Telum Talks To...Jacob Puthenparambil, CEO, REDHILL
Telum caught up with Jacob Puthenparambil, CEO of REDHILL, to get his thoughts on running a PR agency in the midst of a pandemic and the future of PR.
Share with us what has been the biggest challenge for REDHILL ever since we caught ourselves in the COVID-19 situation?
Like most others, we are facing the challenge that comes with the uncertainty of how COVID-19 is panning out. The situation is still changing as we speak and even though we are at a better place in our ability to navigate through that, we must continuously prepare for what is around the corner. We thrive on meeting with clients and our teams in person as much as we can. These meetings add a lot of richness to our conversations and contribute to the solutions we provide. Moving these meetings entirely to video conferences and calls has certainly been a huge challenge. The good thing is that we have very quickly adapted to the new situation and leveraged the positives of virtual meetings (no more commuting back and forth).
The pandemic has forced the PR industry to opt for innovative methods. Can you share with us in what ways REDHILL has adapted this in your daily work process?
Traditionally we relied on a communal approach when it came to problem solving, collaboration and training - all of which would demand physical presence. Shifting from the office to working from home have only solidified the trust and teamwork between our leadership and employees.
Now as we work remotely from home, we’re embracing all the wonderful new digital tools that support new working arrangements. Our agency sees internal communications and employee engagement play an even more important role. We have embarked on a lot of peer sharing exercises, going beyond work and cross functional learning within our teams. I feel that all of this is pushing us towards constantly thinking more creatively and more humanely. It also helps us to keep morale high and stay bonded as a team despite the physical distance.
I believe that going forward, this global pandemic will only make us more agile, flexible and resilient to any challenges in the future.
Maintaining relationships with the media has always been in PR’s wheelhouse. Do you think PR’s role of relationship management will continue to grow in importance as we progress to the new normal?
Definitely! We continue to do so in the new normal where building and managing relationships is, if not more, important. We are constantly looking at ways to broaden relationships in an ever-evolving and expanding media landscape, and at the same time deepen those relationships at a time when in-person meetings and interactions are constrained.
Where do you think the PR industry is heading to and what changes can we expect?
The PR industry is operating in a world where technology and attitudinal shifts are redefining how we do business. While the barriers to entry are lower to start businesses, including the availability of self-help PR tool kits, it is becoming tougher to really stand out credibly.
The other parameters in which it operates - media, news, social media, consumption patterns and how people respond to the barrage of content that comes their way are changing. Ask yourself this - how do you get your news and information these days? Social media? Do you still read newspapers and magazines? There are now a lot more ways to get your message out to the world; the industry is no longer only focused on earned media but on owned media as well.
The skill sets required for PR are also changing. Technology is driving the demand for new skills, but it has to be girded by strong fundamentals in how you communicate and interact with people - including ones that display empathy, curiosity and openness to diversity. The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of communications that are evidence-based and driven by value to engage with audiences.
Lastly, what do you hope for REDHILL to achieve in the near future?
REDHILL is razor sharp focused on growing our business, regardless of good or challenging times. We will continue on this path by putting our best foot forward and working with clients to help them grow. That is the only way forward! Even during the last few months, we have managed to sign on very exciting new clients.
And as I mentioned earlier, we will come out to an uncertain world even when all this is over. It will be important to maintain our agility while continuously building on the learnings from the beginning of the pandemic and take them with us - where relevant - into the new normal.