Sr Director and Head (West), Perfect Relations
How do you deal with negative press?
You need to have a strategy ready to combat negative press. Deploy MAD strategy, Monitor / Attack / Dominate Monitor all forms of media, dispel all factually wrong information. Attack - Deploy positive content, press releases works the best. Dominate - using positive content online. Amplify all positive news.
Today, what is the difference in the quality of impact of traditional and digital platforms? How vital are new-age platforms?
In communications platforms have been emerging forever, Kings used to have drum beaters to give out information (early Radio), then came print era then electronic (tv) and now digital. Each platform has its own audience and viewership and that's what makes it potent. Quality of impact is similar across all platforms, it's just the speed and credibility that differs. Technology dominates live all over, all these new platforms are extremely vital since they get eyeballs. However I belive consistency and building credibility in today's dynamic world is critical, since platforms will come and go, but only consistent and credible platforms will survive and flourish.
What are some best practices in a crisis?
Ear to the ground, continuous active real time media monitoring and dynamic and agile strategy are best practices in a crisis. I would also recommend expert consultation, people with immense experience in the field will always have words of wisdom to derive strategy for a complete crisis management package.
In this digital age, which platform is the most thriving for PR activities?
In any age the most thriving platform is always the one that has maximum visibility and reach to the right target audience. Digital or traditional are only mediums.
How important is it for PR people to understand a company’s business and marketplace?
PR practitioners are like doctors, they understand a problem and offer a solution through various strategies, mainly communication. It is extremely critical to invest time and energy to gain complete knowledge of the clients business and market place. If a doctor doesn't understand your problem, he/she will end up prescribing a solution that doesn't solve your problem. Similarly if you don't have complete understanding your solutions will be generic and not specific to the client's needs.
According to you, does the saying 'any publicity is good publicity' stand true?
I belive this statement stands true only for very big brands and not for brands that have not yet established themselves. These brands stand a risk of going out of business altogether due to bad publicity. For Eg. Uber underwent a negative crisis in India, but the platform became known and the brand gained popularity, because it solved a specific problem. Also internationally Uber was an established brand and hence could bounce back. same goes for Maggie, however there are multiple examples of smaller brands having to shut shop due to Govt action due to bad publicity.
What do you do if a client disagrees with a strategy?
You could have recommended some of the best strategy that business could have seen, but the client CEO or people that influence the decesion don't agree. The best thing to do is support your strategy with data and number, quantifiable outcomes, these are normally tough to refute. Also when you have tried everything suggested above and the client still doesn't listen to reason, sit back relax and take a deep breath and look at them shooting themselves in the foot. My friend you can take the horse to the water but you can't make him drink it.
Do you think working in an in-house PR department is better than a PR agency?
Both professions have their advantage and disadvantages. Personally I would say working in a agency is better amongst the two since it offers you exposure to various sectors and helps you improve your network across.
At an entry-level, should a PR professional sign up for a small scale or an established firm?
My honest opinion, small scale firm it teaches you a lot. smaller firms have small client which are tough to service. The servicing person needs to be innovative and harbor quick thinking on their feet. When I hire people I prefer them from smaller agencies, since it also teaches you every aspect of business ie. client servicing, accounting, media relations, expense and event management. Established firms have thier processes and systems in place, but wading through tough waters initially makes an experienced sailor. Also large firms have big clients, which are media favourite anyways, smaller clients you are in touch with the CEO directly, and you make a significant material impact for his business that he appreciates and the satisfaction of seeing the impact you created is a different high.
What was the most challenging moment in your career?
Most challenging part in my career was when I was entrusted with the responsibility of driving communications for Mr. Cyrus Mistry in the middle of Tatas vs Mistry fight. The challenges and scale of the event were of a different level, one that had no presedence set anywhere. We were a small team against an army, how we managed to build trust during such time and effectively navigate the crisis is a case study. I do plan to write a book on this someday.
How does a PR professional response to a press inquiry?
Press inquiry can be both positive and negative for the client. You need to find an opportunity in an crisis if the enquiry is negative and make the most of a positive content. Also keep in mind that just because a journalist has sent you questions you don't need to answer it, understand the bend of the story and answer accordingly. Also if they have sent 5 questions, does t mean you answer all 5, a single statement to all 5 questions is also an answer. Remember to keep client interest supreme and answer keeping the strategic outcome in mind.
Does a PR enthusiast need to have a background in journalism to become a PR professional?
A background in journalism gives the PR professional a better edge in understanding the how a story is constructed. Essential elements of its structure and bend of reporting for different platforms. The way a story is written for a magazine is far different than how it is written for a newspaper. Also when you work with a publication access to information (overload) and daily reading really immproves your knowledge and you start putting things in perspective. This perspective is important when you are devising a communication strategy.