Our latest member spotlight sees 10 questions fielded by Sukanya Chakraborty, APACD Member.
If you are an APACD member and you’d like to take part in this series, please let us know.
Sukanya Chakraborty, Head, Corporate Communications and CSR, VFS Global and APACD 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
Unlearn. Learn. Adapt.
The change in media landscape, coupled with the rise in mobile-first consumers demanding real time information, required communicators to be vigilant and act with agility. As we move ahead, success lies in being dynamic and adopting an approach guided by the new sensitivities of the world we live in.
2. Please share a moment from the past 12 months when you saw the direct impact of corporate communications on business performance
Most companies are no stranger to crisis-mitigation, but the impact that COVID-resulted in is one that none of us were ever prepared for. The crisis playbooks that existed before 2020 became inapt during the pandemic, and all through the year, as companies continued to revisit their strategy time-to-time to tackle the evolving situation head on. In our case, with the travel eco-system facing drastic changes, slowdowns and even shutdowns, it became more important than ever to keep consumers, employees, partners, and other stakeholders apprised of all developments. This, however, needed to be done in a way that was both transparent and reassuring – the kind that could help reinstate the faith in travelling again. Empathy-Engage-Educate became the tent pole of our strategy. All communication that stemmed from this approach helped address business challenges at an operations level while solidifying client trust, influencing employee performance, and ensuring customer satisfaction. The uptick in media reportage and social media impressions and conversations, feedback from various quarters reinstated us as an authentic source of information that built confidence among audiences.
3. Has the pandemic elevated the importance of the corporate communications function?
Yes, absolutely. As every business strived to gain trust over financial growth, demonstrate empathy and help the country in whatever way possible, earned conversations became critical to boardroom strategy. By making a shift to becoming a proactive function which led narrative building and reputation management in the midst of a crisis. With strategic planning and better pulse on stakeholders, communication leaders became custodians of rightful information that helped businesses realize the gaps and address them in the smallest corner of the country, updated the business units with relevant developments and aided in identifying opportunities that best reflect the brand’s values and functioning even during the most distressing times. There is greater onus on corporate communication professionals to be adept with all the different aspects of the business and work closely with other functions to identify and drive meaningful communication.
4. In no more than two sentences, describe the opportunities and challenges facing corporate communicators today
Our canvas has got bigger, which gives us the opportunity of a wide spectrum of channels and formats available for exploring new ways of communication. This also makes information repetitive at times, presenting a challenge to find the right synergy between the communication opportunity and making it relevant for the audience.
5. What has been your favourite campaign of the past year? (Not one you were involved in.)
There are enough examples of how brands engaged with their audience segments and the world-at-large during the Covid crisis. Barring a few ill-timed communications, most brands changed their tone and narrative to suit the times and did it well by not force-fitting themselves. Some that come to my mind are Nike, McDonalds, Ikea, Ford, Amazon, Swiggy, Ola, Amul, Fevicol among others. With offline events completely out of the picture, many brands have experimented with online events and tasted success. A few examples that immediately come to my mind because of the organic conversations they created include the launch of Asics’ shoes, the all-new i20 in India and the recent unveiling of the OnePlus 9 series.
6. What is one thing the industry can to do to improve diversity?
The pandemic has been an eye-opener of sorts for individuals, businesses, and communities at large, disrupting and creating new ways of adapting to everyday situations. We’ve seen a renewed appreciation for multi-tasking abilities as people dabbled between work and home responsibilities. While profitability usually acts critical to every business, this time we are seeing a shift in this trend as more and more organizations focus on building sustainable models that add value for its most important stakeholders- the employees.
Across any industry, D&I should never just be limited to the recruitment strategy. Organizations need to foster a culture wherein diversity reflects in day-to-day business processes and operations including learning & development, employee engagement, decision-making and product innovation. Ensuring equal opportunities to employees irrespective of their gender or ethnicity, while maintaining a meritocratic approach, is another important aspect in the endeavor to achieve an equal workplace. Lastly, commitment from the leadership in making sure everyone in the organization contributes and adds value to the agenda will further help put policies to practice. Fair to say that organizations overcome diversity-related challenges when business leaders take it upon themselves to make their workplace more inclusive.
7. Which media title can you not live without?
Google News if that would qualify 😊
8. Favorite book/movie/podcast that’s not related to PR/marketing/business?
There are many movies and books that are always part of my list to watch or read again and again. I like reading different genres – biographies, Indian history and politics, art & handlooms and mystery thrillers. On the movie front, always on my list are The Sound of Music and a few of Satyajit Ray’s masterpieces.
9. How do you switch off?
I have multiple interest areas that include painting /sketching, doodling everyday life topics, DIY crafts, experimenting with cooking on weekends, photography and sometimes just sitting by the window observing the world around.
10. If I wasn’t working in marketing/communications, I would be…
A medical practitioner or working in healthcare related areas 😊