Large potential for PR growth in India and China says Barri Rafferty CEO, Ketchum

Rafferty believes is being bold and brave with creative ideas

Barri Rafferty, CEO, Ketchum describes herself as equally left brain and right brain, she doesn't think of herself as a woman leader and believes PR practitioners should be open-minded about the big creative idea based on analytics.

On her first visit to India, Rafferty, president and CEO, of Ketchum spoke to PRmoment India on the place of evidence-based creativity in PR, the rise of visual communication and why leadership should be about relevant skills and not gender.

Glocalising creative communication: Buzzword or Reality?

India is a tough market to communicate in with multiple cultures, languages and religions. But Rafferty believes that having a global tool kit attached to a strong concept that works everywhere is possible and more cost-effective. 

Rafferty adds that part of a good globally viable idea comes from adding a strong visual element that helps overcome some of the cultural barriers to communications.

Rafferty also pointed out that what makes India such a strong potential region for growth is the fact that the country has seen faster, adoption of technology trends such as short-form video on TikTok than western nations. This provides PR firms with greater opportunities to push for digital and video-based PR campaigns wedded to strong analytics and a big creative concept.

Merger of Omnicom firms in India

Following the recent trend of mergers of PR firms globally, Omnicom had merged Ketchum, FleishmanHillard and Porter Novelli in four European countries (France, Italy, Netherlands and Spain) in 2017.

But Bari Rafferty ruled out any merger in India of FleishmanHillard and Ketchum Sampark saying there are no plans for that.

Evidence-based creativity 

Overseeing operations in 70 countries, Barri Rafferty is a big believer in evidence-based creativity. She believes this translates into being open-minded about combining analytics with a creative way to engage audiences for businesses. Asked how this could be defined within the PR and corporate communications function, Rafferty said the definition of creativity is wide open for PR practitioners to structure for themselves. 

"We have to be brave and bold and hold creativity to a higher standard in PR. If we don't, we will get lost", says Rafferty.

Asked whether that is a conflict in the mind of the PR professional as the big creative idea can sometimes inadvertently create a PR crisis for a brand, Rafferty said that consequences are not specific to a PR based idea.

Unless we get the nuances right, make the idea more relevant, any idea can have consequences added Rafferty.

Women Leadership in PR

Barri Rafferty is the first woman to lead a PR firm that is among the 5 largest PR firms globally. A description, that Rafferty is not really comfortable with.

Rafferty shared that she tried to get this angle taken out from the headline of the release announcing her appointment but agreed as it was a request from the holding company for Ketchum. 

Having said that Rafferty does believe that the kind of leadership teams want today: less hierarchy, more EQ among leaders, better communication are all attributes that are well aligned with how women engage as leaders.