Shruti is an Associate Director at Weber Shandwick, a global public relations agency. She is originally from Delhi, where she started her career in television – landing her dream job with the leading national network in India. She spent the next six years travelling the breadth of the country filming documentaries, travelogues, and food shows.
In 2012, she switched careers and has been in PR ever since.
She has worked on strategic communications with some of the world’s leading companies. Her current work involves building internal communications programmes for Novartis, and ExxonMobil. Prior to Weber Shandwick, she worked with Porter Novelli, looking after brand reputation and media strategy for their biggest technology accounts – Hewlett-Packard, Infosys and Cisco.
She is passionate about employee engagement and driving female leadership in the workplace.
● Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Living London, Dreaming Delhi
● How did you get into PR/communications?
I followed a somewhat unconventional route. After spending a few incredibly rewarding years working in television, I wanted a change of pace (and a slightly less demanding work life). A friend suggested PR and without a clue I jumped right in. It has been a non-stop, and mostly enjoyable learning experience ever since.
● What do you love about your job?
The possibilities. Where else would you get to work across industries like tech, oil & gas, and healthcare, all in a day’s work? There is also space for all kinds of roles. I started out with strategic media communications but soon realised it wasn’t for me. I’m now a happy internal comms practitioner but I like knowing I can take my career in any direction I want.
● What are you most proud of?
The journey I have had so far – both personally and professionally. Switching from a successful career and relocating to a different country both require a certain leap into the unknown. I am proud of being brave enough to make the jump, twice, and come out successful at the other end.
● What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
You can create the perfect strategy but things don’t always go to plan A (or B or C)… And that’s okay. To admit something is not working and evolve isn’t a sign of weakness. What’s important is to adapt, and reset your method and/or your expectations.
● Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
I have to go with my first Director when I joined PR in India – Nicole Hamilton. She was a great role model for how to manage demanding clients, relentless days at work and multi-market teams. Nicole played a huge role early on in my career and I’m lucky to count her as a mentor and a friend. She now heads a fantastic PR agency in Melbourne – in case anyone’s career is heading that way.
● What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Communication. This seems obvious but I have seen people across levels struggle with communicating internally. We do our best for clients but fail to invest in the same degree of thought with our internal teams. It’s a misconception to think the “softer skills” are less important. Talking, listening and sharing feedback is the key to building strong teams, which in turn deliver strong results. Some of our best work is done when everyone in the team feels it’s safe to share his or her experiences and ideas.
● What is your favourite social network and why?
I have a love-hate relationship with Twitter. But nothing can beat the real-time engagement it provides.
● What’s your favourite podcast and why?
This changes constantly. If I have to pick one then it’s ‘The Guilty Feminist’. Each episode involves Deborah Frances-White discussing topics “all 21 st century feminists agree on” with her guests. It’s funny, intelligent, heart breaking and relatable in equal measure.
● Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Ravish Kumar, a long-standing political journalist in India. Much like the rest of the world, India is going through a vicious atmosphere of fear, failure, and fallacy created by right wing propaganda. He is often the (sole) voice of reason, bringing hope and compassion through his courageous reporting.
● What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Say ‘yes’ to the things that scare you the most.
● Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
The biggest on-going fail is Facebook’s handling of the data breach and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It has been a series of missteps from the start. Of all the companies, one expects Facebook to know that it’s hard for facts to remain hidden. I don’t think the PR nightmare is over yet and it’s too late for Mark Zuckerberg and his team to take any control of the narrative.
My favourite this year is Ben & Jerry’s – Lift The Ban. Everyone’s talking about the importance of brands having a point of view and standing for something. This is a great example of a cause-led campaign going beyond awareness into concrete action. In less than six months, the Lift the Ban campaign has grown to a coalition that is 175 members strong, including charities, businesses, trade unions, think tanks and faith groups. All united by a common purpose: lifting the ban that prevents people seeking sanctuary in the UK from working.
● Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Measure it. As an industry, we need more transparency on where the benchmark lies and set goals for improvement. We can then start tracking progress towards these goals.
Currently, the lack of clear data means everyone is working off anecdotal suggestions. D&I initiatives are getting reduced to a tick-box exercise as no one is taking the lead to say – This is what success will look like. We are not there yet, but we have a plan and will hold ourselves accountable for not achieving it.
Shruti is one of 18 mentors for the 2020 BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. Applications for mentees are now open – click here to find out more. The closing date for applications is Friday 14 February 2020.