Why PR campaigns in India are increasingly becoming channel agnostic, with Edelman’s Robert Holdheim

As marketing communication becomes more integrated, a central theme or idea  for a campaign could emanate from any area, including PR. Robert Holdheim, CEO for Edelman in South Asia, Middle East and Africa  speaks to PRmoment India Radio on how marketing is in the process of becoming  channel agnostic, what this means for clients and what opportunity it brings for PR firms.

There is some brief interference after 25 seconds of this interview - our apologies for this, we'll make sure it doesn't happen next time.

Here is the transcript:

PRmoment Radio:  I am very pleased to welcome Robert Holdheim, the CEO of Edelman in South Asia, Middle East and Africa to this inaugural episode of PR moment India radio. Welcome Robert.

PRmoment Radio: Robert, what are your thoughts on how PR campaigns are increasingly becoming channel agnostic?

Robert Holdheim: I think it’s not just PR campaign but increasingly marketing is becoming channel agnostic. If you think about the ways companies used to look at their marketing budgets, they started it out essentially with the channel strategy, where they said we will put 50 percent of our budget to television and so and so much to PR and so and so much to digital communication and so on. And then they went out and said now you source plans and work with different types of agencies to put together programs around those budgets. Nowadays its changing, I don’t think it’s got in there completely but it’s changing to a complete inverse approach, where everything starts out with an idea, a concept and that concept needs to be channel agnostic- in the sense that it can be exploited across channels and then from there the overall budgets get put together and the decisions are made as to where the budgets will be applied and the thing about that is that the idea is not an advertising idea, is not a PR idea, it’s an overall concept and can come from anywhere. That represents a huge opportunity for PR firms.

PRmoment Radio: What kind of opportunity does it present for PR firms?

Robert Holdheim: Well, the opportunity to be there. Very often in the past, the programs were developed, the ideas were made and the PR team was brought in at the sort of 7th hour or the 11th hour,  I guess,  to figure out how to PR the idea, how to get some media coverage. Again the classic example of that is an advertisement that would then be in a launch and would be given to the PR firm to get media coverage around the ad. Obviously if this is the route and we are given the opportunity to develop the ideas and to be there from the beginning and it’s an opportunity for PR led campaigns such as the campaign for Real Beauty for DOVE in the United States or Eco-imagination for GE. These are campaigns where PR leads, where PR helps develop the idea and yes there is an advertising component and there is a digital component and there is a community relations component but the whole thing is developed and led by public relations. I think the opportunity is tremendous.

PRmoment Radio: How do clients benefit from this? Could you describe your experience with Oreo?

Robert Holdheim: I think one very concrete way in which the clients get benefit is to get a much more integrated campaign and from that you get much more powerful campaign rather different campaigns with different messaging across different channels. You have a single idea, a single theme, single campaign that pushes out into multiple channels and it’s not just the campaigns but it’s the integration between the channels, so the campaign is much more powerful when it is multi-faceted, when it has different applications of the same campaign across channels. An example, we in India launched Oreo sometime back-the cookie and the normal product launch in India at the time was perhaps issuing a press release and maybe a sampling program. An example of integrated campaign is we look for a theme, an idea as I mentioned earlier, that we could hitch the launch on to. So that theme was about family, was about time fathers and sons spend together. We did some research on it through reputed institutes that showed fathers and sons were getting less time together, so that became the theme, that became the content and we developed around it and we delivered through multi-  channels. The content was then pushed out digitally, it was pushed out by traditional media, it was pushed out through experiential marketing with an Oreo bus that went around the country and invited fathers and sons to come and participate in activities together on that bus. So you see that the model is essentially, you develop an idea, theme….you create and co-create content around that theme and then you leverage that content across multiple distribution channels. That’s the model.

PRmoment Radio: What is the biggest challenge that PR professionals face in thinking about a single theme and planning it across channels?

Robert Holdheim: Much of PR, certainly 4 years ago when I arrived and still believe today was centered on pure media relations. And the whole concept of content development and the whole concept of creativity…that wasn’t what was expected from PR firms, the talent within the PR firms didn’t have the experience. So I think that’s part of it and the flip side is that the client has pigeon holed PR into a very limited and a very specific role and is not used to having ideas. We have been in many situations where we have attended meetings and our opinions was not asked around for specific idea or campaign, of course  we have pushed to get included in those meetings and to have a seat at those table so to speak.

PRmoment Radio: How do you encourage your in house talent to think along these lines?

Robert Holdheim: With Edelman we have implemented an account review system and we have built up a team…almost a horizontal team that cuts across our practices to implement creativity, to implement content development and we set up a bi-annual reviews for all of our clients, where we have senior people come in and it becomes a creative brainstorm on how to inject creativity into the clients. It’s a way of thinking, it’s based on experience and as this continues to change, we will start attracting different types of people to the industry as well, that’s already happened in the 4 years as I had mentioned I have been in India.