Hill + Knowlton Strategies India implements 4 member leadership model, reporting to Bashar AlKadhi, CEO, METIA region

Hill + Knowlton Strategies India has put in place a four-member leadership team that reports directly to Bashar AlKadhi, CEO of the METIA region that covers the Middle East, Turkey, India and Africa.

AlKadhi, who took over as CEO of the METIA region in February this year, spoke to PRmoment India on a visit to Gurgaon about the new leadership model, the firm's plans for the future and why public affairs will move to the centre of PR in 2020.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies India looking for sustainable growth

The WPP firm, Hill+Knowlton was one the earliest PR firms to enter the India market via its acquisition of the Rajiv Desai led IPAN. The firm's leadership is now looking to rebuild the brand in India with a new leadership model and a goal of sustained growth.

Bashar AlKadhi admitted very candidly that "We have lost out in the last two to three years. We did not love Hill+Knowlton India enough. But now, the love is back. We are upskilling and there is some great work being done."

The leadership model at the firm in India now says four leaders:  Charu Raizada, North Head, Vikas Prabhakar, South Head, Pushpendra Dhansoia, West Head and Gagan Talwar, head of Business Wire India. All 4 report to AlKadhi. A centralised CEO has been ruled out for India for now. The firm has seen several leadership changes in the last 3 years, seeing 2 different CEOs in the period.

Answering a question on whether this kind of model of more than one leader works for India, AlKadhi confirmed said that is the model that works for now, "I am a great believer in strong leadership. And this is a flat, collaborative, very empowered team which can move very fast to respond to a client requirement."

Asked about growth targets for Hill+Knowlton Strategies in India, AlKadhi said, "We are very ambitious but are not targeting incremental growth at the moment. We want sustainable growth without any compromise on quality. Are we perfect? No. But we are better than where we were six months ago."

'Knowledge Plus' training services on the anvil for India in 2020

Hill+Knowlton Strategies is also planning to launch its institutional communications service in India in 2020. The service is already on offer in other Asian and African regions. The service will help train people, including non PR professionals in communication strategies.

Public Affairs is the heart of PR for the 2020's  

Bashar AlKadhi who has worked as director, public affairs at Coca-Cola in an earlier stint in the late 90s' says public affairs has never been more important and crucial to the PR role.

AlKadhi elaborates saying, "The old way was you had a product or service and a message for that. This could be advertising or a billboard. Today, we need to understand how people are behaving when they receive a brand message. How do they act after that. And this is closely linked to the perception of a brand's purpose."

This means no brand can be complacent and afford not to communicate what they stand for. Not just companies, but governments too have to carry people with them. 

AlKadhi says people will form a better bond to organisations and people that respond fast to them, these could be CEOs or political leaders. 

AlKadhi added that to paid, owned and earned media; the concept of shared media has now been added. Shared media, that can spread negative reputational information very fast via mediums like WhatsApp. AlKadhi warned that we are in the age where long term reputations can be destroyed in not just the proverbial 5 minutes but in literally 2 seconds.

All this mean that the centrality of purpose for a brand's reputation has never mattered more, driving   public affairs to the heart of purpose and therefore PR.