Reputation brings credibility to your brand: An in-house perspective

Companies worldwide are increasingly aware of the need to have a good reputation among their potential customers, existing customers, shareholders, opinion leaders as well as their current and potential employees.

Companies are also conscious of forming and maintaining a basis of trust with all those people, and especially with their customers.

This has meant Corporate Communications, the people that play an important role within these processes, has become progressively vital in business and India is no different.

Role of Corporate Communications

We discussed the role of corporate communications in India with leading In-House professionals from Blackberry, eBay, Symantec and GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare to find out what they think about corporate communication, what they expect from agencies and what the C-suite does not understand about PR.

Sagar Desai, Head of Corporate Communications, India, at internet security firm Symantec Corporation, explains what corporate communications means to him as an in-house communicator: “Corporate communications is a facilitator of dialogue between an organisation and its ecosystem. It means we become the custodian of the organisations communities with its stakeholders – employees, shareholder, customers, partners and media. Our actions influence perception, shape opinions and ultimately create reputation.”

While, Deepa Dey, Head of Communications, India Sub Continent, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd stresses how important and beneficial in-house PROs can be within corporate communications, and particularly when it comes to connecting with the various stakeholders: “An in-house communicator has the opportunity of engaging in more than one of these activities and therefore can play a larger and a more holistic role. This adds to the richness of the experience.”

PR in India has traditionally been linked to media relations, so we asked if corporate communications focuses more on reputation building and goes beyond just media relations.

Beyond Media Relations and Corporation Communications

Sagar Desai says: “Corporate communications is way beyond media relations alone. That makes a small part of the job. It’s essentially about creating the right image/reputation for the organisation.”

While, Varghese M. Thomas, Director of Corporate Communications, India & SAARC Region, Blackberry emphasises the importance of reputation: “Reputation brings credibility to your brand. Although reputation is intangible, a good reputation demonstrably increases corporate worth and provides sustained competitive advantage. A business can achieve its objectives more easily if it has a good reputation.”

What do In-House Communicators want from their agencies?

As previously said, media relations has been an important area for PR in India, but increasingly PR agencies in India are positioning themselves as trusted advisors to their clients. To become valued professionals within corporate communications, agencies need to recognise how they have to evolve their skills.

Deepa Thomas, Head of corporate communications, eBay India says: “Measurement, share of voice and benchmarking are important aspects which cannot get ignored. Also it is very important that all planning is locked into business priorities and communication priorities and not tactical. Choosing when and what to communicate as well as what not to communicate/engage about are both equally critical.”

Deepa Dey advices agencies that: “In order to be a meaningful partner to an in-house communication function, it is imperative that the agency team has to have thorough knowledge of the business and the environment that influences it. They have to create a sustainable narrative for the business that will be of interest to the media and understand how media functions and have meaningful relationships with them”.

Deepa Dey adds: “While media relations’ remains the bread and butter of our profession, agency partners need to push themselves to become more than an outfit for dissemination of the press release.”

Varghese Thomas says: “In this fiercely competitive age agencies must work harder than ever to attract, keep and develop great clients. Smart ones will help their clients to manage expectations and keep them realistic.”

At the same time, adds Varghese: “When you hire an agency or agree to represent a client, respect them for the experts they are. The worst thing clients can do is constrain their agency by becoming the de facto expert on all things. The worst thing agencies can do is tell clients how to run their business. Respect the agency to do what it does best.”

Does management understand the communication function?

Corporate communications is also relatively new to the management of the organisations; therefore the importance of it is not necessarily instilled in leaders of the businesses. We asked whether its significance and impact has now been recognised.

Varghese Thomas says: “In the last few years things have changed a lot. Today, more and more organisations understand and appreciate the importance of PR and the impact it could have on their bottom line. Public relations are the lifeblood of any company. Whether a company is public or private, profit or non-profit, its reputation will determine its ultimate success.”

Sagar Desai agrees: “That’s definitely happening now. As organisations come to understand the importance of reputation and why it needs to be professionally managed, they realise the need to make corp communications an integral part of their A-team.”

While Deepa Thomas states the role PROs need to play in ensuring management understand the importance: “It’s the job of the communications team to evangelise the function and ensure it's part of key decisions.”

Deepa Dey agrees that the onus is on the PR professional to, “Understand the need of your stakeholders.” She adds that if you: “deliver value, management will understand the importance of the function in both good times and bad."

To guarantee that corporate communications is performed well within an organisation, the C- suite need to be involved, however it seems the C-suite still don’t fully comprehend elements within corporate communications.

Deepa Dey says that the C-suite does not understand: “How media works and what is possible and what is not. Secondly that relationships with all publications matter and finally how to communicate effectively with your employees.”

Sagar Desai says: “While it’s seen as an important function, corporate communication unlike other functions like sales, marketing, HR and finance, does not give a benchmark metric. I think there needs to be more work and thought around that. That will lead the C-Suite to have greater expectations and reliance from this function”.

However, Varghese Thomas doesn’t believe the problem lays in the lack of understanding: “I think C suite truly understand the power of PR and the impact it can have. The only thing that needs to be reiterated is that PR is not a magic wand. It requires time, building relationships and commitment both from the PR person and also the C level staff for it to be successful”.

Sagar Desai, Head- Corporate Communication, Symantec Corporation, Deepa Dey, Head - Communications, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare Ltd, Varghese M. Thomas, Director - Corporate Communications, Blackberry and Deepa Thomas, Head of corporate communications, eBay India

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