Reputation Today organised SPECTRA – a virtual reputation management conference on 29th November 2020 as the digital avatar of PRAXIS, which is probably the single most attended residential PR event in the world. Different perspectives of so many speakers at one platform have created an enriching experience particularly at a time when the world has gone topsy- turvy under the massive global impact of COVID -19 pandemic.
The event began with the insightful inaugural address by Madan Bahal, Co-founder & Managing Director, Adfactors PR India. “Over the last eight years, this annual event has become the pilgrimage of sorts for the PR practitioners all around the world, PRAXIS earlier and SPECTRA this year is the biggest integrator of the public relations industry in India,” said Madan Bahal as he began his address. The unique online conference on reputation offers the wisdom of 70+ global PR leaders and some sort of the world’s largest corporations representing a diverse range of industries.
The Resilience of PR during the pandemic
Bahal talked about the relevance and resilience of PR professionals during this pandemic and how the crisis has demonstrated our strength of character at multiple levels. The pandemic has revealed some of our vulnerabilities as individuals, businesses, and as a society. It has also disclosed the crisis of leadership and the unpreparedness at the government level and all institutional levels. But as an industry, PR stood tall. The profession tried to stand with the client 24/7 all through this month and this has proved the relevance of PR as a glorious profession again. PR as a profession when it is compared to other comms disciplines has had the least job losses, least salary cut and not even one firm or team crumbled. Reports also show that most of the salary cuts across the industry have been restored or are being restored at least in India. It discovered the value of intermediation between business and society as it bolstered PR as an essential service.
He asserted that economic recovery has been very rapid in the last few months. Recent policy reforms to encourage investment in manufacturing, agriculture, opening the banking to co-operate sector, land and labour reforms will boost the economic activity in the time to come. He believes that in the future of work, the ideas like WFH – working from home or work from anywhere will unleash the significant efficiencies and proactivity of resources.
Future of Business and PR
He also talked about the prominent changes in businesses that will impact organisations and imminently the PR profession. He shared that the post-pandemic environment will be filled with full of existential challenges to businesses. The major forces of disruption include information technology, biotechnology, climate change, multi-dimensional polarisation in the society, demographic shifts, increased regulations, geopolitics of the neighborhood, hyper-nationalism, and an imminent new cold war. There is also all-round evidence of retribution of stakeholders demanding accountability.
As sharing his insights about the future Bahal said the new corporate vocabulary is getting enriched with words like purpose, empathy, compassion, social responsibility, diversity, equity, governance, and inclusion. He also asked some important questions as every PR firm should ask themselves. They include, how are we ready to serve our clients or firms? How do we change and evolve at the rate of stakeholder’s expectation? How do we get ready to help our clients or businesses navigate through this turbulence and so on?
Requirements for a New Transition
There is a need for an urgent re-skilling of the entire business, and this must start at the grassroots level. Common competency for consultancies includes strategic planning, management of resources, issues and crisis management, research and analytics, media relations and digital literacy. “An average individual would need 200 hours per year for the next several years in catch up learning.” said Bahal. “There is a pervasive crisis of leadership in the PR, as an industry, we need to address this with long term perspectives” Bahal commented.
He further said the strategy should focus on grooming younger and mid-level colleagues to create a strategic long-term pipeline of leadership. Diversity of leadership from other different streams like media, legal, management consultancies, social sectors will enrich our gene pool to deliver on the challenges faced by our clients. The future of PR is very favourable compared to advertising, media, or any other consulting disciplines. He closed the address by quoting Winston Churchill “Never let a good crisis go to waste” and it is our moment, and we should do our best.
The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.