As the batch of 2020 graduates, The School of Communications and Reputation has been holding commencement addresses for them. On the 20th of June, the institute held its 5th Commencement Address by Rohan Mishra who is the Head of India, Helo at ByteDance. With an experience of over a decade, Rohan had a lot of valuable knowledge to share with the students which mainly focused on knowledge about public affairs and public policy.
He began the discussion by talking about how he finds working in the public affairs field extremely rewarding as it has an impact on the society in large. He then went forward to talk about how things are changing today and that there is a wider gambit of institutions that a public affairs professional works with, there are more stakeholders, more society, more public, more policy, more institutional, and more institutions. All the things mentioned together are making marketing outcomes resonate in entirety. He went forward to talk about the difference between public relations and public affairs. The public is at the heart of both approaches. One difference that he went on to mention between the two is that on one hand, public relations is seen as credible, respectable whereas on the other hand public affairs are often seen as a discreditable activity, mainly because lobbying is illegal in India and many think that it happens under the name of public affairs. One is unable to show accountability in public affairs which may make it look murky. However, the aim of public affairs is to shape public opinion, which makes negotiation an important concept here and in order to do that professionals have to try and influence government actions and decisions. As mentioned before, changes are taking place in society today and as this shift takes place, policies are impacted as well. Therefore, brands need to be a part of the conversation, hence, public affairs professionals come to help with that.
Rohan Mishra began his career as an intern with Hindustan Unilever. While addressing the students during the session he mentioned that the first project he had to handle was called project Shakti, which enables rural women in villages across India to become financially independent. The thing to be kept in mind during this was to understand how one has managed to change the opinion on the ground. Through this example, he was trying to convey to the students, the importance of engaging with the audience on a grassroots level. Although it is necessary to consider both bigger and smaller aspects, when it comes to public policy and public affairs, it becomes necessary to give importance to the smaller aspects. This in turn makes a social impact as a practice very close to public affairs, as it is about giving back to society.
He then mentioned the five horsemen of public affairs, which are the five challenges that a public affairs professional may face, which are:
However, one has to rise above these challenges and keep the passion for the profession. If there is passion, one can prove their mettle and combat the five horsemen of public affairs.
Talking about proving one’s mettle Rohan then put forth how a public affairs professional can prove their mettle. Rather than going forth with armchair policymaking, an on-field practitioner will always do better. An on-field practitioner always has an upper hand in the profession as he or she understands the on-ground reality, which is of tremendous importance. Many people are mistaken that public affairs or public relations is a support function for a business, this mindset needs to change and we need to understand that it is a core business function, A public relations professional is turned to by the CEO of a company on various occasions for advice, making the profession a core business function. Metrics of measurement is another thing that we need to keep in mind, this includes talking about regulatory wins, revenue impact, relationship roster, and rise in reputation of the client. Lastly, to prove one’s mettle, we need to know our people value proposition, personal branding is something everyone needs to focus on today.
He further went on to advise the students that they should not only engage with the top bureaucrats but they should widen the spectrum of engagement, a bottom-up approach should be taken for the coalition.
He ended the session by giving the batch some advice:
Rohan Mishra has had a great career, from working with APCO Worldwide to working with MasterCard and also JULL labs, he has accomplished a lot. There were several examples stated by him through the session from his career, which was enriching for the students and it also encouraged them as they are stepping into the professional world of communications. He mentioned that his motivation to work in this field has been that the work done has a real and long standing impact, it has a wide spectrum to work with which includes grassroots and goes up to the government, it is about giving back to the society, therefore it is highly rewarding but at the same time, it has high risk too.
We got so much to learn during the commencement address, the session was truly enlightening.
– Niharika Dowerah
Niharika Dowareh is a part of the Class of 2020 of PG Programme in PR and Corporate Communications at SCoRe, Mumbai. He completed his winter internship with Avian WE, Mumbai.
She has done her post-graduation in sociology from Ambedkar University Delhi. After that, she was invited to the annual meeting of the pacific sociological association to present her paper. Through the experience, she learned that research excites her. She went on to work for an NGO as a communications executive that led her to the path towards PR as it’s a field that requires one to read, write extensively, and also face challenges on a day to day basis. As an extremely patient person and also a good listener, She feels these skills will help her in this field.