Interview with Mr. Mahul Brahma, Corporate communications and Branding Head, mjunction. Some of the excerpts of the interview:
1. How do you manage the heterogeneous consumers?
For a PR professional, the customer is media. For a branding professional, the customer is the internal business heads and the Chairman/MD/CEO. For a corporate communicator, the customer consists of all the above three types and also employees (internal PR).
I was with CESC as a PRO and the most interesting facet of that job was the brand recall only happened in absence of the service. So when it when the power supply was disrupted people remembered CESC and media remembered its PRO. So with CESC it was baptism by fire. Once you learn to deal with the frantic calls from the media, you become an expert in firefighting and in dealing with crisis.
At AmbujaNeotia group, I was heading brand and corporate communications. It is a BtoC business, and the focus was hospitality. I was fortunate to be part of the team that launched a new restaurant and learn how best to communicate to the consumers and popularize it with clients using media and publicity. I learnt how a new brand (in this case a restaurant) is created and popularized. Another challenge was reputation management of Mr HarshavardhanNeotia, Chairman and MD, and my former boss.
At mjunction, a JV between Tata Steel and SAIL, I am heading corporate communications and branding. My biggest challenge here was that it is a B to B business and there is no product that I can showcase. We are e-auctioning company, primarily steel and coal. But this was my opportunity to learn something new, a new challenge.
So, heterogeneous customers can only be managed if you take keen interest in understanding their needs and customize your work accordingly.
2. How do you manage the inhouse employees (internal PR)?
Managing internal PR is always a challenge. The key is to keep the employees engaged. Corporate newsletters are a great tool. At mjunction, we have mjPost that reaches out to not only the current employees but also to former junctionites. The newsletter should encourage participation from employees and try to capture their creative side that usually stays in the background. The more creatively and interestingly it is done the better is the engagement.
Another tool that can be used is mailers. As the newsletters aren’t the best tools to communicate news that have a short shelf life, these mailers keep employees abreast with the developments of the organization and its chief.
3. What are the CSR initiatives taken and why?
ejunction: A trust promoted through mjunction, ejunction is dedicated to providing basic computer and communication skills free of cost to members of the underprivileged sections of society and creating employability opportunities for them. In FY14, ejunction trained 938 students and created 391 employment opportunities.
MET: The Movement for Efficiency & Transparency, or MET in short, is a brainchild of the company’s founder CEO & MD and MET is an initiative to provide a platform to people who have transcended barriers of inefficiency and opaqueness to share their success stories and ideas for the future with a select audience. Eight MET events have been held so far and has had partners such as Tata Steel, SAIL and 5th Pillar, a Chennai-based anti-corruption organisation.
4. Who is the nearest competitor? Competition strategy if any?
mjunction is in a unique business and we don’t have strong competition. However, in AmbujaNeotia, especially in hospitality, it was a big challenge. The strategy is always to identify the unique selling proposition and showcase it in an innovative and engaging manner so that you stand out.
5. How is Ad and PR necessary in today's market?
In today’s market it is all about getting the mindspace of your customers. There are so many engagements of an average individual that one really needs to fight for a piece of his/her mindspace. Advertisements and PR help achieve that objective effectively. These two means are critical in today’s market and no corporation can even think of surviving without these two critical, life-savingsupports.
However, we must also understand that advertisement and PR are intrinsically different. And thus one needs to understand the effectiveness of each format to use them intelligently so that the return on investment (RoI) is maximized.
Advertisements have cost implications, whether outdoor or indoor. Be it print or electronic or a hoarding, it is a costly affair. So that has to be judiciously decided so as to maximize RoI. However, there are areas where you can’t help but spend as your business will not grow otherwise and competition will crush you just based on an expensive campaign that you avoided as it was not in your budget.
As far as PR is concerned, editorial coverage is a very powerful tool for establishing the credibility of an organization. But managing the media is a very challenging task. They will always act as the devil’s advocate and you have to convince the editors the worth of the news that you are sharing. However, every PR person needs to have/develop news judgement, at least, a sense of what makes news. Journalists have an edge in this aspect when they move over to the other side. But it is critical that the journalists take you seriously and trust that you will not give them wrong information. Once that is established, a PR professional has done the job well. At times, when ads lose impact, a great editorial coverage can work wonders.
6. Advise to young professionals:
For corporate communicators, my word of advise is that continuously keep honing your language skills. Read a lot and try to avoid jargons in your communications. Make the language as fluid as you can be. And always be focused in your communications.
I have a column with The Economic Times on luxury branding and I still make time to write for it, no matter how busy I am.
Young PR professionals: Be very honest in your dealings, especially with the journalists and your own organization. Engage with journalists and try to get a sense of what makes news. Never try to sell non-news to them just because your boss has asked you to do so.
For young branding professionals, my advise is that any branding decision needs to have a definite RoI, it is never ambiguous, although you may like to think it that way.
I wish all the very best for your future endeavours and always try to be creative and innovative.
Interviewer Name: Mohit Chomal Corp. Name: Mr. Mahul Brahma
Date of Interview: 25th july 2014
Celeb Address: mjunction services limited
Godrej Waterside, 3rd Floor, Tower 1, Plot V
Block DP, Sector V, Salt Lake,
Kolkata - 700091.