The key to success at work is finding your passion, they say. And, following your passion can often make the biggest difference, was something Tuhina Pandey, Communications Leader – India and South Asia at IBM, discovered along her journey.
In her current role, she oversees external and internal communication, citizenship, analyst and influencer relations. Prior to this, she was Head of Global Corporate Communications & Public Affairs at Tech Mahindra. Interestingly, she has also served a five-year-long stint with NDTV Profit as Associate Editor. Tracing back to the early beginning of her career, she was Associate Editor-Aegis News Network, where she managed an internal TV network with audience base of 50,000 employees across geographies.
In this dialogue with Shree Lahiri, she discusses the early part of her career, her passion for news, the amazing power of communication, how her career has been a journey of discovery and learnings and more…
RT: How and why did you get into journalism?
TP: News was a staple throughout my growing years, parliament debates, news bulletins or papers, world affairs and active debates would often keep me glued. I must mention a gentleman, my neighbour in Kolkata, who was a news editor and an exceptional human being, he may have been a subconscious role model.
The natural instinct and passion for news took over, I enrolled in mass communications at Jadavpur University after my honours in accountancy from Calcutta University, went on to major in Media Research from Pune University. My majors made me think not just about media but also about audience, culture, society, myth, signs and symbols, human civilization at large and how all of these are intertwined. The pursuit of a holistic learning and experience propelled me into the world of journalism. NDTV came as a natural choice at that time, it was considered a gold standard, both in journalism and production values.
RT: With over fifteen years of experience in technology journalism as well as corporate communications, how would you describe your journey?
TP: It’s been a journey of discovery and learnings. Journalism was one of the most immersive experiences for me. While covering technology and corporate stories was my prime focus, I also covered the Mumbai terrorist attack (26/11), Mumbai flooding and The Satyam saga -that enriched my experience and sensitivities manifold.
I wanted to understand communications holistically and launched a digital Corporate TV for an India headquartered firm in 11 countries and 8 languages back in 2010-11. I have since led global roles in marketing communication, public affairs, have been a founding member of an analytics start-up, communications consultant and media trainer for executives. it has all evolved from the canvass of journalism and the understanding of socio-economic landscape.
RT: You had a five-year-long stint with NDTV Profit as Associate Editor. How has that experience helped you in your current role?
TP: Immensely, I think the journalist’s nose for news, ability to understand complex information, speed and networks allows you to stay true to your audience. As communicators it’s important we bring the outside-in view and be the conscience keeper for our stakeholders – journalism helps you do that. Television makes you count every second, think on your feet, withstand pressure and most importantly enhance your ability to tell stories in a way that people can connect to.
RT: How does the power of communication inspire you?
TP: Some of the best communicators have shaped history – from Martin Luther king to Mahatma Gandhi and many leaders since … their clarion call moved humanity to act to a purpose. Communication can wield a deep human connect, and the power of communication to shape humanity and world inspires me. Afterall, designations can earn you a seat at the table what keeps you there and in the hearts of your audience is your story.
RT: Do journalists immigrating to corporate communications have an edge over communication natives?
TP: If you have been a journalist – you know what makes news and you understand how to tell a compelling story that is relevant to your audience. A communicators job is that much more sensitive – you are responsible for the entire organisation and you represent shared values and objectives, it needs a whole new set of skills. At the core is your adaptability, learnability and power to communicate and connect.
RT: What is the role that influencer relations plays in present times?
TP: Authentic and credible endorsements matter a great deal. Influencer’s trust and goodwill can positively impact your brand. It matters because they matter. Referrals and word-of-mouth are and continue to be a powerful force while their manifestation may vary with evolving technology and channels.
RT: How has in-house Public Relations evolved over the last decade?
TP: There has been a paradigm shift with a connected digital era and real time news and information. Your ability to respond with speed and clarity is tested every day. Public Relations is on the boardroom agenda. Reputational risk is a key business and management imperative. The communicator’s role has become more ‘integrated’ in nature with lines blurring between external and internal communications. Seamless transition on social and digital channels is also the order of the day. I see the space evolving further in the Post COVID world. It’s time for another ‘Reset’.
RT: Tell us about two PR campaigns (other than those you worked on) that have left a lasting impression on you.
TP: 1. Dandi March’ – the sheer brilliance of the mass movement is a classic case study
2. ‘Swachh Bharat’ – the striking impact on the behaviour of the children and how they became the flag bearers of the movement gives you insights into the potential of communication in shaping human behaviour.
RT: What do you love doing in your free time?
TP: I love to write – poetry or stories, read, photograph. I find mentoring and teaching very fulfilling as well.
RT: What is your advice for newcomers stepping into the communication business?
TP: Dream big and bold, have the right attitude, punch above the weight and understand business or cause you represent deeply. Also, keep your skills future proof and the learning hat on.
Most importantly, build relationships and trust – it’s the only lifelong currency.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.