Our latest member spotlight sees 10 questions fielded by Rachana Panda, APACD Board Member.
If you are an APACD member and you’d like to take part in this series, please let us know.
Rachana Panda, VP & Country Group Head Communications, Public Affairs, Sustainability & CSE, Bayer South Asia and APACD Board Member.
1. In no more than three sentences: tell us about your experience over the past 12 months, and outline your predictions for the year ahead.
The last 12 months have been special in myriad ways. While we went into the lockdown, I joined a new role at Bayer and that too virtually. 2020 may have slowed down things, but I believe the year will have a lasting impact on how we go about appreciating what we have and looking at everything from a new lens.
Post pandemic global directions clearly points at : building trust at all levels (employees, consumers, citizens and more), growth of digitization and increasing concern for climate change. And each of these are huge opportunities for growth and impact for our function.
2. Please share a moment from the past 12 months when you saw the direct impact of corporate communications on business performance.
While 2020 was a tumultuous year, and the agriculture and the healthcare sectors bore the brunt of the pandemic, it was the sustained efforts of Bayer employees that ensured our customers, partners and local communities were supported extensively. While the commercial teams ensured “ Health for all and Hunger for none”, the functional teams ensured that these teams were strongly engaged and supported completely. Our CSR teams have had a huge role in supporting sustainable solutions for the holistic development of the rural communities we serve. Everyone worked in complete tandem for the right outcomes. I clearly saw communicators as collaborators and the linkages in making the outcomes impactful.
3. Has the pandemic elevated the importance of the corporate communications function?
Indeed, this function also has evolved by leaps and bounds over this last year. New ways of engagement internally and externally. Keeping up the employee morale and engaged in a virtual world, ensuring business continuity, keeping an eye on what’s going on externally and advising the leaders accordingly and managing all this with fairly stringent budgets. It’s not been easy for the function but I must say the communicators have pivoted very well.
4. In no more than two sentences, describe the opportunities and challenges facing corporate communicators today?
Communicators in today’s world have extremely demanding jobs as they deal with a complex and ambiguous external environment. The expectations from them is very high. This ideally should be leading them to adopt a realistic disposition of the broader ecosystem and help them relook at some of the new age skills like digital capability, “do less with less” attitude and enhanced collaboration.
5. What has been your favourite campaign of the past year? (Not one you were involved in.)
The Nike campaign (on mothers as the toughest athletes).
6. What is one thing the industry can to do to improve diversity?
While the diversity discussion has taken momentum, I think companies can set clear targets for themselves and measure this regularly. At Bayer, we have been an organization that has always been diverse, inclusive and consciously promoting an open atmosphere in the workplace. For us, inclusion and diversity is a key focus area with specific targets to achieve real gender parity at all management levels by 2030. Already by 2025, the company aspires to establish a 50/50 gender balance as an average across all combined management levels. This helps all of us keep focus and commitment on inclusion & diversity.
Moreover, diversity is not just about gender but much more. We clearly need to be more inclusive of diverse views and opinions. In today’s polarized world, we need communicators to step up to encourage more tolerant, balanced views and lead the discussion around diversity in every aspect be it age, skill, personality, origin, views etc. We as a function are progressive & purpose driven. And that’s what puts us in a better position than others to lead such discussions.
7. Which media title can you not live without?
With the pandemic, my news consumption style has changed. I like the audio version of The Economist. It gives a crisp, balanced analysis of what’s happening all across the globe. Economist espresso is my morning ritual!
8. Favorite book/movie/podcast that’s not related to PR/marketing/business?
“Avengers :End Game”.. because of the cinematography and how all super heroes come together for a cause.
9. How do you switch off?
I have started studying art…something I have always valued and patronized. Also have joined a few non-work related forums/communities where we just have fun and also learn things beyond work.
10. If I wasn’t working in marketing/communications, I would be…
Be an art curator or a Montessori school teacher 😊. I love spending time with children.