It's almost a cliche. But 2020 has been that defining, disruptive year. The kind we see once in a lifetime.
Therefore, PRmoment India reached out to a range of PR industry leaders to find out 'What's in and What's Out' for the PR business in India. What has 2020 winnowed out and left standing?
Strategic Trust building over Quantity
According to Dr. Usha Iyer, head - corporate communications, Strides Pharma Science Ltd, what will matter most is, "Increasing attention to building trust in the brand by highlighting transparency, governance and social responsibility."
Iyer also points out that, "One thing that is obsolete for PR (or out) is mistaking quantity for quality - it's not how often they talk about you but what they say about you."
Purpose, Empathy and Authenticity!
Sujit Patil, VP and head corporate brand and communications, Godrej says “Purpose, empathy and authenticity” will be in and how! This year reminded us all that we need to focus on what matters to us the most –on personal, societal and professional levels. And regardless of how great a story you have to tell, if you don’t tell it with authenticity and with empathy, you are never going to build a relationship with your audience. And isn’t it what R in PR is about- Relations?"
Patil says what's definitely out is, "Spray and pray: Whether for storytelling, crisis mitigation or influencer engagement, without data you are going to just spray and pray. Something which neither professionals or brands can afford now. But the thumb rule of data analytics has to be followed: 'Garbage in, Garbage out'! If you don’t have the right data sources, you aren’t going to get the right information and eventually it will lead to bad branding!"
Multi channel PR, owned media over Spray and Pray PR
For Prasidha Menon, vice president and global head of communications - OYO Hotels & Homes PR is going to gravitate towards a, "Well defined multi-audience-focused, multi-channel-led communications, with an increased dependence on owned media channels. In my opinion, digital storytelling is the future and we’re all making great strides in that direction. So that’s what’s in."
Menon adds, "When you ask me ‘What’s out’, without a second thought, it has got to be traditional press conferences and large scale launch events with the goal of driving ‘next day coverage’. We will see a shift towards more focused engagements, could be webinars or agenda based chats, to drive qualitative outcomes, that truly move the needle forward on the company’s communication goals. There will be a lot of ‘show and tell’ vs. ‘spray and pray’."
Agile and Empathetic Stakeholder Relationships
What's In and What's Out
Nothing is Out in the Indian market
Vineet Handa, CEO and founder Kaizzen India has a different take on what's in and what's out for PR. Handa explains that, "India is a very diverse growth market where all mediums of communication can co-exist and have their own relevance. Therefore, I don’t think any medium or process will become obsolete in 2021.
However, organizations and people would find newer ways to address the problem statements of the clients and come out with innovative solutions."
Handa says that, "2020 has taught us to be agile and empathetic towards all our stakeholders i.e. clients and the team members and the relationships which have survived the tests of 2020 will thrive in 2021. We hope people to continue walking on the path of being empathetic and agile as empathy will separate exemplary PR from ordinary communications."
Collaboration, Influencer Strategy, Authenticity will rule!
Manisha Chaudhary - founder Director, Value 360 Communications, says "As part of the new collaborative approach brought forth by the pandemic, PR and marketing will now need to go hand-in-hand. Brands will need to substantiate their claims with observable proof, by way of integrated communication that includes new-age methods like influencer marketing."
Chaudhary puts it succinctly about what's out in PR in 2021, saying, "Isolated, unsubstantiated, and uninspired PR will be out in 2021."
Digital Migration, Authentic micro influencers
The first bit of advice Archana Jain, managing director, PR Pundit has for 2021 is, "Fix your connectivity and camera - video calling is here to stay."
Jain also flags off , "Authentic multiplicators - Nano and micro influencers and the migration to digital." as key PR trends for 2021.
Conversely Jain shares that, "Broadcasters i.e. the macro influencers are you out as is dependency and obsession with print."
Traditional Media Engagement is out
Tarunjeet Rattan – managing partner, Nucleus PR says, "With the turmoil in the media industry leading to media outlets shutting down, client teams have been forced to acknowledge the power of digital. PR teams are being asked to seek out digital ways of creating a brand reputation.
Rattan adds, "For long, I have been speaking about the power of collaborations. Instead of working in silos and plowing ahead, PR teams have now seen the sense in collaboration with other brands and PR teams. A side effect of this is a certain amount of trust and camaraderie within the industry which I am delighted with."
Echoing what many PR leaders are saying Rattan says, "While the love for traditional media is still strong among some sectors, future media outreach plans will see a drastic reduction of dependence on this medium."
Nikky Gupta, Co- Founder & Director Teamwork Communications Group said in 2021, "We will witness an increasing demand for specialist PR agencies in different fields. Currently, most PR organizations brand themselves as multi-specialty agencies. However, with the rise in demand for specialists, we will witness the rise of agencies specialising in PR and brand communication of different fields – be it health, tech or lifestyle."
Gupta added that, "As recessionary pressures continue to impact marketing and communication budgets, we will continue to see brands and organizations toning down their advertising budgets in favour of more PR activities, which are relatively low cost ."
Empathy, Adaptability and Owned Media will rise
According to Radhika Mehta, consumer connect practice Lead, India and branch head, New Delhi at Ruder Finn, "Two things that will be an absolute must for all communication professionals will be empathy and adaptability. While we work together with our clients to help them communicate their vision effectively, we will also need to be aware of how the world is changing and how people are dealing with different things all around them."
Mehta also says that, "In order to stay competitive, currently the way we measure and equate PR output with just numbers and quantity will become obsolete. With the media landscape having dramatically changed, campaigns today are created keeping in mind earned and owned media both- for better ROI understanding and being more competitive."
Insight based Purpose
Deepshikha Dharmaraj, chief executive officer, Genesis BCW says one thing that's in for PR in 2021 is, " Definitely Purpose. For maximum impact, it has to be based on an insight and with the intention of doing the right thing."
Dharmaraj believes what's out is, "Inauthentic or pure ‘selling’ communication. Any attempt that seemed opportunistic, while mildly tolerated earlier, was absolutely shunned this year. There has been a systemic change in consumer needs and behaviour."
Creativity will be the differentiator
As per Abhishek Gulyani, CEO, Hill+Knowlton Strategies India, "In this environment of non-stop communication happening from a multitude of diverse channels, creativity is what will give us the edge. Clients are increasingly looking for partners who offer creative, implementable ideas."
Gulyani adds, "We should continue to maintain our focus on consumer behaviour backed by data & insights, digital & social presence, and analytics. There is a much bigger role for PR post the pandemic as businesses reposition themselves and re-strategize."
IG will define PR
Commenting on the shift from offline to online, Moushumi Dutt, communications consultant and PR trainer said, "All online media, blogs, IG stories will define and should become the cornerstone of every PR media plan."
Dutt feels offline events are fast becoming obsolete "If the PR and mediaworld survived and lived without any physical media events during the pandemic, maybe hosting press events ( at the drop of a hat) are out."