Dear Chief Communications Officer and Chief Marketing Officer,
These are the toughest times of our lifetime ever. Things may get tougher in the future. We don’t know. No one knows. You are at the forefront of building and protecting your organisation’s reputation. As you read this, the country is an unprecedented 21-day lockdown. It is unclear now if the lockdown will continue beyond the 15th of April. All we know is we are witnessing volatility, uncertainty, chaos and ambiguity. This will affect everyone from every nook and corner of society. Imagine what it means to see nothing but chemists, groceries and a few food & beverage outlets for the three weeks. Planes are grounded, every other retail store has been shuttered, institutions are closed. We hope to come out of this largely unscratched, but no one knows. Going by what some other countries more advanced and much smaller than us have gone through it is hard to predict what this day next month will look like.
I write to you with a humble request to you. You would advertise more on television if you had budgeted for it and if it was part of the plan. Because it is safe to assume that most people sitting indoor will be glued to their screens more than they have ever been. People will also consume news through online channels, on social media networks and wherever there will be circulation through print. Unless you are into food retail, restaurant that offers takeaway or into healthcare you too are grounded but certainly working remotely to keep the engine of your organisation moving. Your partners especially in Public Relations firms are like your extended family. They are working to keep the momentum going because communications cannot stop.
While there will be cost cutting measures, ensure that there is empathy. Kindly do not cut retainers that you pay the PR consultancy or ad agency or event firm. Because as you know they are at the bottom of the business pyramid. Their income depends on you. They need to pay thousands of employees across hundreds of organisations this week and then again at the end of this month. You may restructure commercials or defer payments because there is turmoil. The cascading effect will be enormous.
A junior executive earns between Rs 20,000 to Rs 30,000 and she or he has to repay an education loan, pay for accommodation and manage daily sustenance. It will have a domino effect. If your monthly retainers are relatively high, talk to the consultancy leadership and discuss a restructuring, but please try and pay them because when you hired this firm you did so because you trusted them, believed in them and wanted an extra set of brains to work on your business and campaigns. This is the time when you will need them much more because you need to communicate to even more – to your employees and your customers. To assure them that this phase will pass. That we are all in it together and that while we break the chain of the virus, we will not cut off the weakest link.
As I write this, I can say that I have nothing to lose or gain because I am self-employed and I’m confident of sustaining myself. But I have worked for 15 years in PR firms and media investment companies and I realise how this food chain survives. While the Prime Minister has requested organisations not to lay off people and not to cut salaries, some amount of it is bound to happen during the year. Some industries have had to take the painful decision and move ahead with retrenchments. I beg you with folded hands that do your best and please make it happen. Do not hold back retainers, as many thousand lives depend on this for their livelihood. When things get better you will be thanked for not letting go.
I live in hope because I’m optimistic that this phase will pass. And we’ll be better off. Thank you for reading. Counting on you.
On behalf of thousands of professionals who fear for the future.
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