Thought Leadership

Best Practices in Global Comms: A Conversation With PRCAI CEO Deeptie Sethi

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July is Global Affairs Month at PRSA. Learn more about the programming here.

Deeptie Sethi is a global brand and communications specialist helping businesses leverage the power of public relations and communications-leading strategic planning, media relations, brand and reputation management, crisis management and effective advocacy programs. She has served in leadership communications roles for multinational corporations such as BBC World and Ford Motor Company for more than 23 years in India and the United States.

In November 2021, Sethi became the first-ever CEO of the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI ) in its two-decade history. She is developing and shaping the agenda for the PR community in India and helping the association support and raise industry standards.

As the leader of the PRCAI, what best practices do you see globally?

The value of PR and communications in India has a new dimension, especially post COVID-19. We are seeing more brands and the new start-up ecosystem wanting to understand the value of communication as they build programs to raise their reputation and intensify their storytelling efforts. Even C-suite executives respect public relations more than ever before as they saw how it plays a significant role in internal communications, which became much more focused during the pandemic.

Regarding the globalization of operations and businesses, we are seeing a lot of crossover of best practices that appeal to universal audiences. While the fundamentals like media relations, measurement and crisis management have new approaches in digital times, the demand for compelling digital-first campaigns is on a significant rise. Clients are leaning toward the need for integrated communications where content, digital, experiential and meta will play a larger role.

Can you describe an example where local practice and the need for nuance might trump how things are done globally or across the subcontinent? How much flexibility do local teams have?

India is uniquely positioned with multiple states and languages, and regional PR is gaining significant traction. There is a lot that Western countries can learn from Indian campaigns and how they strategized to appeal to multi-language and geographically diverse regions. While the brand narrative can remain consistent, regionalizing the message, tonality, and embracing the cultural nuances is an art and a skill to build effective outreach and appeal to mass audiences.

India has specialist agencies, like Fuzion PR, Simulation and Total India who focus purely on regional public relations as their niche and are finding great success in that model. It gives them definitive focus; they build teams that understand local nuances, speak the local languages and can make connections with local media centers. Social advocacy and purpose-driven campaigns gain attention and deep results.

Several of my clients in China rely heavily on WeChat/Weixing, a so-called super-app. Can you describe your approach to WeChat in Asia, and are you seeing an equivalent anywhere?

In India, traditional social channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter still reign supreme, and WhatsApp is becoming an important platform for integrated marketing and communications. Technology undoubtedly is finding its feet to attract audiences and the metaverse is the new buzzword that marketing, advertising and PR firms are beginning to experiment with. Indian weddings are happening on meta during COVID, and the gaming and sports industry are using this for amplification and garnering additional [viewers]. Digital-first campaigns, influencer mapping and marketing are new ways of storytelling.

Are you optimizing global workflow by using time zone differences to your advantage?

With the advent of technology in the communications space, I feel there is room for Indian PR firms to be back-office support for not only analytics, monitoring and reporting but also for message development, narratives, creatives, etc. Some global PR firms are already leveraging this trend and have been able to leverage India to service their global clients effectively. For example, Ruder Finn India has built a team of emerging tech professionals who can provide high-end services to their clients in the United States, thus not only providing the client 24/7 support but also redundancy in the operations.

Are there cultural moments like holidays that your global teams have embraced internally and on social and perhaps moments that are not so global where the local team has flexibility, but content isn’t shared globally? Do you have guidelines around how far and wide you recognize religious holidays?

We are living a truly global cosmopolitan culture when it comes to PR. Think global, act local or bridge global causes in the approach. This may not be specific to holidays, but PR is seen adopting common causes, following a common mission, and purpose-driven PR campaigns are attracting significant client budgets.

Festivity promotions are no longer a marketing domain, and integrated campaign ideas are the trend. With e-commerce players and digital retail players like Amazon’s and Flipkart’s PR agency teams work toward bringing innovative ideas to make celebrations and shopping special.

Even globally, you see awareness of the bigger festivities like Diwali gaining cosmo-culture interest. Indians who are serving today’s international roles in markets like Dubai, the United States, Singapore, Indonesia, and many more are sporting traditional Indian attire, observing a leave of absence around their native holiday period, and celebrating over the weekend within a very cosmopolitan community.

Hale Global Communications founder Trevor C. Hale helps companies and leaders articulate and amplify their stories. Having led global communications for Fortune 100 companies in APAC, EMEA and the Americas, he now collaborates with clients and firms across mobility, AI, crypto, leadership, ESG and luxury sectors. He is the 2022 PRSA international assembly delegate.

[Illustration credit: bluebackimage]

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Trevor C. Hale

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