India's top communicators share why the 2020s' belong to PR

If the previous decade was about seismic change for the PR business, the 2020s' are poised to be the decade where PR truly roars into its own. The growing need for brands to build a credible reputation ensures this. But how precisely will this change PR services? What is the new shape of PR? India's top communicators share their views on this along with why the 2010s were meaningful for them.

Why the 2020s is the decade of PR 

Defining the Integrated Communication Approach 

Paroma Roy Chowdhury, senior director of Asia for communications and public affairs, SoftBank

Top Trend 2020

"Increasingly, it is difficult to draw boundaries between policy communications, product and brand communications and corporate communications. An integrated approach would work best to tell a good story, employing the technique which is most relevant for a particular situation like Influencing the environment or building a CEO or launching a product. Also, reputation always needs a 360-degree approach, so including the community as an audience will now be extremely important."

A memorable moment in the past decade 

"Too many. One would be launching of Android with Sundar Pichai, during my Google stint. One of the nicest global CEOs I have worked with."

Ethics around data and technology

Nitin Mantri, Group CEO-AvianWE 

Top Trend 2020

" Consumers clearly place a lot of value on ethics and this can be a challenge for brands. But they have to strike a balance between tech innovation and thoughtful accountability if they want to build brand loyalty. As communicators, we must come up with solutions that will help brands use technology to meet their business objectives without sacrificing consumer privacy."

A memorable moment in the past decade

"The most memorable and gratifying experience for me in the past decade has been my work with PRCAI and ICCO. I’m fortunate to have got this opportunity to serve the industry as President of PRCAI. I got to meet some wonderful people during this journey and together we have worked hard to get our industry the recognition it so deserves. Now I am looking forward to moving into a global role as ICCO president and increasing visibility for the role and value of PR."

Visual storytelling will see a dramatic increase

Sunayna Malik, managing director, India & senior vice president, APAC, Archetype

Top Trend 2020

    "In the last few years, we’ve seen how visuals – images and videos have become the cornerstone of effective storytelling. The coming decade will see a quantum increase in this genre, This ‘always-on’ generation hooked on to their mobile screens doesn’t have the attention span to read long-form content. So condensed, well packaged, visually impactful, shareable content will become essential to break through the clutter and grab consumer attention. Investing in and strengthening this service area will thus be a priority.

    A memorable moment in the past decade

    "I think the call from the Drukpa Lineage telling us that their Oracle had chosen us i.e. Text100 to be their PR partners is probably the most memorable and unique experience of my career. I wasn’t sure if it was someone playing a prank on us or some misguided individual and tried my best to dissuade them, citing our credentials as a tech PR agency with absolutely no experience of religious PR. But the voice of the Oracle prevailed and for two years we serviced this revered organization to the best of our ability.

    Sunayna Malik with His Holiness, the Gyalwang Drukpa

    His Holiness, the Gyalwang Drukpa was one of the most unassuming and wonderful people I have ever met and being in his presence was a privilege for me, my team and the dozens of media professionals who went all the way to Leh and Kathmandu to meet up with him."

    Its Integration, integration, integration

    NS Rajan, global partner and managing director, Ketchum Sampark

    Top Trend 2020

    "Agencies will be expected to control messages through the use of technology and the ones that haven’t evolved to offer the ‘complete solution’ by integrating will be marginalised. Especially, I see the lines between paid media and earned media blurring and diminishing. PR agencies will just have to integrate by focusing on core communication messages."

      A memorable moment in the past decade

      "The joint venture with Omnicom / Ketchum in 2011 and completion of 25 years of Ketchum Sampark in 2019 were personally satisfying moments to me."

      Nikhil Dey, vice-chairman, Weber Shandwick 

      Top Trend 2020

      "My favourite definition of public relations is “PR is doing good and then getting credit for it”. The future of a profession that is at its very core about getting companies and brands to be their best selves is bright. Purpose is the buzz word. Big global corporations like Unilever have declared that their brands must exist for a purpose or not at all. Small boutique startups are finding success when they stay true to the purpose of solving meaningful problems for people and the planet. It’s in this environment that PR needs to navigate in the next decade. I am extremely optimistic that the spotlight will shift towards PR professionals evangelising and inspiring more “doing of good” and the “getting credit for it” part of the equation will just be a natural extension. The 2020s offer a truly exciting prospect for anyone in the PR profession, to be the author of goodness."

      A memorable moment in the past decade

      "That’s a simple and very personal one for me. Early last year I moved out of a comfort zone and leapt into Weber Shandwick, after a lovely long inning at my previous organization. It’s been a whirlwind of learning and unlearning. What has it taught me? To embrace change. To be the wind of positive change. To be grateful for the opportunity to serve and solve for clients and team members. Cheers to 2020 and all the possibilities it will bring."

      Stakeholder engagement to rise 

      Nandita Lakshmanan, CEO, The PRactice 

      Top Trend 2020

      "Stakeholder engagement will make a quiet and significant entry and will soon become mainstream."

      A memorable moment in the past decade

      "That public relations has found its way out of the shadows of marketing to be seen as a critical, independent function critical to any organisation/institution."

      Broadening of the PR base

      Kunal Kishore Sinha, Co-founder at Value 360 Communications

      Top Trend 2020

      "With internet penetration expected to almost double to 60% by 2022 in India, apart from corporates, political parties, NGOs and even government departments would heavily rely upon PR for reaching out to their target audiences."

      A memorable moment in the past decade

      "In November 2016, when the government announced demonetization of 86% of currency notes, Value 360 had the opportunity to increase the brand equity of Paytm, leveraging the opportunity of the phase when hard cash was unused and an alternative had to be offered to the masses for their small day-to-day cash purchases. We were successful in sending across the message that Paytm could replace cash with ease. We used various mediums to expand the brand’s reach in every nook and corner of the country. Today Paytm has transformed from being a ‘brand’ into being a ‘verb’ that defines monetary transactions in the country."

      Regulation set to rise and with it PR

      Rakesh Thukral, managing director, Edelman India 

      Top Trend 2020

      "Regulation is likely to increase and in the next two to three years, we will see a significant portion of work taking place in stakeholder engagement and policy comms. PR will evolve and contribute in a big way, and strengthen its role in aiding CEOs and business leaders help achieve their business goals. PR will also play a key filter for governance and compliance check.

      A memorable moment in the past decade

      "My most memorable experience in the last decade was four years ago when we assisted a consortium for representing India at a global platform. And our task was to make India’s point of view heard at an international level. You work for brands and organisations, but when you work for the country, the satisfaction is at a totally a different level."

      Deepshikha Dharmaraj, managing director, Genesis BCW

      Top Trend 2020

      "We have been seeing the impact of missed or bad communications, leading to crises. In the coming decade, there will be more of this. The complexity of the media, stakeholders and platforms is only going to increase, leading to a bigger footprint of influence for us. Even more than before, we will see the need for integration and creativity."

      A memorable moment in the past decade

      "It has been an extremely eventful decade for me professionally. In the beginning, I was leading the western region, with client servicing as my primary role. Then I moved to talent management. I then shifted focus from talent to the other driver for the firm’s growth—clients. And now, as managing director, I am looking all of this together, focused on the growth of the firm and on moving people, for our clients, our people and the industry."

      Neha Mathur Rastogi, founder, WordsWork Communications

      Neha Rastogi with Rafael Nadal at the launch of Spanish football league 'La Liga' in India, 2016

      Top Trend 2020

      "The first trend in my mind is how PR needs to move beyond traditional media and find a new meaning in new mediums. The second trend which is more like a wish list is our future ability to position ourselves as equal to business consulting in all other forms – in terms of pay and priority."

      Better Journalist-PR professional ties?

      Malvika Mudgul, manager, corporate communication, Lilly India

      Top Trend 2020

      "The next decade should see a better relationship between journalists and PR professionals. Online portals, news websites and Twitter have taken the role of ‘breaking the news’ which is followed up by in-depth analysis through long feature articles by journalists. 

      The focus on media pitching and driving stories will become even more important. PR professionals will understand the individual interests of journalists and pitch stories and news pegs versus press releases."

      The rise of compliance

      Ashish Jalan, director & CEO, Concept Public Relations India Ltd

      Top Trend 2020

      "Going by the lessons we have learnt from some of the major developments in corporate India and their fallout in the public domain, there is an increasing awareness about the need to have robust systems and compliance measures in place. Even as we realize that compliance is a great foundation for any mitigation strategy, clients and agencies will allocate more resources for compliance measures and preparedness rather than being at the mercy of elements in an untoward situation."