Valerie Pinto, CEO Weber Shandwick India, on Employer Branding, Rurbanization and other PR Trends

Valerie Pinto, CEO Weber Shandwick India, discussing 'PR Climbing the Value Chain in Marketing Communication Ladder.'Valerie Pinto, CEO, Weber Shandwick India was part of the PR Conclave, the annual Public Relations conclave held by the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication, Pune. Held on 2nd August, the event saw a number of industry stalwarts from the corporate as well as agency side congregate to have discussions and provide insights on the theme of ‘Reinventing PR.’

As the CEO of one of the top PR agencies in India, Valerie spoke on a number of industry trends. On the hype surrounding the advent of digital media, she said, “India as a country has a billion plus population. But how many of them are truly on the social media space? Traditional forms of media will continue to grow; we are the only country in the world where regional media is growing at the rate of 20%.”

Talking about the increasing value and relevance of PR she said, “We are at the brink of change, and I know it. We’re not even scratching the bottom of the barrel in India. But brands are now recognizing the value of conversation management, where PR plays a very important role, keeping in mind messaging, strategy, direction, output and brand reputation. We are living in a world where we’re on the edge of any crisis that can break out with any post that you put up. The one area in which PR is valued is in protecting brand reputation. You definitely need to have somebody with a PR length to help manage and structure that reputation.”

Sharing her thoughts on emerging PR trends and fusing it with corporate requirements, she said, “Employer branding is becoming extremely important because CEOs see that they can put products, but if there are no people who will deliver it, who will distribute it cleverly, who look at innovative means, their business is not growing. It’s an employee market today. Good business brings in good people, and good people bring in good business.” On the rising significance of content marketing, she says, “The edge is not on the medium, the edge is on content. Think your content and idea through. Flip the game. Don’t think in terms of what you’ve been thrown at, think in reverse.”

When asked about the lack of PR activities undertaken in rural areas, she said, “Over a period of time, we’ll see a lot more language based communication which will start coming out. When you’re a PR person, India is not one country where a single strategy will fit across. We need to look at how we are changing the modes of communication, but keeping the central medium. Agencies are working in terms of campaigns; and the complexity of thinking for those campaigns is gaining a lot more effort. We call it rural communication, but technically it’s not. A farmer sitting in Aurangabad is richer than you and me, and his son is studying in Harvard. So we’re not talking rural communication any longer, and that mindset has to change for marketers and PR practitioners. There’s no distinction any longer between main metros and mini metros; it’s called rurbanization.”

Elaborating on her decision to continue in the PR industry after considering leaving it to pursue her pet passion of gastronomy, she said, “I did not want to come back to the PR industry as I thought there was a lot more use I could put myself to. It was my mother who made me change my mind, saying that you’ve put in 16 years of valuable time in an industry, so you have so much more to give back to. If it’s something that drives you so hard and you’re so passionate about it, why would you leave it? Also, the work that is happening globally is just outstanding and that’s when I realized that I have learned nothing!”

Speaking about her vision for Weber Shandwick, she says, “We want to be seen as the most creative agency in the country in the next 5 years. And if that’s what it is, we need to be doing things creatively from the bottom up. We need to recruit people with a creative bent of mind. You are the image that you’re trying to portray for your client.”

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