RT: In May 2016, you joined the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity as a juror for the third time out of the last four years. How was the experience?
PB: I have been a member of the Cannes Lions PR Jury, then of the Young Lions PR jury, which were two great experiences. I’ve also chaired the Cannes Organization’s Lynx Jury in Dubai earlier this year. Last June, I was the only PR guy in the newly created Branded Content & Entertainment Jury. Judging all day long and sometimes at night, during one week, is exhausting, but really amazing, as you’re reviewing the crème de la crème coming from all over the world.
Entertainment is in many ways the new boundary for the communications business, and a sweet spot for PR: this is where branded content, storytelling and experiential converge in ample narrative formats is creating actual relationships with people.
RT: In March this year, we read that the MSLGROUP has restructured its India’s leadership team. How is it working?
PB: We are very proud of MSLGROUP India, which is delivering great work and great results. Within a few years, the transformation of the company has been incredible, ending up now with a strong positioning as a strategic consultancy with a solid digital & social heart. The team here is a perfect blend of highly skilled and experienced leaders with a very talented, ambitious and passionate team belonging to the young generation!
RT: “The first and main obstacle is cultural – changing mindsets is difficult,” you say in your blog on “It’s Time for Transformation: Question Everything”. Please elaborate.
PB: That’s a difficult point indeed. PR is no longer what it used to be, for several reasons – disintermediation, digitalisation, deeper integration into the strategic and marketing mix. The previous generation has been raised in a world where gatekeepers were reigning, and we had to go through them to reach our client’s targeted audience. Today, our business is mostly about direct engagement with all stakeholders, to help our clients creatively engage with them, and reach their goals. Changing mindsets means changing perspectives, approach, methods, and talents too: the monolithic PR guy, ex-journalist is gone, and diversity is what we need, with scientists, technologists, nutritionists, physicians, sustainability experts etc. around the business table. That’s what I meant.
RT: What is the PR scenario in Asia, with specific focus on India? What are the challenges you see ahead?
PB: In all honesty, I see many more opportunities than risks, given the fast-evolving Indian market. We have highly skilled consultants aboard and the effect is visible and tangible in terms of pricing and therefore profitability. See the wave of recent acquisitions which shows how attractive India is. As far as we are concerned we’ve built our success with rigour and a lot of dedication over the past ten years, with the acquisition of Hanmer & Partners and 20/20. Working collaboratively with all the teams, investing in talent and training, increasing the depth and quality of integration within the Publicis Groupe family is what brought us to the first rank in the country.
RT: Do you have any advice for aspiring PR professionals?
PB: The future doesn’t fit in the containers of the past: aspiring PR professionals need to be strategic, tech-savvy, digital natives, with a lot of agility, flexibility, imagination, curiosity. Their generation is re-inventing our business, they should be passionate about it.