharashtra.

Like all businesses, post-COVID, the focus is to collaborate well within the industry, work with brands that are as passionate as you to grow and chalk innovative tactics to narrate stories. In fact, with everything going the e-commerce or home delivery route, we have way too many numbers at our fingertips (from the brands) to plan a distinctive communication approach.

PR is all about shaping positive opinion across various media channels. How do you go about translating your client’s brief and what are the processes or tools you use in creating the right PR strategy for your clients?

Presently, the need is to harness available tools through an integrated approach. More than ever, we communicators have to be creative storytellers, who can translate numbers into moving narratives, in order to appropriately influence key decision-makers. Additionally, the spectrum for creating content is so wide across mediums, especially independent media that no one publication continues to rule the mindspace.

Look at any campaign from a fresh perspective, not what the client tells you. Challenge the stereotypes, because that’s how you can disrupt what people have already been listening to or reading about. The client’s brief can no more be a bullet point document of what they need or want. One has to deep-dive to understand their vision, changes they wish to accommodate, if the products can really win customers and what’s the long term gameplan.

PR measurement and effectiveness of PR has always been a subject of debate. As a PR professional, what steps the PR industry should take to bring in uniformity so that everyone speaks one language when it comes to PR measurement?

No more is the brand story that of earning profits, but definitely one that could attract a future buyer for an impressive price and thus, help the founder build their equity wealth. This is my starting point every time someone wants to discuss measurement or effectiveness. As PR professionals, our storytelling needs to build the brands’ equity wealth. It’s imperative that we evolve with the changing times of the business. Equity wealth doesn’t mean businesses don't work hard to stay profitable. It simply means one will be richer or wealthier in the near future and not just by earning enough revenues in the current financial year. 

The PRPOI is an interesting initiative for the PR fraternity. What was your objective when you set up this organisation? And how is this going to benefit the PR industry in India?

Public Relations Professionals of India (PRPOI), an online PR community focused on upskilling, was established in 2013. The effort is voluntary and free for the communications community. The group was founded by Tarunjeet Rattan and has two co-founders, Sonali Sokhal and myself (we joined in later to take the community on a new journey). Over the last 8 years, the community has a social media footprint of over 9,679+ national (now attracting international) members. It comprises of PR professionals from agency and corporate communication department, across all designations from Indian and other countries.

All through 2020, PRPOI tracked industry changes and curated sessions that would help the PR community to upskill in real-time, create camaraderie within the PR industry and showcase new voices from the same. Starting March 2020, we launched the PRPOI #SaturdayLive Sessions as an interesting platform. Today we have reached 42 sessions, 80 speakers, 7 media partners, 5 industry partners and 1 podcast partner – on our first anniversary for live sessions!

Through PRPOI, we want to set examples of curating exemplary content and help talent in the industry to build their skills. The approach of #PRforPR has never seen such eminence previously.

Getting the right skillset and training has always been a challenge in the PR profession. What is your view on the same and what would be your valuable tips to aspiring PR professionals?  Will PRPOI help in playing any role to mentor students who are keen to take PR as a career? 

Our childhood memories are always special. Why? Simply because we explored. Everything would be a new experience, which would stay back in our happy place. Why have we stopped to explore and experiment? The primary reason for PRPOI’s existence is to help PR professionals upskill at all stages of their career. With this forum, one can unlearn and learn about everything that tickles a communications professional.

Go beyond the aim of micro-specialising and instead understand what is it that helps us pick a worldview of facts. Go beyond your comfort zone and read all you can about an industry that you don’t or haven’t worked with. Maybe, some insights about how another sector is growing could be applied to your current industry. Pick a side-gig and add a valuable project to your resume. Add volunteering projects as a #mustdo for your quarterly goals. Don’t forget to build your personal brand across all social media platforms and ensure you get your leaders to do the same.

What’s possibly relevant now might not be in existence a few months or years later. Life today needs empathy, inclusion and diversity – in equal dosages. Communication plans need to go beyond media relations. To do this and much more, we have to constantly keep evolving and ensure we make our teams evolve with us, all at the same time.


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