Comms News organised the India Impact Communication Conclave on March 9, 2021. The conference was comprised of five sessions that delivered enriching discussions on diversity, inclusion, and gender gap in the Indian PR industry. The fifth and last session focused on ‘Marketing and Communications Opportunities’, and the panel consisted of Kavita Lakhani –WICCI; Lavang Khare of Adfactors; Neha Singhvi of PR Pundit, and Rekha Rao of Zeno Group. The session was moderated by Arpana Ahuja – Shell. The discussion summarised how PR as a profession has redefined marketing and branding over the past few years and what this has brought into the industry.
Covid- 19 and risk adaptability of brands
Lakhani believes that brands and business have become more willing to take the risk due to the pandemic. “This has been a year of innovation and it is all about risk-taking ability, having a challenging mindset and about experimentation.” It has changed product development and distribution formats. She thinks the production of vaccine in just one year is the best example of this change. “I would term it as hyper-innovation or experimentation with product development or with therapy development and clinical trials.” Khare thinks that the pandemic has brought about a huge change in consumer behaviour and sentiments. The brands had to evolve in real-time while some brands become very apprehensive. She thinks that brands are indicating an appetite for a new change from a risk perspective. Being transparent and empathetic, brand voice is showcasing many delicate nuances, and it cannot be commercialised or exploited in today’s world.
Singhvi feels that brands have become agile and nimble, and they are adapting to the new changes. There is a great appetite for trying out new things. From being a facilitator to being an accelerator for change, digital plays a big role. The focus is more on data and there is a greater demand for new business requirements today. She pointed out ITC’s Savlon India as an example, of how the brand has come up with eleven SKUs in a matter of six months by exploring new market opportunities.
Adapting or transforming?
Brands are more inclined towards adopting changes, and not exactly transformation. One thing for companies to be able to recognise is that how will they reinvent and redefine the way they are, opined Lavang. She thinks that transformation begins from adaptation and cannot be isolated from each other. Adding to that, Singhvi believes that the brands have changed the way they market and communicate to the audience over the last few months. They are transforming according to real-time and this is innovation and adaptability as well. Digitisation has also altered the definition of age which can be seen with the growing use of technology by senior citizens in our country in the last few months. Whether if it is adaptability or transformation we are truly at the trajectory of growth, she added.
Underlining PR’s value
“The last year forced many brands to realise the value of PR as a reliable alternative to advertising,” said Rao. Today, communication is more about creativity being agnostic and the trend has changed from the past years. Today there is a lot of prominence and possibilities where we as an industry can do better. Influencer and digital marketing are flourishing in this sense. She passionately believes that brands should think of purpose as a behaviour and not just as an activity.
Brands need to be educated about what is the central role of PR. In uncertain times people will turn to the brand they trust, and it is the central role of PR to make sure the reputation of the brand is held high, said Lakhani.
The discussion encapsulated that disruptive changes in the industry have been not just attracting new audiences but also transforming business objectives. The brands are repositioning and repurposing their values and image. New digital tools such as influencer and digital marketing are aiding PR to embrace a new consumption push and get more amplifications.
Session coverage by Vani Krishna