Earlier this week, on PR we had the opportunity of a master session with Ophira Bhatia on Communication, Director of Corporate Communications and Government Affairs at Mondelez, India. Although she is completely on the corporate communications side now, she has had her share of experience of working on the agency front and thus, she knows the quirks of both sides- public relations and corporate communications.
- Rapid transition: She started her session by talking about the transition that the profession of public relations has gone through in a span of only 22 years. When she started out, they actually had to manually cut newspapers and then wait all day in front of the fax machines to send the coverage to the clients. Today, it’s just a matter of time before the tracking agency can send the coverages to you. It has become that easy! Another PR tool that is almost on the verge of extinction is the Press Release. Bhatia mentioned that earlier that would carry hard copies of the press releases to the journalists’ office where they would have to spend the entire day waiting for a two-minute conversation with the journalist regarding the press release. Nowadays, the word has already gotten out and spread like wildfire before the press release has been written. Also, journalists get a thousand calls a day with hundred press releases sitting in their inboxes written in the same format.
- Not only connecting externally but internally too: Being on both sides of the coin, Ophira says that internal communications is equally important as external communications. Often big brands forget the value of communicating internally with their employees and focus more on communicating externally with the consumers. While this is definitely true that consumers are the backbone of a brand, it is not to be forgotten that employees are too! So, elements of external communications like generating case studies, website updation, answering FAQs, building media relations should be done hand in hand with elements of internal communication like changing policies or upgrading schemes for the employees.
- Read and write, voraciously: “I cannot emphasize enough on reading!”, says Ophira. Reading is something that never gets old no matter how high you reach. One should read everything starting from newspapers to books to trash magazines, everything adds to the knowledge. Reading also simultaneously helps in improving one’s writing skills and as communication professionals, one should always be ready with a pitch note or a background brief.
- Making your own connections: The essence of PR lies in getting earned media. But, in this age of media buying and the media net, it is pretty tough to convince someone to give you coverage for free. So, what can one do? One should always focus on building their own connections with the journalists by being in touch with them constantly and not only when there is something work-related. This gives the journalists a sense of ownness. Also, it is important not to badger the journalists with texts, calls or emails. They are also busy beings working on multiple stories and poking them frequently can make them go the other way from you.
She ended the session with a few more topics like how to manage reputation and some crisis management stories that she and her team handled. She also had a story about the Unity Bar that Cadbury’s came out with on Independence Day earlier this year, but that’s the story for another day. In the end, she left us grinning like idiots ear to ear with a bag full of chocolates!
Baishali Banerjee is a part of the Class of 2020 of PG Programme in PR and Corporate Communication at SCoRe, Mumbai. She completed her winter internship with Genesis BCW, Mumbai.
She is from Kolkata. She did her graduation in Media Science with a specialization in Public Relations and Advertising from NSHM Knowledge Campus, Kolkata. She has always been curious about the corporate world and how all these huge brands function and connect with their consumers on a day-to-day basis. She interned with Ketchum Sampark for a period of three months under the Brands & Lifestyle team. This experience made her more curious about the PR fraternity. Also, she is a person very open to learning and her interests lie in corporate, entertainment and lifestyle.
She can be reached at @baishalibanerj5 on Twitter and as Baishali Banerjee on LinkedIn