PR industry may match pre-Covid 19 growth rate by 2022-end: Parveez Modak

Adgully is back with a new edition of its annual feature – TRENDING NOW – where we present the strategies and views of a cross-section of industry leaders as they go about reclaiming lost time and market opportunities and build for a stronger future, armed with the lessons of the pandemic period.

Over the next few weeks, Trending Now will bring insights from industry leaders on how their organisations are gearing up to seize the opportunities in 2022, break through the Covid disruptions and find growth and remain resilient.

In conversation with Adgully, Parveez Modak, Managing Director, Strategy  group, MSL Group India, speaks about the data driven content and campaigns, evolving media landscape, integrated communications and corporate communications in the public relations industry, and more.

What are the trends that you expect to dominate in your sector in 2022?

The pandemic has compressed the pace of change with digital technology powering this transformation. The Public Relations industry is being challenged and positively influenced by interesting trends that have emerged over the last two years.

Data-driven content and campaigns: With digital technologies and platforms throwing up data while tracking digital behaviour of stakeholders/ consumers, there are increasing possibilities to create sharp-focused strategy-content-campaigns based on data-driven insights.

Evolving media landscape: At the start of the pandemic, digital/ online media saw significant acceptance with traditional print media severely impacted. As recovery set in, print media bounced back. The hybrid content consumption through digital/ online media and traditional media will continue and see growth. Traditional regional media will continue to flourish, while online/ digital versions of regional media will see good traction/ engagement and drive their evolution.

Integrated Communications: Stakeholders and consumers are consuming content and engaging through an ever-increasing number of platforms. Digital technology has further expanded the bouquet. A strong mix of communications elements – all working together and adding up to more than the sum of parts – will create stronger connects with stakeholders and consumers through multiple touchpoints.

Corporate Reputation: With stakeholders and consumers expecting organisations to drive a positive change, be accountable, transparent and purpose driven, corporates and brands are in the spotlight and vulnerable. There will be increased focus on building relevance, trust and belief while anticipating and managing crisis for organisations in a complex environment.

Public Relations in the Marketing Communications Mix: With consumers seeking authenticity and credibility from brands, Public Relations is playing an increasingly significant role in the marketing communications mix.

What are the challenges and new opportunities that you see emerging in the year ahead?

The biggest challenge for our industry is undoubtedly the scarcity of talent. With recovery setting in and the market opening up, there is an unprecedented “demand” for talent, and this is not being helped by the “Great Resignation” wave. Apart from talent movements between PR firms, the pandemic precipitated a behaviour change: People are looking for purpose and seem to be taking a break/ moving out of the industry. The opportunity lies in three areas:

  1. Fostering and nurturing talent in the new age while aligning on purpose
  2. Safeguarding and deeply investing in the health and mental well-being of talent
  3. Building diversity by expanding the source of the talent pool – look at hiring from multiple sectors/ industry as well as broader geographies (not restricted to urban centres).

The business landscape continues to evolve rapidly and is challenged with a number of variables/ unknowns. Client partners looking for stronger connections with their consumers/ stakeholders in the pandemic recovery phase, while consumers/ stakeholders are looking for authenticity and a “walk the talk” demonstration. The opportunity lies in mapping and drawing trends, insights, economic/ business developments and leveraging this research-based knowledge to help clients navigate through these transforming times.

There is a rising expectation from the industry to deliver measurable impact on business and reputation challenges. The opportunity lies in harnessing digital technology and building expertise to gather/ analyse data, and leveraging this to create integrated communication campaigns can deliver impactful outcomes.

What are the changes that have happened in this sector in the last two years? How is this year’s turnout expected to be in this sector as compared to the last two years? How strong will this sector’s growth and recovery be compared to the last two years as well as the pre-Covid period?

The last two years have seen major changes in our industry. The pandemic pushed us into adaptability and agility overdrive. The industry has mentored and guided clients and colleagues enabling them to navigate these unprecedented times. While budgets and deliverables were at odds, the pandemic led to increased trust between clients and their Public Relations partners. There was an increased focus on driving Corporate Reputation, building Leadership profiles and Crisis Management. The media landscape transformed: traditional media and content were severely stressed due to the pandemic seeing a sharp decline while digital media consumption saw a strong rise.

Consumers were looking for authenticity, and brands were expected to demonstrate. Activism and grassroots advocacy, previously underused in this market, spearheaded efforts to combat the gaps exacerbated by Covid-19.

Independent journalism reached new heights. The rise was due to multiple reasons, however, in the context of the pandemic, it was to battle the other epidemic – misinformation, disinformation, and fake news, which are rampant to date, and will play a critical role in crisis preparedness.

Influencer engagement transformed during these times too. The industry went from macro-influencers who had large followings and equally high retainer costs, to nano and micro-influencers, whose authentic personalities are natural fits to brands and their missions. This enabled influencer marketing at scale while remaining economically efficient.

However, the most crucial lessons learned during this time came from our colleagues’ points of view. As an industry, we face the challenge of work-life balance; and with the lines blurred between home and work, tackling burnout, managing expectations, and demonstrating empathy will define how future talent views our industry.

2022 promises to be a year of optimism and action for the Public Relations industry. The pre-Covid 19 era saw the industry growing at around 13% to 14% followed by significant degrowth in the last two years. The last quarter of 2021, however, saw a growth-spike setting the recovery momentum for 2022. Two key growth driving sectors that will impact Public Relations will be Technology (across industries: FinTech, Edu-Tech, Health-Tech, Agri-Tech, Consumer-Tech) and Health. Towards the end of 2022, the industry may match the pre-Covid 19 growth rate.


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