The accelerating Bharat story key focus area for Hill+Knowlton Strategies India says CEO Abhishek Gulyani
Hill+Knowlton Strategies India's Abhishek Gulyani had the added challenge of starting a major leadership role via the digital world. Gulyani joined the global PR firm in May 2020 (as he describes it) as the 'Quarantine CEO'.
As part of the ongoing PRmoment India Leadership Series 2020, Abhishek Gulyani, CEO, Hill+Knowlton Strategies India talks about what working through the COVID-19 experience has been like in the last six months.
PRmoment India: What was your guiding principle through this tough time, taking on the role as you did during COVID?
Abhishek Gulyani: Joining as the ‘quarantine’ CEO I didn’t have the opportunity to meet my teams physically. My immediate concern of course was for their wellbeing and safety, and also for our clients, as they were going through anxieties of their own.
Amidst that challenging environment, I had to make sure that I not only maintain business continuity but also retain clients. A growth-focused and cost-prudent mindset takes on even greater meaning during such times. I am happy to say that despite the restrictions enforced by the pandemic, we were able to grow, retain existing clients, and overachieve on our financial targets.
One of my major principles, which is also part of the global H+K Strategies culture is to "Always place ideas over hierarchies". The future of PR is all about ideas, creativity, innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset. Today’s generation, especially, rightly expects transparency and participation in the decision-making process.
PRmoment India : Your plans for targeting new sectors?
Abhishek Gulyani: The accelerating Bharat story is a key focus area for us. Indian companies are becoming aspirational. Global brands are looking for communication partners who can drive conversations in India.
We are currently working with businesses from diverse sectors - aviation & aerospace, food services, agri science, financial services, technology, consumer electronics and plan to target new sectors next year.
PRmoment India: Your confidence meter about the future of the PR business?
Abhishek Gulyani: Businesses are now re-opening and people are slowly getting back to their normal lives. This is the time when communicators must shine and become trusted advisors to their clients:
- PR is moving out of its' traditional one-dimensional media partner role to a 360-degree value provider. We are collaborating with the C-suite to align campaigns directly with business goals; with the marketers and communicators to build consumer conversations; and with HR for critical employee communications.
- Additionally campaigns rooted in behavioral science and underlined with data analytics and deep insights can bring 20-30% more effectiveness to campaign results.
PRmoment India: How did you support your clients during this time?
Abhishek Gulyani: The hit on print resulted in turmoil in the media, product launches and media events; traditional marketing avenues were impacted. We supported our clients all the way – and they recognized the creativity that we brought into our work. Thanks to technology, disruptions in terms of operations was fairly minimal. Virtual engagements – pitches, day-to-day work, meetings - enabled us to carry on with business as usual. All our clients, partners and employees were very supportive.
PRmoment India: What will the big trends in communications for 2021?
Abhishek Gulyani: As I mentioned earlier, organizations need to connect with their customers at a much more personal level because today’s consumers are very aware. They need to see that the brand they associate with cares about not just them but also about broader, social issues.
PRmoment India Leadership Series 2020