COVID-19 was the digital pivot we all needed: Sonali Sokhal

As part of the build up to Adgully’s first PR summit – IMAGEXX 2021 – we present the valuable insights provided by our esteemed jury panel comprising the leading names from the country’s PR and Corporate Communications field.

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. However, at the same time the industry has been facing stiff challenges, moreover client expectations has 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.

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IMAGEXX 2021 will turn the spotlight on the PR and corporate communications field like never before and highlight several current issues as well as explore ways to take this industry to even newer heights.

Continuing with our series of IMAGEXX 2021 JURY SPEAK, Sonali Sokhal, Founder & CEO, Intelliquo PR and Co-Founder PRPOI, speaks about the large role that Digital PR is going to play in increased visibility across mediums, even as traditional titles continue to stay in great demand.

The transition to digital is happening at an accelerated pace. Going forward, what will be the role of digital in PR and how brands and agencies will adapt to this in the new normal?

COVID-19 was the digital pivot we all needed. Yet, the rules of PR have not changed, only the mediums. The need for measurability, tracking and ROI ensures that digital PR will play a greater role across all sectors and verticals. Brands and agencies have already adapted to this new normal in the past one and a half years. Digital PR may grow immensely, but traditional titles will stay in great demand. Digital PR is also going to play a large role in increased visibility across mediums as brands look for backlinks to stories, and syndicated news amplifies the reach. It also serves as a very important medium to direct organic traffic back to brand social media and websites, and this is how brands and agencies will be working on the same. Digital PR also plays an important role in establishing thought leadership for a brand when spokespersons comment on industry and domain.

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AI and technology will be the game changer in the coming years, especially in the area of data. What are your views on this and how are agencies and brands gearing up to face this new challenge?

AI and technology are great tools for listening in. It allows PR professionals to automate repetitive tasks like tracking and media coverage analysis. It is, therefore, a great tool for listening in, which we forget should be the first and foremost role of PR, as it helps to analyse Share of Voice, tonality and demographics commenting on their brands. However, PR is an intuitive profession, which will need human intervention when it comes to implementation. Unlike many other tasks, it is not repetitive or linear. It is a dynamic environment that involves empathy and listening in. So, it will still need human efforts going forward. As brands keep growing across geographies, it also helps them measure sentiments from consumers, stakeholders and industry. It can also help in shortlisting and filtering an optimum subset of Influencers for brands to build communities with.

PR has evolved a lot in the last 10 years and is still evolving. How does the road ahead look like and what are some of the new trends that we will notice in the PR industry in the next 5 years?

The connect between brands and consumers will only get more intense and I see PR playing a big role here. There are a few ways I see it evolve in the next few years:

  1. Building Community: PR will be a tool used to build communities for brands, which can be leveraged to tell their vision and mission as well as brand launches or support at times of crisis.
  2. Advocacy: PR is still the most critical tool for advocacy and this will continue to grow as brands, politicians and industry need public support for causes and impact initiatives.
  3. Thought leadership: Brands will need to represent themselves as thought leaders in competitive global markets and PR will play a big role here, from authored articles, to building credibility as well as participation in industry.
  4. Consumer interface: Consumer brands will create more and more micro and macro influencer communities, which are today the strongest selling point for them in a digital world where peer to peer recommendation works the most.

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