How the current lockdown situation will re-define “authentic work culture” in PR agencies

Indian PR firms have one of the youngest set of employees and authentic work culture is a major attraction for many of them. Across the board, most agencies take pride in defining their work culture- excellent colleagues, warm professional environment, supportive leadership and spectacular office parties. However, the current lockdown situation has really unravelled this ‘awesome work culture’ cornerstone.

For starters, this is an unprecedented situation, no Indian PR professional/ has ever faced such a complex situation in their lifetime (even during various wartime periods), where they must work remotely, for over 50 days now. Agencies across the board are struggling to align client expectation and employee expectations, leading to higher stress levels in many cases.

A few takeaways which I believe can help PR firms to really outshine their industry peers when it comes to building and sustaining an “authentic work culture”:

  • Empathy: The average age of PR professionals in India is in the mid-twenties and most of them are working in metro cities, away from their hometowns. A situation like the current lockdown requires agencies to have honest conversations with employees on how they can balance their professional and personal lives. Empathy towards addressing stress levels and loneliness is the need of the hour. An excellent case I heard was of a professional who ran out of LPG and his agency helped him in sourcing another LPG cylinder in less than 2 hours.
  • Client Expectations: Clients are in the same boat as agencies when it comes to a negative business impact, remote workers and an unprecedented situation. The onus squarely lies on the top management of agencies to engage with clients to understand their requirements and assure them that even in an unusual situation like this, the output will not suffer. However, taking into consideration the unusual situation, unrealistic deadlines/expectations need to be addressed and sorted mutually.
  • Employee Expectations:Clients do not come first, employees come first”- Richard Branson. The quote encapsulates what needs to be done, employees should not be under the constant stress of losing their jobs, pay cuts or meeting unrealistic client expectations. Agencies need to be transparent in their communication, be it pay cuts, tighter budgets, lower appraisals etc. Employees need to know what the agency is doing to ride the tough tide and what role they can play as an integral part of the business establishment.
  • Employee Responsibility: Work culture is not only defined by the employer but also by the employees. PR professionals need to come together and have mutually constructive conversations with their leadership teams to discuss and deliberate on various ways of tackling this current situation, which has directly impacted cash flows for most agencies.

Having said that, agencies which truly invest in their employees today, will outshine their peers and ride out this storm with a stronger team fabric, happier employees and a lifetime of ‘authentic work culture’.

Divyabh Singh, is director, AvianWE