The Communicators’ Assembly Point 6: Technology and Telecom Companies

COVID-19 has already changed our world. The post-lockdown scenario has made technology the cornerstone. This has impacted our attitude to technology and privacy too. How will it hit our concerns over privacy and security risk? This is definitely a priority, and it could be the start of a long trek ahead.  

The focus was on Communications in the Technology and Telecom companies in the discussion – The Communicators’ Assembly Point 6 that was moderated by Priti Setia, Group Head, Technology at Adfactors PR. The conversation involved ace communication leaders from the technology and telecom sectors – Harleen Sachdeva, Head, Communications-India, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Minita Kumar, Corporate Communication Head – India Region, HMD Global, Balaji P, Chief Regulatory and Corporate Affairs Officer at Vodafone Idea Ltd, and Tuhina Pandey, Communications Leader – IBM, India and South Asia. 

Spiraling Digital & Business Transformation

Change is the only constant and transformation is touching all spheres and moving ahead at a pace we cannot ignore today. “What according to you is the elevator pitch for digital and business transformation?” questioned Priti. “Technology is mainstream today and not just functional anymore,” said Tuhina. Are we adding the need for purchasing the product? Aligning both profit and product purpose is critical she felt and added – people go with you because they trust you, for today it’s a vulnerable population out there, so your propensity to engage is more. Trust, security, safety and health is very important. Your audience should know that the information is authentic. Finally it’s a “no brainer on digital transformation”– if the world is in a digital age, how is it that the world cannot be on that digital journey? 

For Vodafone Idea, the ability to enable the individual, society and consumers to stay connected has been big. “Digital transformation is important to go forward. It’s got turbo-charged now”, said Balaji. Prominently, for them, it has been two-dimensional – the focus on technology, plus the ‘human touch’, from the individual point of view. It’s also important to understand that some customers depend on the human touch – the “trust factor”. 

Brand story – building bridges

Brand storytelling uses a strong narrative to connect your brand to the consumer. What is the outcome? Building the bridge between your brand and the consumer. What should be the brand story – for a brand to really stand out?

For any brand story, pre and post COVID, the most important thing is to determine the WHY; once you have a purpose, everything else falls in place, elaborated Harleen; you must understand your product/service and brand portfolio; plus the customer understanding must be up-to-date and – it’s most important to have an authentic brand story to build ‘trust’. The story, the message has to be real. Keep it relatable and as real as possible, she emphasised. With so much of news floating around, communicators have to be strategic in their storytelling for brands, noted Minita for it brings in a semblance of sanity amidst the craze we face today.  

Is there a right way to tell stories?

What should be an important strategy to influence consumers? “It’s most important to be authentic which will hold you in good stead for a long haul”, remarked Balaji. Also be transparent, for it’s important to understand the context and their concerns; and why they should choose you, so put yourself two steps ahead!

Everything is moving to the digital experience, as we move towards post-COVID. Are there any Do’s and Don’ts for communication? There is an opportunity here, revealed Harleen. It’s important to make the interaction simple, engaging and user-friendly, so that it is easy for the audience to comprehend. But, don’t overdo it, for an overkill can kill the essence of communication, and there will be brand fatigue – was her warning bell! 

How do we humanise – AI & ML?

Do the customers understand what AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) are doing? How does it translate into the end consumer story? Tech is as powerful as its usage, and it’s really about people. AI is great and is used for technology in action, opined Tuhina. If you focus on the outcome, which is to make it easier for consumers to use your product and if AI can be used, so be it, analysed Balaji. It will have a transformative impact on the TG in the coming years and the good news is that there’s a lot of buzz around it!

Artificial intelligence is integrated into our lives, and even journalism is transforming into AI, expressed Minita, in no uncertain terms. She observed that 5G is yet to happen in India and that technology is a means to an end. AI, ML, IoT have integrated into the lives of people and we are just beginning that journey. In agreement was Tuhina as she said, “5G is a given. It’s just a question of when”.

The brand promise

A brand promise is the experience you are giving to your stakeholders every time you engage with them, and every brand has its own promise which is unique, but the communication has to be consistent, shared Minita.  The customer is bombarded with the same brand promises from different directions, so you must find a balance in communication while sharing the brand promise in an emphatic way. 

In this context – it’s most important for the business to walk the talk or the trust void will develop – was the observation made by Harleen. 

Most important stakeholders

Are employees the most important stakeholders? Is there a choice between employees and customers? Today employees are looking at – cutting the clutter, stated Tuhina. So it’s important to be authentic and deliver with empathy. Employees are your extended family and this must be done consistently; also, make them a part of the decision-making. Internal communication takes precedence since employees are the true custodians of the brand; they are your brand ambassadors, according to Harleen.  “Organisations have opened up recruitment to areas which were untapped, and people from Tier 2 and 3 cities have the opportunity to showcase their talent”, remarked Minita.

“For brands and organisations – their engagement with their external stakeholders is built around lasting relationships. This is primarily through being authentic and having a story that’s compelling enough for them to relate to”, outlined Balaji. An utmost regard for safety of employees is important and also be open to feedback, and respond quickly, he said highlighting the fact that there’s ‘0’ tolerance on the well-being and safety of employees. 

The future trail of technology

As they are driving mobility, Priti wondered – are CIOs and CSOs going to get a new designation – Chief  Mobility Officers? And, with WFH becoming a trend, what about its continuity in the future?  

Some 90% of IT companies are working from home today, including Vodafone Idea. It has accelerated in the last few months and the transformation gives us the confidence to adopt it rapidly, disclosed Balaji. 

COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for digital transformation, and for tech companies, WFH will be the new normal, noted Harleen. Mobility was never a question where tech companies were concerned, but it enhances the productivity of workforce. Most importantly, touching on a sensitive issue – women workers get an opportunity to balance their lives!  

The landscape of CIOs and CSOs has been redefined and security is the most fundamental need now, pointed out Tuhina. Security and data privacy are the foremost concerns and there is a lot to do; this will be the first ‘ask’ for any customer going forward, said Harleen.  

COVID-19 is reshaping the future of technology. We can see that technology is unveiling new rules for business transformation, but one thing is clear – technology is a great leveler, was how Priti signed off. 

Rapid Fire Round

As communicators, where to invest your last dollar? Top skills as a communicator? 
Balaji: Trust Authenticity
Harleen: Content creation Flexibility + speed, agility
Minita: Energies – in search for creative ideas Entrepreneurial ability to change with technology
Tuhina: People – they create magic! Learnability (Go back to the drawing board. The world has changed!)


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

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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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