In Conversation with Archana Jain

Stretching boundaries and thinking out-of-the-box can really make a difference. This is exactly what Archana Jain, Founder & Managing Director, PR Pundit has been doing from the start. Belonging to the exclusive club of India’s top 100 PR communications professionals today, her PR practice can be traced back to 1990.

Assisting organisations shape their reputation is something she has focussed on for the last 28 years. He repertoire of expertise spans through – advice on corporate and brand communications, managing communication challenges, guiding stakeholder communications and promoting the launch of many new products, brands, ventures, ideas & services.

After anchoring PR Pundit in 1998, Archana has nurtured its growth to emerge as a leading PR company, which holds notable reference in lifestyle and luxury PR. She is also the principal trainer for PR Pundit’s media training and crisis communications programmes.

In conversation with Shree Lahiri, she discusses what it means to celebrate 20 years, PR Pundit’s unique difference quotient, the challenges faced, her endless bucket list, solutions for unwinding and more…

RT: Founded in the year 1998, PR Pundit is celebrating completion of 20 years of its existence. How has the journey been?

It all began with stretching the boundaries of my knowledge and experience in corporate PR to focus on consumer PR at the start.

PR Pundit was the earliest to spot an opportunity in lifestyle and luxury PR, which has since become an identifiable distinction for the company and its calling card. We developed verticals dedicated to premium lifestyle and luxury in 2005-06. The steady growth in the last ten years has positioned PR Pundit unquestionably as one of the best PR companies in the lifestyle and luxury domain in India.

Earning global recognition with a Gold PR Lion at Cannes 2017 for our campaign for ITC Savlon gave us a fresh drift of energy and strengthened our reputation beyond luxury.

It is equally fulfilling to be recognised as the PR Consultancy of Year (mid-size) in our 20th year of operations (FY2018-19) last year.

Nurturing PR Pundit into a mid-sized PR company has been extremely exciting and consuming. It has meant fostering an entrepreneurial culture. Winning confidence of marquee brands, motivating teams to be productive & innovative to sustain client relationships, bracing change to add value and deliver a stronger narrative, etc. has been learning and satisfying.

Most of all, it is heartening for me as a founder to have PR Pundit recognised as a defining brand in PR – not the biggest nor the most profitable, but one that inspires others, large and small!

RT: How is PR Pundit’s offering different from the rest?

PR Pundit is uniquely positioned in consumer PR. We hold notable reference as the frontrunner in luxury and lifestyle PR. Our specialised wealth of experience has earned us the respect and trust of leading global and Indian brands as a preferred partner. An independent, mid-sized 20-year old PR company, PR Pundit’s 90+ team of practitioners go beyond the traditional, employing creativity and skillful storytelling to engage audience and change the conversation.

RT: You have come a long way with PR Pundit. What were the difficulties you faced when starting up?

Starting up is difficult for every business. To my mind, it requires at least three years of gruelling hard work. For PR Pundit too, it was not easy to acquire talent or convince organisations to assign the communications mandate to a young independent PR Consultancy! But nothing that persistence and hard work did not change. We believe in winning confidence by showcasing excellence, through projects, assignments and earning recommendations from existing clients.

RT: PR Pundit is one of the few firms that has completed two decades and not been acquired by an international firm, why did you choose to stay Indian and independent?

Independence means so many things, like nimbleness, freedom to take risks, invest back into the business and have control over our destiny. I do not think we would have had the latitude to nurture the genre of lifestyle and luxury if we had been aligned to a global company.

PR companies with competencies in the lifestyle & luxury PR, are mostly independent across the globe. And even brands in this domain tend to seek out local independent firms.

RT: What are the ideal attributes of a good PR professional?

Public relations is undoubtedly a demanding job profile. Apart from traditional PR skills like creative story-telling and media relations, which are unlikely to fade, the modern-day practitioner, needs additional skills, like creation and curation of social media content to promote digital virality; knowledge and network for influencer and affiliate marketing; ability to mine data and its implications as well as an understanding of measurement of impact to justify spends.

RT: With rapid growth of digital and social media, and the changing media consumption pattern of millennial consumers, how are PR firms adapting to this change? 

With increasing commercialisation and digitisation of media, pure play PR has evolved. It is imperative to offer blended solutions to remain relevant.

We have upgraded our planning and servicing capabilities to think digital and embrace influencers across domains.

In fact, as the power of owned media has gained ground, we have seized the business opportunity to scale our social media management practice.

In 2017-18, we pursued conscious hiring to acquire diverse skill sets, and add “value-based capabilities” dedicated to social media, social investment, content & insights to our existing strengths.

RT: What do you love doing in your free time? 

Travelling is my most favourite free time activity. I always have endless bucket lists of places to discover. But when I am unable to get away, I unwind with my interest in gardening. Sadly, gardening has eaten into the time required for pottery, which I guess will have to wait until I retire.

RT: What is the next phase of growth for PR Pundit going to be like? 

 At PR Pundit, we have maintained a CAGR of 15% over the last five years and have set our eyes firmly on an accelerated growth trajectory for the next two decades. We aim to continue ruling the luxury lifestyle domain; while we gain ground with noteworthy work in consumer PR and expand our experience in allied domains. The attributes of entrepreneurial spirit and speed-to-market (nimbleness) that have fuelled our success so far will continue to remain embedded in our culture, while we pursue fresh, progressive and innovative ideas.

RT: Tell us the story of how the concept of Buzzing Bees came to be?

‘Buzzy Bees’ best defines the pace and excitement that surrounds an executive at PR Pundit. Our social media handles celebrate our talent, our work and mostly our teamwork that helps deliver on our promise to our clients. It features all buzzworthy highlights and provides a window to a day in the life of a workerbee at the hive called PR Pundit.

RT: How do you see Public Relations in India evolving in the next five years?

My optimism leads me to believe that the PR business should be able to grow in the range of 12-15%. Some of the top trends foreseen for the PR business will include:

  1. Scoring with relevant engagement – In this age of digital disruption, PR campaigns will have to brace the challenge of gaining ground with the right influencers. It will become increasingly important to cut through mere reach, to seek real engagement.
  2. Measurement of business impact – Measurement and interpretation of data will become even more important. We will be required to incorporate more data into reporting because more clients will demand clear evidence of value.
  3. Use of Tech & AI for insights and analytics – Technology will continue to drive the practice of PR forward enabling us to work more efficiently. We are already using analytical tools to identify publics, track media, and listen to conversations. The PR business will start employing AI to add value to what we do.
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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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