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“There will be more happening on the AI/AR/VR and virtual environments front”

With the year drawing to a close, it is time to recap the major developments across the industry. As in the previous years, Adgully reviews the year 2021 for M&E, Advertising, Digital, Marketing, PR & Communications along with leading names in the industry as part of the REWIND 2021 series.

In conversation with Adgully, Vandana Sandhir, India Lead, Six Degrees BCW, recounts the major developments in the PR industry in India, impact of the rapid digitisation, key challenges & new learnings, as well as the outlook for 2022.

Major developments & trends in the Indian PR industry in 2021

After a difficult first half of the year, I think the Indian PR industry is closing the year on a fairly comfortable note. In these past two years, clients have leaned a lot on the PR and communications industry. Whether it was for employee engagement or consumer connect, media or key opinion leaders, communication has been a critical part of the strategy. And given that marketing and advertising budgets had been cut, communications, which includes PR, digital marketing, creative content and more, was the right discipline to rely on.

Digital was obviously the biggest shift. And not just for us, but for one of our key stakeholders, the media. With major churn and digitisation happening in the media, we also felt the impact of that in our own industry.

The second half of the year saw frenetic activity on the client front as well. Since the second wave had put many projects on the backburner, there was a need to make up for lost time. New initiatives and new products have been launched. But this time, instead of all digital, there is a new language of operation to learn – hybrid. Everything has to be catered for both, online and offline audiences. 

Key challenges & new learnings

The challenges we faced were the same as in any other firm – on the people front. No industry has been left untouched by the Great Resignation. However, given our size, we managed to pull people together and motivate them.

My biggest learning was that if you take the time to understand how people’s lives have changed, and support them through those changes, you have a better chance at building long-term relations. 

Outlook & new trends for 2022

If I may, I’d like to use the oft-used term – cautiously optimistic. Unfortunately, COVID is here to stay for some time and new variants will continue to disrupt normal life. However, what makes me optimistic is that we have also learnt to adapt and live with COVID. So, barring something drastic, I think we will continue on the path to recovery.

In terms of new trends, I think the digital space is continuing to evolve. In BCW, we use the term Earned-Plus, and I think we will continue to move ahead on that path. New technologies and platforms will also continue to emerge. If it was Clubhouse and podcasts this year, it will be something else next year. I also think there will be more happening on the AI/AR/VR and virtual environments front.

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