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Communications ecosystem has seen a paradigm shift in storytelling: Manisha Chaudhary

In the last 10 years, PR has taken a different dimension, especially after the entry of social media and the rapid shift to digital, especially in the pandemic period. At the same time the industry has been facing stiff challenges, moreover client expectations have also increased, with more emphasis being given to digital and online reputation management. The industry has undergone a radical shift and the current times have pushed the industry to change gears.

In conversation with Adgully, Manisha Chaudhary, Founder & Director, Value360 Communication, speaks at length about the role of PR for start-ups, the changing communications landscape, creating differentiation, and more.

What are your views on the role of PR for start-ups? As an organisation, how have you collaborated with start-ups working on their PR needs? What are the challenges faced to handle PR for start-ups?

The role of PR has transformed over the past few years, especially in the case of a start-up. It is no longer a unidirectional process with a singular means to a singular end. As technology and consumer mindsets continue to evolve, the methods and goals of communication have become more multidimensional than ever before.

As a communication partner, we need to adopt a strategic approach when working with a start-up, mainly because these companies grow at a breakneck pace. Simply put, they remain start-ups for a concise period and require different methods to reach numerous stakeholders at every growth stage. The ambit of PR, therefore, continues to broaden and change.

At Value 360 Communications, we focus a lot on defining the sector positioning of a start-up client, which, in my opinion, is the most important prerequisite before commencing PR activities. This is because the start-up market is highly dynamic and features cut-throat competition across sectors. Moreover, start-ups must reach potential investors to sustain their growth – and this requires clear sector positioning to ensure positive differentiation.

For instance, when we started working with Snapdeal, e-commerce was in a very nascent stage. In fact, the concept of e-commerce was not even a journalistic beat by itself. At this juncture, we leveraged the brand’s USPs through tactical campaigns in key media outlets to educate the masses about e-commerce and the brand. Similarly, before our association with Rooter, game streaming was not widely discussed in the media. When we initiated conversations around it, the segment gained traction and became a prolific, mainstream industry.

While PR for start-ups is enthralling since you grow alongside your partner brand, it is also challenging because the company is someone’s dream, someone’s baby. Expectation mapping of a passionate founder can become problematic in several cases. Moreover, since the company is still fledgling, a structured communications team is missing, which turns out to be a considerable problem for PR teams since the founder is understandably occupied with other critical aspects of growing a business.

Traditional Vs Digital – there is a rapid change in the way digital is approached today. How is your company helping clients to manage and handle this digital transformation?

The communications ecosystem has seen a paradigm shift in storytelling and content distribution on the back of cutting-edge technologies entering the fray. Earlier, we used to leverage the traditional media route to distribute news, but after imbibing new communication avenues into our strategies, we now take a multi-fold approach for distribution. We target different platforms wisely to ensure that the right message reaches the suitable stakeholder through a platform that will create maximum impact.

At Value 360, we utilise data analytics to understand brand goals and align storytelling through different digital channels. We believe in the ongoing tech disruption in the industry and are poised to capitalise on this evolution. We are developing and investing in entities that will help us become an innovation hub. In our mission to emerge as the leading comms-tech firm, we have already launched and significantly scaled ClanConnect, an influencer marketing start-up. We will continue investing in such entities, leveraging the communication space’s innovation, and accordingly guiding our clients through this tech-led PR landscape.

New business pitches keep happening in the PR world. What is the difference you bring to the table to win businesses? Is there any process or methodology that you follow which helps your strategic thinking become sharper and more focused?

We differentiate our new business pitches by the category in which our potential client operates. We define the objectives based on the category and start by gaining the company’s confidence by showcasing our domain experience and expertise. We also build our case by sharing case studies for our marquee clients and campaigns within this pre-evaluation stage.

In the following evaluation stage, we discuss the objectives defined for the business as per the RFP and offer up creative solutions post understanding the problem statement. This, I believe, is the most critical part of the pitching process – the business must understand how we will approach their issues and give comprehensive solutions.

We need to highlight each media and conversation tool that we will leverage to help the brand cut through the clutter in this dynamic, hyper-competitive market. This is where we convey our strengths, capabilities, and ability to manoeuvre and navigate the diversified media landscape in the new age of communication.

Finally, we need to exhibit our strength by the team aligned for the client. When the brand knows that your team consists of domain experts who understand your goals and objectives, it contributes significantly to a winning pitch.

What is your theory when it comes to ROI on PR campaigns? There are still no standard formulae designed and endless debates keep happening on this subject. What is your thinking here and how do you work on a win-win situation with your clients to evaluate the impact of PR?

Traditionally, the PR industry relied on the same standards for ROI evaluation. An ad value analysis was calculated based on the coverage size, the number of stories that appeared, and the impressions garnered. While we initially followed the same method, I have always felt that this is not the most insightful way to evaluate the impact of a PR campaign.

We need to see if a particular story’s narrative aligns with the client’s business objective. We need to deeply understand the brand and ensure that its desired messaging is reflected in each PR-driven story. This is all the more important in the contemporary PR landscape, where media stories are not the only outlet. There are podcasts, live webinars, online platforms, audio-visual platforms, and much more.

So, a win-win situation would be if the messaging and narrative that we strategised and intended to achieve is conveyed in its entirety across platforms. That’s how the true ROI and impact of a campaign can be ascertained.

Your company has taken several new initiatives on the human capital front. Could you elaborate on the same, as well as what’s going to be your growth strategy for the next 3-5 years?

Human capital is critical to any brand’s success, and we understood this from the very beginning. We have always prioritised our team’s happiness and overall well-being by offering flexibility, work-life balance, and continuous growth. We recently launched an ESOP policy for our long-standing employees who have been critical to our growth as well as new employees with exceptional talent.

During the COVID phase, we were one of the first firms in the industry to initiate remote working and still continue to offer a comprehensive work-from-home policy for the convenience of our team. We also implemented a rotational leave policy so that employees could take a break and spend time with their families. All three of the founder-directors worked closely with the team leaders to optimise the workload so that no one was stretched thin during those difficult times. Two-day leaves for vaccinations and dedicated COVID leaves were also put in place. As COVID relented and we went back to working from office, we have prioritised the health and safety of our employees, ensuring that appropriate safety protocols are followed at all times.

We are also focusing on the continuous learning and development of our teams. We are building a unique, flipped learning culture, where instead of introducing blanket learning modules for the entire team, we bring it down to a unit level and give our team leaders the power to identify the learning gaps and chart their skill-building paths accordingly.

We have expanded our hiring efforts and are giving lucrative opportunities to individuals willing to work remotely from different corners of the country. Recently, we introduced Relaunch, a unique returnship program for individuals with resume gaps up to three years due to any reason. In doing so, we ensure that talented individuals do not miss out on lucrative opportunities and can return to the workforce, gain relevant skills, and flourish in this industry.

We have more such initiatives planned to strengthen our human capital and ensure that we remain ahead of the curve and an employer of choice.

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