[TechSparks 2020] Adfactors’ MD explains the need for reputation management for startups in a post-COVID-19 world
The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment where customers may not blindly trust a new product, service, or business. As a result, reputation management and effective communication strategies for businesses have become increasingly important.
With new market realities emerging in the post-pandemic world, a strong line of communication between a business and its customers can instill positivity and reliability around the brand.
In a virtual fireside chat and keynote address at YourStory’s flagship event TechSparks 2020, Madan Bahal, Managing Director, Adfactors PR, said,
“The post-pandemic business environment will be one represented by growing geopolitical complexity, a more polarised society, and the chance for backlash if the popular sentiment is hurt. Startups and mature companies alike have to navigate these challenges through effective communication and reputation management.”
Adfactors PR MD Madan Bahal (left) in conversation with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma (right)
Why startups require PR
Despite the rising popularity of public relations (PR) services for business communications and crisis management, some fledgeling companies are still reluctant to give PR a serious thought.
According to Madan, there is often temperamental incompatibility between young startup founders and PR firms due to a mismatch in expectations. However, founders eventually realise the importance of public communication for attracting talent, announcing fundraises, and dealing with crises, he added.
Madan has been an entrepreneur since 1981, when he started the Adfactors Group — Adfactors Advertising, in what he described in a trucking company's godown. He co-founded Adfactors PR in 1997. At present, Adfactors PR is India’s largest PR firm, serving over 300 retained clients across 40 cities in the country.
It works with several large corporations, conglomerates, financial institutions, and government bodies, as well as a number of startups and unicorns.
During the fireside chat with YourStory Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma, Madan compared startups to fragile organisms vulnerable to risks in a complex environment.
“For these startups, public relations and reputation management add a ring of protection, trust, and credibility. This gives them a competitive advantage across the board,” he said.
Ensuring effective reputation management
With the responsibility of building an Aatmanirbhar Bharat resting on the shoulders of young and dynamic Indian entrepreneurs, reputation management can go a long way in bringing business success.
Madan highlighted the positive and negative perceptions the media held about the young startup founders. “Startups were perceived to be transformational and big contributors to economic growth, however, they suffered from insensitive hire-and-fire policies or toxic work culture,” he said.
To effectively manage such perceptions, the MD laid down some tips for reputation management. He advised startups to view every action from the lens of public interest, invest time in maintaining healthy media relations, and establish listening posts to guide and alert potential reputation risks.
He also urged them to place CXOs, CFOs, or CHROs as reputation leads, build crisis protocols to enable rapid responses, make the purpose of sustainability, diversity, and inclusion the guiding principles for actions and communications, and also realise a sincere apology goes a long way in reputation management.
TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.