“Media is a shape-shifting entity, especially since the pandemic began”
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, Deepshikha Dharmaraj, Chief Executive Officer, Genesis BCW, speaks about adopting a multi-stakeholder approach, media training, PR measurement and effectiveness of PR, and more.
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 the acceleration in digital?
In the last 10 years, PR’s growth has been nothing short of transformational. From being at the periphery of an organisation’s consideration, it has come much closer to the centre. That is because earlier the understanding of public relations was only around building reputation through traditional media. Over the years, digital, public affairs, creative content, and many other services have become an extended part of public relations and communications. From an earned-only discipline, it went on to become earned-first and today, at BCW, we talk about our Earned-Plus offerings. With digital acceleration, especially in the last two years, Earned-Plus is where all the action is. This also enables us to have a multi-stakeholder approach.
The pandemic disrupted everyone. Over the last two years, how have you managed the client expectations and how did you manage to keep engaged with your clients?
We have a partnership approach with our clients. During the pandemic, they were facing tremendous challenges as much as we were. It was, therefore, imperative to stay in constant touch with them through this entire time. At Genesis BCW, we have always had a strong backbone of processes and we relied on those to keep up a cadence of engagement with our clients as well as stay on top of their needs and expectations.
There is a start-up that is being launched every other day and most start-ups trust PR a lot. What is the role of PR here and as an agency how do you help them build their reputation especially when they come with tight budgets?
The key to communications for start-ups is focus and agility. There are very specific areas where a start-up needs PR and communications interventions. Building visibility so that their stakeholders know of them, building credibility so that their stakeholders trust them and building a brand so that people would want to invest in them. You can approach each of these with a very focused approach, which balances the start-up’s need with their budget.
Is media training still an important component of the services that the PR industry offers? As an agency how do you help and advise your clients to handle and face the media confidently?
Media training is definitely a key component of our services. We have a focused division called Client Studio, led by Sheena Sharma, which specifically does that. There are many reasons for it.
Media is a shape-shifting entity, especially since the pandemic began. Keeping our clients up to date with how the media is evolving and training them on how to interact with it is something we do on a regular basis.
Media training is also important for crisis preparedness. How and what to say to the media during a high-stress situation is something every client needs to know.
Any change in messaging needs to be assimilated and worked on and we help our clients work on that.
Many brands and clients want to achieve a thought leadership position overnight. We all know that attaining a thought leadership position as a spokesperson and brand takes time. What’s your view on thought leadership?
I agree with you absolutely. Thought leadership needs expertise, time and perseverance. It’s a process, not a switch that you turn on. For thought leadership to really work and have an impact, it needs to be aligned to the company’s purpose – the ‘why’ of the company. Therefore, you can’t take it lightly. It’s not about one event or property. It is an umbrella concept that you build in a way that it becomes uniquely yours.
PR measurement and effectiveness of PR has always been a subject of debate. As a PR professional, what steps the PR industry needs to take to bring in uniformity so that everyone speaks one language when it comes to PR measurement?
I am glad you asked this question, because measurement is definitely something the industry needs to collectively work more on. Overall, we follow the Barcelona Principles 3.0 and recommend our clients to follow them as well. However, there are many who are still fixated either purely on output or worse, inaccurate or inadequate measures like AVE. Ultimately, the true measure of success for communication is the impact on the target community. The other thing to remember is that measurement is not something you do only at the end of a campaign. You must do it during the campaign as well so that you can course-correct and re-align your strategy.
Organisations such as AMEC are doing a really good job of trying to educate the worldwide communications industry on the evolving measurement benchmarks. But there is obviously a lot more to do so that there is consensus.