“A major shift has been in the strategy of how the brands are communicating with their audiences. We all have become more thoughtful and empathetic towards each other which reflects in our communication.” Said, Shradha Agarwal, COO, Grapes Digital Pvt. Ltd
Here is the complete Q&A with her….
How has been your journey in the communications industry ? Your key learnings?
I have been a part of the communications industry ever since I completed my post-graduation from MICA. Initially I was in events and then gradually moved to the digital industry. I have handled multiple roles in organisations like Deals and You, Airtel etc before joining Grapes. Today we all know communication is important and the medium comes later. Keeping this in mind, it was inevitable for us at Grapes to evolve and sooner the better as it was the need of the hour. We are a digital first communication agency. By that we mean that we help clients identify the communication and then the dissemination, now whether that is film, social, activation, influencer or PR. As the internet kept growing, the lines between online and offline blurred, that is when we realised that PR is again becoming an integral need in digital too and that’s when we started with the PR vertical in 2018. So, like I said above, one of the biggest learnings for me is, think communication first, medium is secondary.
How has Covid19 impacted the PR business? What are the opportunities that it has created for you?
Every crisis comes with an opportunity. While it’s inevitable to control clients from slashing their marketing spends, the areas that need immediate attention for any and every organization is, internal communications and crisis management. I strongly feel now is the time to act as strategists and consultants. We all are together facing the current pandemic situation and its impacting each one of us, professionally and personally. Communication has to grow multi-folds while setting the right expectations and assuring them of quality output.
These trying times have made each and every one realise the importance of internal and external communication and the need of all us being sensitive. Empathy, a trait that each of us need to adopt not only in our personal lives but in professional workings as well.
How important and crucial has communication become now in these unprecedented times?
The novel coronavirus has gone from an epidemic to now a global pandemic and effective communication plays a very important role in building a stronger connection, whether amongst us individuals or between brands and their audiences. The world has changed dramatically impacting almost every aspect of our lives, the way we communicate, the way we act or react to situations, down to any movement. A major shift has been in the strategy of how the brands are communicating with their audiences. We all have become more thoughtful and empathetic towards each other which reflects in our communication.
Due to a nationwide lockdown and organizations declaring work from home for an indefinite time, technology is the most important factor and is the only medium that is helping all of us stay connected. According to the report by ACT Fibernet, online streaming traffic sees 55% overall surge amid lockdown. People are investing more time online to check relevant content as per their interest. This is where communications come into the picture to reduce the stress level of their brands by creating content that will interest their target audience.
How do you see the post-COVID world to be?
The coronavirus has transformed the way we live, love, work, and do business. We all are missing our regular day to day life, going to work, meeting friends, eating out etc. Our life has narrowed down at being home either in front of our laptops or televisions with video and voice calls, webinars being adopted as the new style of working. Post-COVID I strongly feel we all will come out more sensitive and empathetic. Communications will have a new role to play with PR professional adopting the role of consultants and working on strategies that are more sensitive and empathetic in nature and will bounce back stronger. With the repositioning of businesses, strategies are bound to change with communications specialists ensuring and helping brands build.
PR is more of a strategic business function and not merely a support function. What are your thoughts on this?
Yes, I believe in this that PR is more of a strategic function and not merely a support function. The situation we are living in right now, the businesses will need to rejig the strategies and brand positioning and PR efforts have in the past and will continue to build credibility and trust for brands amongst their target audiences. We are storytellers and engage is conversations that narrate compelling stories thereby convincing the stakeholders to be the mediator and help our story reach the right target audiences. It is only when the authenticity, transparency and credibility is proved, we PR professionals are positioned as neutral and strategic leaders, That is the reason, after word of mouth publicity, public relations is considered as the most credible form of communications.
Today PR is seen as a business enabler and partner. Your thoughts?
Like, I mentioned in the start of the article, today PR plays a very important role in creating the right impact for both, your business and the brand. News consumption per person has increased drastically with internet being readily available. There are enough and increasingly more articles stating the pros and cons for the same. For eg brands like mini cooper are not only known for their business and brand PR, thought leadership but also for their marketing initiatives. We all love the brand for not just the product they bring to market but also their marketing initiatives. We applied the same to Manforce in India, and trust me it has worked wonders for its brand equity with increase in imagery scores.
Finally, how are communicators helping to curb fake news during COVID-19 pandemic?
Right now, the situation is very sensitive and given the uncertainty, rumours are bound to spread. With now everyone access to social media and digitization reaching the ground level, any news can get picked up and become viral. It is important to make use of verified communication channels to dispel any misleading information. We as professionals need to constantly monitor and be 100% sure of the source of the news, ensure credibility before sharing it with our clients. We keep our clients informed with daily news updates with regards to COVID as well as the industry norms.
The team members are keeping themselves abreast of any development and are following authentic source of information such as WHO, Ministry of Health in order to mitigate the risk of misinformation and fake news in their client’s ecosystem. The authentic information shared with the client will help them to educate and inform their colleagues, partners and other stakeholder and by this we are creating an ecosystem of authentic news.