[PR] Our goal is to achieve standards: N Ramamoorthi

12 Mar,2012

By Johnson Napier

 

While PR agencies are gradually waking up to the phenomenon of social media, there are a few like Ogilvy PR who have been steering the initiative at their workplace for quite some time now. Not surprising that the agency has recorded superior growth through its social media offering last year – a space that’s said to be growing the fastest in the industry today.

 

As the agency seeks to deliver unmatched solutions and leapfrog ahead of its peers, it aims to achieve the objective by hiring talent that is ahead of the curve and by paying adequate emphasis on training. In conversation with MxM India, Mr N Ramamoorthi, President & Country Head, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide discloses his plans for the agency and what would be the possible growth drivers for the PR industry in 2012. Excerpts:

 

How has Ogilvy PR delivered on the growth front in 2011? And, how would you rate your start in 2012?

I joined Ogilvy PR during the second half of last year. My sense is that growth has been good at Ogilvy PR, particularly due to our growth in the social media space. I am sure everyone knows that that’s the part which is growing the fastest in the industry today. It’s an exciting time to be in the PR business, because digital is driving it to be more and more result-oriented.

 

We have had a better-than-expected start in 2012. In Mumbai, we participated in two pitches – both global brands – and won both the pitches. Interestingly, we won both because we showed a good sense of how companies need to engage with their public in a changing environment. We are on our way to creating a new PR approach, and these two pitches confirmed that we are on the right track. Now it’s about our ability to execute and deliver on this approach.

 

How would you assess your client roster across the several domains that you offer your services in?

Our client roster today is a mix – spanning Digital, Corporate, Consumer and Technology clients. We have been able to gather genuine strength in some areas – especially in Consumer PR and in Social media, particularly in the B2B space. And that is an ongoing priority for us – to establish strengths in a few areas that make sense and make a real difference to clients’ businesses. For example, we do work with IBM and we win a lot of IBM’s global Best Practice awards as a team on Social media.

 

How would you rate Ogilvy PR on the parameter of client retention?

Pretty good. Our emphasis is on longer relationships – I feel that for any agency, you need to work with a client for some time; get to be a part of their business and understand their opportunities and issues better. That is when we can become true partners with a stake in client businesses and start making real contributions. This is what we tell clients.

 

How do you review your practices each year so as to stay ahead of the curve on a consistent basis?

One of our advantages here is the fact that in addition to being a part of Ogilvy’s massive reputation in India, we are also part of a regional PR powerhouse. Ogilvy PR is the No. 1 PR agency in the Asia Pacific region – and that brings with it a huge benchmarking and training advantage. You have regional leadership looking critically at your performance in each practice and evaluating whether it fits the standard of the No. 1 PR agency in Asia Pacific. These appraisals are very honest, because nobody likes a regional reputation to be let down. We are excellent in some areas and good in others.  In a couple of areas we would rather keep low till we acquire the skills.

 

Staying ahead of the curve basically depends on two things – One, keep an eye out and hire talent that is ahead of the curve – you will hopefully see a lot of action from us in this area. And two, training. Since early last year, Doug Buemi, Senior Regional Executive Advisor/Asia Pacific, has been spending a tremendous amount of time in India on training. And we’ve begun to see it paying off – at the first stage, with the kind of highly improved scores we are getting in our annual employee surveys.

 

We are today very serious about our PR business and about bringing it up to speed with our regional reputation.

 

A lot of agencies are waking up to the concept of crisis management in India. What is the emphasis you lay on the practice of crisis PR?

A few years ago, we planned and executed an award-winning Crisis management program for an India client. The case is now part of Ogilvy PR’s global crisis management showcase. So we have the credentials there. But we feel what’s happening today is on reactive crisis management than on proactive crisis preparation. Everything has evolved – from the way a crisis strikes to how it spreads and the media it adopts. And a reactive approach just won’t work – look at what is happening all round us, sometimes for some really well known corporate.

 

Our emphasis is on proactive crisis preparation. We have a global module called Brand Shield with which we successfully engage clients and improve preparedness on responding to a potential crisis.

 

What is the shift you observe in the way PR as an industry functions today to what it did, say, about a decade ago?

The industry is evolving in terms of greater professionalization, which is a very good thing. Personally, the one thing I would wish is for the industry’s work and its value to be more noticeable and acknowledged. I read comments from quite a few PR agency heads – that the industry has significant challenges in terms of attracting talent and its ability to command fees commensurate with its contribution. Getting your value to be noticed is the best way to overcome such challenges.

 

Where do you see Ogilvy PR placed in the PR pecking order amongst its contemporaries?

There have been some surveys as well as media articles that have named us within the Top 10 in India in ranking terms. Which is good, but what really motivates is an internal ranking. Our goal is across practices, to achieve the standards set – by Ogilvy in India and by Ogilvy PR in the APAC region. We’ve begun that journey, started to see some results, and that’s the goal that is going to keep us awake at night.

 

How do you think social media has impacted PR and its functioning?

Firstly, it has brought in a new skill and specialization into an industry that is less departmentalized than others. So there is some freshness there. Secondly you have new things, new ideas to share with clients, so scope for growth at this stage is undoubted. Thirdly, it is performance-oriented and can help build long-term advocate-communities which are a big plus to how the industry shows its results. I feel the change is for the better, and not merely in business terms. Culturally this will definitely help the PR industry evolve into the same league as the other, more glamorous communication disciplines.

 

Including talent, what are some of the big challenges facing the PR industry in India?

I’ve spoken about it before in terms of what I read – talent and the average size of client retainers. These challenges can’t be overcome with a logical approach; they need to be overcome by making the industry, the personalities and their work more noticeable. Willing talent and fees will follow.

 

What are your views on international agencies venturing into India? What is the future you foresee for the PR and communications space in India?

I guess everyone is welcome! There is no doubt that PR is evolved in more developed markets; so if some of those practices can be brought into the country to everyone’s benefit, why not?

 

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