How South Asian PR Firms are pivoting Post-Covid?

We asked leaders in PR firms across South-Asia, how they were adapting and changing their operations in the post-pandemic world. Here are the responses from

  • Tish Tash (Dubai)
  • Mint and Milk PR
  • Twain Communications
  • DSPR
  • DI Public Relations

With TISH TASH Founder and CEO – Natasha Hatherall-Shaw

1) Has the lockdown worked as a silver lining to the cloud?
Of course, lockdown has been very difficult for many businesses and individuals. However, we have also seen some amazing examples of how adversity has allowed for creativity, collaboration and innovation within the world of marketing and beyond.  Lockdown has seen the rise of digital as the new leader in terms of media consumption. In the UAE alone digital consumption has increased by 60% in the last three months. This change in the media landscape has allowed for greater creativity across digital and social channels and has helped build a stronger sense of community across the region. From experimenting with TikTok campaigns to brands using Instagram in new authentic ways to share their story, we have been amazed by some of the content we have seen. Influencers have also seen a surge in engagement since lockdown and it’s been very inspiring to see how influencers have used this to stand and support causes they feel strongly in. We have collaborated with some incredible influencers to support the SMES of the region and to use their influence as an agent of creating change and raising awareness of important issues such as mental health during this difficult time.  And then of course there is Zoom. The way people are using this platform in innovative ways is so fun to see. Here at TishTash we hosted our first virtual launch event and it was a great success and hugely appreciated by the media and influencers who attended. It really has shown us how things can be achieved in innovative and often more cost-effective ways!

2) What are the strategies you have used to make sure work is not affected? How well has your team adapted to it?
Here at TishTash we always pride ourselves on thinking differently and outside of the box. When the pandemic began, we saw a lot of clients drop off, as marketing budgets are often the first to be reduced or completely removed. However, we powered on and started a number of new initiatives to help support our clients but also other brands in the market who needed PR and marketing help but were struggling with budgets.
One of our proudest initiatives is the “The SME Rise Collective” a  new platform that that offers individuals and companies in the community the chance to come together and buy packages from local marketing and communications agencies that will be used to support other local SMEs at a time when they need it most.  In contributing to a marketing package, the community are helping safeguard the livelihoods not only of our SME marketing and communication industry, but also of many in the wider SME community as the agencies pay it forward with their services to do all they can to drive much needed awareness and sales at this time, as well as helping with marketing strategy and support for those needing to pivot their business offering. The platform has been live for 6 weeks now and we are currently supporting 56 SMEs with marketing and PR support and this shows no sign of slowing down.
We also started our #StayHomeWithTishTash Sessions. A webinar series set to inspire everyone across the UAE and beyond with fun, informative and challenging sessions from brands and individual professionals. From fitness sessions to meditation, crafting, vision boarding, cooking masterclasses the sessions were made available to everyone and we created our own website to host the schedule, so it was easily accessible. We have had more than 100 sessions and some amazing feedback with between 50-300 attendees per session depending on the topic. We have found this to be a great way to support our community, but it has also shown us to be proactive at innovating for brands and has generated a lot of new business enquiries which is great.

3) How are you pivoting your operations to remodel to digital transformation?
TishTash has always been a very digitally focused agency, so we were in a good place when the digital transformation started. We have moved a lot of our launches online as a result of the Pandemic focusing our efforts on using IGTV and other platforms such as zoom to support awareness building for existing brands and generating excitement for new brands entering the market.
Our Stay Home with TishTash sessions have all been digital and have really created new ways for clients to get in front of their end consumer in a meaningful and engaging way. For the SMEs we work with, we have worked very hard through our SME Rise Collective Initiative to drive some of the bricks and mortar clients online. A number of well-known e-commerce sites in the region have pledged their support to our SME clients by removing listing fees on the sites and offering free marketing support.
Undoubtedly, we as an agency have learnt a lot from the Covid-19 times and the path to rebuilding and reopening for many brands has only just begun. Our belief is that through strategic, highly digital and in many cases community-based campaigns we will be able to make a real difference to our clients and continue to help support them and our local economy to come out of these unprecedented times, stronger and more creative.

With MINT AND MILK PR FOUNDERS- Komal Rukhana and Janvi Mankani

PR being a service-led industry is adopting a ‘wait and watch’ approach, which seems to be the most logical at this point in time. Like most industries, ours is striving to survive. Clients aren’t as proactive towards continuing PR activities and most of them have put their PR partnerships on hold for the time being. While this does create a stalling scenario, we have taken the situation in our stride and are taking this time to work on internally restructuring the way we conduct our business. Learning to adapt, build and grow has been our key focus for when it’s time to return to a whole new world. So yes, in a way, having this time to take a step back and reassess things has brought forth its own set of advantages.

What are the strategies you have used to make sure work is not affected? How well has your team adapted to it?
Our advice to clients was to be real and to be genuine. When you think about businesses today, you cannot be tone-deaf with what you are proposing. You have to consider the current circumstance and tailor your approach to every single media outlet. The kind of content, which we have been sharing with the media, provides to give comfort and inspiration all in one. We have led with empathy and authenticity and can say with certainty that our team has not only been supportive during these unprecedented times, but also valued that. We have had open dialogues with our clients to make engagement their goal over pushing sales. It’s about providing a sense of value to your community. What we have learned is, it’s thinking about how people are living their lives right now and the relevancy of that, as opposed to just talking about the pandemic. This has been a time for us to reconsider what makes our clients unique and how them, and us together can better engage with their audience.

How are you pivoting your operations to remodel to digital transformation?
We see COVID-19 as an opportunity. It is a really tough time, but what is most important to keep in mind is that we will get through this. All businesses, big and small, have had to make changes to adapt to the current climate. This is a time for creativity; we need to look at new ways to support our businesses in innovative ways. It is important to be sensitive to everything going on and stay updated with accurate information, but people are also craving positivity. Look at how you can use your company’s digital channels to reach your consumers, clients, and stakeholders in meaningful ways. This doesn’t mean publishing content for the sake of it, but really honing in on what valuable information you can offer your audience at this time so that you can continue to instill confidence as a thought leader. Both of us look at how we can become stronger and better and provide our clients with value and insight to help make them become stronger and better as well.

With TWAIN COMMUNICATIONS Managing Partners – Reyna Jagtiani & Gauri Nayar

1) Has the lockdown worked as a silver lining to the cloud?
While I wouldn’t call it a silver lining, the lockdown has certainly given us time to pause, and to examine our business more closely. We’ve had time to work on pending projects that needed free time (and who has free time otherwise!), as well as to learn that being able to pivot quickly and adapt to the changing global scenario is crucial. We’ve been able to spend time thinking a bit more thoughtfully and strategically about the bigger picture, and helping our clients envision possible futures, in what still remains a somewhat shaky scenario. Most importantly, we’ve been able to make more time for our families, which is always an added plus.

2) What are the strategies you have used to make sure work is not affected? How well has your team adapted to it?
We’ve been fortunate to have a team that has continued to work through lockdown, undaunted. While working from home certainly poses some challenges to team camaraderie, we’ve managed to hit our stride through hourly catch-ups, using team tools like Asana to track progress on tasks, and lots of calls. Our business was always structured in such a way that with client meetings and events, we were in and out of the office even pre-pandemic. Some of our team has really flourished while working from home, while others have needed a little more help, which we have provided through close monitoring and remaining available whenever needed. The most important thing for us is that we have not lost momentum with our clients – for them, their client servicing teams have remained exactly the same, response time is the same if not quicker, and the quality of work has stayed consistent. It’s been a huge effort to navigate this change, but the results have been well worth it.

3) How are you pivoting your operations to remodel to digital transformation?
Now, more than ever, everything has moved to the digital space. We are watching – and mourning – the further demise of print media, and realizing that digital is here to stay, in a way that is impacting our clients even more than before. We’ve also seen that the audience has therefore expanded, and we now need to consider the most strategic way to cater to a larger brand audience than before. We’ve helped some clients offer their services entirely via Zoom and worked with them to strategically and smoothly aid the shift to digital; while working with others to ensure they remain relevant to their audiences through Instagram Lives, IGTV, and their own videos. Content is king, and helping our clients navigate what kind of content they should be putting out there – that aids in a connection to their audiences – has been an important part of our current focus.

With DSPR Founder- Digisha Shah

Has the lockdown worked as a silver lining to the cloud?
With the lockdown being a complete shock and a slowdown for the business, we decided to look at the positives. With everyone being pushed out of their comfort zones, we’ve been more accepting of new ideas & strategies. Setting up a remote taskforce, ensuring effective communication & revisiting business strategies are ways with which we have overcome the hurdles. After being operational of over 9 years, making these structural changes have surely not been a cakewalk. On the brighter side, a stressful commute is not a part of our daily lives anymore. With employees adopting the WFH model a Work-Life balance has finally been restored hence productivity has increased. Client & team meetings are now done virtually ensuring people are more respectful of each other’s time. From being around the team 9 hours a day to seeing them a few hours every week has surely made us appreciate our office more.

What are the strategies you have used to make sure work is not affected? How well has your team adapted to it?
We’ve made sure we’re all communicating clearly with each other daily. Everybody starts work at the same time and we’re also flexible with time as people have their chores to do. Everyone is expected to send in their To-Do lists & update Progress sheets daily. We’re also using a lot of content sharing platforms for the team to work on activities and projects together.
At DSPR we aim to have an employee-centric approach irrespective of how difficult the situation gets. We’re organising fun activities like virtual Treasure hunts, Ludo championships etc to keep the team motivated. We have an inherent council where we’re open to discussing any problem our employees are facing.
Our current working system relies on cooperation from every team member. Fortunately, the team has adapted really well and very understanding of the current situation. They’re making sure communication is streamlined, deadlines are met & internal sheet are updated. Additionally, they’ve made it a point to be there for one another professionally as well as personally.

How are you pivoting your operations to remodel to digital transformation?
Being an agency that does PR & Digital we’ve always embraced and adapted every digital transformation that has taken place. In our 9+ years of operation, DSPR has actively been a part of the digital revolution and we’ve found ways in which technology can be fruitful for us. However, this transformation has taken some getting used to as the human element has become digital. We’ve been working on a model wherein we could meet each other at least once a week for exchange of ideas and break the monotony.

With DI Public Relations Partners- Divya Parekh & Ektaa Hira

Has the lockdown worked as a silver lining to the cloud?
This lockdown has definitely been a mixed bag, in one way it has helped us digitize our business to a larger extent but on the other hand, it has been a bit stressful in terms of monetary avenues. We, however, did use this as a great opportunity to reevaluate our offerings, restructure our team internally and rebuild the confidence with our clients and employees, to keep momentum going and increase productivity.

What are the strategies you have used to make sure work is not affected? How well has your team adapted to it?
Work definitely slowed down, which was inevitable and beyond our control. Transparent communication was key here. Before the lockdown was even announced, we shifted to a WFH model a week prior, giving our team enough time to adapt and acclimatise to different systems. Daily updates and weekly team meetings made sure that work and operations were on-going smoothly. Few of the team members adapted, while some resisted the change.

How are you pivoting your operations to remodel to digital transformation?

We call ourselves storytellers, and the only thing that will change is ‘where’ we will now share that story.

Pre-COVID, celebrity placements were always given utmost importance considering how Bollywood driven India is. However, brand building via digital platforms and different mediums will now be the new normal. Influencer-led marketing will be key here to spread the message and get eyeballs! Moreover, digital collaborations between designers and industry experts will take the spotlight which will be seen on social media, webinars and various online platforms.