Winning the War of the Worlds: PR for IT

Date:   Tuesday , February 01, 2005

A Recent NASSCOM reports confirm that the IT sector will measure up to the growth targets it set last year. While it is estimated that the BPO and IT sector will grow by 32 percent, industry leaders are upbeat about changing sentiments towards Indian IT service firms. More leading international CEOs are visiting India, and the positive results of the IT majors bode well for the industry.

What does this have to do with public relations? With disappearing trade frontiers, technological advances and information overload, today companies must compete on a global basis. PR is uniquely capable of leveraging competitive advantages in this changing environment. As the Indian IT services sector focuses more intensely on the US market, corporations will recognize the value of a well-orchestrated PR campaign.
NASSCOM recently embarked on a global communications campaign. The effort’s focus strengthening the global brand equity of the Indian software industry and addressing emerging issues in foreign countries. Communicating the business value and competitive edge was what Indian IT vendors offered to global enterprises in a tough market environment. While this has simplified the entry of Indian companies into overseas markets, corporations can take advantage of the positive sentiment regarding India IT services to enhance their individual profiles.

Public relations is currently a mature industry. While it may suffer from misconceptions, its value is well established in the modern corporate world. PR affects us all in some aspect. In the West, PR has been used for relatively simple campaigns like product launches, and more complex efforts like lobbying and reputation building. At Weber Shandwick, our campaigns have included helping Beijing become victorious in the 2008 Olympics and rebuilding trust and confidence in American Airlines after 9/11.

American companies and consumers value quality highly. They can afford to, since the U.S. is the world’s biggest market. Given the high number of suppliers for products, mistakes cannot happen. Building a quality reputation is the mantra for any corporation wishing to cater to the U.S. market. Public Relations is instrumental here, because compared to other communication mediums and marketing, PR is immediately credible and profitable. We continuously deliver meaningful, measurable results for clients.

PR Myths
There are a few misconceptions about doing PR in the US:
Myth 1: One message for one world. PR messages must be tailored to fit each unique business environment.
Myth 2: What works in India is applicable in the US, too. This is not always true because it is a different culture with different dynamics.
Myth 3: The U.S. press is the most cynical in the world; you can’t change their perceptions. If you have a good story to tell, they’ll listen — and so will their audience.
Myth 4: It is better to do my PR here and let the impact trickle into the U.S. through Indian media. Building a reputation means communicating as directly as possible with your audience.
Myth 5: Doing PR in the U.S. is far too expensive. While a PR campaign can cost more in the U.S. than in India, we can show you why a good campaign is worth the investment.

The PR work-order
For Indian IT services especially, PR holds great promise. As an industry, the service sector relies largely on intellectual property issues. PR has the unique ability to deliver the brand USP of many IP services by way of image building and optimum value propositioning.

International PR is not new to the Indian IT sector. Several large Indian software companies have an established presence and reputation in the US. The challenge is now for smaller companies to build a strategic presence in these markets. Kiran Karnik, President of NASSCOM, alluded to this in a recent interview on the role of brand building among Indian companies. He pointed out that Indian companies should communicate that their nation is not simply a source of low-cost manpower but also a mature supplier that offers excellent quality and productivity.

Of course PR is not a panacea for every business challenge, and corporations must have unambiguous PR goals. While recruitment and retention may be the key drivers of PR campaigns for many services companies in India, marketing-driven PR campaigns may be the key requirement in the U.S. market. Analyst relations, media relations and trade and industry relations are effective tools that PR can leverage.

Choosing the right agency is critical to a PR campaign’s success. More global PR firms now have a significant presence in the Indian market, which Indian companies can now hire to facilitate their PR. We believe it’s an advantage to have one agency with a combination of local expertise and international insight that can meet a company’s needs throughout the world, and increasing numbers of our clients agree.

Professionalism, not magic
When done well, public relations can be a key element in corporate success. The world is now ready to see Indians as professionals equal to their competition anywhere in the world. For some, this professionalism represents a challenge, and for others, an opportunity. In coming years, strong public relations will help companies leverage this new view of India reaching new levels of success.