India's PR firms take long term view, support clients who press pause on contracts

In April some corporate firms took a call to press pause on contracts for PR services. Now well into May, many PR firms in India are continuing to provide a selection of PR services.

Rahul Mehta, COO, Kaizzen says, "For clients who are currently not in a position to maintain active retainers and have taken a short recess, we are continuing to support them via media intelligence, tracking and reactive media opportunities"

Mehta adds, "Internally, we have created SOPs for employees to manage work-for-home and maintain regular client engagement. We routinely share an advisory with clients to keep them updated on developments and impact of COVID-19 on their respective industries"

Shah has had honest conversations with clients on way ahead

Sonam Shah, founder and CEO, Treize Communications says, "With the clients who have paused their PR services, we keep having regular discussions on the market, the industry, and the economic conditions. This keeps us in the loop of the current situation at their end and accordingly we can provide strategic consultancy to them."

Shah adds" We are having a very honest and realistic conversation with clients on how we can all sail through these tough times. I would say services have been paused at an executional level and not as business partners. We keep consulting, suggesting, and even sharing relevant media opportunities if arises. I think starting June or maybe mid-June, there will be a better picture for everyone in the PR industry."

Shah further explains her current PR strategy, "We are pivoting our focus on thought leadership articles and sharing of only relevant news updates and content with the media. We have proactively suggested our clients slow down or practice the pause, as we do not intend to trouble journalists with press releases and updates which do not cater to the readership of their publications at the moment. We also understand that these are challenges times for media as well, therefore we ensure our clients revert to a media opportunity within the deadline, thus not keeping any journalist waiting."

Kumar is actively learning to support her hospitality clients

Mukta Kumar, founder and director communications, Konnections IMAG shares, " From the onset of the pandemic we realized nothing but being emphatic and standing by the side of our business partners will help us. We brainstormed and unfolded various new strategies that would motivate our clients and build a contingency approach."

With hospitality clients on her roster, Kumar explains, " As we all know, the lockdown has had a devastating impact on the hospitality sector, we are trying our best possible ways to bring them back in action while understanding their concerns and giving them present-day workable solutions. We are attending various digital webinars, workshops with industry experts to enhance our knowledge and increase our scope with the clients."

Anindita Deb, founder, Script Public Relations says, "We have taken up the role of a support system for our clients and this includes both active and inactive ones. We have been figuring out ways to get their voices heard. If a policy needs to be changed, if people need to be made aware of challenges unless the media and through them, the government know the roadblocks the big and the small businesses are faced with, the aid might not mean anything to the business. We are actually in constant touch with clients who are on pause."

Sandhir says they have not pressed pause on communicating with the clients

Vandana Sandhir, chief client officer, Genesis BCW, says, "There are a lot of insights and information that we are sharing with our clients, irrespective of whether they are on pause or are active or even potential clients, for that matter. We are regularly sharing best practices, learnings from across the world, expert opinions and ideas for multi-stakeholder engagement as well as strategies for issue & crisis preparedness and for reopening business. The point is to convey to all our clients—past, current, potential—that we are very much ‘open for business’ and we are standing with them for any support they might need."

Mahima, a senior professional with The Pivotals says, "For the clients on pause, we are avoiding the saying: ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Though we may not put in our time and energy to devise communication strategy for them at the moment. But we do understand that brand building requires consistency and a pause on the services may hamper it. Hence, we try to maintain media presence for them in the form of industry quotes and mentions in the stories relevant to their sector. We also keep them in the loop by sharing industry news and competition updates. We have also started the practice of sharing internal newsletter to all of our clients. This is one of the key ways to practice stakeholder engagement on behalf of our agency."

PR services in demand by clients

For Quadri its work as usual

Misbah Quadri, senior manager, Perfect Relations says none of her clients have taken a retainer break. Therefore its services on go for her. "Right from tracking, providing key media updates, advisory, providing digital support to drafting content, dissemination of press releases and even conducting relationship-building meetings - the only difference being is everything now happens online."

Suhasini Ahluwalia Mehta, director, Stellent Communications says, "Webinars, blogs, vlogs, are the go-to medium to communicate. We handle businesses across the technology spectrum and most of our clients have come up with pivotal decisions, innovations with respect to Covid19. We see continued focus on building resilient businesses and doing the best we can for them in terms of public relations."

Radhika Mehta, consumer connect practice lead, India and Branch Head, New Delhi for Ruder Finn says they are providing perception audits, market intelligence and media sensitivity reports. 

Mehta adds that "While staying away from generalized approach, our focus has been to create customized solutions and help form communities for each of our clients to create sounding boards as they plan their next steps to open-up businesses.To support our clients, we also looked at our services as a holistic offering rather than breaking them down into print, social, digital or influencer landscape.”

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