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May 2, 2023

“In a crisis credible news sources are vital for PR to maintain public trust as paid advertising loses impact”-Suvina from Yellow.ai

In this episode we talk to Suvina – a global PR expert leading PR and comms for Yellow.ai. With extensive global experience in the Middle East and involvement in a Conversational AI tech startup, Suvina emphasizes the importance of research for effective PR. Introduction 0:47 Suvina, has a decade-long career in the public relations industry. […]

“In a crisis credible news sources are vital for PR to maintain public trust as paid advertising loses impact”-Suvina from Yellow.ai

In this episode we talk to Suvina – a global PR expert leading PR and comms for Yellow.ai. With extensive global experience in the Middle East and involvement in a Conversational AI tech startup, Suvina emphasizes the importance of research for effective PR.

Introduction

0:47 Suvina, has a decade-long career in the public relations industry. She started her career in 2012 with a PR agency after completing her college education. According to her, this was an exciting time for PR as new tools were emerging and the industry was transitioning from basic newspaper clippings to digital journalism. After working in India for around four years, she decided to explore PR opportunities in new regions and countries. She moved to the Middle East and worked there for another four years, servicing clients across multiple countries as part of a regional hub and spoke model. After returning to India, she decided to move to the client side and is currently working in B2B SaaS comms. She has been involved with a tech start-up for the past three years, which focuses on Conversational AI technology and generative AI.

Favourite Campaign

2:45 From a geographical perspective, she realized that the difference is not so much in the volume of work but in understanding the cultural intricacies of communicating with different audiences. She noticed a healthy mix of different ethnicities in the Middle East, including an Arab audience, Indian audience, and fully Western audience. She had to modify her communication to resonate with each group and different types of publications.

She worked on a campaign for a consumer-driven client selling FMCG products and launching a baby product in the market. The client wanted a PR first approach, where the PR team was taken into play right from the day of the product launch. She had to figure out how to impact audiences from the ground up, getting the right influencers, celebrities, and laypeople on board. She conducted background research, figured out the right venues, messaging for each audience, and whether to take the social, print, or advertising route. The amalgamation of this well-researched and truly integrated campaign led to solid outcomes that lasted for almost six months.

First interaction with data

6:47 Suvina has been fortunate to incorporate data insights into her public relations work since the beginning of her career. It has been crucial in the way she communicates, drafts content, and approaches building a basic pitch note. She believes that to be an effective PR professional, one needs to be an excellent researcher. She emphasizes that just skimming through content and regurgitating it won’t cut it in today’s cluttered world of numerous platforms. To break through the noise, differentiate yourself, and become a knowledge source, you need to do your research.

Suvina mentions that having access to the right tools makes a massive difference, such as using Google Analytics or using industry specific resources like medical journals when she used to work with healthcare clients. She also recommends using social listening tools like Brandwatch and similar other tools, which help her get a negative, positive, or neutral sentiment on whatever topic needs researching, since everything nowadays is digital first. 

Moreover, she stresses that having the right perspective on media is crucial. When approaching a journalist, one needs to do their research on what the journalist is writing about and their areas of interest. By using this information, she could crack many editorial pieces back then. It was a great achievement to get featured on the editorial page of a prominent publication like Times of India. She concludes by saying that being a research person is equivalent to being a good PR professional.

Challenges in current role

9:48 She shares that one of the biggest challenges in PR and communications is convincing external stakeholders, especially customers and clients, to advocate for your company. While it’s easy to collect data and information about your own organization, getting others to support your advocacy efforts is much harder. This is because people often can’t see the benefit it will bring them or the company. 

Additionally, every region has a specific way of accepting communication, and each government has a specific set of rules. For instance, in a non-democratic country, she must be careful about the communication she writes about the government. Counter-views are not acceptable. She also has to take into account the local language and customs. For example, in the Philippines, there are fewer English publications, making it challenging to model tech-oriented B2B content.

Nevertheless, she believes that sustained engagement with media houses in any country she works with is essential. PR requires years of work to establish a reputation, which is about how an organization is perceived in a country, as well as how it is seen as a credible source of information and a partner.

The hardest part of PR and comms is getting organizations to understand that it’s all about reputation. Much of what she does is organic, and outcomes may not always be directly tied to revenue numbers. The exposure they provide is invaluable, and it cannot be quantified. It takes months and years of hard work to achieve this value, and that’s what she and her fellow PR professionals build over time.

She believes every organization needs PR, and social media is just one of the platforms they use for engagement. The hardest part is showcasing to people that the impact of PR is much larger than short-term outcomes.

The Key Metric for Team Success

13:26 In terms of data and metrics, the most important data for her organization is about seeing the impact they are able to create for their clients from an engagement perspective with their customers. She focuses on measuring how many queries they are able to resolve for their clients after deploying a solution from them, and ensuring that the resolution percentage is very high.

The second thing that her organization needs to look at is the ease of use of the tools they provide. She wants to know how effective the chatbot is and how many queries it can actually resolve. The third thing  is agent productivity, as customer service teams need to be able to handle a large volume of data and queries on a daily basis. Her organization is always actively working on bringing automation to the most efficient level. However, from a PR standpoint, the data numbers they use are always about looking at what kind of resolutions they are able to create for their clients and what percentage of how accurate their bots are.

The hardest part is deriving industry numbers and having stakeholders agree to talk about them. She also acknowledges that data privacy is another aspect which all organizations are very mindful of and people don’t want to necessarily talk about these numbers on public platforms.

Key Strategies for Success and effective PR results

16:02 Suvina sheds light on how her team sets targets for PR campaigns based on the limitations and strengths of each geography. They take into account the size of the country, the types of publications available, and the relevance of their target audience. For instance, countries like India with a plethora of English-oriented technical publications may have higher targets compared to countries like Singapore.

The team also works closely with their agency to gather input and set realistic goals. To ensure that their message is conveyed effectively, they carefully consider the type of publications they target, whether they are trade, tech, influencer-driven, or mainline publications. They also assess how their message is received and engage with their audience on social media to gauge their level of engagement.

She emphasizes that they don’t just focus on numbers but also on getting their key messages and positioning statements about Yellow.ai across in the right way. They ensure that their products, which are niche and technical, are showcased in a way that tech journalists can understand and appreciate. In regions like North America, they also aim to get a North American client on board to support and advocate for their message.

While the metrics and targets for each country may differ, she shares that Southeast Asia and India have seen great success in terms of PR campaigns. She also reveals that timing is crucial when it comes to press releases. Her team spends a considerable amount of time strategizing and coordinating with partners and stakeholders to ensure that their press releases are timed appropriately to maximize their impact in different regions.

Overall, she highlights the excitement and challenges of PR campaigns in different regions, emphasizing that the learning experience has been invaluable.

Navigating a Recession: Insights on Adapting PR and Marketing Strategies

19:07 Suvina shares that at yellow.ai, the COVID era was a very interesting time. In 2020 and 2021, people were restricted to their houses and offices and businesses struggled to connect with their customers and audiences. Automation became a necessity and organizations like Yellow.ai were sought after to automate and help businesses engage with their customers and audience on any platform. Yellow.ai supports multi-channel engagement, whether it’s on WhatsApp, websites, social media, or in-app messaging, they can help businesses reach out to their audience, sell their products or services, buy products, and automate operations, HR, and IT. She mentions that there was a surge in demand for these services and solutions during the pandemic, and yellow.ai had to quickly scale from a small organization with around 200 people to an organization catering to clients across the world, from India to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North America.

For yellow.ai, the story was very different from other organizations, and the PR and communications had to scale at the same rate. This meant telling their growth story and making it relevant to the markets they were in, helping stakeholders and organizations understand how yellow.ai could help them. She emphasizes that it was critical to narrate the right story about their capabilities and growth during a crisis or downturn, as it could have a huge impact. At that time, paid engagement goes down drastically, and everybody is looking for organic and credible sources of news to validate who they are going to work with. She explains that the story needs to be out there, clear, and conveyed in a way that supports the growth of the organization. During the COVID era, Yellow.ai was able to achieve this by narrating their growth story and capabilities, which helped them bag some well-known companies and organizations as clients, who are still their friends today.

Managing Global PR During US Downturn

22:00 Suvina discusses how the US downturn has impacted businesses, especially those in the tech industry. Companies have become more cautious about where they invest and the ROI that investing in a specific solution, technology or company will give them. From a comms perspective, she stresses the importance of going aggressive on organic communication and engagement. This is because what the media and technology experts write about a company can greatly impact how potential clients perceive them. 

She also mentions the value of analyst engagement, which has led to their recognition as a challenger brand in Gartner, a coveted report published annually. To continue building credibility in the market, she emphasized the importance of investing in knowledge management platforms, organic PR, and building a strong positioning story that resonates with different audiences. According to her, during a crisis, the focus should be on organic PR as it holds a lot more value than paid PR.

Strategies for PR Leaders to Prepare for Crisis Situations During Economic Downturns

24:12 Suvina then shares her insights on crisis situations, emphasizing the importance of staying grounded and being familiar with the realities of the conversations in the market. She stresses the need for media intelligence and constant communication with customers to understand market perception and receive feedback on products and technology. 

She highlights the importance of creating insightful data and trends to lead and sustain conversations during a crisis, and cited an example of a report her team did on changing retail shopping behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a crisis, she believes it’s important to have an objective approach with all the data in hand when assessing how to respond.

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