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ABCI Com-Fest 2008 Day1: Corp communication industry urged to brush up its act

November 07, 08
Nitin Sharma

The Association of Business Communicators of India (ABCI), a fraternity of business communications professionals, is organising a two-day international conference on the theme 'Business Communication Today and Tomorrow' in Mumbai. Day 1 saw some of the finest minds in the fields of corporate communications, HR, finance and administration dwell upon various issues faced by business communicators today.

Speaking at the conference, Usha Thorat, Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India, while emphasising on the RBI Act of 1935, said, "Even today, the RBI Act of 1935 holds good as it emphasises on operating the currency and credit system to its advantage. But that can materialise only if we take care of communication, because lack of awareness is lack of empowerment. Hence, we need to focus on communicating the right word to the right TG in their common language."

Peter Yorke, Vice President, Marketing and Communication, Oracle Financial Services, highlighted the role of IT in making communication a one-touch point. He said, "Technology is the practical application of knowledge, especially in a particular area and it is important for us to leverage it in the best possible way. Today, one out five people who are using the Internet is from rural India. Thus, IT has changed the perception of population in the minds of marketers. As a result, we see it as a boon and not as a curse, but again, one needs to use technology along with other traditional mediums and use the tool of communication to reap the benefits."

Emphasising the philosophy of Thomas Friedman, K Bhavani, Director - Communications, Government of Singapore, and President, IPRS, said, "Today, the world is flat, and as a result, the companies are moving beyond boundaries and are getting unified into a single society and are functioning together. This, however, yearns for a qualitative corporate communication team that not only protects but also enhances the company's reputation in times of economic crisis. Looking at the future of corporate communication, I feel it needs to move from 'need to know' to 'need to disclosure', only then a company can survive both the economic slowdown and competition."

VS Parthasarathy, Vice President - M&A, M&M. took the audience through his theory of sixth grade and six working days. He said, "All kinds of communication, be it corporate or day-to-day communication, must be understandable by a sixth standard student and should be communicated six times in six different ways so that it gets internalised and leaves no scope for misunderstandings."

The most awaited session of the day was the 'Big Fight' on media versus corporate communications traditional divide. Addressing the gathering, Govindraj Ethiraj, Executive Editor, UTVi, pointed out that there had been a drastic change in the landscape of journalism, and as result, PR agencies needed have a symmetry in their outflow of information and not have three different releases sent to three different media houses. By doing so, there would be more authenticated news for the target viewers and thus, blaming today's young journalists was not a great idea, he added.

Countering him was Jitender Bhargava, Director, Communications, Air India. He said, "There is a need to educate today's journalists as they are not well versed with the different news beats, and thus, they make news sound like views in both the electronic and print media."

N Chadramouli, CEO, Blue Lotus Communications, came up with a balanced viewpoint for PR agencies, media houses as well as clients. He noted, "All the three entities are in the world of business, hence, all three need to shed their differences and present a story that is well balanced and does not cater to any personal vested interest. All the three units deal with news, and it is time they do it with responsibility. The prominence should now be on building up 'trust' as 'intent' and 'competence'."

Following the 'Big Fight', was the session on 'Why is it that corporate communication as a profession is unable to produce MD/CEOs of a limited company?' Vinaya Shetty, President - HR, Vin Management Consultant, initiated this session and said, "Today, India is rapidly integrating itself with the global economy. The rules of the game governing business are also changing fast. These sweeping changes require a new genre of business leaders who would embrace changes rather then deny it or resist it." She further said that it was time for seniors in the field of corporate communication to nurture their juniors.

YM Deosthalee, Director, L&T, emphasised on inculcating the need to learn the nuances of business as a stepping stone to becoming a CEO. He said, "It is time people in management as well as in corporate communication worked hand in hand so that the latter can both learn about the business in totality and unlearn certain fictitious aspects. By following this path, a person in corporate communication will no longer be looked upon only as a communicator, but as a business partner."

Wrapping up the session, Dr S Chandrashekhar, President - HR, Cap Gemini emphasised on having a Chief Marketing and Communication Officer (CMCO) rather then a CEO. He said, "Although all roads lead to CEO, all on the road may not reach that level. And looking at the age of Web2.0, we need to end the rivalry between a Chief Marketing Officer and a Corporate Communication Officer and encourage people to become CMCO rather then a CEO, mainly because it is corporate communication that helps in building a long term relationship, both within media and internally."

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