Dilip Cherian Curated

Co-founder & Consulting Partner at Perfect Rela...

CURATED BY :  

This profile has been added by users(CURATED) : Users who follow Dilip Cherian have come together to curate all possible video, text and audio interview to showcase Dilip Cherian's journey, experiences, achievements, advice, opinion in one place to inspire upcoming pr professionalss. All content is sourced via different platforms and have been given due credit.

  • Perception is reality and factual leadership plays the second fiddle to the popular opinion," Can you explain that through an example from Indian scenario?

    In general, there is no doubt, that for example, the perception for Disinvestments for Government, was created by a process, where today Disinvestment is seen as a fundamental part of the government. So, therefore its perception, the reality is that it hasn't got enough money and enough sales have not happened. But it is still the big buzzword in Government's list of success, part of that was achieved by communication and by image management.

    View Source:

  • How do you see the role of PR for a corporate changing? Is corporate communication complementing or inhibiting the growth of PR industry?

    I think communications is increasingly becoming a specialist function. The clients are focusing on ensuring that their communications is outsourced to the specialist. So, you will see corporates looking at suppliers in the PR domain, who have the strength. The second big change that I see is in the use of the net, I think corporations are going to look at agencies that understand the net better. Corporate communication has to strengthen to use specialist skills of PR. I think, corporate communication will move up the ladder in terms of quality of management, but will move down in terms of number of people used to handle the function. It is corporate communication that will outsource the specialized skills of PR.

    View Source:

  • How much credit does a corporate client gives to a business forecast done by a PR firm?

    Companies that integrate us well, recognize that our forecast are extremely valid and they have seen that over a period of time, which is the reason why we rarely work with clients on a short term horizon. An average time span of client with Perfect Relations is 5 years. So, our client knows that we have been right in the past and therefore we are more likely to be right in the future.

    View Source:

  • What will be the Indian business environment be in 2003?

    In my view, 2003 will be dominated by politics, and therefore economics will continue to take a backseat. What is happening is that a large number of Indian corporates have figured out that if they wait for the government to determine economics, then nothing is going to happen. So, a lot of them have now decided to do launches, to do expansion, to make acquisitions, which were pending for sometime. So, in 2003, you will see a lot of companies getting active without waiting for the support to get active.

    View Source:

  • Can you give us a few examples highlighting "Perfect Relations"?

    For example, a client of ours, a large company based out of non-metro decided to come up with an IPO in 2003. We felt 2003 would possibly be a low IPO year with only blue chips attempting to enter the market. So, we advised them to allow the market to be tested by the blue chips, before going for an IPO. This client was able to work on other plans for raising finances, and we helped him in doing that. So, forecasting the future is based on three things, the ability to understand the client, the ability to understand the competition of the client, and third the ability to understand the environment.

    View Source:

  • What is the unique selling proposition and target audience of Perfect Relations?

    The concept of 'image management' is what we really specialize in. We as a company believe that image management is something that begins with the CEO. Involves a shared vision of the top management, and is actually a part of the corporate strategy. We have multi-target audience approach, where the audience could be shareholder, distributors, dealers, the media, consumers, and government. We don't ever discuss client methodology publicly, again that is unique with Perfect Relations. Perfect Relations has handled almost all the major crisis that has faced the Indian industry, whether it is a take over, whether it's a merger, whether its an acquisition. This confidentiality gives Perfect Relations an ability to present itself and work with companies at the CEO level.

    View Source:

  • In the communication that PR does for a corporate, what will be the split of media relations and non- media relations? How wills that change in the times to come?

    The split between media relations and non-media is probably across most agencies 90% media and 10% non-media. At Perfect Relations we have already moved to a 70-30 phenomena. I think in the next 2 years, it will go down to 60 -40 ratio.

    View Source:

  • What are the changes you are presently seeing in the PR industry?

    I think there are agencies in PR industry who probably because of the crunch in the market, because of the market downturn, working on methods, working on techniques which are damaging both to the media as well as to the PR firm. I think in 2003,we are likely to see some consolidation; we have already seen several agencies go under. We are presently examining some proposals; we are looking at buying out some agencies. I see a process, which slowly began last year accelerating this year.

    View Source:

  • What more knowledge Perfect Relations helps its clients with?

    We forecast the future, which is again unique to Perfect Relations, it is another way to deal with eventualities, and our clients ask us- what is going to happen in future?

    View Source:

  • How do you, create a climate of opinion, in case you are working with government on some issue which is beneficial to the country?

    By communicating governments objectives, if they are real. If they are not real we ask the government to get real objectives.

    View Source:

  • What are the factors that ensure that crisis will be managed?

    The biggest factor, which ensures that crisis will be managed, is preparedness. At a short notice, it is usually impossible to handle a crisis effectively, but our network is so large, we are able to manage crisis even without notice.

    View Source:

  • What is the skill set required for someone to be a good political communications strategist? Any tips for those aspiring to make a career in this field?

    The key is one’s ability to comprehend large quantities of material and convert them into communicable material at very short time frames. If you want to be the one, give up the dream of having weekends and of not living your work 24 x 7. During the period of a campaign, you don’t have a life.

    View Source:

  • Is it difficult nowadays to get manpower that understands political communications or has interest in the genre?

    There is skill shortfall in all of PR. And the biggest skills that there is a shortfall of is the comprehensive ability to understand data and to write it out in multiple formats. That skill is true whether you are in political consultancy, brand consultancy or technology consultancy. That is the biggest skill gap that exists and it exists because it cannot be taught post college.

    View Source:

  • How was political communications as a career option back then when you started with and how’s the scenario now?

    Political communications as a career is at best a tricky thing because there are few agencies who take people on a long term basis. There are few parties that have sustained communications budget post elections. And there are a few candidates with the appetite to actually use good advice as opposed to somebody implementing what they want done. The situation is improving enormously. In the next two elections we will see revolution of a political communications skill cadre.

    View Source:

  • Many of the political communications professionals have shown interest in joining politics and many are already part of parties now. How do you see the trend and what’s your take on it?

    People must make up their mind on what they are. A segway from one to the other can’t happen overnight. Being a successful communicator is not a sufficient condition to being a successful politician. It is just one of the ingredients.

    View Source:

  • An incident that took place five years ago led to a large consultancy shutting down. Is this seen as a turning point for the community and people involved in political communications in India. What’s your observation and what has been its effect overall?

    Whether it’s the example of the recent victory or it’s the demise of a consultancy, I think these are blips – structures which are not built as institutions but are built around individuals. If you don’t have an institutional structure none of these structures are immune to huge bouts of self aggrandisement and annihilation. Either can happen. The lesson is that it’s the skill of building an institution rather than building up an individual personality as the institution’s face.

    View Source:

  • How is political communications different from advocacy and lobbying?

    Political communications is much more upfront. Both advocacy as well as lobbying are things that take time, and don’t have a finite time horizon to be successful. They always have to be a mixture of above the radar and below the radar. In advocacy, you sell more by your conviction and knowledge than in political PR.

    View Source:

  • It is said that if the communications strategy fails the consultancy is to blame. But if it works well, the client gives no credit. Do you think that the recent case studies will help them change their mindset?

    Politicians are as guilty as entrepreneurs in the launch phase to blame somebody and keep the credit for themselves. I wouldn’t put politicians as a separate category of clients. For us as a consultancy, we follow the philosophy that win or lose we remain below the radar – that’s how we like to be. The recent case studies are not generic. Parties will continue to make the same mistake.

    View Source:

  • A number of such professionals or consultancies aren’t growing. The options for political parties and personalities are still very limited. Will the situation change anytime soon?

    For the last 15 years of my career in public relations, I have been almost a sole voice saying that specialist companies are the future. And which is the reason why Perfect Relations has this bouquet of five different brands (standalone companies) under which we work. The reason is that specialist companies are where you can invest in specialist skills which result in specialist media. And I think that pure political consultancies are those that focus on by-elections, state-wide municipal polls, state elections and national elections. If they can offer that entire thing under one umbrella, there is room for several consultancies in that space.

    View Source:

  • Of late, we have witnessed uprising of new and specialised consultancies that claim to make or break governments. How do you see the trend? Why couldn’t established firms grow to be that strong?

    Part of the reason is that established companies in the PR business recognise that this business is once in five years or at the best once in three years. And you have too much of committed staff that has to have a regular day job. The second reason in my opinion is that the kind of agencies that are now finding traction in this business are those that are doing social sector PR for the government departments. And that’s what the regular PR companies have ignored; that’s a mistake they have made.

    View Source:

  • What are the major shifts in communications strategy planning then and now? We’ve seen the focus of communications shuttling between personality centred to vision driven. What works the best and when?

    The bigger shift is from issue based elections to leader based presidential type elections. We have seen that shift happens. Is that shift stable? My sense is – no, it’s not. It’s going to hover between one and the other for some time till we figure out a bigger reform in our form of electoral choices. The difference is that when the regional parties are in play, it’s personality driven all the way. When national parties are in play, they want a fig leaf of trying to create the sense that issues are more important than the people.

    View Source:

  • Do you think that communications strategy has moved towards more realistic promises?

    I think that the electoral victory is a triumph of selling hope over perceived reality that remains constant.

    View Source:

  • From the days when you started off to this day, political communications has come a long way. How do you see this journey? Is it just the tools and channels that have changed or there is much more than what meets the eye?

    I would say that it’s good to look at what has changed but it’s equally important to see what has not changed. It is the extreme expectations of the electorate. What has changed is how political parties are seeking to address that. Most of the time we focus on the need of the client. In the last few years, we flipped it around and tried to tell parties to talk about what hasn’t changed and how to address those issues. Nowadays, parties are making strategies that are more sharply focussed on need fulfilment.

    View Source:

  • What do you think of European lobbying? How could it be improved comparing to the lobbying practiced in India?

    Today, lobbying in Europe is a highly specialized discipline and is generally not seen as part of PR function. It is often a high-end management tool practiced by lawyers, retired diplomats and former politicians to further private and public interests with policy makers and shapers. But this didn't happen overnight. There was a time not long ago when, in Europe as in India, lobbying was perceived as something 'dodgy' involving bribery and other criminal acts. As to how lobbyists in the EU and in India can help improve each other’s lobbying practice, I think lobbying has gone global and lobbyists cannot act in isolation any longer when their clients' interests are rapidly expanding internationally. Indian and EU lobbyists need to form strategic alliances to help their clients compete successfully and operate internationally, understanding and dealing with complex governmental policies and stakeholder demands.

    View Source:

  • What is the specific methodology of lobbying of Perfect Relations?

    Our methodology for lobbying starts with four basic rules developed to suit today's Indian political & business scenario. Rule #1. We advise our clients never to take anything for granted or at face value when dealing with government, keeping in mind the golden rule: If you receive a 'No', interpret it as 'Hold on'; if a 'Yes' - then proceed, but with caution. Retail majors, for instance, were convinced that retail was about to open up. They were right – but neither Wal-Mart nor Carrefour nor any of the other biggies had any idea how long the opening up was going to take. They still don't. Rule # 2. We always advise our clients to 'know their enemy'. The biggest stumbling block to thinking processes about influencing the government is not recognizing, explicitly, that there is an enemy. Whatever you want to do - somebody wants to block you. So Coke does not need to think only of its competitor in the marketplace, Pepsi. Often, the enemy you face could be a common one. In a competitive world, creative influencing of Government is also about understanding who is against you, even if you don't know why. Whether it's simply the system, your competition, somebody else's understanding of your product, old-fashioned obstinacy - or a conspiracy. It's sensible to sniff. Never dismiss conspiracy, it's not paranoia. Rule # 3. The battleground is important. So, setting the stage, making sure the agenda is wider than just your self-interest and ensuring that there is a semblance of public opinion in our favour, is obviously par for the course. To illustrate, when Monsanto wants to attempt selling hybrid seeds in India, it must sell the wider concept: low farm productivity, the need for good seeds, the obvious impact of science on yields, are all issues that must be in the air, before Monsanto can sow the seeds of profit for the future. Rule # 4. Being politically savvy is an obvious pre-requisite to lobbying the government effectively. Knowing how Government and Parliament is organized and how they work is critical to an effective public affairs program. This is a problem that aircraft giant Boeing had over the years. Winning a contract is one thing but becoming a savvy local corporation is another. Understanding how to make representations to Government, what tools and techniques can be effectively used to communicate with MPs, MLAs and the Government of India, which Ministries administer what - and which Minister heads which Ministry - these are both the obvious and the arcane bits of knowledge that can empower you and help you understand better the Byzantine workings of the Government of India.

    View Source:

  • What do you think of IE-Lobbying.info initiative?

    It's an excellent resource and referral portal; particularly, for businesses in EU countries looking to understand international government policies and economies as well as lobbying practices and controls in countries inside and outside the EU. I think it serves the purpose for which it has been created very well - although I think an English language option would be great so non-French and German speakers could also access the extremely useful information on offer.

    View Source:

  • You are also a famous political counsellor, being a real policy advisory resource for India’s firms? Could you explain us explain what do you do exactly?

    In order to answer this question fully I need to give you a little background on the Indian situation. Dealing with Government here is like walking on shifting sands. Policy is determined by political exigencies and these can change from day to day, month to month. Coalition politics with its continuous push and pull results in changing policies. There is also, still, a great deal of government interference in business, despite liberalization. I help clients negotiate this rather tricky combination, since determining what will work involves a rather quirky mixture of enormous expertise and experience, phenomenal effort and a puzzling element of, what we call in India, tukke bazi - which translates best to mean 'taking a gamble'. Naturally, what will work for one may not be appropriate for the other. The techniques that are core to the success of a giant corporation like Reliance (a large Indian conglomerate), for instance, may not be those that an equally large corporation like Motorola finds appropriate. Although their needs may be very much the same, one has to work within the confines of someone's Oxley limitations. Yet everybody needs the Government on his side. People in this heavily market driven economy will say they don't mind government not being with them as long as it's not against them. As long as Government itself is not a roadblock, they claim they are fine. That's not true. Essentially, influencing government is not only, still and likely to be for the foreseeable future, a critical function of most corporations at the board level, it also ends up being the core function of most savvy and smart CEOs who either have growth, expansion or entry strategies on their mind.

    View Source:

  • As far as you are concerned, what are the connections between lobbying and competitive intelligence?

    Competitive Intelligence (CI) allows accurate assessment of the external factors that threaten a client's universe - thus permitting targeted lobbying. CI not only detects competitive threats, it also identifies areas of competitive advantage, giving a head start in Public Affairs campaigns that can be designed to focus in on these. By extension, of course, this also means that CI helps find new opportunity areas.

    View Source:

  • What is your personal definition of lobbying?

    I consider lobbying an intrinsic part of Public Affairs strategy through which to tactically manage a client's universe. It's important to create consistently favourable conditions through a well-thought out overall strategy instead of using lobbying in isolation, only as an emergency or situation-specific tool with which to kill or promote government policy or to sway public opinion. I have also found that when a Public Affairs (including lobbying) strategy is designed to be on going rather than situational, the credibility factor of such an activity rises.

    View Source:

  • How did you come to practice lobbying? What is your educational and professional background?

    Trained in globalisation at the London School of Economics and in Development Economics at the Delhi School of economics and Presidency College, Calcutta, I started my career as Economic consultant, Bureau of Industrial Costs in the Ministry of Industry, New Delhi. The work involved advising the Central government on regulatory measures. As a natural corollary to my work it was advantageous for me to have a wide range of professional contacts in various ministries of the Central government leading to a deep understanding of how the Indian bureaucracy worked. This knowledge – and the connections I made during this time – helped hugely in my later career as Editor of Business India, one of the country’s leading publications. At Business India I was also able to create a separate and extremely popular section on policy making as it affected India’s corporate sector. The by-lines generated during that time - and during subsequent career moves to television and newspaper journalism - have helped me maintain my reputation as a leading business journalist, both with government as well as with leaders of the corporate world. My work as Business Editor for The Observer, which I was instrumental in founding, gave me deep insights into the way the giant industrial groups of India managed their communications both within the media as well as with the government since the magazine was owned and managed by India’s largest business group, the Reliance Group. I founded Perfect Relations in 1992; the company is today one of South Asia’s largest image management and public relations companies with leading corporate clients across the sub-continent and now, increasingly, overseas. This, along with my syndicated columns on economic and policy-related issues as well as on the arcane workings of India’s bureaucracy, led, in almost logical sequence, to lobbying. With clients asking my advice not only on dealing with government but also on how to make sense of the new policies that were being rapidly introduced with economic liberalization, I felt that it was necessary to include lobbying in our Public Affairs function both to provide a 360 degree service as well as to make lobbying itself transparent.

    View Source: