What’s a PR agency doing with a marketing head? Quick chat with Genesis CMO Judith Ostronic

23 Feb,2012

By Johnson Napier


For many professionals from the PR and communications industry, having a CMO as a regular fixture in the leadership team may well be a distant dream. But that’s a role that has been integral in the functioning of leading PR agency in India, Genesis Burson-Marsteller. That’s one of the many ways the agency plays the game of differentiation. In keeping with its focus, Genesis recently appointed Judith Ostronic as its CMO in India.


As Chief Marketing Officer, Ms Ostronic will serve as the head of both marketing and new business development for Genesis B-M. In addition to new business, Ms Ostronic will focus on further expanding Genesis B-M’s visibility and leveraging its position as India’s leading integrated communications firm, she tells MxM India in an email interaction.


The immediate goal for Ms Ostronic would be to work alongside other strategists from the team in realizing a well mapped plan for 2012. It is something that has already got her excited as she looks forward to doing her bit in implementing the 2012 plan and working with her colleagues in ensuring that they are prepared to deliver quality counsel and services to its clients under any and all circumstances.


Q: Congratulations on being appointed the CMO at Genesis. On a professional note, what would be your key responsibilities at Genesis?

As Chief Marketing Officer, I serve as the head of both marketing and new business development for Genesis B-M. I’ll be working closely with Prema Sagar, Founder and Principal of Genesis B-M, as well as the practice chairs to incorporate a targeted strategy that ensures we are maximizing every opportunity and converting the best leads into actual business.


In addition to new business, I’ll focus on further expanding Genesis B-M’s visibility and leveraging our position as India’s leading integrated communications firm. India’s public relations industry is experiencing a surge as more multinational corporations expand their operations here, so the field is more competitive than it was just five or ten years ago. Genesis B-M is an industry leader – with a proven track record – and it’s essential we maintain our visibility and reputation as the communications industry begins to keep pace with India’s overall growth.


Q: Having a CMO in a PR firm is an unexplored practice as yet, so to speak. What is the differentiation that a CMO can bring within a PR firm?

The CMO position is not new to Genesis B-M and has been in place for over ten years. Prema Sagar founded Genesis in 1992 and once the firm started to grow, she quickly understood the value of dedicating key personnel to driving new business with a steady eye on marketing and improving brand awareness. With a CMO in place, you have a leadership role dedicated to working across practices and leveraging the necessary media to communicate the value of our services to an increasingly diverse universe of potential clients.


Q: What are the learnings from Direct Impact that you plan to incorporate at Genesis?

Direct Impact specializes in targeted communications across multiple industries and geographies. There is no one-size-fits-all approach when developing a communications strategy for a client, and the same will be true for marketing Genesis B-M’s services. We have the resources to meet the unique needs of a diverse range of clients looking to do business here in India, and therefore we must continuously customize our approach to reaching these clients when marketing our own services.


Q: What is your assessment of the Indian PR and communications market? How does it stack up against the PR model being practised by developed countries, say for example, the US?

The Indian PR market is still relatively new when you compare it to the US, but there is a high volume of multinational corporations here. While these companies may be new to India, their needs in this market aren’t entirely different from the US or elsewhere. Naturally there are nuances to every market but the needs of the clients, and the challenges we in the industry face in meeting those needs, are universal.


Q: What is it about the India offer that made you shift base over here?

India is a fascinating place. Living in the US, I would see daily news reports about India, its people, and of course the economy. India is the world’s second largest population and growing. It’s also a global player commanding international attention and I really wanted to see and experience it first-hand. I am stationed here for two years and will be looking to make the most of every day spent in India.


Q: As the CMO, what would be your contribution in getting more revenue for the company?

There is tremendous revenue opportunity and it is growing. I’ll be working closely with my colleagues at Genesis B-M identifying and converting the best of these opportunities. A sound marketing strategy that highlights our position as an industry leader with a solid talent base will lend to our ability of continuing to attract new business.


Q: Also, will you be possessing authoritative powers to drive change, make investment decisions, media decisions, etc?

There is a shared responsibility for that. The value I hope to bring to Genesis B-M in the near term is that of someone who is new to this market and can view and assess current operations with a fresh perspective. Genesis B-M provides an environment that fosters new ideas and continued growth which ultimately are the drivers of change.


Q: How can a CMO help in addressing impending challenges like that of talent, measurement etc in a PR firm?

As more PR firms enter the market, we are not only competing for clients but also for talent. In my role as CMO I will dedicate much of my focus to building and maintaining our reputation as a respected firm that operates under strict ethical standards. This will be integral to attracting the best clients and make this a place where experienced and qualified communications professionals want to work.


Q: Do you feel other PR firms need to consider hiring CMOs as a routine exercise?

Of course I think there is tremendous value in having a CMO here at Genesis B-M. Every firm is structured differently, however, so it’s difficult to say if it should be an industry standard.


Q: Have you chalked out a marketing plan for Genesis India for 2012?

Prema and her team have a well mapped plan for 2012 that was already in place when I arrived. Genesis B-M has a strong team of talented strategists who have applied their knowledge and experience in putting this plan together. Key to the success of any plan, however, is having the flexibility to adjust to whatever comes your way. I look forward to doing my part implementing the 2012 plan and working with my colleagues to ensure we are prepared to deliver quality counsel and services to our clients under any and all circumstances.


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