Anita Bora has served many important roles in her career of 15 years in the communication industry, including the AVP and Head of corporate communications at Wells Fargo India Solutions. She has also been part of Infosys Technologies Ltd. and Yahoo!’s communication teams for almost seven years.
In her exclusive interview with Image Management, Anita shares her thoughts about the importance of internal communications and how best to get it right. Having been an essential part of multiple corporate communication teams, she lays down the client’s criteria for choosing a PR agency and their expectations from the PR professionals.
Q. Do you think freshers entering financial journalism have enough of an understanding of the intricacies of finance?
Freshers lack an understanding of the intricacies, but this is not confined to those in financial journalism. It is true for any fresher who graduates from a journalism school, ready to take on the world.
Even though the employers realize that a fresher cannot have all the necessary skills, it is also important for agencies to understand that they need to brief young journalists or professionals well before sending them into the industry. Seniors could make them observe few meetings etc.
Everyone has been through that phase, so there is an understanding. But freshers need to be armed with enough information about their respective fields when they begin dealing with their clients.
Q. What do you think is a good internal communications strategy to ensure shared vision and values? What initiatives did you drive in terms of internal communications?
Internal communications is a vital focus, and it starts at the enterprise level. Today, change is part of every function and every industry. But change should not disrupt anything. It is necessary only if something needs fixing; otherwise one only needs to reinforce current channels and messaging so that the impact is positive and in the right direction. Course correction is sometimes required, mainly due to the dynamics of a function. If the organization has a solid communications strategy, the focus should be on effective implementation and impact measurement.
At Wells Fargo, the ratio of communications professionals to the number of the team members was higher because of the focus we gave to communications.
We valued each team member as a “competitive advantage”. To ensure that we keep our people updated and informed, we kept them connected in every possible way. Even for our small organization in India, we enabled all kinds of digital and online channels, etc. so that the employees in India don’t feel disconnected from the organization. We had plenty of visual messaging on every work floor so that one was not dependent on one form of messaging.
The brand message, the values, and culture have to be stronger and the messages have to be reinforced. This responsibility lies on the communication head, and we did it through different means and innovative campaigns so that it became a part of every team member’s DNA.
It is also important to see that there is no overdose because a lot of people have work related stress and other kinds of clutter. One should want the team members to be surrounded by the message, not overwhelmed by it. Our campaigns strove to keep this fine balance, which is why we used multiple channels instead of one.
Q. What are the key things you consider when hiring a PR agency?
Firstly, we check whether the agency comes with an understanding of our business. This is essential because unless they understand the business, they can’t help us in conveying our message. They also need to realize that the same business might be different in varying locations. For example, Wells Fargo, in the US has a large retail component, while that is not the case in India. Agencies take some time to understand this key factor. Such understanding usually comes across when they present their pitch.
Secondly, the relationships in the team they put before us matter. It is definitely a factor because it’s hopefully a long term relationship. One does not want to change agencies every 6 months.
Thirdly, the range of skills they bring; whether or not they are updated on the latest trends, what’s happening in the industry, etc. Finally, we consider the reputation of the agency, which is available in the public domain.
Q. How do you think the new Companies Bill will impact the CSR activity of corporates? What opportunities do you think PR can find in there?
I can’t predict how the bill will impact the industry, but CSR has already started to become a part of an organization’s culture, including the ones in India. A lot of good is being done in different areas across the board.
When organizations take the lead, it also serves as an example for others. The impact is measurable and there to see.
Several companies established worldwide already have it in their DNA, so when they set up here in India, it is already part of the strategy. The CSR wing at Wells Fargo is strongly connected to the enterprise and did a lot of work impacting education, children and the underprivileged.
It is interesting that the scope has changed beyond traditional CSR. Organizations are going out and finding new areas to invest in, specific to the Indian context. A lot of companies are trying to bring the young potential workforce up to mark in different skills that India needs as a nation.
I only see more compelling stories that will result out of these efforts. PR professionals should showcase these stories in the right media in the right way. There are lots of opportunities here for PR companies and they need to come up to speed on it.
Q. What is a habit that you think every PR professional should have?
The adaptability to change is very important. Some people, especially the older generation, resist latest technology and strategy. They like to approach things in a certain manner. Today’s generation wants the message too, but probably the way they want to receive it is different. The art of storytelling is also crucial, so that skill is beneficial.
Interviewed by Kunal Pal for Image Management