On his first visit to India after taking over as President and CEO, Asia Pacific, Ogilvy Public Relations, Scott Kronick talks about the importance of being local in any market, handling the digital beast and why it is necessary to be honest and upfront in any crisis
By SIMRAN SABHERWAL
The first thing that strikes you about Scott Kronick, President and CEO, Asia Pacific, Ogilvy Public Relations is his zany sense of humour and sharp wit. Kronick, one of the two founding members of Ogilvy PR in China, was recently on his first visit to India since taking over as regional head two years ago. A people’s person, the value Kronick places on people is evident when he says that the team he set up the business with in China is still at the PR firm and he reiterates this by adding that for success in this business, you need to have the right people in the right roles. While the basic tenet of PR hasn’t changed, the myriad platforms means changing consumption patterns and increased importance of the role of influencer, story and message. He adds that a key skill that a great PR person needs is to understand how someone makes a decision.
ON BEING LOCAL
A programme that Kronick initiated after taking over the top post was TICK – acronym for ‘Talent-Invention-Clients-Knowledge’ where the emphasis is on providing the client with the right creative innovative ideas and the right person.
With Indian companies looking to expand globally, Kronick says “a brand is not successful until the local market tells you so” and replicating the communication strategy of the home country may not work in a new market. Instead, one needs to understand the local market and how the brand can fit into that. This requires research and he says that it is important to surround yourself with local talent, who understand the nuances of the local culture. Kronick adds, “A lot of companies, when they go global, put their own people in the senior jobs. That can work sometimes but to really get the cultural fabric of the society, you need the right people.”
Commenting on India, Kronick says that while India as a market is becoming increasingly important, he hasn’t seen any great work coming out of the country. He believes that the Indian PR industry hasn’t been as pro-active as it should have been in talking about the developments of the industry in the country. “What happens in India stays in India that mentality has to change to become a better communicator,” he adds.
THE DIGITAL BEAST
With increasing instances of social media being used as a platform for and against brands, a single negative tweet or Facebook post can snowball into a controversy if not handled carefully. In this scenario, Kronick says that companies need to be prepared and spend time deciphering and planning how to handle different scenarios. Another shift required is getting organizations to respond quicker than they currently do. However, despite the value that PR firms bring to their clients, their share of the overall marketing is quite low. Kronick believes that PR firms need to measure impact and show the client the value that they bring to the table. On a positive note, he adds that PR firms are now getting a much bigger share of marketing budgets as companies realize that PR firms are “the original influencing discipline”.
IN TIMES OF CRISIS
Talking about an incident where PR was used to solve a crisis, Kronick narrates a call he received in 2007 following the death of workers during the construction of the Olympic stadium Bird’s Nest in Beijing. Kronick suggested that a press conference be held and says, “Sometimes you got to go out and just as bad as it is, you got to tell the truth. You got to tell that openly and honestly and you can’t be afraid of the repercussion. You got to do what is right. That’s my advice to companies, when I work with them - do the right thing.”
Another crisis situation was the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur. Kronick says, “That one was really tough because you want to go out there and tell people what happened and what you are going to do about it. The reason why that story still lives today is because it’s never been resolved and there was no closure.”
2016 – A CRITICAL YEAR
On an optimistic note, Kronick says that in 2015, all the offices in the region have done really well and adds, “India had double digit growth last year. For a long time, the India business was small but it’s getting to be much more significant now. We are really trying to accelerate our growth dramatically and this will be a critical year. It will not just be about the professional communications agency that we strive to be, but also about being the best in an integrated environment and how we work together to do that. We need to continually reinvent ourselves, improve our consulting ability, social ability and be central to the marketing plans of our clients.”