#CommsAhead – 4

On the afternoon of 30th May, Adfactors PR and Reputation Today organised the fourth edition of The Communicators’ Assembly Point on how the CCOs from PSUs are navigating reputation in the post COVID era and how things will unfold amid this pandemic. Panelists included Sumita Dutta, Executive Director (Corporate Affairs) at SAIL, Anuj Dayal, Executive Director (Corporate Communications) at DMRC, Abbas Akhtar, General Manager (Brand and Public Relations) at BPCL, and K M Prashanth, Additional General Manager at NTPCthe discussion was moderated by Dr. Samir Kapur, Director at Adfactors PR.

In the post-COVID era, how are PSUs gearing up for this world and what are you doing in terms of external communications?

Sumita Dutta said, “Challenges manifest as an opportunity and difficult times like these open new opportunities and it triggers out-of-the-box ideas and innovative thinking” she also shared how they are focusing now more on E-marketing to reach out to the consumers.

“There is no lock-down at all for us” shared K.M Prashanth, as NTPC is continuing to generate power and employees are working 24*7 because power is an essential service. On the 5th of April when PM Modi announced to switch off the lights for nine minutes NTPC power engineers did a wonderful job and managed the grid as the demand went down within a fraction of seconds.

Abbas Akhtar shared, “There was a sudden spurt in demand of LPG cylinders as citizens panicked with the announcement of the lockdown,” they were thinking that because of lock-down they will not get the LPG. Mobilising distributors and delivering cylinders at the doorsteps while keeping employee safety in mind was the difficult part, he opined. 

Witnessing any change, internally or externally?

“We are adaptable” suggested Sumita Dutta, employees are adopting the changes fast, internal communication is virtual, and we are re-skilling ourselves.

Environment, how is NTPC driving the conversation around this subject?

K.M Prashanth shared, by 2032, 30% of our generation capacity going to be through renewable sources and we have taken an internal decision we will not be putting up a new coal-based power plant in the future. 

We will be concentrating more on renewable power, he added.

How much has communication played a role in making metro, what metro is today?

“DMRC is built entirely on PR. There was hardly any advertising involved,” Anuj Dayal opined. Communication played a crucial role, as people expect the metro to be perfect all the time and this is not a time to promote the brand.

Cultural dynamics and internal communication work for BPCL.

Abbas Akhtar shared, “We developed internal SOPs, which helped us a lot and internally to keep our employees engaged, we used our inhouse radio channel BPC-Tarang”, on that we shared stories of Covid19 warriors to motivate our people. He also mentioned, for migrant labourers who are transiting, they opened their fuel stations and provided them free food and shelter. 

PSU and Journalists enjoy a healthy relationship, how things will change post-COVID?

We are organising electronic interviews with regional channels as well. We are pushing positive news stories to create a feel-good factor. “Good deeds make good stories” suggested Sumita Dutta.

Anuj Dayal shared, “Print media is the mother media” and the high circulated newspapers create more effect and impact, he added.

Similarly, K.M Prasanth shared, online communication is going to be important, and off-the-record conversations will take a hit, now journalists must walk the extra mile to get good stories.

Talking about learnings and the key takeaways, Sumita Dutta said, one of our internal letters leaked somehow and reached to the journalists and journalists started calling us up, and it was a tricky situation for us, managing that and communicating with journalists.

Similarly, Anuj Dayal remarked “We need to assure public that we are on standby” we are in preparation mode to make sure that we are ready at all times. K.M Prashanth shared that this is not the time for brands to go on in a hibernation mode and that is the inefficiency of a brand. We assured our stakeholders, and investors we are working despite the lockdown. During the crisis, our relationship with media gets impetus, he adds.

Abbas Akhtar shared “Our social media page received 1.4 crore impressions on the positive stories which we shared, on how we are ensuring consumer and employee safety,” We are driving our messages on social media, but we have to be careful while sharing anything on social media, we have a strong ORM in place we monitor every conversation and solve the consumer grievances within 24 hours, he added

Similarly, Anuj Dayal remarks, our focus will be more on contactless transactions. We will advise people to use smart cards while traveling. K. M Prashanth shares, leadership communication is very important during the time of crisis. 

In the end, Sumita shared, “Crisis opens up new opportunities for us” and this is the time to adapt the trend and seize new opportunities. Anuj remarks, we will be using different online platforms to communicate and stay in touch. Similarly, K.M Prashanth suggested, “Never let a crisis go waste”. “Positive storytelling is the new mantra” Abbas Akhtar opined.

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

Anurag Sharma
Anurag Sharma is a part of the Class of 2020 of PG Programme in PR and Corporate Communications at SCoRe, Mumbai.

He holds a degree in B.A Hons. in Journalism and Mass Communication from DAVV University, Indore. He has always been inclined towards Social Psychology, which drove him towards the field of communication and Public Relations. He is an avid learner and he admires M.S Dhoni and Edward Bernays. In the past, he has interned with MSL India.

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