With the rise of fake news, PR is a much-needed check post: Tuhina Pandey

As part of our latest series on ‘PR Conversation’, we at Adgully are speaking to some of the industry leaders from both PR agencies and the corporate communications world about how PR as a business and communication tool has evolved and grown over the years. In the last 10 years, PR has taken a different dimension, especially after the entry of social media in a big way. While the PR business has grown, some of the challenges that the industry is facing have also multiplied as clients are becoming more demanding and are expecting their consultants to be on their toes to manage their brand reputation, as news today travels fast and clients are expecting quick response and action in case of a crisis situation.

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In conversation with Adgully, Tuhina Pandey, Communications Leader, IBM India & South Asia, highlights the role public relations in the evolving new paradigm, where the basic is the new luxury and the human touch will only be more premium going forward.

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 of digital?

The PR industry has pretty much mirrored the changes in the socio-economic fabric of the time, while the change and pace has been gradual up until now, the pandemic has disrupted the landscape. What we are witnessing is an unprecedented digital acceleration, it’s an evolving PR script amidst the COVID crisis and it will be sometime before a clear story emerges.

What is clear though is that a ‘Hybrid Model’ is at play – where traditional and new formats co-exist, but the proportionate mix is varying. Space and scope for PR has expanded multi-fold, with the data economy taking roots. Integrated and omni-channel approach is more mainstream, where you meet your audience on their preferred platform with your story in adapted form and shape. Change is the constant. Also, with the rise of fake news, the role of PR is that much more accentuated, a much-needed check post.

The Pandemic has disrupted everyone. In these times how have you managed the expectations from your PR agency? Did you redefine your objectives to them and revisited your deliverables?

Agency is a key partner in this evolving new paradigm. The need to reimagine, innovate and co-create has never been more important. The expectations, objectives and means of delivery clearly have to adapt to the needs of the time and this is where a winning relationship takes centre stage.

Today, artificial intelligence and data analytics are becoming very important in marketing and communication. How are you making use of this to help in your overall messaging and achieving your ROI?

It’s important to let the data speak; insights that come from harnessing data are a key component of our daily life and the way we work today. It helps us stay course on our objectives and outcomes, it also helps optimise strategy in real time. The patterns and trends sometimes throw up insights that you may not have factored in the natural course and therefore, immensely empowering as you plan ahead. Insights, when read in the larger context and developments of the time, are certainly an high impact lever.

PR measurement and effectiveness of PR has always been a subject of debate. As a PR professional, what steps the PR industry should take to bring in uniformity so that everyone speaks one language when it comes to PR measurement?

Measurements and effectiveness are a derivative of communication objectives, which, in turn, is a derivative of organisational objectives and therefore, it varies from one to the other. There are overarching standards, best practices and measures that lend themselves to the common language of the industry. I don’t think we will have a ‘one size fits all’ approach in this context just yet.

Getting the right skillset and training has always been a challenge in the PR profession. What is your view on the same and what would be the valuable tips that you would like to give to the budding young professionals?

You have to keep pace with the changing world, your ability to unlearn, learn, and apply it in quick time is an absolute must. There is no short cut, upskilling and learning is the way of life, learnability is a mindset we have to cultivate.

What is unique to the young bright minds is the freshness of ideas and new perspective on set ways. Their ability to take risks and experiment in a high energy environment is something that I draw a lot from. So, my advice is simply to ‘stay you’ and dream big and bold and yes, keep the learning hats on, build trusting relationships because they are a life-long asset.

Do you feel the traditional role of interpersonal communication which was so critical to the profession has somehow been put to the back burner because of too much virtual engagement? How are you experiencing that, is it bringing down the efficiency and the final output?

When you are ‘working from home’ and ‘working for home’, the boundaries clearly blur. What has struck me though is how flexible the human spirit is, and the power of technology to fuel the remote working environment – it’s a whole new world.

We certainly need to look at this closely and evolve our communication strategies in a way that is sensitive to virtual fatigue setting in. These considerations are central to any communication plan today.

The human touch is a gift and I think it will only be more premium going forward, the basic is the new luxury.


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