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‘Our differentiated services make clients trust us with their entire comms mandate’September 29, 2022

Despite facing challenges in today’s time, the agencies have been adapting to new norms along with maintaining the traditional ones. Some of the key challenges are building face-to-face relationships, getting top-tier coverage, managing client expectations and keeping data organised.

In conversation with us, today is Deepshikha Dharmaraj, chief executive officer, BCW India Group. She spoke about some of the best practices at her organisation in the form of digital medium. She further elaborated on the importance of having a strong media team, upskilling work and having wide network for effective reach.

Today, where every professional is inclined towards the virtual world. How important it is to maintain face-to-face communication with clients?

Over the last three years, we all learned to adapt to the demands of online and hybrid ways of working. While that worked—and needed to work—for the time, it didn’t make for in-depth interactions and building long-term relationships. Virtual interactions were, at best, transactional. Now that things are almost back to normal, we can all begin to pick up the threads of conversation with the same ease as before and rebuild and strengthen our connections.

After using the amalgamation of digital and traditional practices, what has been the success ratio for agencies?

A mix of digital and traditional has definitely allowed PR firms to increase their share of wallet with the clients. Also, when you talk about digital, that also includes creative audio-visual content, data analytics and all the associated services. It all adds up to a more substantial mandate. At BCW, we follow an Earned-Plus approach—earned media plus paid media, digital, creative technology, data, AI, and more. For clients, it becomes easier to engage one agency to manage it all.

What are the provisions/steps/plans/initiatives that you have in place to ensure and strengthen regional reach?

Regional media is diverse and growing. Today, the top 9 out of 10 largest circulated newspapers in India are regional publications. In the last two and half years, the need for hyper-local content in regional languages has only increased. Understanding and reaching out to the regional media is, therefore, imperative. We have taken a three-pronged approach to this:

A strong media team: We have a strong media team made up of former journalists from both mainstream and regional media, who understand the nuances and expectations for the regional media.

Upskilling teams: Through regular knowledge-sharing sessions from our media team as well as eminent guests from prominent regional media organisations, our teams get updated on the shifting sands of the media landscape.

A wide network: We have a network of affiliates who give us the requisite reach, not just in 200+ cities within India, but also in the entire South Asia region. Besides reach, they also share with us the local intelligence we need to develop impactful PR programmes.

How have new tools like data mining and data management helped professionals in data mitigation?

Understanding and analysing data can give you the edge when you are communicating in a noisy and crowded world. This is something that our leadership realised almost 10 years ago, which led them to launch the first-of-its-kind Live! Newsroom.

Bringing alive the power of data analytics, the newsroom rapidly became the nerve centre of our firm, where we combine data analytics and human intelligence to come up with insight, which then helps our clients develop a more precisely targeted communications strategy. It also helps to keep your programme on track with ongoing measurement and course correction.

What makes data analytics an even more powerful asset is that it helps you pre-empt or at least monitor a crisis. Data mining also keeps you abreast of the changes in stakeholder behaviour and sentiment.

How have PR agencies been successful in expanding their territorial reach in the advertising and marketing space?

I don’t see this as a territorial issue. Till a few years ago, PR used to be at the periphery of the marketing and communications conversation, typically led by advertising. Today, it is an indispensable part of the integrated marketing strategy. In fact, given that messaging is a core competence of PR, we also lead the conversation in several instances.

PR is also the only marketing discipline that touches all the stakeholders of a company—consumers, employees, government, community, key opinion leaders and others. To engage with them, companies need to continuously evolve their communications strategies. We have been anticipating these evolving needs and developing differentiated services at every step of our journey.

Just this year, for instance, we launched CSP+ to help companies identify, develop and communicate their purpose. We also revamped and strengthened our Executive Visibility Programme (EVP)—where we work with leaders so they can communicate more effectively—and our digital-first employee communications and advocacy offering. With a varied set of differentiated services, our clients find it easier to entrust the entire communications mandate with us.

The article was first published in the Exchange4media