With digitization, integrated communications are the way forward: Atul Sharma


Digitization has allowed PR agencies to grow and achieve their desired goals with precision and convenience. However, there are also challenges. Some of the biggest hurdles include building face-to-face relationships, getting top-tier coverage, managing customer expectations, and organizing data.

In conversation with us today, Atul Sharma, Managing Director of Ruder Finn India, discusses various factors that challenge agencies. It also explains how brands and businesses should customize their strategy based on region.

Today, where every professional is inclined to the virtual world, how important is it to maintain face-to-face relationship/communication with clients?

The hybrid work environment is here to stay, and I think every professional has learned to balance working from home or life out of the office pretty well. Although I think physical contact and contact is going to be essential for the business.

As social animals we love to interact, share and exchange and leverage each other’s energies, mainly by building relationships with teams or with clients, the human touch is going to be extremely important. We have seen that in difficult times, face-to-face relationships become essential, especially when it comes to expressing empathy or understanding what our colleagues are going through.

While we can arrange online time off or team breaks, face-to-face meetings are always best for boosting fulfilling engagements. Face-to-face communications help make a meeting more real and human in terms of engagement. It brings discipline and cuts out distractions. It restores the fact that the appreciation is not only limited to a post but is independent. We will all agree that a pat on the back is much better than a virtual pat. I’m sure the idea of ​​a virtual ice cream doesn’t sound appealing to most of us.

After using the fusion of digital and traditional practices, how successful have agencies been?

I don’t think it’s against each other, digital services are the future, just like traditional practices are the present. We’ve seen communications companies focus on building their presence in digital practices as they prepare for the future. The majority of companies have a ratio of 50:50 or more when it comes to digital versus traditional practices.

With digitization, integrated communications are the way to go. Another important point to keep in mind is that we have to personalize the content, depending on the platforms on which the content is shared. These are essential to success. It will be wise to adopt and adapt to technological innovations and digitalization in our work culture and businesses, as soon as possible. Organizations that quickly understood this critical demand succeeded faster.

What arrangements/steps/plans/initiatives have you put in place to ensure and strengthen regional reach?

India’s top 100 cities are gearing up to build a smart future, and communications will be an integral part of it. With the advent of the Internet and 4G, most of our customers’ businesses have pivoted so that more and more of their revenue comes from Tier 2, Tier 3 cities and to meet their needs for communication, we have built services, partnerships and initiatives to address it.

We not only have regional experts who understand the cultural, social and economic nuances of each of the markets, but we have also established strong affiliations with local businesses in each of the regions to meet regional reach. We also leverage technology to provide services split between monitoring and analysis, messaging, transcription, dissemination, reporting and outreach. Although many of these services are in their infancy, we are receiving strong demand from regional markets for the same. One thing is certain, every region of India is unique and different, and a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. To be successful, brands and businesses will need to research each region and tailored strategies need to be devised.

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

Data analytics helped us better assess a client’s stakeholder needs and align our public relations approach to that. Stakeholder demographics, behavioral patterns and changing preferences can be analyzed and, accordingly, communication strategies redesigned, which helps to craft the brand narrative. Simply put, with over 100,000 registered newspapers and periodicals as of 2021, as communications experts, it’s important to us to reduce the communications clutter.

Data analysis gives us that impetus to analyze the specific needs of a diverse population of the country from various regions. Effective strategies are then developed based on the analysis and content is created with demographics and region in mind. It’s not just about spamming for coverage or visibility. Content has become more personalized and success depends on the choice of platform to reach a particular stakeholder. Quantity is a thing of the past. Data analysis helps declutter social media chatter and identify important trends so that storytelling can be more streamlined and aligned with audience needs. Data analytics will play an important role in PR communications efforts in the days ahead. The need of the hour is to invest heavily in technology.

How have PR agencies managed to expand their territorial reach in advertising and marketing?

We are in the business of communications and everything that has to do with maintaining and building a brand’s reputation. Therefore, it would be wrong to limit public relations to press releases or media interviews. With the advent of paid, earned, shared and owned media, the emphasis in public relations is on storytelling. Through PR, we aim to creatively tell the brand story, success story and future journey.

Public relations is no longer limited to traditional media alone. Therefore, it is imperative to collaborate and engage with experts and a pool of talent from diverse sectors. I believe that working and collaborating with various agencies or expertise from different fields to tell a brand story differently is what PR is and should be. This will be the way forward. With changing times, we also need to requalify. Building the brand narrative and our own brand stories across various platforms and equipping ourselves with expert talent is key.

The content in this section is curated by the Public Relations and Communications team. For any comments, please write to [email protected]

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