Naresh Kumar, Senior General Manager (Corporate Communications), Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID) speaks to Sameera Fernandes on the importance of changing the business narrative in today’s times.
Everyone has to practice crisis leadership today. What are your thoughts?
Without a doubt, everyone has to be on their toes to face challenges and handle crisis. A peek into the pandemic clearly indicates how corporate communications teams have been reaching out during tough times, putting forward a caring front, being there for its employees and creating awareness amongst external stakeholders. This crisis created a number of challenges but a structured approach will always help. It must be aligned to the objective of instilling positivity in minds of employees, infusing optimism and creating an atmosphere which highlights the positive spirit of triumph and hope.
Our endeavour should be to communicate not only with the common masses, but also stand with our employees and motivate them. Simple, straight, honest and positive communication must be consistency facilitated, so that more and more people can easily share it. Communication teams of the corporates or organisations have to rationally, emotionally and logically communicate through internal and external communication channels making use of digital posters, movies, graphics etc. The tone of communication must be empathetic. Verified and authentic information must be sourced. The objective must be to tell the employees that we are here to support them in times of crisis.
Who do you look up for inspiration or mentorship?
I am an ardent follower of the teachings of Swami Vivekananda, who introduced the Indian philosophies of Vedanta to the western world. He has helped me understand the power of leading the masses towards a common vision with straight and motivating communication. He had a vision to make people realise their hidden potential and capabilities. Leaders must tap the potential of their workforce, and thus, utilise the best of the abilities of the team. He also talks about empathy, clarity of vision, courage, flexibility, accountability, and absolute involvement towards the goal. Incorporating his invaluable teachings into our corporate lives, can yield superlative results, and create a difference in the lives of the people, by optimising the talents and abilities, ultimately leading the company to unparalleled and obscured heights of success. Leaders have to maintain the emotional bond and connect without any ulterior motives, so that macro level thinking can be utilised for greater good of the organisation.
What have you done lately to enhance your company/brand communication?
We have changed the way we communicate with our target audience and with a highly skilled in-house team, we are infusing professional equity in them. Our team is capability-drive, cohesive and understands the Company’s brand positioning and its core values, which resonates in all our communications. We have developed a mechanism wherein we ask team members to suo moto take up tasks, which are discussed every Friday. Every month we analyze and take feedback, where each team member anonymously rates others on parameters of knowledge sharing, technical competence, cleanliness, communication etc. This is a very transparent system where everyone grows together along with the Company. We have a people first approach and even during COVID pandemic, we didn’t ask any of the journalists to carry our releases. We honoured them as our stakeholders in the journey of growth, and maintained cordial relationships by asking them about their health and concerns. This is what makes our team unique. Be it internal or external communication, we have an eye for the target audience. Connecting to the heart holds the key to success of any communication. As they say, winners don’t do different things, but they do it differently. We strive to do things differently, through our heart.
How do you continue to grow and develop as a leader?
If you can anchor the ship through rough waters, you will sail smoothly. Learn and re-learn holds the key for developing at any stage of life. As a leader, one needs to have the emotional intelligence of gauging perceptions, thoughts, aspirations, attitudes, behaviors and be able to discern the right mix for motivating the team. The leader has to remain calm and soak the pressure, in order to present a positive picture and motivate the team. According to me, leaders must invest in themselves and get up-to-date with trends, best practices and knowledge about their target audience. The learning process never stops, as it continuously improves upon the present state. Learning is definitely a continual process.
Why do you feel companies/brands need to make reputation management a priority?
We all agree that corporate communications teams are indispensable to any organisation. They are recognised as invaluable to the Company as they drive measurable business results, and foster relationships for long-term business value.
Regardless of how today’s Corporate Communications departments are structured, there are teams that stand out as most effective in today’s changing environment as they are responsible for managing a positive perception in the minds of the stakeholders.
One must align the opinion and behavior shifts desired among stakeholders and engage with them in the way they want to be engaged by the brand. It means, people must be able to find desired content and engagement seamlessly and consistently, which will enable them to advocate and help you promote key messages. Gathering real-time insights and using the information to evolve and keep the company relevant, is a necessity to ensure mutually-valuable relationships. The world is moving fast, so our job is to help the Company stay ahead of reputational shifts and needs, in this dynamic technological scenario.
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