PR HAS FARED BETTER THAN OTHER MARCOM DISCIPLINES: MADAN BAHAL
For Madan Bahal, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Adfactors PR, the PR industry has fared better than other MarCom disciplines in this ongoing pandemic. He notes that there is now a slow and steady upward trend as the pandemic has given rise to a new relationship dynamic between brands and the PR agencies. In this interview with IMPACT, Bahal talks about how PR agencies today have a bigger role to play in helping brands reposition themselves and much more…
Q] How has COVID-19 impacted the client-agency equation? Has there been any perceptible shift on that front?
Yes, there have been quite a few perceptible shifts. The most heartening is that clients and agencies are working closely more than ever before. There is superior trust and an understanding of the constraints. The pandemic has had a temporary impact on pricing of professional services in general and PR is no exception.
We hope the situation will get close to normal by the third or fourth quarter of FY21.
Q] In this changed business climate, do you think PR agencies have a bigger role to play in helping brands to reposition themselves?
Repositioning a brand is a larger strategic issue for brand managers where PR can play a supportive role. However, PR can serve brands in many useful ways in the current context. Brand management sometimes suffers from a hearing deficit – PR can be the eyes and ears for the brand.
PR listens better and interprets better. Secondly, brands have to be very careful in a volatile environment in the way they conduct and communicate. Running key brand decisions through the PR prism could pre-empt many risks. Lastly, brand communications have to go beyond the core value proposition.
The biggest challenge for a brand is to understand the challenges faced by its customers – and there are quite a few challenges everyone is facing in the economy we live in. Empathy, compassion and purpose embedded in brand communications will strengthen the trust bond.
Q] What are the three big challenges facing the PR agencies in these times of uncertainty?
For many agencies, there is an impact on revenue. Under these circumstances, holding on to your best talent is a challenge.
The second issue is to maintain the morale of the organization – in a work from home regime – to deliver peak efficiencies and be hyper responsive because clients are going through such challenging times. The third challenge for the industry is to anticipate and prepare for the post-COVID future which will be laced with uncertainties.
Q] How do you see the road to recovery for the sector? Are there any green shoots of revival?
I think the worst is behind the PR industry – it has fared better than other MarCom disciplines. There is a slow and steady upward trend. The full recovery, however, may take two to three more quarters.
Q] What would be your advice to agency owners who are battling this unprecedented crisis?
First, hold your nerves, for this too shall pass. Second, use this time to take a completely fresh look at your business and clean up the rot. Third, as Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Seize the opportunities as you see them.