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Written by Team Wizikey

May 6, 2022

Data will be increasingly important in communications: Akanksha from BharatPe

In this episode, we caught up with Akanksha Jain from BharatPe, discussing her career in communications and the role data played.

Data will be increasingly important in communications: Akanksha from BharatPe

Data has drastically changed the communications landscape. In this episode, we caught up with Akanksha Jain, Head-PR and Communications from BharatPe, discussing her career in communications and the role data has played throughout.

Video Transcription (auto-generated)

0:23: I’m an engineer by education, but I never wanted to do coding and it was not that fancy a career choice at that point in time when I started out. I have a simple mantra in life that when I go to work, I want every day to be a different day. So somebody I really believed said, “You know, why don’t you try PR? And this was when I was just 21 years old. I was like, “Okay, how does it matter?” And I had this passion for brands very early. So that’s something she’s noticed about me since early. To be very honest, I had zero ideas of what PR was. And I said, “Okay, it’s something to do with brands and building brands.” So I will give it a try. And that’s where my first stint with PR started. I obviously went through the interview process, and they thought that I was great at English. So they hired me, and that’s where it all started. So my first stint was with Perfect Relations, which is technically known as one of the biggest schools for PR professionals in those days. My first client was Coca-Cola, so I spent about five years on the agency side and got some great work to do. After Perfect, I went on to launch the Nokia Business Phones, the e-series phones. Phones came at a time when nobody thought your life would revolve around the phone, and people didn’t really want to believe that they could use the phone for emails or anything beyond just calling or messaging. So, from there, I think about five years on the agency side, and then I moved to the corporate side in 2010.  

Understanding data

2.18: On the agency side, you have to furnish reports at a time when social media was just starting out, like in the 2007-2008 timeframe. At that point in time, I think the interaction was primarily to kind of see what the tonality was, what are the kinds of stories, and whether they added value in the usual way that we used to do it for our clients, and that’s where it started. But over a period of time, there were these channels that came up, like international news dissemination agencies that would track it on a lot of other metrics, and when I moved to the startup side, that’s when a lot of interaction with data started to happen, because in startups—fast-paced growth, you have to first get your foot in, and it’s kind of hard to win the confidence of the founders or the leadership that PR is important too. I think it’s been about 8 to 10 years since I’ve been in the startup world and that my first interaction with real data was when I had my first startup at Power2SME. It was a very young company, and it was about a few months old when I joined them. So, how do you really showcase impact, and how do you showcase impact beyond the number of stories, and beyond that I was there in economic times because I got a fundraise. I started with the little metrics that we had at that point in time, and then over a period of time, I think now we have very interesting tools right from Brandwatch to Meltwater, where you can actually analyze not only the reach of comparison with the competition, but you can also analyze how well you’re doing and how effective your campaign is. Is it really making an impact on the social sentiment of the brand? I think it has evolved a great deal, but my first stint would be when we used to make these heavy-duty presentations and actually sit and map the data personally on Excel sheets, build those graphs, and showcase how we were doing against the competition. Like, manually mapping the coverage for different competitions and showcasing it to the client or to our leadership on a month-to-month basis. 

Solving challenges with data

4.41: If you take the example of BharatPe, So when I joined BharatPe, PR was not something that was a very established function. I think it was just about a year and a few months old. To start out, I used simple metrics. At the time, public relations was limited to one or two cities. So the first metrics I used were to demonstrate that we are making an impact and expanding to multiple channels, not just top-tier media and select cities. Then we started to actually go out and map it against the competition because initially, we were too small to map against the competition. Then, as we grew our campaign, we also grew it to multiple cities. So I grew it to about 30 cities where we do PR on and off over the last couple of years. So we are mapping it to what the competition is saying and how we are doing against the competition. From a messaging standpoint, are we really getting our message out there correctly? Are we really getting the reach correctly? Are we really hitting the right chord? There are a few data metrics that we track. We also try to map it to the fact that it really is making an impact. We actually mapped it to showcase that PR did play a key role in driving the business growth of the product, because until we didn’t do PR, there was not really a pickup, and the moment we did PR, there was a spike. So we do that kind of mapping as well to try and showcase to the management that what impact we’re creating is not just a number of stories, it’s not just getting you a top mention on an online portal, it’s much more on a brand level, it’s much more on a business level. I think there are two metrics that the management very clearly understands—one is brand equity. So, if you can demonstrate how your sentiment has grown over time, how it truly is, and how your campaigns are contributing to the growth of brand equity, that is something they understand, and it is all due to the kind of equity that Flipkart built before it was sold. That’s one, and the second is, obviously, business growth. So if you can really showcase it, I think there’s still more work to be done there in terms of getting the right platforms to be able to analyze it. But we do more than just map it. We also do a lot of digital campaigns, like digital PR campaigns. So we try to map what the impact has been of these campaigns on social channels, and multiple analytics tools are available to highlight how much, how many people we’ve reached, and what kind of impact we’ve created. And for the traditional media channels, we map them using your metrics, like an M score, which meltwater gives us, which is quite effective in terms of helping us understand the efficacy of the PR campaign.

 The go-to metric

7.43: M Score. The reason is that I think it appeals to a lot of leaders also. I’ve seen it because it’s a very smart way to map your brand, keeping in mind your messaging effectiveness, keeping in mind your reach, and keeping in mind your tonality against the competition. It has like four parameters or four layers that you need to cross. So, it’s a very smart way to map where you are against the competition and how well you have grown. You will also understand  Oh, my messaging is not great, so I have to do something about it; my impact story is not coming out that effectively. I think it works very well for brands like us. It’s worked very well for us. We’ve been mapping it for the past year and a half, actually, and you know, starting from almost nowhere, we were amongst the front runners in our domains, so to speak, amongst the competition, which was much bigger players than us. I think that’s one of my favorite metrics to look at.

Platforms for data insights

8:51 So, for digital campaigns, we use a variety of platforms, such as Google Analytics or social media analytics. We also use meltwater, which I’ve already mentioned. We’ve also been using Brandwatch quite a bit during our recent challenges because we wanted to very closely monitor what was happening across social channels in the last three months. We’ve used a bunch of platforms to closely monitor not only the media stories on the media impact, but also a lot of digital and social buzz about our impact over the last few months.

I wish we had metric

9:37: I think if there was a metric that tells you, “Okay, we did this PR and it really helped to scale up the business to a certain level or because of this PR campaign, we saw an upswing somewhere,” if it connects very directly. I’m not really thinking through it, but something connects with you directly. It makes our lives much easier instead of using our own metrics and trying to push it to the management because, while we can push it over a period of time, there could be initial challenges. I think it’s something that connects to the business growth of the brand. Something that connects directly to how powerful a tool PR is for a company.

 

My two cents 

10:20: I think it’s important to not ignore the power of digital channels. So, I think it’s important that we have a good balance of traditional media as well as digital channels. The new generation of communication people is smarter in terms of their understanding of digital channels. They should leverage the power of that to build the brand and always continue to focus on getting the impact story right, or the brand purpose right. Because it’s not only about the number of stories that you generate, it’s about the larger impact your brand is creating, and it will be like that in the coming years because consumer perception and consumer behavior have changed with the pandemic and other things. I think in the future or the budding communication professionals, they need to focus a lot more on getting the right story out and keep tracking it smartly to know whether they are doing a good job or not. We should be prepared to iterate, go back to the drawing board, and revisit our strategies to continue to make an impact and not just be about selling a product. If you’re just about to go there, okay, I have this promotional release, nobody’s going to pick it up. There has to be a larger purpose.

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