P&G India gains global PR pioneer status

Aided by agency support, P&G stays ahead of the curve in PR using finely targeted strategies

Aided by agency support, P&G stays ahead of the curve in PR using finely targeted strategies

Procter & Gamble has been quite the object of attention in the PR world lately. The behemoth that boasts the world's largest advertising budget turned heads in the agency world when it claimed to have cracked the code of marketing services measurement, and PR ended up as the most highly ranked discipline.

But P&G's commitment to PR has always existed - and on a global scale. In India, perhaps the world's fastest-growing market, P&G's PR operates on a scale of complexity that belies its small staff size. In a country with more than 20 official languages, untold thousands of regional media outlets, and 1 billion people, selling Pantene isn't as simple as holding up a bottle for the cameras.

P&G's relentlessly modern glass headquarters building rises up from behind a wall in a busy, low-slung neighborhood on the outskirts of Mumbai. It is where Shweta Shukla, the PR manager who is essentially a one-person operation, helps coordinate all of P&G's PR efforts throughout the huge country, including consumer and corporate work. Shukla says she spends 70% to 80% of her time on brand- and marketing-focused work, and the rest on corporate duties.

As a multinational conglomerate, P&G's general best practices emanate from its Cincinnati headquarters; but all campaigns in India are unique to the country and developed by the agencies that work for the company in India. Shukla serves on several P&G global PR teams, but that doesn't mean that her work is micromanaged from above.
"We've done a lot of pioneering, innovative stuff in PR out of P&G India," she says. "P&G's spirit of 'share and reapply' global best practices has enabled the India team to get connected with their PR counterparts... across the P&G world."

That pioneering work includes PR campaigns that, for India, are ahead of the curve. For example, the company seized on a claim that 80% of India's most beautiful women prefer Pantene hair care products to commission an independent survey confirming the results. That turned into an entire campaign that garnered space in Cosmopolitan and played up India's love affair with Bollywood stars.

"We've gone beyond traditional PR in India," Shukla says. "We've gone to a whole new platform of influencer marketing."

Shukla is particularly proud that P&G allows its PR team to take the lead in developing campaigns, which are then exploited by marketing and advertising. "Usually, it's the other way around."

With only one full-time, in-house PR manager (another is on the way), Shukla acknowledges that P&G runs "a very lean team" in India. But she has strong agency support from Madison PR, a unit of Madison Communications, a large, independent Indian agency that has actually stationed two full-time staffers in P&G's offices to help with on-site work. Veena Gidwani, CEO of Madison PR, notes that "India is a unique market," which allows homegrown firms to beat out multinationals for large accounts.

"All organizations today are realizing that PR brings in a lot of value if it's done properly," she says. "The Indian consumer is exposed to so many different products, inter- national brands coming in. Within India itself, companies are evolving to meet newer needs for consumers, so there's more opportunity for organizations to communicate."

Madison's activities for P&G encompass a broad range of brand communications and media relations efforts. Gidwani says that, although there are literally thousands of different media outlets in different languages in different parts of the country, the agency is careful to target the most appropriate for a particular campaign. This saves having to employ a staff that is unattainably multilingual. Occasionally, she says, Madison works with smaller firms in outlying areas to reach more isolated Indian markets.

While Madison has the bulk of P&G India's business, a new agency was added to the team in the wake of P&G's merger with Gillette. Corporate Voice/Weber Shandwick was handling Gillette's PR, and P&G decided to keep it on to work with that portfolio of brands. But although P&G now has two firms with different ownership models, "at the end of the day, the resources are firmly rooted into the Indian consumer," says Shukla, "whether it's a multinational agency or an agency of Indian origin."

Anthony Rose, now an associate director of global beauty external relations in the US, founded P&G's Indian PR operation nearly a decade ago. "It's really moved on in terms of capability," he says. While P&G India retains his original model of a small, in-house team with strong agency support, he says it's made great strides, specifically in broadcast media relations and integration with other disciplines. Combined with Madison's support, finely targeted media strategies, and new measurement models, he says, "They have definitely gone to another level."

AT A GLANCE

Company:
Procter & Gamble (India)

CEO:
Shantanu Khosla

Headquarters:
Mumbai, India

Revenues and Latest Earnings:
For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2006, P&G overall had $68.22 billion in net sales. Net earnings were $8.68 billion. P&G India had turnover of more than $400 million

Competitors: Unilever

Key Trade titles:
Media, Campaign

PR Budget: Undisclosed

MarComms Team:
Shweta Shukla, PR manager

Marketing Services Agencies:
PR: Madison PR; Corporate Voice/Weber Shandwick

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