Ananya Saha
Jan 15, 2014

'We want information flow to work faster for our clients and for us'

Q&A with Prema Sagar, principal and founder, Genesis Burson-Marsteller

'We want information flow to work faster for our clients and for us'

Genesis Burson-Marsteller has announced the introduction of a 'Newsroom' to its fold. Currently under construction at the agency's Gurgaon office, it will go live in March 2014. It aims to feed teams live news to help them monitor developments in real time. Access will be available to the consultancy staff through an intranet portal and a mobile application, both of which are currently being tested.

Prema Sagar, principal and founder, GBM, explains the concept, underlining that 2014 would see more announcements from the PR agency.

A public relations agency, and a 'Newsroom'. How did the idea come about?

We are doing lots of interesting things. 2014 is completely packed with new areas of excellence. The recent one is 'GBM Newsroom'.

The core of our work is content, and media. We need to keep pace with the world that is changing very fast. We are known as strategists, but it is very important that we excel at media and content. It is said that strategy is good as long as you deliver that strategy. So we have to deliver our strategy through content and media. Content is a huge challenge by itself. We do have a content and design bureau. But how we integrate it in the newsroom is the second step. The newsroom is all about media. We will have video walls, and all the technology for recording it from the TV, listening on social media etc.

There are two parts to it. One is that our clients want to know the information as it happens. Sometimes things break on policy, or something related to the clients. We want to be the first to tell them. We want information flow to work faster for our clients and for us.

The second part is we are putting out information. We have 120 clients. The newsroom will curate new media distribution channels with a capability to conceptualise and execute end-to-end media initiatives. It will also curate and supply multi-media content such as video clips, animations and infographics to the media, in addition to press releases.

There are four or five buckets of services that the newsroom will cater to. There is a variety of technology that will be serving the newsroom. We are trying to do something that has not been done before. We are going to do something that is path-breaking for us, and probably in the world. We have Googled to see if anyone has ever done it before, and couldn't find anything. People do have content factories but they don’t have an integrated newsroom, with content and all media. We don't have a predecessor to follow.

Is it an extension of the positioning of 'Being More' that was introduced in October 2013?


Has a new team been hired for newsroom?

It is the existing team. Our youngest people are called outreach specialists. Their KRA is to make sure that they understand media inside out. And then comes that layer of content, which will happen in the second phase. Then, we have campaign managers who are the project managers. What they do is oversee that what we promise to our client in the beginning must be delivered. Then there are team leaders and client leaders.

We have various practice areas - brand and consumer, technology and telecom, corporate and financial, heal and wellness. Each team is watching their whole set of clients in that practice. If I am the outreach specialist, and I am in the corporate practice, I am watching 'corporate'. You don’t want to be focussing on anything else. It's a matrix of how all this works.

The newsroom team - would they feed the team with the information? Or each practice would have a person dedicated to newsroom?

It is a media bay where anyone can go and sit and go through the news that is appearing. These people will be in and out of the bay because they also go to media and clients. We have also developed a dashboard. So, if I want to know the information sitting on my desktop in office, I have access to it. All locations and regional offices of GBM would have access to this dashboard.

How long was this process - from ideation to now?

We started were talking about it in middle of 2013. We kept talking for too long. We started putting things together from August last year. There is going to be a portal and Mobile App, which is going to be a killer app for the Newsroom, which will give access to all information.

Only GBM employees would be able to have access to the newsroom...

Yes, and clients. Ultimately, we would like media to sign in and have access to backgrounders, pictures, but that will be the second phase. That is something we were thinking of three years ago but we were growing other areas like public affairs, corporate responsibility etc.

Has GBM informed its clients about it?

We should be doing it soon.

What were the investments on this project?

Significant. We have the space, and people, so we had to invest only on technology. We have various technology partners to power the newsroom.

Last year, GBM recently got in to partnership with Wordswork. Is there a reason you didn't acquire the agency? Are you looking at acquisitions this year?

We are going to do few more partnerships this year. We want to get people who have very fine expertise. Supposing, there is sports and luxury, instead of creating a team within us, we entered into partnership with Wordswork, which apparently, are our alumni. But if it's an unknown group, it doesn’t work. We have been scouting, and we have found few about which you will hear about later.

Partnership means that two parties work together. They had expertise, and we pitched together. People liked a company that has national footprint as well someone who has expertise in strategy. We pitched for NBA, and won.

Acquisitions are a problem. First, you should do a partnership, flirt with each other. Find if it is worth getting engaged and finally, get married, which is acquisition. It is nice to do it step-by-step.

What are the other initiatives lined up for 2014?

They are not yet cooked. Most of it will be announced within this quarter.

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