This week, Hill+Knowlton Strategies in India kicks off a news innings under president and CEO, Chetan Mahajan. PRmoment India was invited to interact with the incoming president and the outgoing president and CEO, Radhika Shapoorjee as well with Vivian Lines, global vice chairman, chairman Asia Pacific, co-head client service at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.
In a rare public insight into the one year long search for a new CEO and president once Shapoorjee indicated that she is moving on; Lines said that they started out with an external headhunter and a master list of 86 names. These were eventually whittled down to a top 3. The final pick is Chetan Mahajan, former joint MD of MSLGROUP in India.
Mahajan, who has a strong track record of growing a client base, said that, “Very frankly, while my personal strength is the tech sector and this will continue to matter, it’s more important to use your judgement and acumen to pick the right companies within sectors.”
Chetan Mahajan, president and CEO, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Shapoorjee, told PRmoment India that she has huge love and respect for Hill+Knowlton Strategies and is happy to move on a very positive note. Shapoorjee is likely to leave the PR industry altogether in her professional future.
All the parties involved indicated that they are keen to treat the transition with respect and positivity. The firm is also looking to hire mid to senior level professionals in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.
PR growth in India and APAC
In a candid chat on the state of PR in APAC and India, Lines said that while the fastest growing APAC market is Singapore, the most important PR market in Asia is China. This is due to not only international firms coming to China, but also due to Chinese companies making considerable investments overseas.
Vivian Lines, global vice chairman, chairman Asia Pacific, Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Speaking frankly about the current growth in PR in India, Lines said that, “While India has been a market with great potential, it has never quite got there. You just don’t see the sharp take off happen.”
Lines added that there is so much potential in India, the growing middle class market, the potential of the tier 2, 3 and 4 towns and the rural markets. Yet, Indian companies are not big spenders on PR.
Lines said that, “It is sad that Indian companies do not spend much on PR. In China, one can ask for and get as much as 50,000 US $ per month for PR.
An old China hand, Lines refused to be drawn into commenting on potential growth rates for PR but did say that any industry should be outperforming local inflation rates and growing in line with GDP expectations.
What lies ahead for PR: attack on brands
Lines flagged off several challenges and needs for brand communications. The first emerging trend is that, “Brand credibility is being attacked more than ever.” Never has the consumer been more powerful and as quick to voice his or her complaint as today.
This means that brands and communicators todays have a “Golden nanosecond” to deal with a crisis rather than a “Golden Hour” that was available earlier to brands before the impact of a crisis went public.
Lines, also said that PR strategy cannot be derived from an advertising or a marketing slogan but from a brand’s purpose, Lines, who has spent 33 years at Hill+Knowlton, added that messaging in keeping with the purpose of a brand is what a PR professional should leverage. From this larger framework, tactical moves should emanate.