#e4mexclusive:  Influencer collaborations: New trend driving Public Relations for brands

Guest Column: Neha Bajaj, Founder & Managing Director, Scroll Mantra Pvt. Ltd., shares how a right influencer collaboration can do wonders for brands

e4m by sunny saini
Published: Sep 9, 2021 1:02 PM  | 4 min read

Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent but the one more responsive to change”.

With the technological development and digital revolution, we are witnessing an incessant change in the world of content creation. Gone are the days, when television and print media were the only platform for content makers. The birth of social media has reformed the media landscape and has emerged as new-age content platform. It has moulded the way content is packed and presented with innovation in real time, enabling prompt feedback and hence, bringing the content creator closer to their audiences.    

This new advancement has not just proved beneficial for the content makers but also has assisted the brands in curating new techniques for marketing to increase their visibility. This has also given birth to the term ‘integrated communications’ which is essentially tapping all key platforms and not just traditional media to ensure that the brand’s message is delivered to the target audience. Over the last few years influencer outreach has become an integral part while curating a sound PR strategy.

‘Advocacy’ has always been a part of our communication plans where we did seed customer testimonials, videos, awards that further strengthen the brand’s image in the consumer’s minds. In today’s social media age, influencers do this more beautifully and empower the brand to reach a larger audience. 

Digital PR has become a requisite while driving the communication strategy for the brand. Along with reaching out to the online websites or portals, influencer engagement has become an innate part of      digital PR. Many purchase decisions are driven by reading reviews or consulting an expert since it gives us a sense of satisfaction and relief about our money being well spent. Similarly, influencers in the digital world can be called as the new-age experts, having an immense reach to the audience. Influencers resonating with a specific sector can help the brands increase their visibility, awareness and popularity by reaching directly to the appropriate audience.

However, crafting out the best influencer collaboration can be challenging and the brand’s PR team should do some research before partnering, as it is crucial to choose highly engaged followers over the appealing ‘followers’ number. The team should keep key points like relevance, engagement, reach, frequency, and the most important, authenticity in mind to find a right fit for the brand.

Here are some points on how a right influencer collaboration can benefit your brand:

Building trust and credibility

Influencers portray loyal following and have successfully established themselves as an expert. Their recommendations are trusted amongst their followers. Hence, people find them credible and value their opinion as well as recommendations.  The collaboration of a brand with the influencers is able to quickly build a trust about their product among the audiences, making it easier to increase the brand’s credibility.

Influence public decision

An influencer engagement not just increases the brand visibility but it also helps in driving sales by creating a positive opinion about the brand’s product/services resulting in influencing the public decision.

Effectively reaching the target audience

Collaborating and reaching out to the relevant audiences for the brand is one of the biggest challenges. Here, influencers play a key role in enabling brands to reach their appropriate audiences.  It also reduces the extra spending of brands by cutting out the test and trial method, as they are reaching out to the audiences directly, who are curious about their product/ service.

Infinite sharing capability

With the traditional way of advertising, there is a limit to the reach as it is paid for a certain number of impressions. However, with influencers marketing a product, services and even campaigns hold the potential to be shared innumerable times, giving the brand more reach than it was actually paid for.     

The right mix of traditional PR, Digital PR, Influencer Outreach and Engaging Social Media presence can enable a brand to reach a much larger audience today – which initially was only possible through mainstream advertising. Today a sound PR strategy is breaking all barriers and has truly become a must have marketing initiative for all brands looking to expand its horizons.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchanhge4media.com.

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Lines between digital, social & traditional media blurring: Sonia Huria

Huria, Head - Corporate Marketing, Communications & Sustainability, Viacom18 Media, talks about her journey with Viacom18, role of women in the industry and more

By Nafisa Shaheen | Nov 11, 2019 4:13 PM   |   5 min read

Sonia Huria

Sonia Huria, Head - Corporate Marketing, Communications & Sustainability, Viacom18 Media Pvt. Ltd. is a young professional in the corporate communications industry with an aim of driving work in alignment with the company’s benefit and leading from the front.

Huria began her journey with Viacom18 in 2008, as part of the team that nurtured Hindi GEC – COLORS during its launch. Her understanding of television, the entertainment domain and the consumer space via her previous stints at Genesis Burson Marsteller and Weber Shandwick, helped her create a distinctively strong image for the channel.

Huria has not only spearheaded the launch of some of the biggest shows known to Indian television audiences, but has also supervised sustenance of their interest by adopting innovation every step of the way.

An interaction with Huria on her journey in the industry, role of the millennial and women in the industry.

Edited excerpts:

Being a young corp comm professional, how has been your journey in the industry?
When I started out as an associate at PR advisory firms, more than a decade and half ago, I hadn’t quite envisioned being here. My journey has been quite transitional from launching Viacom18’s flagship channel COLORS to now driving the brand and corporate communication for the media conglomerate across all its five lines of businesses. With the expansion of the network both vertically and horizontally, I expanded my portfolio to add more skills and responsibilities. My journey has motivated and challenged me to gun for more. Building brand communication strategies, implementing them at scale, bridging internal communication across a geographically and demographically diverse workforce, managing end consumer relations, crafting the identity of a ‘network with a humane purpose’ through partnerships with various government and industry bodies, and social impact organizations have been the most important aspects of my Viacom18 journey.

Since your inception in this industry, what are the changes that you have observed in the working of this industry?
The communication landscape is transforming with the lines between digital, social and traditional media blurring with newer areas of influencer marketing and customer engagement. With businesses now thriving on digital transformation, there has been a focus on communications, as the industry has traversed a long way. In my journey so far, I have seen the media and entertainment industry move from being focussed on traditional media to now integrating communication across platforms both within the organization as well as outside the organization. Cause-led communications are now driving the consumer connect. Data is revolutionising the approach towards communications.

As majority of the industry is occupied by women, what do you feel about the role of women in this industry?
PR and communication calls for empathy in understanding situations, multi-tasking and strategizing creatively – these are skills that are inherent in women – and using these skills help deliver best results. With gradual development of positive measures in the corporate sector, increased participation of women has pointed out to multifarious benefits, including improved financial performance of the organization, greater tilt towards corporate social responsibility and better organizational climate. Women lead to more productivity and better problem-solving.

How important are millennials in the field of communication?
Millennials are turning out to be crucial to communications. Leadership skills, willingness to work as a team, optimism, being tech savy and goal orientation are some of the positive skills shown by the millennial today. This generation is largely comprised of motivated, competent professionals looking to gain the experience and knowledge necessary to ascend to higher roles within their field. Understanding this generation of employees and working with them to develop their talent and modernise traditions in the workspace will train strong leaders for the future of PR and communications.

How are the CSR activities of Viacom 18 different from the activities of PSUs?
Viacom18 is one of the fastest growing and most successful networks in the country. However, we do this with a focus on the triple bottom line of social responsibility, economic value and environmental impact. We are aware of the power that the media wields and the endeavour to grow with our values of giving back to the communities we serve.
Our projects are primarily focused in the areas of Education, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Art & Culture and Women’s Empowerment.

In 2019, we strengthened Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan with the launch of a 26-episode finite series ‘Navrangi Re’ in association with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and BBC Media Action. This show created awareness on the problem of sanitation in India. We also championed the cause of youth empowerment by bringing international behaviour change show MTV Shugga to India. A 13-part fiction series, the show will focus on sensitive yet important areas of youth sexual health, consent and abortion as core themes and is being supported by USAID, CIFF, Janssen, BMGF and UNICEF.

What are your 5-year growth plans?
While we continue to leverage the power of story telling, we aim to make our every story reach its audience. Hence, from a communication point of view, we will continue being the enabler that bring our stories to its audiences while also leveraging our brand promise.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchanhge4media.com.

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PR firms need to be strategists and brand custodians: Trigam Mukherjee, The Prophets

Trigam Mukherjee, Founder & MD of TMH Consultants, the holding company of PR agency The Prophets, talks about his entrepreneurial instinct, the role of startups and their future in the field

By exchange4media Staff | Nov 11, 2019 3:03 PM   |   1 min read

Trigam Mukherjee

In the cluttered public relations industry, Trigam Mukherjee founded The Prophets in 2015 and has been instrumental in scripting its success story from a modest scale of engaging with start-ups to steering the company towards counselling and guiding globally-renowned brands across diverse verticals.

 Founder and Managing Director of TMH Consultants, the holding company of PR agency The Prophets, Trigam’s entrepreneurial journey is balanced with his experience in corporate India as well as renowned global agencies like Mullen Lowe.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchanhge4media.com.

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Addressing challenges present in the PR industry: Sonam Shah, Treize Communications

Guest Column: Sonam Shah, Founder & CEO of Treize Communications, explains how even in a fast-growing industry, there is still limited understanding of PR & Corp Comms in the Indian market

By Sonam Shah | Nov 11, 2019 9:19 AM   |   4 min read

Sonam Shah Treize

We all know that PR in India is now a rapidly growing industry and the need for strategic PR is now being accepted by brands and individuals, as well. But one thing I do not see much is people addressing the challenges which are present. We all know PR plays an important tool in the marketing mix of any campaign and that the right PR can help any campaign reach greater heights. While at one place we are discussing the integration of technology in PR, we are missing out on addressing the current challenges present. I think the larger need is to address these challenges.

Lack of understanding

There is a very limited understanding of PR or Corporate Communications in the Indian market. While our advertising and marketing fraternity acknowledges it, there is a very large market of SME’s, women entrepreneurs, young and fresh brands which have really good stories to tell but do not know how to get it done. It sad to see, a very large audience, who is looking for promotional means, mixes PR or media presence with SEO, SEM, Social Media and at times even print ads. Addressing this is probably the first step in raising awareness about PR in India and building a stronger association with any current or new client.

Paid and Earned Media

People tend to mix up earned media and paid media a lot, which ends up hampering the overall PR strategy. While its good to have a mix of both, in the larger strategy, it's even more important to know which is important and why. There is no harm in approaching a paid media route if it goes with the brand image and requirement. It’s important to know if there is any value add to the entire activity and is not just about counting media mentions.

Budgets and ROI

Budgets have been and will continue to be a challenge for any marketer. Clients clearly do not have budget allocations for PR as they do not see ROI. While they understand the need for PR with evolving time, there is a lack of understanding in knowing that PR is not something which is ROI driven. It is a brand-building exercise which needs to be inculcated at a visionary level, from the beginning of setting up a brand or company. Getting presence in media does not assure you sales or quick churn outs. Therefore, to address the challenge of budget, the industry needs to come out and address the challenge of measuring ROI.

Involvement of Senior Management

Before approaching any PR agency or a PR Consultant it is of utmost important the senior management involves itself in the day to day detailing and activities. The brand value, image and the perception of the brand or company, for which you have hired the agency, requires a lot of efforts from the top. This is currently lacking. Whilst it’s good to have managers at an execution level, the senior management cannot shy away from involving them in shaping the company’s image on a regular basis. Good PR will only happen if the key team is involved. PR responsibility is not something which can be entrusted or left to members of the team as not everyone will tell a story the way the founders can do, and this holds extreme importance in any PR exercise.

Long Term Approach

Another key step which is clearly lacking is a long term approach. Brands need to know that building an image does not happen overnight! This is a clear case of Quality vs. Quantity. It is not important to see how many media mentions you have got; it is important to see were they at the correct places and read by the correct TG? Doing one all-out activity is never the best solution. It's important to take small initiatives of intelligent and quality coverage, which unfold the stories of the brand. This goes a long long way!

I truly hope that PR is understood as fast as it is moving, and the challenges are overcome soon!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchanhge4media.com.

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Evaluation & evolution are important for future growth of the PR industry: Vineet Handa

Vineet Handa, Founder & CEO of Kaizzen, talks about his journey in the PR industry, the changes he has witnessed and the advent of newer technologies

By Nafisa Shaheen | Nov 7, 2019 5:11 PM   |   5 min read

Vineet Handa

An entrepreneurial venture of Vineet Handa- Kaizzen offers creative solutions for various business challenges in the traditional media and the digital realm. Kaizzen integrates technology with traditional media to bring ideas to life, drive ROI and engage the customer at every turn.

Handa brings rich experience in Public Relations, Operations, Investments, Business Development and Management. At various stages of his career, Handa has projected great responsibility and expertise in handling prestigious relationships and projects for the government and various organisations

An insightful interaction with Vineet Handa- Founder & CEO at Kaizzen on the changing scenario of the PR industry, the advent of newer technologies in the industry and how the industry has changed.

Edited Excerpts

How has your journey in the PR industry been?

I started this 20-year journey in Public Relations, Brand Communication and Outreach, with ABCL way back in 1997. Before starting Kaizzen, I was an Associate Director at TERI (The Energy and Resources Institute), Delhi for 2 years and held various senior positions at Genesis Burson-Marsteller and CMCG, which are two of India’s leading communications companies.

My entrepreneurial journey began as the Founder of Kaizzen in 2008, with the aim of bringing a new dimension to the communications realm and providing value to companies. My quest for entrepreneurship was once again realised in 2009 when I founded another successful company specialising in experiential marketing and events management in called Craftsman Solutions Pvt Ltd. The year 2017 marked the beginning of yet another venture in the form of a young and emerging advertising firm called OFactor Communications.

With the learnings from these three successful ventures and decades of experience in the field of communications, I took lead in a study project with EY (a leading consulting firm) on sports development and its impact on livelihood in the North-East Indian states. In the entire course of my career, so far, I have had the opportunity to collaborate and work with some of the best in the business and provide value-added services to them.

How do you distinguish Kaizzen from other agencies working in the same domain?

We bring value on board for the clients we work with. Client retention and agility in work are our USPs and key strength areas, distinguishing us from other agencies. We have a client retention rate of 90% in the 12 years that we have been in business. This can be attributed to the fact that even our people stay with us. I feel there is a huge correlation between a client and the people who service that client, after all, we are in the relationship business.

How do you make sure that the stories you create reach the right audience and are able to make an impact?

At Kaizzen, we feel that it is our joint responsibility to keep both the clients and the audiences happy and content. Our first responsibility is towards the client and what they expect from us. The second responsibility is the ultimate result that the client is looking for through this association. The right equilibrium between deliveries and commitments is the success mantra. 

What has been the growth spectrum for Kaizzen along the years?

The last 3 years have been phenomenal for us. Kaizzen has been consistently growing over the years. We have grown approximately 70% in the last FY. Now we have 3 offices in India ie, Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore. We expect to grow with a healthy growth rate in coming years.

How are communication agencies leveraging Big Data, AI and other new generation technologies?

Technologies such as AI and Big Data are making a breakthrough in every sector today and our industry is not excluded from this development either. As around the world, things are witnessing a paradigm shift. In India as well we have started seeing some movement in this domain. For instance, with the help of AI, a communications agency can get access to an unprecedented amount of consumer data. This and the fact that ML algorithms can track the effectiveness of any campaign undertaken for a brand will further help tailor future campaigns to the brands’ needs. This will, in turn, improve client satisfaction, brand reach, and ROI. The bottom line here is that we need to get future-ready as “evaluation and evolution” are extremely important now, more than ever.

With the coming of the Internet, communication has undergone a massive shift. Can you tell us about the challenges and opportunities that the Internet has brought along for PR professionals?

There have been both positive and negative changes in the Internet era. For example, communication has become easier and faster. It is now possible for us to reach audiences which would have seemed impossible earlier. However, the biggest negative impact has been the change in the attitude of people. I strongly believe that relationships are the core of our business and with the advent of technology, there has been a considerable decline in this very idea of the relationship.

What paradigm shift have you noticed in the industry?

I feel that PR has now become an industry that holds on its own. Technology has further helped in improving deliveries and measurability of impact. Now PR is no more a luxury but is must-have for the organisations.

What is the core problem that you find in the PR industry currently?

The core problem for me is a lack of the right kind of attitude in people. People have now become laid back in their approach which can prove detrimental to the normal functioning of this industry. PR is a very dynamic and relationship-oriented industry and to flourish, the right kind of attitude and approach to work is extremely important.

How has your relationship been with exchange4media?

My relationship with exchange4media has been truly incredible. I have been associated with e4m since its inception. I always feel that exchange4media has helped the industry a lot to grow for future challenges. I would like to congratulate the brand on completing 10 years of IPRCCA.

The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchanhge4media.com.

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91springboard appoints Pitchfork Partners as strategic communication consultant

Pitchfork Partners will oversee 91springboard's public relations, online reputation management and stakeholder engagement

By exchange4media Staff | Nov 5, 2019 2:15 PM   |   2 min read

91springboard Pitchfork Partners

91springboard, the coworking community and space provider, has appointed Pitchfork Partners as its strategic communication consultant after a multi-agency pitch. As a part of the mandate, Pitchfork will oversee public relations, online reputation management, and stakeholder engagement for 91springboard.

Launched in 2013, 91springboard is one of India’s fastest-growing co-working spaces. In a short span of seven years, the homegrown brand has expanded its footprint with 26 live and 2 in the pipeline co-working spaces in nine cities namely Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Pune, Goa, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad. Pitchfork Partners will play a key role in sustaining and elevating the reputation built by 91springboard through a holistic communication plan that includes online as well as traditional media.

Speaking on the association, Chaitanya Kumar, Director of Marketing, 91springboard said, “91springboard is one of the longest-standing and established homegrown brands offering businesses of all sizes a trusted community that helps them grow not just on a professional level but on a personal level as well. Taking a ‘People-first’ approach is strongly rooted in our DNA. Today, as we stand in our current phase of growth, it was important to have a partner that understands our vision and crafts a strategic communication plan that enhances our reputation as India’s leading co-working community. We are confident that our partnership with Pitchfork Partners will help us scale new heights.”

“91springboard provides more than just a working space; it is an excellent platform for entrepreneurs and working professionals to engage and collaborate. Partnering with the pioneers of community engagement in the co-working sector is of great significance to us. We are delighted to work with 91springboard and assist them in achieving their business goals through strategic and insight-driven communication,” added Jaideep Shergill, Co-founder of Pitchfork Partners.

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Regional PR agencies to play an important role in the coming years: Shailesh Goyal

An interaction with Shailesh Goyal, Founder & Chief Executive, Simulations Public Affairs Management Services Pvt Ltd. shares insights on the role of regional PR agencies in the industry today

By Nafisa Shaheen | Nov 4, 2019 4:22 PM   |   5 min read

Shailesh Goyal

Communication through thoughtfully crafted, effective narratives will help businesses form a lasting impression and build reputation over a period of time. Inspired by this thought, Shailesh Goyal founded Simulations Public Affairs Management Services Pvt. Ltd, an independent integrated public relations and media consultancy firm that has been offering 360-degree solutions in various facets of corporate communications,  marketing & branding solutions.

A Bachelor in Technology, Shailesh Goyal holds an MBA post-graduate degree from B K School of Business Management, Ahmedabad. He is an active member of various  industry bodies and professional associations  like CII, FICCI, GIS,  IACC, ICBC,  AMA, PRCAI, etc. where he has served  as patron/member/executive council or committee member, governing board and others.

An interaction with Shailesh Goyal, Founder& Chief Executive, Simulations Public Affairs Management Services Pvt Ltd. will provide insights on the role of regional PR agencies in the industry, his journey and the evolving PR space going forward. 

How has your time in the PR industry been?

The last 18 years has been a great journey. There have been ups and downs, and the challenges that come with it, but on the whole, it has been a very satisfying experience both personally and professionally as well. The time in the public relations industry and interactions with PR pioneers has allowed me to enhance my exposure, knowledge, and outlook as a communication professional and a PR person. I am also happy that I have been able to groom many successful PR professionals during the journey over these years. It is also a matter of pride for me personally that our success has inspired many others to set up their own agencies and take the profession ahead. 

Tell us more about your consultancy firm Simulations PR

When I set up Simulations PR in 2001, the concept of Public Relations (PR) was virtually unknown in this part of the region. PR was seen as an extension of advertising. The fact that there were no full-fledged PR agencies in the state at the time, and the occasional public relation work was done by national ad agencies having a presence here. This actually strengthened the sentiment. Simulations PR was the first full-fledged PR agency of Gujarat. We were also the first PR consultancy perhaps, to handle sole of the Gujarat government entities as a PR services only client. Over the years, we have expanded our gamut of activities to provide complete reputation management and brand consulting services. But PR remains our core strength.

How has the PR industry changed over the years?

We are seeing a sea change in the PR industry, especially in the last three or four years. Print media was, by and large, the focus area and core competence of most PR agencies, but now we are seeing a gradual shift towards digital segments over the last few years. I believe the pace of this shift is going to accelerate further going ahead. Thus keeping in line with the changing media scenario, where digital is expected to become increasingly dominant.

How can you trace your growth over the years in the PR industry?

We have done well, and have been able to carve a niche for ourselves. Simulations is a known and trusted name in PR in western India and elsewhere, because of the value we have been able to deliver to our clients’ businesses. Our focus always has been on quality work, and not on quantity, which I suppose has worked to our advantage. It has allowed us to be a dependable partner every time.

How do you see the Regional PR agencies faring in the future?

I believe that regional PR agencies will have an increasingly important role to play in the years to come. I say this because regional and hyper-local media is growing very fast, and this trend is expected to continue going forward. The dominance of digital platforms, which cater to regional and local readerships is imminent, and this is where, regional PR will come into the picture. Also, I believe that PR as an industry is nearing a saturation point in metros, and future growth has to come from smaller centres, Tier II & Tier III cities and towns. There are tremendous growth opportunities for regional PR in the coming years as specialists. 

How do you see PR evolving in India?

As media platforms and technologies evolve at a frightening pace and become more interactive by offering a complete bouquet of text, audio, and visuals in a bid to retain audiences, PR too will have to learn, adapt and evolve. There is no other option. The world of media is changing exponentially. 

While traditional PR will not be over in a few years from now, we will see the traditional type of media coverage becoming history. Native content and co-branded content will become the order of the day. We have to prepare and be ready for such a future.

What is your 5 years growth plan in the industry?

Like all other players in the industry, we are also seeing the lines blurring between traditional and digital PR. We aim to keep pace with the changing dynamics and position ourselves as a provider of a whole bouquet of services in communication and public connect domain.

How has been your association with exchange4media?

exchange4media is one of the oldest and most popular platforms for communication professionals in the country today. Our association with exchange4media goes back a long way, more than a decade. I am happy to say that it has been very fruitful in multiple ways. It has a very agile and amicable team led by evergreen leader Anurag Batra, and it has been a great learning experience for us to be associated with them.


The content in this section is curated by the PR and Communications team. For any feedback kindly write to karan.bhatia@exchanhge4media.com.

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Priyanka Jain joins ShareChat as North Head Corporate Communications & Regional Outreach

Prior to this, Priyanka was Account Director at Perfect Relations

By exchange4media Staff | Nov 1, 2019 2:29 PM   |   2 min read

Priyanka Jain

ShareChat appoints Priyanka Jain as Head of Corporate Communications and Regional Outreach (North India).

In the new role, Priyanka will be responsible for corporate communications, brand outreach and digital marketing of the North Indian region. Priyanka’s role will be pivotal in driving company’s brand visibility and building strategic marketing alliances in the northern region.

Priyanka comes with over 15 years of experience and has worked in multiple agencies like Mutual PR, Text 100 (now Archetype) and Perfect Relations. Priyanka specializes in driving mandates for technology and consumer brands like IBM, Airtel, Ookla, Intex, CSC etc at both National and regional level.  She was also responsible for client relations, strategic media relations, crisis management, financial planning and growth.

In her Linkedin update, Priyanka shared, "It’s a privilege to work for ShareChat, the brand which is "Made in India" and "Made for Indian" and is closer to the heart of users residing in larger Bharat. ShareChat truly aims to empower the digital journey of Bharat and I look forward to be part of this homegrown brand, as it embarks on the next level of growth.”

She started her career with Mutual PR as senior account manager and thereafter worked with Pepsico- Lays Baked launch as Consultant, Tarmac Affairs.

Priyanka comes from a commerce background and has done her professional studies in Journalism and Mass Communications from Guru Govind Singh Indraprastha University. She is also a post graduate from ICFAI University. 

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