As we prepare for the India Communication Summit 2022, a special series has been introduced. “My Experiences with Public Relations” brings together the opinions and experience of senior marketing executives from various industries. It aims to bring our readers insights into how marketers view the PR industry and leverage communications to overcome challenges.
In this edition, we feature Deepak Sinha, VP Marketing, Bira 91.
What are the main public relations challenges your industry is currently facing?
One of the challenges and also an opportunity is to adapt to the new definition of public relations. In the past, public relations was defined by press releases, newspapers, magazines, and other offline publications. However, there has been a paradigm shift. Today, public relations is more about building an online reputation through social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
Consumers expect direct and frequent real-time communication from brands. They expect transparency. Young consumers (under 25) are driving this shift by almost exclusively using social media to get informed about everything from news to brands.
The recent purchase of Twitter by Elon Musk is a strong signal of the importance of this change. Unlike his fellow billionaires, he didn’t buy a magazine or newspaper, he chose a platform with more than 200 million active and diverse users, ranging from craft beer drinkers to government officials.
Another opportunity is to avoid the trap of viewing public relations as a stand-alone communications function. When you treat it as a standalone feature, it confuses consumers and reduces the effectiveness of your campaigns. Public relations should be part of the marketing mix of any major communication effort and should be tied to the larger brand story.
Finally, we are all working to rebuild our relationship with our consumers. Over the past few years, many of us have been forced to scale back our campaigns, launches, field events, and partnerships. When business opened, everyone flooded the lines of communication. Staying above the noise has been an ongoing effort.
How do you, as CMO, plan to leverage public relations as a weapon to meet these challenges?
PR is more of a means as opposed to a weapon. It is an integral part of performing a specific function which is to build trust with our consumer. Today’s consumers want to know more about your business before making the decision to purchase your product or service. And therefore, public relations becomes a necessary point of contact that we use to get our key messages across and establish transparency.
I follow a simple 3P approach to building trust and transparency: People, Processes and Products.
For the folks, we’re active on LinkedIn, profiling our teammates who have achieved remarkable accomplishments. It can be a salesperson who exceeded their monthly goals to a team of people who launched a new brand. For example, during our recent launch of Imagined in India beers, we highlighted the efforts of our innovation teams in brewing, manufacturing, quality, marketing, trade marketing, sales and finance.
Every department played a role, and it was important for us to recognize the efforts and give our consumers transparency on who is behind this launch.
A big win over process is our recent announcement of our sustainability vision which shows how we aim to be India’s leading Net Zero Beer company by 2025. It was a big moment for us and again matches the expectations of our consumers.
On the products… well, we have a lot of products. We have a strong portfolio that enables us to offer consumers a beer for every taste, every occasion and every palate across the country.
Public relations helps us tell these stories frequently and consistently across a multitude of platforms and across a wide range of geographies.
Is public relations only there for crisis management or can it be used to achieve long-term goals?
Contrary to popular belief and the movies, public relations is much more than crisis management.
Public relations plays an important role in helping us achieve our long-term goals. It is a collective effort, not just limited to what is published or covered in mainstream media. Not everything we do is newsworthy, but everything we do matters to us and our consumers.
Therefore, we have a team of partners who help create conversations around our 3Ps on a sustained basis throughout the year.
Another key factor in achieving our goals is our constant effort to strengthen our relationships with our own employees. We are six hundred people and our team is the most important stakeholder in telling our story. They understand, live and breathe the brand and its mission like no one else.
Positive public relations are important in building our internal culture. Every conversation created externally is also translated into an internal effort to build team advocacy. We want our employees to be proud of where they work and the products they sell.
For your alcobev brand, what kind of other functions does PR manage?
PR has three specific roles for our brand.
First, create conversations around our business. As mentioned earlier, we have worked to highlight key people within the organization around key periods. This goes beyond the management team and includes anyone who has embodied our HOP values - high performance, ownership and a passion to build.
Second, we use public relations to tell our story around innovation, especially in our taprooms. We have two taprooms in Bengaluru, one in Koramangala and a new one at the airport. We talked about our seasonal beer releases and dining experience nationally and regionally.
Third, going back to the sustainability report, public relations allows us to communicate our efforts to be a good citizen and do our part. We want to brew the tastiest and greenest beers on the planet.
What was your experience with PR in your professional career?
There are two things that stand out.
First is the role that PR has played in the past versus today. Most companies I’ve worked with in the past usually had 2-3 people handling the “PR” and the department. was considered an agency within the company.
As a marketer, you would pull together all aspects of your campaign from script, ATL, BTL and digital, then connect PR to amplify the message. This has evolved in my professional career. All members of my team know the role of public relations and play an active role in communication.
Second, my approach to public relations has evolved. As I mentioned, today I have a team of partners of varying sizes to help tell our story. In the past, when I worked for big brands and companies, I focused much more on the numbers in terms of impressions, reach, SOV, and PR value created.
It was about putting the big numbers on the board. Yes, reaching reach is important, but equally important is being precise to deliver the right message to the right consumer at the right time.
Finally, when it comes to working with PR professionals, I’ve always appreciated that they take the time to understand our industry, our consumers, our culture and our brand. Relationships are the most successful. Especially in a market like India, where beer culture is changing rapidly. It takes a deliberate effort on both sides to figure out how to achieve our vision.
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