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Personalised and well-defined pitches are the key to winning new businessesJanuary 11, 2022

In today's 'Year-ender story of 2021' series, Deepshikha Dharmaraj, CEO, BCW India Group, discusses how purpose-driven communication will continue to be the way ahead for the year 2022

As we step into 2022 and look forward to it as a year full of hope and possibilities, e4m PR and Corp Comm presents the “Year-ender story of 2021” series with the theme “The possibilities that the new year holds for PR agencies and the way ahead”.

The series encompasses the views, opinions and thoughts of some of the leading names and veterans of the PR and Corp Comm fraternity on how they perceive the New Year, the transitions they expect to see, and their vision for the future.

In this interview, Deepshikha Dharmaraj, Chief Executive Officer, BCW India Group, shares her views about how newer technologies like Web3 and the metaverse will take centre-stage this year along with AI and how purpose-driven communication will continue to be the way ahead for 2022.

Excerpts from the interview:

How important has the trend of personalised pitches become for the PR industry?

It’s not a new trend but something that has been always there. I think what has become pertinent in the current context is that from being unidimensional, where they only touched upon traditional public relations, pitches have today become integrated and multi-platform. This requires a huge amount of research, audience insights, and a well-laid-out strategic approach that stands apart in a very competitive environment, combined with creative ideas for the execution of campaigns. Clients are expecting their agencies to truly understand their business and help them seamlessly engage and communicate with multiple stakeholders. Therefore, personalised and well-defined pitches are the key to winning new businesses.

Artificial Intelligence is the future - irrespective of industries. What are the ways in which AI can come to the aid of PR and Corp Communication professionals in 2022?

Till before the pandemic, we would talk about AI/AR/VR and other emerging technologies a little more futuristically. But the pandemic accelerated digital transformation and these technologies became less fringe. To begin with, AI is applied to tasks that are repetitive, like creating coverage reports and so on. But beyond automation, there is a lot more we can use AI for. For instance, at our Live! Newsroom, we found AI to play an even more critical role in predictive analytics — figuring out narrative arcs for possible news stories and trends, including possible issues and crises. Another application is in — and you might find this counter-intuitive — driving creativity. I believe true creativity comes from having the right insight at the core of your idea, and AI helps with data-driven insights.

What are the trends the Indian PR and Corporate Communications industry can look forward to in 2022?

Although we are entering the year with the pandemic hitting the third wave in the country, I am very confident that 2022 will be a year where recovery will be stronger and communications will play a big role in that.

Digital: The big shift will continue to be in digital. While, as I said above, technologies like AI will become more mainstream, newer technologies like Web3 and the metaverse will also come centre-stage this year. While they may not be fully implemented, there will definitely be exploration and preparation in this area.

Purpose: If digital is the medium, purpose is the message. For recovery to truly happen, everyone has to row the boat in the same direction. And purpose can help align everyone to that direction. This year we will see even more of that.

People power: Whether employees or consumers or indeed the community, engaging people will be in focus this year. After two years of the pandemic, getting people to maintain a growth mindset — with an open mind, learning, inclusion, curiosity and creativity — will be the focus, for us as well as for our clients.

According to industry experts, environmental, social, and corporate governance would continue to grow. In what ways will socially-conscious initiatives continue to drive campaigns and outreach programmes in 2022?

As I mentioned above, purpose-driven communication will continue to be the way ahead for 2022, and for the future years too. The fact is that purpose is the only thing that strings together all stakeholders and all aspects of the business for a company. If purpose, which is the ‘why’ of a company, drives strategy, then social consciousness, environmental responsibility, or corporate governance, all fall in place naturally. PR and communications play a big role in helping establish that alignment. A multi-stakeholder approach helps rally everyone around a purpose-driven vision and lets people see where they fit in. Whether it is employee engagement, consumer connect, community mobilisation, or any other way, a purpose-driven campaign can help a company really develop brand love and brand respect.

How did you cope with the second wave of the pandemic? What were the challenges you had to overcome?

The second wave was quite brutal and hit everyone pretty badly. Our first concern was our people. To make sure that they had access to medication, equipment like oxygen cylinders, concentrators, hospital beds, and most importantly, verified information, we set up a 24/7 COVID Emergency Support Team. We also reached out to our clients to both extend our support as well as to seek their support in easing the pressure on our people. It was also a time when the entire industry pulled together to support each other.

While the second wave was on, work definitely hit pause on many fronts, with only mission-critical campaigns running. So when the wave subsided, we also had the challenge of getting people back on track and looking forward instead of backward.

How have the young generation/new recruits adapted to the system of working remotely? What are your views on how successful the hybrid working model will be in the coming year?

Hybrid is the way forward as we learn to live with the pandemic. The idea is to make the model more seamless so that those physically in office and those in other locations are engaged equally. Just like we had the social natives, I think, our young professionals are now hybrid natives. Of course, it’s not easy, but I think they are navigating the situation well. From the organisation’s side, we have to do our own adjustments to make sure that those who have joined remotely are just as motivated and aligned to the purpose of the company. Two years of remote working has done both – helped us learn to adapt as well as innovate to take advantage of remote working in ways that was not possible before.

The pandemic has been a trying time for us all, especially on the psychological level. How should organisations prepare themselves for the next year?

In the last two years, mental health conversations have really become mainstream and I am really glad about that. It is important to normalise mental health concerns. At the same time, I think it is also important to recognise that there is genuine mental fatigue, so just conversations are not enough. We also have to ensure that our people know how their hard work is adding up to both their growth as well as the growth of the firm. For that, we have to work with them to keep them in a growth mindset — and I have described above what that means. Through learning programmes, opportunities for down time, informal interactions, and yes, even counselling, we have to make sure that we are moving forward and not constantly dwelling on the past and on our objects of anxiety. It’s a tough job, but we all have to do it.

The article was first published in the exchage4media.