The Reputation Guardian

The successive waves of innovation which have unfolded within a single generation have dramatically altered all aspects of our lives. The change has been especially accentuated in the media landscape where the emergence of social media has rewritten the rules altogether. 

I remember, when I initially started my career, mobile phones were still a rarity, the internet was just catching on, in fact we still used fax machines to disseminate press releases to the media and coverage clips to our clients! The traditional media was king then, a position which is now being successfully challenged by social and digital media platforms. 

In more than one ways, the era prior to the advent of internet was a much simpler one. Today’s increasingly connected world has added layers of complexity to the corporate communication role. The decentralisation of content, courtesy the explosion of social and digital media, has changed very definition of a news cycle. The 24/7 news-cycle poses a different kind of a challenge as the corporate communications’ professional has to also be always-on, monitoring news on-the-go so as to be better equipped to leverage an emerging opportunity or handle a potential crisis.  

While the need for a sharp communication counsel was always there, I believe that value of communicators has increased with the advent of social media.  Earlier, communicators had the luxury of time before sharing a considered response to the media. That luxury of time isn’t available anymore. Any mistake and your brand could be in the middle of a crisis.

There is a huge opportunity that lies beneath this complex web of information flow for the corporate communication role to become more strategic and invaluably intertwined with business needs and realities. 

It is imperative for businesses to have a crisis communication plan prepared well in advance. And, it takes lots of prudence to put together a framework in place for communicating in any crisis, be it fake news, an accident or a social media slip-up.  Thus, increasing reliance on communications professionals who can deliver not tactics, but long-term strategy and translate this strategy as actionable steps right down to the last foot soldier.

The role of head communications, effectively the reputation guardian, can also be described as organisation’s chief information officer. It is the job of the communications head to update, guide and oversee how the company is reacting to relevant industry developments. The chief information officer guides the leadership team within the organisation to comprehend the complexity of communication flowing externally and help develop an appropriate response strategy.

While the role entailed media relations in the past, in today’s world, the scope of work has expanded to a multi-stakeholder approach towards narrative building and reputation management. There has also been a paradigm shift in mindset from a tactically-focused one to a more strategic level of thinking. Corporate communication professionals are now expected to be knowledgeable about the different aspects of the business beyond the communication function as well.  Even an unaddressed customer complaint can potentially become a reputation risk; the corporate communication professional is supposed to lead/guide to minimize such risks.

The Communication Head now play an important role as the organisation’s chief reputation guardian.  The head is expected to build relationships with critical stakeholders, within as well as outside the organisation, beyond the earlier expected core job of building and protecting the brand. 

Life has never been more challenging, more rewarding in this trade!

Sameer Bajaj
Sameer Bajaj is Director – Corporate Communications & External Affairs

He has twenty years of significant, demonstrable expertise in strategic communications, advocacy, public relations, internal communications and CSR with global organisations across different industries. He joined Discovery in May 2017, from Amway India, where he was leading External Communications and CSR.

Prior to Amway, Sameer had a 10-year long stint with India’s no 1 sports broadcaster ESPN STAR Sports overseeing their external communications vertical.

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