Aiming to be the most complete communications firm in the world: Yusuf Hatia, FleishmanHillard

03 May,2013

By Johnson Napier


In what could be termed as a defining moment, communications shop FleishmanHillard unveiled a newly refreshed corporate brand and associated digital media property on May 2. The new branding reflects the evolution of the PR firm into a fully integrated communications company that provides clients with complete communications solutions.


As part of the exercise, FleishmanHillard has unveiled a new brand platform, tagline and logo. The new logo reflects the trust and confidence that clients have placed with the firm and is said to have a more fresh, innovative and contemporary interpretation. While the logo has brought the names of both founders – Fleishman and Hillard – on one line to reflect the heritage of the firm, there is also an iconic mark that can be seen that complements the logo and symbolizes the transformation of the firm.


Yusuf Hatia, MD, Client Service, FleishmanHillard India responds to queries by MxMIndia on the significance of engaging in such a game-changing exercise. While there is a lot that is being planned through this initiative, Mr Hatia asserts that the aim is to let everyone know that FreishmanHillard is the most complete communications firm in the market. Excerpts:


Given that FleishmanHillard is in the midst of a rebranding exercise at the moment, how game-changing and extensive an initiative is it going to be?

We think it is part of a very important and significant development in how we position the changing nature of our business in an industry that has been rapidly evolving over the last few years. Over these years, in most of the markets we operate in, we have been delivering fully integrated work – from identifying a critical insight, to taking responsibility of the strategy, to developing the story, and delivering content across paid, earned, shared and owned channels. Our brand refresh permeates our agency and we see it as game-changing. Our industry is evolving and we plan to be at the forefront. In most of the markets we operate in, we’re being asked for and we’re delivering integrated work from insight to strategy to the story and content across all channels, not just via traditional print or broadcast. For instance, many of our clients and industry peers are surprised to hear that, last year, FleishmanHillard placed $1.2 billion in paid media. Our new brand will communicate the new reality of our company.


What are the reasons for undergoing a repositioning initiative at this juncture?

The market has evolved beyond the previous silos of advertising, media, PR and other disciplines and we feel it is time that we reflect how our business has changed and is changing. While PR remains at the heart of FleishmanHillard, the very definition of PR is changing and broadening. Our brand refresh let’s everyone know that we’re in communications and that we want to be the most complete communications firm in the market. Our brand hasn’t changed since 1990 but the market has, so we took a hard look at what it represented, what we’re actually doing and have recreated ourselves for the present and positioned ourselves for the future. Where we landed was the concept of true and the need to be true.


What are some of the new changes that one will get to see from this rebranding exercise?

FleishmanHillard is treating the change through a brand refresh. This goes beyond a new logo and a strapline. We went back to our DNA to understand what our unique proposition is and listened to clients, partners and employees. All of our analysis focused on a need to be true and our refresh is built around that word. True is our reality as well as our aspiration. We see our role as helping clients be as they wish to be seen. In many respects, this is what PR has always been about and we’re remaining true to our virtues in helping our clients present a true picture of who they are but in a new age where the dynamics of communication are very different. Organizationally, we’ve invested in digital in India and globally. We’ve also brought in marketing integration experts and key insight specialists.


How would you analyze the year 2012-13 for FleishmanHillard on the growth parameter in India?

Our business in India is still growing and we had a solid year last year that is in line with our strategy for what we believe in will be one of the most important PR markets in the world. India is unique in its size, demographics and growth trajectory but also because it is a democracy with a free and independent media. We have a strategy to organically and inorganically grow and work for some of India’s leading brands as well as helping our global clients navigate the Indian market.


In terms of new client wins, how would you rate your performance across verticals?

We had a good year in 2012 and added some important clients to our existing list. They include L’Oreal, Sony and Convergys; we’ve also extended work with existing clients such as Godrej and Emerson (a company that FleishmanHillard has worked with for nearly 60 years). We’ve only just scratched the surface but that’s what makes this market so interesting – the potential for growth is immense!


What were some of the new initiatives you undertook in 2012-13 to spur growth for your company?

We invested in digital talent at a very senior level when we hired Riitu Chugh who came to us not from another PR agency but from other creative and digital specialist agencies. We’ve strengthened our senior management talent with new general managers in Mumbai and Delhi to lead our businesses in the two biggest Indian markets. Our talent strategy in India is consistent with our strategy elsewhere: find the best people, build the business around them and give our clients what they really need. It is in line with our holding company Omnicom’s motto: talent conquers all. In 2013, we’ll continue to add to our senior talent, invest in our teams through training and cross network account work and look for non-linear growth in areas including social, digital and across paid, earned, shared and owned channels. We’re also collaborating closely with others in the Omnicom network and have pitched and worked alongside TBWA, BBDO and DDB Mudra. In fact, earlier this year, we moved in with DDB Mudra not just because the company has a great working space but because there are immense advantages of sitting alongside hundreds of creatives from every single marketing discipline. PR cannot afford to sit in isolation and remain independent of other marketing strategies. The new reality is to work with everyone else to address what clients want – and more often than not, that’s a total solution to a business need and not PR. A project for Nissan last year did just that and we worked with TBWA, a UK digital agency and others to deliver a multi-discipline campaign that was shortlisted for a Spikes Asia Award.


The past year was believed to be a tough one for many players in the PR & Communications space. How did the year pan out for FleishmanHillard?

In India, our business is still growing and we didn’t see the kind of slowdown that others may have experienced. But our business is a little different from other players in this market and we have taken a contrarian view of the India opportunity. We have benefitted from international clients who still see India as a growth opportunity and we work with Indian enterprises that are looking to grow in India and beyond. There was a period over the last 6-8 months when there was a slowdown in activity which some of our clients put down to the changing political landscape and a policy paralysis, but that seems to have now passed and we’re seeing business as usual.


A few big players from the fraternity have highlighted a degrowth that’s being observed and also skepticism from the client’s end to pump in more money. Is it a cautious phase for the industry to be in right now?

The market is changing and we’re seeing clients ask for more evidence and measurement to prove the value delivered. But we are used to this approach in other markets and we have processes and mechanisms in place that can put across a convincing position to, for instance, a procurement team or a CFO. This is a market where there is an instinctive need to show a return on investment and asking for a hike in fees is not a given at all. But when you can show extra value or tap an unidentified need, for instance digital, then clients are open to investment.


The recent past has also seen a few players venturing out to offer unique solutions of their own. Will it be a healthy exercise to engage in the long-term?

Every agency needs to differentiate so it’s always a healthy approach to bring new solutions to India. You will see our brand refresh showing how we’re different and how we can bring something new to the conversation.


Are you contemplating launching new verticals/arms in the imminent future?

At this stage, we’re focused on delivering the core business of FleishmanHillard in India and since we’re still relatively new to this market, we have a lot of opportunities and potential to address. However, if a client needs a particular offering and we see a business justification for doing so, we’re always open to expanding our scope in India. We’ve done this in the past: a major banking client wanted a very specific offering and we created a dedicated team for that client and for a particular need.


What is your vision for 2015 in India?

Exactly what we aim to be in every other market: the most complete communications firm in the world.


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