Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Employee engagement & Communication Research

PodUniversal Edition 157

I had the opportunity of going through the book 'Employee Engagement and Communication Research' authored by Ms Susan Walker ABC, from London.  This book was  published last month  by Kogan Page Limited at London and US.

Generally all the companies make huge noise about the employee motivation and employee satisfaction.  But in reality, they remain more in paper.  A serious research or study is not made by any company to understand the ground reality of the employee perceptions.  Whatever the surveys done in the name of 'employee satisfaction survey' serve the ISO audit purposes only.

In this book, Susan deals with the various aspects of communication research, development questionnaire,  measurement, interpretation of  data, strategies and action to be adopted.  She also explains as to how such communication research can help the companies in the employee engagement.

The author has divided the 20 chapters into three sections, viz. (a) Measurement, (b) Strategy and (c) implementation.  Even the complicated technical details have been presented in a simple manner.  She has also shared interesting and relevant case studies in these chapters.

This book will serve as a good handbook for the Communication Managers, HR Managers and Research organisations.  This book is available in UK, USA and in India.

The author Susan’s career began in the internal communications field before joining Market and Opinion Research International (MORI), the major UK research agency where she headed the employee research practice. She is now running her own engagement and communication evaluation research business.

Susan is  a Fellow of the Institute of Internal Communication and an  Accredited  Business 
Communicator (IABC). She has held various posts within IABC UK Chapter in the past and presented 
at events worldwide including IABC conferences in New York, Los Angeles and Brussels. 

The author can be contacted through mail at

I interviewed Susan  over mobile.  Please listen to the interesting conversation.  The transcript of this conversation is also given below the YouTube flash player.  This podcast can also be listened from (6 minutes)

Transcript of this conversation:

What prompted you to write this book?

I was inspired to write the book because I had looked at the market and there were books about research, and engagement and communication but there were really no books that tied all three together and looked at employee research from that point of view - that is what stimulated me to write the book.

What is employee engagement?

Well, there are all sorts of definitions of employee engagement and I think a lot if it is down to an employee who is interested in the company, understands its purpose, who feels part of it – and that feeling that they with the organization and want to help it.

Many companies conduct  conduct employee satisfaction surveys for ISO purposes. can it be considered as communication research?

Yes, I  think so, it concerns satisfaction which is really I suppose another work for engagement and especially if there are communications quests as well, I think It would be considered as engagement and communication research.

What are the areas covered by you in the book?

Three main areas: first of all measurement. This covers basis tools such as objective questionnaire design, statistical reliability, sampling. Then the second section about strategy which is engaging senior management, looking at benefits of research and linking with the business. Then the third section about action planning, defining what needs to be done from the survey results. And also a number of case studies and also interviews with leading professionals around the world: an important part of the book to have that global perspective.

What is the trend of communication research globally?

Interesting talking to people from all over the world Brazil, Russia ,China and of course India and although circumstances and cultures vary it seems that many of the challenges we face are the same The prime one being engaging senior management and convincing senior management that it is worthwhile measuring their employee engagement and communications. Also making sure that action happens as a result. So although we may come from different places, we all seem to share the same challenges.

Somewhere in your book, you have mentioned about 'Arthasastra'.  How you got impressed with Arthasastra?

What impressed me, it was written many thousands of years ago and people think things written a long time ago have nothing to teach us. In fact this is said to be the very first management book that was ever written. But what impressed me was that it did not just look at aspects like the military and the economy but it also looked at welfare. And a lot of the advice which was then said to be for the King could be said nowadays to be about the CEO of the organsiation – like the King of the organization. And I felt that a lot of what was written there was just as applicable today as it was then.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Making of Podcasts and EMagazines

Prime Point Srinivasan addressing the students
On 1st December 2012, I was invited to address the broadcast journalism students of NDTV-IndiaCan Education on the subject 'Making of Podcasts and EMagazines'.  Since I have been publishing podcasts and Ezines for the past several years, they invited me to share my experience.

I shared with them the techniques of making effective podcasts and also the emagazines.  It was a wonderful experience for me to have  interacted with the young budding broadcast journalists.

I am sharing the ppt presentation for the benefit of interested persons.  If anybody wants to get more details or inputs about the techniques of podcasts and ezines, he/she can contact me through mail  

Some of the photographs taken during the event.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

PR workshop at Sevalaya

Sevalaya, a Chennai based NGO offers a wonderful service to the rural poor, by transforming their life for the past 24 years silently.  Inspired by Mahakavi Bharathiyar, Mahatma Gandhi and Vivekanada,  Mr Muralidharan, a software engineer founded this trust to take care of the really underprivileged and destitute children and old age people.

Now, they have entered the 25th year of operation. They are running a Higher Secondary School (Mahakavi Bharathiyar Higher School School)  in Kasuva village near Thiruninravoor (40 KM from Chennai) providing high standard education and moral values to 1650 poorest children. Every year, they get 100% results in the State Board Examinations of 10th and 12th Standard. 

In the past 24 years, a minimum 15000 children from 33 villages would have benefited by way of education.  They are running one old age home with 60 elderly inmates  deserted by their family members.  160 boys and girls are living in the orphanage.  Even 50 cows are taken care of the Goshala.

Interesting part is that all the services are provided free of cost.  Probably this is the only school in Tamilnadu with so much of children without any 'fee counter', but providing high class education.  (shortly we are writing about them in our site

Since they do not collect any money from the children or elderly people, they have to depend on the sponsors for the support.  Many good hearted individuals and corporates are supporting them silently   Shortly with the support of some of the corporates, they are going to start one Industrial Training Institute to provide vocational courses for the children, to make them employable.  This service also will be provided free of cost.

Their administrative office at Chennai has a small team to look after the public relations and sponsorship.  In order to improve the skills of this team, Prime Point Foundation arranged a one day workshop at their office to expose them to the professional handling of Public Relations.

I  conducted the workshop.  I was supported by Mr Nurullah (Senior Tamil Journalist), Mr Sakthi Prasanna (Senior PR Professional working in a PR Agency) and Ms Bhanu Gomes (Spokes Person of IAC and a Social activist).

The PR team of Sevalaya was trained to make use of Public Relations tool to project the image of the organisation and to get sponsorships.  

During the workshop, we called up Mr S Narendra of Delhi (Former Information Advisor to Prime Minister) and Mr Ananda Padmanabhan (Jaya TV) over phone.  They shared their professional views to improve the PR skills and to increase the sponsorship base.

Last week, I personally visited the School and the campus.  These children deserve support from the public.  Those who want to get in touch with Sevalaya may contact Mr Muralidharan, Founder and Chairman of Sevalaya at

Photos of the workshop:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Internet is a double edged weapon - Use technology with caution

Tamilnadu and Pucherry wing of Indian speech and hearing Association held their 2nd TAN-ISHACON at Puducherry (Pondicherry) on 13th and 14th October 2012. This Conference was attended by speech language pathologists and audiologists of medical profession.   Though this two-day conference was fully packed with various speeches and presentations on papers relevant to their profession, they had organised a session on 'Cyber Challenges' by Prime Point Srinivasan, President of Cyber Society of India.  Probably. This is the first time, any professional conference in India had included an important topic like cyber safety, to create cyber awareness among their delegates.

In the presentation, Prime Point Srinivasan focussed on the various challenges faced by the internet and mobile users and also explained as to how to manage the challenges.  He compared the internet with a 'double edged weapon' and cautioned them to be more careful while using the technology.

Dr S Manoharan, President of TANISHA and Dr N D Rajan, Conference Chairman organised the event at Pucherry in a professional manner.

Please see the presentation of Prime Point Srinivasan.

Please see some of the photos taken during the occassion.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why Accreditation is a must for communication and marketing professionals?

In the globalised competitive  era, the individuals and the companies have now started bench marking their knowledge, proficiency and quality to globally accepted standards.  Companies world over subject themselves to ISO or BS Standards, which are globally recognised. Unless the companies get ISO certification, they may not be able to participate in the tenders internally and globally.

In the same way, IT professionals have now started benching their individual talents through Microsoft Certification and ISACA certification.  These certifications enable the IT professionals to compete globally and succeed professionally.

In the same way, communication and marketing professionals also need to get themselves certified to the global standards, if they want to succeed in their career in future.  I have been impressing upon the need for such global accreditation for the past eight  years.  None of the professional bodies in India are able to come up with any globally accepted certification or accreditation process. We need to prepare our younger generation communication and marketing professionals to compete at global levels.  

Just like we have accepted globally recognised certification process in other areas, the communication and marketing industry also can adopt the globally recognised and accepted certification process to develop their career in future.

US, UK, Australia, South Africa, Singapore and few other countries have already started accrediting their communicaiton and marketing professionals.  The employers give priority only to such accredited professionals in the internal promotions.  Professionals can get accredited in their chosen field, only after few years of experience.

APR Accreditation by Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and FCIPR Accreditation by Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), London are highly popular in US and Europe.

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is one of the respected International bodies operating in more than 100 countries.  They offer ABC Accreditation (Accredited Business Communicator). All the professionals who are connected with Business Communicaiton field like Public Relations, Corporate Communication, Marketing Communication, Journalism, etc are eligible for Accreditation process. Only working professionals can apply for Accreditation.

Accreditation process involves 3 stages.  (1) Application, (2) Submission of two Portfolios (work samples), based on the applicant's own experience and (3) written and oral examination.  Senior Accredited professionals will mentor and guide the candidates.

Recently, I recorded an interview with Mr Bish Mukherjee, President of IABC's India South Chapter.  Mr Bish was earlier the Accreditation Director for Asian countries and now the Asian coordinator for the prestigious Quill Awards of IABC.  He has mentored many professionals.

I have also recorded an interview with  Dr Rajiv Kumar. He is one of the top management officials in the Tata Group handling Corporate Communication.  He is presently the Director in the Accreditation Committee of IABC.  He supervises the Accreditation process of Asia Pacific, Europe, South America and Africa.

Please watch this interesting and informative podcast (12 minutes). If anybody wants to get more information and guidance, they can send mail to Mr Bish Mukherjee at

This podcast can also be watched in YouTube

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Seminar on Education Loan by Puthiya Thalaimurai Foundation

(L to R) Pon Dhanasekaran, Prime Point Srinivasan
R Ramkumar, N Bhuvaneswari
Puthiya Thalaimurai Foundation (PTF) organised a Seminar on "Education Loan" at Sri Sankara Vidyalaya Metriculation Higher Secondary School, Urapakkam, Chennai on Saturday the 11th August 2012.  The programme was attended by the senior students and their parents.

Mr R Ramkumar, Advocate and Special Officer of PTF explained the salient features of Right to Education Act.

Mr Pon Dhanasekaran, Joint Editor of Puthiya Thalaimurai - Kalvi Magazine explained the various opportunities and scholarships available for higher education in India.  He suggested to students to look for other higher education courses, instead of flocking towards only engineering courses.  

Mr K. Srinivasan of Prime Point and Convenor of Education Loan Task Force (ELTF) explained the various aspects of Education Loan scheme available with Public Sector Banks.  He also explained about the latest IBA guidelines on providing education loan to vocational courses.  He clarified the doubts of the parents.

The programme was organised by Mrs N Bhuvaneswari, Principal of the School. Earlier, Mr Abdul Kareen, Deputy General Manager of PTF made a presentation on the various activites of PT Foundation.

Please see the pictures.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Seminar on Cyber Security at Panimalar College

Cyber Security workshop at Panimalar College, Chennai
Cyber security workshop

Panimalar Engineering College, Chennai organised a two days workshop on "Cyber Security" jointly with Cyber Society of India on 10th and 11th August 2012.  The workshop was inaugurated by K.  Srinivasan (Prime Point), President of Cyber Society of India on 10th August 2012. Engineering students, faculty members of their college and other colleges participated.

Inaugural function

Dr K. Mani, Principal of the College during his welcome speech expressed concern over the increasing cyber frauds.  Dr Sankara Gomathi, Dean emphasised the importance of creating awareness about the cyber security and cyber laws.

Inaugural speech by K. Srinivasan

While inaugurating the Workshop K. Srinivasan, President of the Cyber Society of India explained as to how the internet and online activities were on increase.  He said while the growing technology offered lot of advantages to manking, the same technology also posed greater challenges to the society.  He insisted that students and faculty members should spread awareness about the cyber challenges, so that the technology was used with greater care for the maximum advantage.  

He also appealed to youth to use the social media with responsibility.  "There is no absolute freedom for writing in social media.   Nobody can claim more freedom than allowed by the law", he cautioned the youngsters, so that they do not get caught by the cyber law implications. 

Student chapters in colleges

Srinivasan also announced that Cyber Society of India would encourage student chapters in every college, to enable  the students interact with external experts  and gain more knowledge.  For such student chapters, Cyber Society of India would provide all technical assistance.  He appealed to the representatives from other colleges to write to, if they were willing to start a student chapter in their colleges.  He said that this should be volunteers based without any membership fee.

Principal of Panimalar College also assured that they would soon start a student chapter in their college, so that the students could organise quiz, seminars, present papers on cyber related issues.

Dr. S Kannan, Head of the Department of ECE propsed vote of thanks.

About the workshop

Two days programme include discussions on cyber law, cyber security, testing technologies, Credit cards/ATMs related issues, implications of cyber crimes, data security in cloud computing, cyber crime investigation, virus meance, etc.  

Experts from Cyber Society of India Mr V Rajendran, Mr J Prasanna, Mr Shanker Kumar, Mr S N Ravichandran. Dr B Muthukumaran, Mr N Ramamurthy, Mr Kapaleeswaran and Mr R Ramamurthy share their views on different topics.

Dr Sankara Gomathi, Dean is personally coordinating the organisation of this workshop.  Please see some of the pictures taken during the inauguration.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Communication skills for auditors - Ford sets a new trend

Generally, all the Companies arrange communication skills sessions only for their employees, who are communicating externally, like marketing, public relations professionals, etc.   In reality, communication is the 'live wire' of the organisation. 

Every employee in an organisation, whether he/she belongs to x department or y department, he/she needs to improve the communication skills.  Many of them may not communicate externally, like marketing professionals.  But they  communicate internally within their organisation.

Internal Audit Department of Ford Company at Chennai started thinking in this line.  Most of the time, the internal auditors in any organisation are the 'unwanted people' by others. because of their nature of job.  But their role is highly important in the smooth functioning of the system.  Most of the time, they become 'UnSung heroes' of the organisation, but they are subjected to  sharp criticisms from their own colleagues.  In all the organisations, a big gap exists between the auditors and the rest of the employees.

Ford organised a three day 'Annual Conference' at Chennai to review their performance from 26th June 2012.  Around 30 auditors from all the Units of Asia Paciic Region were the participants.

In order to bride the gap between the auditors and the other employees, the Audit Department of Ford invited me to present a session on 'Communication skills for auditors - Get the message across'.  After the formal inauguration by Mr Vadivelan, General Manager of the Audit Department, they asked me to handle the first and inaugural session.  This indicated the importance given by the Audit department for communication skills, for better relationship.

During the course of my presentation, I was explaining the various ways, the communication from the sender may get distorted leading to bad relationship and misunderstanding.  The  auditors have a great role to play in any organisation and their role cannot be compromised.  Hence,  they are required to handle the situations very carefully without demotivating the other employees and without getting misunderstood.  I shared some of my experiences and  gave tips for improving the communication skills.

This  concept of introducing a session on 'communication skills' in the auditors conference was conceived by Mr Vadivelan, General Manager and Mr Balachandar, Manager of the Audit Department.  Ford has set a new trend, which can be emulated by other companies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Advisory to CSR - New initiative by Good Relations India

Here for the long haul: Anthony Good

If an agency has been around for almost a quarter of a century in India- and more than 40 years in existence globally – there must be something valuable about its offerings that may be setting it apart from its peers in the business. True to its objective, Good Relations India has been one such agency that has been the bedrock for clients who continue to flock to its doorstep for seeking solutions, however small or complex they may be.

Anthony Good
As part of its continuing efforts to provide the best solutions to its clients, Good Relations has announced the rollout of its CSR initiative – CSR Advisory and CSR Audit, with which it hopes to redefine the way clients approach the function. With Anthony Good, Founder & Chairman, Good Relations and Deepak Kanulkar, CEO, India leading the drive, the company has an imperative plan up its sleeve as they take to the new terrain in India .

In conversation with Johnson Napier of MxM India, Anthony Good and Deepak Kanulkar delve deep into the need for such a service in India, analyse how the CSR marketplace is currently placed in India and predict what’s in store for the agency in time to come. Excerpts:

The Good Relations Group boasts a legacy whose origins sprang at a time when the PR industry itself was in its infancy. What was the thought process you went through to come up with an agency that was much ahead of its time?
Anthony: We were one of the first public independent agencies to start here in India in 1988. Before that the agency took wings in the UK even before you were born. Our claim to fame was for two things: one was that we were the first to float in the London Stock Exchange, making us the only PR company at that time to do so. The reason we got there was because we were pioneers in extending the bricks of the PR service from pure Press Relations. I myself was a journalist and started at the lowest level but it’s funny what you learn as a beginner and when it stands you in good stead. I then spent time doing PR for an airline group and that responsibility led on to a marketing role. When I left to start a PR agency, I realised at that stage that PR even then was moving away from press relations to a broader range of responsibilities. In fact, when we floated Good Relations in the UK we had seven operating subsidiaries. We were also the first agency to own a design firm and have an advertising arm – though not in the conventional sense. Unlike the way things were structured in those days, where many ad agencies owned PR subsidiaries our ad agency was designed to carry forward programmes which were PR programmed.

Having planted the seeds of ingenuity across several domains, how did your tryst with CSR come about? Also, when did India figure in the scheme of things for the Good Relations group?
Anthony: One of the domains that has always been high on our radar is the area of social responsibility. Let me illustrate with an example. You may have social issues relating to, for example, water pollution. Now you may need to use advertising as a tool to tell people what you are doing so that they get the message from more than one source. That led us to believe that the future of PR was combining a number of specialist areas so that for any given set of requirements of the clients you could bring together the specialists in those areas. But one may wonder why we didn’t do that when we came to India ? The answer to that I’d say is: India wasn’t ready for it at that point in time. It wasn’t even that way when I originally started Good Relations. We didn’t have seven specialist units then. PR wasn’t ready, even we launched on the London Stock Exchange, but when we floated we had a range of offerings, which meant we could feel like specialists in each of those areas. Now you may say: aren’t these things that companies can do for themselves?

Exactly. And, also you do have companies that have an in-house CSR facility…
Anthony: In fact there is a tendency with bigger companies to only do these sort of things (CSR) in-house. Even in a country like Britain, which is in no way near as hierarchal like India, and I say this with a bit of experience – this is my 371st visit to India – and I have learnt that Britain may be hierarchal, but India is the expert at that. If you are not at a decision-making level in an Indian company, you are unlikely to be able to convince the senior management that what you are saying is right. I think it is a dangerous thing to keep all these responsibilities in-house. If you are talking about basic press relations, a large retail store for example, will need to have in-house people who will know the ins and outs of merchandise, stores and management, but when it comes to rather broader issues not only do you need a greater breadth of experience but also you need the ability to say: Mr client, you are wrong!

When you come to Corporate Social Responsibility, often you will find companies who think that they know what they have to do and what not to do and actually reminding companies of their responsibilities in this area of the importance of developing a reputation into the community relaying a very important message that if you are not at a decision-making level then it may be just as difficult. What we are doing here is very much to duplicate what we did in Britain but also having regard to the particular need of this environment. One must realise that doing the right thing lasts a very long time but doing the wrong thing lasts even longer, maybe forever.

How would you differentiate CSR from Crisis Management, which is another important function that’s receiving due attention by most agencies?
Anthony: The two, in a sense, go hand in hand. Being responsible and making companies aware of their need to be seen as part of the community in which they operate, establishing what the needs of the community are and being seen as a source of solutions looking at what they should be doing and what they should not be doing. I remember what someone told me during one of my trips to this country: nothing ever moves upwards in an Indian company. The best advice that one can give to companies looking to come to India is that bit of advice. We know of companies who have tried meeting company ‘x’ for years but nothing comes out of it as things only move downwards. That’s why I feel it is important to have a consultancy relationship, because the top people do listen to consultants. There is a need for specialised professional advice but they are unlikely to think that it will come from within their own business.

Do you provide consultancy services to any other units of Good Relations across the world?
Anthony: You must know that Good Relations Group Plc, which we floated in the UK, was acquired by the Lowe Group which was also acquired by the Interpublic Group. And, you may know that there are two big communication companies in the US namely, Omnicom and Interpublic. The Good Relations agency was bought out by one of my friends and refloated as Chime Communications. So I am no longer part of that group, however, we had started GR in India when it was independent. My personal involvement as of now is only with Good Relations in India .

As you make a dash for floating CSR into India, what has been the attempt in finding out what is it that is desired from this unit in India?
Deepak: I have been on the client side of the business before I joined Good Relations in 2007 and what I have seen is that whenever it comes to CSR – especially at the ground level – clients start doing CSR initiatives as per the specifications provided by the local panchayats without even due diligence as to what is required in that particular area. This, I feel, is a huge gap. In the sense that the money is being spent but whether it is rightly spent is the question to be asked. In most cases, this used to be the actual ground situation where the money is spent because the sarpanch is saying so. What we plan to do is something different.

What is the difference you seek to bring with your offering?
Deepak: We would be offering two services: CSR Advisory and CSR Audit. Where CSR Advisory is concerned, when a company has to set up office in a certain location apart from other branches of engineering, what is also important is social engineering. Where is the location, what is the demographics, breakup of population and so on, it is important to have adequate knowledge of the entire social scenario. There is that gap which I have always seen. I’ve seen it rampantly. I have travelled a lot; I have travelled in interior places and I have seen ground realities. I have travelled to the village where UID card was launched…and I have seen people and I have seen the requirement, there is always a gap between what the company does – although they are spending on CSR -but whether it is effectively benefitting the community and the company nobody knows. So, I think our product which we are offering will bridge this gap. Each rupee has to be spent prudently and each rupee spent has to achieve its objective.

What about CSR Audit?
Deepak: The other product is CSR Audit. Now, normally companies do CSR directly or indirectly through the NGOs. The person who is sitting in the HQs is not getting a real picture of what is happening at the ground level. The NGOs are reporting that everything is happening properly; occasionally they send photographs of the activation programmes. But I think that like we have financial audits, there should be an audit from a third-party, not really the CSR company representative or the NGO local catalyst. It has to be done by independent body or agency which will actually go and see what is being implemented and report it back to the management. Normally, it doesn’t get reported in the right frame or the right percentage to the management. I used to work with a couple of MNCs and one thing I have realized is that whenever there used to be someone visiting from, say, Singapore or Hong Kong, it always reminded me of my school inspection days. On that school inspection day, you’ll have everything neat and tidy. Everything will be organised and in place. During inspections, things are taken care of, which isn’t the case otherwise.

What is the connect you are trying to draw with CSR?
Deepak: With the above example, the bosses here are showing the super bosses from the APAC region only what they want to see. And if the company is going to have a certain strategy on the basis of what is shown to them then that strategy is definitely going to fail. Because you are not giving them the right picture or a full picture, or maybe both. So, I think for sustainable organizations, we have to look in the mirror and assess ourselves and project the right picture. For a management, be it any strategy, a right picture has to be given. And our products, both the services that we are offering, are actually kind of an outreach program which will give the right picture. And if CSR is about helping the communities around, we have to make sure that it is ‘actually’ helping the companies around. I remember some time back Rahul Gandhi had mentioned that out of Rs100 that is spent on social initiatives, only Rs5 reaches the poor while Rs95 is getting evaporated.

I think same could or would be happening in the corporate funding front for social products. And this needs to be arrested especially because CSR Bill has taken shape now; companies having a certain slab of turnover and profitability have to spend 2 per cent of that on CSR. I think this is a very big and good move and which is why we are getting into this. It’s because CSR is going to be something which is not a feel-good kind of a thing but something which deals with corporate sustainability. It will be an integral operations issue, it will be related to the DNA of the organization and not something that I am doing because I am liking it or not liking it. This is very important and this is why we are coming up with the two offerings.

When do the two units flag off?
Deepak: Right now, as we speak. And the reason we are doing so is because we want this to reach out to the corporate audiences. And of course, this will be available at a cost because this is not a CSR that we are doing. We are doing it as a service which will be chargeable. But there is a proper framework that has been put in place. It is not that services are being launched for the sake of launching. They are being launched after understanding all that I discussed with you and also there is a framework of not only system in process but also of right people. So we have people who are part of NGOs, we have people from the public life – MPs and MLAs who have done a lot of good work at the ground level , we have people from academics who are into CSR… So it’s not something we say that we know everything about it. No. We have taken partners in progress who are experts in the domain of social responsibility. This is broadly what it is.

Any other USP to expect from your CSR venture?
Deepak: In terms of specifics, each CSR mandate is going to be unique and the biggest thing which is going to happen is that in each CSR, it will be mandatory for each team to go on a ground visit. We are not going to teach or preach CSR by sitting in AC offices. We are going to roll our sleeves and go and hit the ground and do an audit. And when we are doing a third party audit, we are going to do it independently, so that we get an honest feedback from the beneficiaries. We are not going to go as a part of an NGO or a company because the opinions can be twisted. We are going to go there as independent people and get the real picture.

Not many PR agencies have a CSR Audit unit which in a sense makes you different from the lot…
Deepak: People have CSR advisory but I don’t think they have Audit. For this, I have worked on grass root level. And CSR is not something which you can start or launch by sitting here in Mumbai. You have to have the experience of working in the interiors. I have travelled to tribal habitats where a concrete road ends 6kms away from the village. I don’t need packaged water but can have water from the railway station because my system has become immune. So, it’s about your ability to reach out to the grassroots and how many companies will be in the capacity to have this? None. We have in-house team members who have travelled inside-out across many states of India . You need that passion.

It’s a product that we are offering but one needs to have that passion to have that sympathy and empathy to drive this as a product. We are not developing this as a profit making machine; it is because we feel that if India has to grow, Bharat has to grow. And if Bharat has to grow, we all need to take an inclusive approach. India cannot grow at the cost of Bharat. We are there as messengers of finding the truth at the grass level and getting it on discussion platforms. Until and unless we honestly get it out from Bharat, it will be difficult of India to manage Bharat and Bharat to be part of India . Although, we are a one country but there is a Bharat and an India . And through this product we are attempting to see that Bharat benefits from the money India makes from India and Bharat.

So for 2012, CSR is going to be a big thing for GRI.
Deepak: It is a good thing and we are looking at it in a way that a rupee saved is a rupee earned. So it is all about sustainability and it is all about going and ensuring that the rupee spent is spent on right cost.

How would you rate the growth of your agency in India thus far?
Deepak: This is my fifth year at GRI. I have seen the slowdown of 2008 and at that point I was very new in the company and I was promoted to head the company. We are in the business of relationships, although everyone wants to make money at the end of the day.
We did not lose a single client at that particular time which means we have a valuable service to offer. I still remember that there were some clients who were offered same services by competition at 35per cent of our fee. I got a call from a CEO of a company to know how the other company was offering same service at that fee. So I went and met him and quite a few others and told them how they are offering you can ask them, but why and what I am offering is because we are very prudent in terms of taking business. As a company policy we are not into rat race.

What is it you desire to see becoming of Good Relations in time to come?
Anthony: We are not in this business for the short term; we are here for the long haul. We have been around for almost 25 years so we must be doing something right. Our effort is to see that the relationship we share is a win-win for both the client and for ourselves. What we intend to do is have an annual fee review which is based on work done on our side and value delivered to our clients. And with inflation making a comeback here, we hope to have an inflation-proof fee which will see us giving the best value to our clients even in dire times. In every business there are two sets of people: those who are there for making a quick buck and those who are there for the long ride. And I can claim that we are very much here for the long run.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Knowledge driven communication - an initiative by Adfactors PR

Communication professionals in the session
Adfactors PR, India's leading Public Relations Agency has moved to a spacious premises a couple of weeks back at Mumbai and Delhi visualising their long term business growth.  Mr Madan Bahal, Managing Director of Adfactors PR invited me to visit their new facilities and to address their communication professionals.  Adfactors PR ranks in the top 10 among the Asian PR agencies and also in the top 100 at global level.  They are No 1 in India for their revenue.

I visited them on 19th April 2012. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mr Madan Bahal himself had come to airport personally to receive me.  I was highly impressed with his humbleness and simplicity, in spite of his holding top slot in the industry.  

The centrally located new premises in Mumbai has nearly 50000 sft of carpet area in three floor.  I am told that no PR agency in the world has so much of space, that too in a single location.

Many meeting halls, conference halls, gym with latest equipments, recreation centre, pantry, canteen, spacious working table were highly impressive.  An excellent library with books, periodicals is a star attraction.  They plan to add audio and video books also.  The new facility can accommodate nearly 450 employees.

In all the three floors, they have brought out ancient Indian wisdom through paintings.

They have a new conference hall meant for conducting press conferences fitted with the latest gadgets.  I had the opportunity of addressing their communication professionals in this hall.  Probably, I had the unique honour and opportunity of inaugurating this conference hall by addressing them. 

During the course of my discussions with nearly 50 plus of their professionals, i was taking them to the glory of communication strategies in the early Ramayana and Mahabarata days, which are relevant event today.  The discussions ranged from the new PRSA definition to the clients' expectations to the traiditional media to social media.

I insisted on bridging the 'knowledge gap' of the professionals to keep themselves updated.  This could be possible only through constant updating of their knowledge.  I suggested to them to attend to the seminars, conferences and to join the communication groups and participate in debates.

I was also focussing on the need for getting International Accreditation from institutes like IABC, PRSA, CIPR to become globally competitive. 

Mr Madan Bahal was present throughout taking notes of the discussions.  Finally, I made a small request to Mr Madan Bahal.  Since they have such a huge infrastructure and facility, they can also start an initiative to organise workshops, seminars and discussions for the middle level and senior level professionals of the PR and communication industry.  More than 10,000 professionals are working in Public Relations and Corporate communication segment in India.  As on date, there is no proper mechanism for bridging the knowledge gap.

Since, the tag line of Adfactors PR itself is 'knowledge driven communication', they can take up the initiative to strengthen the knowledge base of industry.  Mr Madan promised to take it forward.  

I even suggested the name as 'Adfactors Academy', which can functions on the lines of National Institute of Bank Management (NIBM), Pune.  NIBM provides training support to the Bank officials at senior and top management level, to update their knowledge.  NIBM is supported by all the Banks.  Now even senior bankers from other countries prefer to take training here.  

All PR bodies, PR Agencies and Corporates can join hands to take it forward.

Please watch the pictures.

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