Commencement Address 3: Shereen Bhan

The batch of 2020 at School of Communications and Reputation (SCoRe) are at their last leg. With all the hullabaloo going around it didn’t seem likely that this batch will be able to meet and graduate in person. Taking this plight in consideration, seven commencement addresses from the who’s who of the communication world has been organised by the faculty. Hence, we had the opportunity to sit for a session with Sheeren Bhan, Managing Editor at CNBC-TV18. Through the hour-long session, Sheeren talked about some key attributes which every professional from the field of communications should follow:

  • Clarity of communication: One has to be absolutely clear about the message that he/she is spreading out. The message has to be relevant with the target audience. A communicator has to be clear what the messaging is, who is it going to. The pitch has to be clear so that there is no confusion in understanding. Clarity of communication is absolutely essential as any kind of wrong messaging can form a wrong perception in a consumer’s mind.
  • What makes the product or the service different: In a world where there are so many brands and so much competition, one needs to have something special to stand out. Thus, we have to figure out what makes our product or our service different from the others. Thus, competition analysis becomes very significant. Shereen also talked about how we often turn our heads away from the bad news. But by turning away our heads from the bad news, we simply cannot leave it behind. “Let the good news take the stairs. You cannot hide. You have to come out and disclose the bad news. Be transparent both internally and externally.”, said Sheeren.
  • Knowing the product or the service: It often happens that in order to sell a product or a service, communicators do not do an in-depth study on their subject. Ms. Bhan mentioned that it often happens when a PR professional calls her for a pitch but ends up fumbling as the person is clueless on what she/he is talking about. As an example, Sheeren talked about how she still prepares every question that she wants to ask the guest in spite of being in the business for nineteen years. “There is an ardent need for preparation. I still don’t step at the studio without the line up of the questions or the topics that I want to talk about!”, mentioned Ms. Bhan
  • Having a purpose: In order to be successful in a profession, having a purpose or a goal is very important. One has to be passionate for the work that they are doing. Only then, the job will be done effectively and it will serve a purpose. Furthermore, Shereen also added that it is not necessary to love every bit of your job, but it is surely necessary to love the bigger part of it. Also, inconsistency in your job wouldn’t take you far.
  • Being a team player: The business of communication is a people-oriented business. Teamwork is an integral part of it. In this context, she mentioned that even though she walks away with all the glory and the claps being present in front of the screen, it is her team which works in the backend deserves all the recognition. It is important to acknowledge the roles of these people and their style of work. Very often, in big organisations, these little roles get lost in transition and therefore, alignment of work and roles is very important. 
  • Integrity is everything: Effective communication strategies should always have a message that resonates. Your integrity lies in how you engage and interact with people. The fundamentals of building a long-lasting career is respect and empathy. An organisation has to build up a culture of trust. A lack of communication will create frictions in cultural collaborations.
  • Re-invention: One has to always keep themselves open to re-invention. Sheeren, once again, took to another example from her own life to explain this attribute. In 2006, when CNBC took the decision of moving their headquarter from Delhi to Bombay, she was initially in a dilemma as she had always been interested in politics and policy. She did not wallow in self-pity but she chose to educate herself more about the topics that she was interested in and move on!
  • Being versatile and flexible: As communication professionals, we engage with people from the different walks of life. But that shouldn’t bog us down to have a know-it-all attitude. One has to always keep the student in them alive and nurture it and then only one can have a much wider and broader lens.
  • Unlearning: The attribute of unlearning is just as important as learning. We should not have a predetermined notion about anyone or anything. One has to always keep themselves open to change and unlearning. Here again, she gave an example of herself that when she goes into the studio with ten questions, she doesn’t expect to get all those 10 questions answered as she believes that focusing more on those questions will make her lose the ability to listen or respond or be spontaneous.  
  • Respecting the organisation: The last but definitely not the least attribute is respecting the organisation. Sheeren believes that it is important for every person to believe in their organisation until and unless something really destructive has happened. It is important for everybody to live with and live by the place which has taught them at least something.

Towards the end of the session, Ms. Bhan spoke about the importance of women empowerment and how raising the voice has become mandatory for women. She mentioned that no women should feel apologetic for raising her voice and it is incumbent on each one of us to support each other. She also spoke about how the young generation today is way more tech savvy and open to change than the previous generations and how they have been enabling communication for the past few crisis-filled months. At the same time, she confessed that she is a very reluctant social media adopter. 

“As leaders you need to lead the way and show the path. You need to love what you do. You need to be respectful towards people because only when you give respect, you get it in return. What you do today will define what you do lifelong!”, said Ms. Bhan and concluded the chat.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Baishali Banerjee
Baishali Banerjee is a part of the Class of 2020 of PG Programme in PR and Corporate Communications at SCoRe, Mumbai. She completed her winter internship with Genesis BCW, Mumbai.

She is from Kolkata. She did her graduation in Media Science with a specialization in Public Relations and Advertising from NSHM Knowledge Campus, Kolkata. She has always been curious about the corporate world and how all these huge brands function and connect with their consumers on a day to day basis. She interned with Ketchum Sampark for a period of three months under the Brands & Lifestyle team. This experience made her more curious about the PR fraternity. Also, she is a person very open to learning and her interests lie in corporate, entertainment and lifestyle.

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