Interview Q&A: Mr. Siddharth Singh, Head Corporate Affairs, Corporate Communications and Administration Tata Power-DDL
Q1. From total backwater to elbowing their way on the tables where the big calls are made, how do you think the profile of a Corporate Affairs Head has evolved over the years?
A. Over the years, the profile of a Corporate Affairs Head has underwent a lot of change, it is challenging in terms of career track and responsibilities. It requires proactiveness and ability to meet stringent timelines. Earlier, the role was restricted to liasoning and policy advocacy in the power corridors but now it also encompasses analyst relations, communication (both internal and external), corporate social responsibility and social media and brand management.
Q2. What do you think are the expectations of the C-suite and Board from the Corporate Affairs Leaders with the ever changing environment and does the profile require a deep understanding of the business?
A. Corporate Affairs Head works both horizontally and vertically, it is important for him/her to keep a close check on the pulse of micro and macro trends both within and outside the organisation which helps connect company’s actions and messages with ever expanding set of stakeholders. Working in sync. with other departments/ functions (from top to bottom) including business and technology partners, external stakeholders, consumer and Industry/trade bodies help in better information dissemination across all platforms and audiences.
The incumbent has to take the outside world to the boardroom and also inside perspective to the outside world, to ensure all the stakeholders are being heard and properly communicated. The C suite expects him to be progressive, to be able to come up with new ideas of working and engage meaningfully with all stakeholders.
Q3. In today’s business environment, what do you think are the required skillsets for anybody aspiring to enter into this profile?
A. For anyone aspiring to enter this domain, he/ she should be highly attuned to the nuances and impact of everything around him, be it social, political, regulatory or global trends and also be comfortable in adjusting to a fluidic business environment. Mostly, people with proven track record as a bureaucrat or someone who has worked in a govt. setup and / or dealt with media makes a great fit for this profile. It is no more an ivory tower job, one has to keep their ears to the ground and learn each passing day.
Q4. How critical is corporate communication in corporate affairs profile?
A. I think, the role of a Corporate Communicator (CC) is to connect all levers within the organisation and bring a 360 degree perspective to the table. Today, a CC leader must be able connect company’s strategy and actions with their expanding set of stakeholders, be dynamic and able to get into constructive dialogue and fit together/ shape the emerging forces of technology, globalisation and understanding with employees, stakeholder demands and have a strategic foresight for developing a potent communication mix with effective ROI. Gone are the days of one size fits all, so it is important to be connected to different stakeholders through different mediums like social media for consumers, blog for sector experts, roundtable conferences for leaders, authored articles in magazines and white papers for analysts et al.
Q5. What role does communication play in ensuring that leadership team and organisation is well aligned with its stakeholders’ expectations?
A. The main role of a communicator is to contribute in building brand equity, he/ she has to work in tandem with the media, marketing/ advertising professionals, social media team and ensure the consumer gets the right and timely communication. Unlike the yester days, it is the age of two way communication and not the job of a PRO. Today, communication mediums, audience and content consumption patterns are changing at a frantic page. Even the format in which news is disseminated has evolved, with the advent of mojos or mobile journos, all the news is distributed and consumed on a real time basis. Social Media has become a major tool to connect with youth and content customization is the new mantra.
Q6. In your opinion, how important is it for the creative, media and digital agencies to work in confluence for desired communication results?
A. The agencies bring a varied experience of their own expertise. Thus, to make communication more effective and create a great connect with the stakeholders it is important to offer a unified brand experience. All the communication campaigns should be orchestrated in such a manner that optimal results are achieved. The confluence of thoughts should be such which supports in devising the creative, media and digital strategy, right from ideation to planning to execution and then measurement.
Q7. In the age of judicial, civil society and political activism how Corporate Affairs leaders can effectively manage Government Relations, Corporate Communications, Brand Communications and Policy Advocacy. What is your mantra of success?
A. In the age of civil, political and judicial activism, the brand and advertisement professionals find it difficult to stay the course as even a small disruption can rock the boat, it is important to develop clairvoyance pertaining to the overall business environment. Like in the case of a Global Multinational Retail Corporation, the company could get a foot in the door but was unable to enter venture into India until this year due to opposition and activism from various quarters. I think it is very important to reach out to political think tanks, both incumbent and the opposition to align the thought process for the benefit of the sector and the nation as a whole. There should be alignment and strong understanding between government relations, corporate communications, marketing and brand professionals etc. to be able to successfully swim through unchartered waters.