GenAI has unlocked a new challenge for communications firms: Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat
In the last 10 years, PR has taken a different dimension, especially after the entry of social media and the rapid shift to digital during 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 PR conversation this week, Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat, Co-Founder & CEO, Ideosphere, speaks at length about the challenges and opportunities that the PR industry is facing with the integration of AI, the advent of GenAI, how Ideosphere is maintaining a client-centric approach, how he envisions the future of Ideosphere, and more.
In the realm of AI and technology, positives and negatives coexist. While the advantages are extensive, there are also emerging concerns, as seen in recent instances like deepfake technology. How is the PR industry gearing up to tackle these challenges?
Like any huge external shift to business, AI will also come with its own set of possibilities and consequences. Many will be similar (not only to our industry, but across all businesses) challenges we have seen before in past shifts. Privacy, identity and fake news are challenges all industries and policy makers are working on. I am not sure if our industry will be the one to solve this, but we need to be able to find ways to navigate around them until a solution is found.
AI was made relevant by the advent of GenAI. This shift unlocked a new challenge for communications firms. At the core of GenAI rests a power to understand and command language. This is the reason why AI has become relevant to a larger audience today. The power to understand and command language is a crucial element at the core of our industry. This is the challenge.
The opportunity is for the PR industry to embrace these tools as part of its delivery kit. Use them as ways to enhance our work and shift our value from only ‘execution delivery’ to ‘business impact’. GenAI may be the external shift our industry needed to turn a page in its evolution.
Could you outline some proactive measures and safeguards that the PR industry is implementing to address potential issues?
The challenges and risks that fake news brings are clear. While there has been dialogue about this at various industry platforms, I am unaware of any large-scale industry-wide practice that has come into action. This can also be because we are still trying to find the best solution before underlining any as a best practice.
Being aware is the first step. And the industry has taken positive steps to discuss this challenge, bring it the priority it needs and has made an effort to ensure clients understand the challenge as well. I am sure each firm will have their own internal processes to keep check on these, trying out their own solutions.
Given the unpredictable nature of public relations, how does Ideosphere approach crisis management for its clients?
Especially given the unpredictable nature of today’s world, every communication firm has to be prepared for crises at any time of the day. This unpredictability has laid more emphasis on proper planning – ensuring we are able to anticipate risks, document them, plan for each one, and then ensure that this crisis guide is communicated to every leader in the organisation.
Despite this, every crisis still brings with it its own chaos, and there is no one approach to dealing with crises. Each specific situation needs to be approached differently, wearing the right lens and understanding the audiences involved. This is why crisis-management is a complex element of communications, and needs to be handled delicately and uniquely.
We do not specialise in crisis communication, but having said that, today every communications firm needs to be prepared for crises.
Could you provide an example of a challenging PR situation that Ideosphere navigated successfully?
When politics and business mix, it will often lead to crisis. As a part of the CSR for a large global conglomerate, we were put into a tricky situation when, days before the launch, different political parties started to voice their opinion for or against the hospital. It was a big launch, and the Chief Guest (connected to the Government), withdrew from the event just the day prior, due to the ensuing media dialogue. This resulted in us having to put together some important communication to present to the Chief Guest to persuade him to change his decision, which proved to be successful.
While the event went well the next day, there was a lot that had to be done behind the scenes to ensure that this was so. We did have a crisis plan in place, and this definitely helped to ensure that while we solved each crisis independently, there was a system in place to ensure we do it in the right way. This is why planning for crisis is the only thing that matters.
Client expectations are constantly evolving. How does Ideosphere keep up with changing client demands and maintain a customer-centric approach?
We look at changing client expectations as possibilities to do more. Communications is now being perceived as a need and value-addition across much more than the marketing and communications department today, and the evolution of client expectation is growing our industry.
Our teams have monthly discussions with each of our customers specifically on expectations, our delivery and areas of improvement. This culminates into an internal CSAT score, which is used as a base to continuously improve quality and experience. During these discussions, there are often new business opportunities that are uncovered. For new opportunities, we are currently building a focused in-house innovation team, working only on creating and experimenting new products and service offerings to ensure we keep up with today’s and tomorrow’s demands of customers.
Many companies are redefining their business models to stay relevant. How is Ideosphere redefining its approach to PR and media services in the digital age?
Relevance is not a concern for our industry. Communications is understood to add great value, and will only grow in market size. In any growing market, there will be other legs that start forming. New legs such as digital products for communication, communication training and development, automation and AI will start growing bigger in market share of the largely service-based category.
Our approach is to start thinking of solutions to bring together messaging, strategy, technology and services. There is a space to advise on this structure and offer single window, business outcome focused communication solutions. But it is not easy. It is not only about creating new products/ services, but also about building the right team, culture and processes that can support this strategy-first shift. This is the journey we are in currently.
As CEO & Co-founder, how do you envision the future of Ideosphere in terms of expanding its market presence and delivering cutting-edge solutions?
We will be seen, recognised and proven as an invaluable advisor in the communications space. A strong, experienced and passionate team that works with enterprises on addressing business challenges and risks with communication-focused solutions.
As the world becomes noisy, discovering simple, relevant and intentional message frameworks and logic, and then helping develop an engine to be able to shape and express these messages will be a critical piece. This will include delivering solutions that require collaborations with technology and innovation teams. The future of Ideosphere would be aimed to deliver and implement solutions, not just provide services.
We are currently expanding our reach to global markets, but solving for them in India. Once we establish our services and brand in the thin slice of the market, we can consider product-wise or region-wise expansion. Our focus currently is solely on building an enterprise foundation that can be focused on delivering great communications work and solutions to our customers.