When I first interacted with Pragya Vaishwanar , I was intrigued by her designation. I understood the “Director Marketing” bit, but “Influencer Relations” got me stumped. Thankfully, she agreed to this interview, and I got to discover a fascinating role that exists in our tech industry…
Q. Can you describe your current role? What are the primary results that you are expected to achieve for your organisation in this role?
A. I’m responsible for influencer relations at Aricent. The charter covers market research, analyst relations, and public relations. The idea is to have a 360-degree view of the key influencers in the ecosystem – clients, analysts, and media, which helps chart out a solid plan to create a circle of influence for the company. The primary goal is to get the company as much positive visibility as possible with the key influencers (stakeholders, bloggers, journalists, and analysts) in the technology domains that my company has a play in.
Market Research plays a role in keeping my company on the radar of key influencers with the prospective client. This is done by identifying the decision makers and understanding their areas on interest and how we can align to them by creating a stakeholder persona. We work on creating avenues that can help us cross paths with these individuals. As part of market research, we also work on ensuring our internal stakeholders are up to speed with the latest in technology so that we can identify avenues of investment and plan future roadmaps. Analyst Relations and Public Relations work towards ensuring that the key stakeholders are kept informed of the latest information related to the company, and work as a circle of influence for it.
Q. What are the things that excite you–about this role?
A. Work in general excites me. I absolutely enjoy new challenges. There isn’t a standard formula or ‘one size fits all’ solution to problems. Be it, trying out a new tool, experimenting with new ways to increase website traffic, creating customized integrated marketing plans, finding creative and effective ways to use and measure the allocated budget or even going back to the traditional ways of cold mailing. Being a part of such a dynamic environment where there is an opportunity at every turn, excites me.
Another thing is the opportunity to work with people across domains and cultures – you learn something new every day. With the ever-changing global landscape, it is an imperative to always be in the know and be agile. Learning on the job and the knowledge I gain at every step of the way makes it worthwhile. My role encompasses all these aspects.
Q. What’re the top 2 or 3 challenges for you in this role?
A. An essential part of this role is keeping a close watch on opportunities that are out there. The role has a very outbound approach as the influencers have a dozen people reaching out to them at all times and they are spoilt for choice. Ensuring that you get heard or that you can get the first movers advantage sometimes is all it takes. This means I have to be wired-in at all times to closely watch out for chatter that may turn out to be useful to meet the objective at hand. Managing time is a challenge sometimes.
Q. Is this the kind of role that you had dreamt of when you were in college? If not, how did the shift happen? Are you happy with it?
A. In college? Hell no! I don’t think this kind of a role existed. The reason for change has been ‘technology’ and how it is impacting all functions across industries. There is a shift from traditional marketing to digital marketing over the years. Technology has changed the way we look at everything.
I started out in Sales. In 2006, convincing people to move from advertising in newspapers to an online portal; online portals were still catching up and for a lot of people it was unheard of. 11 years later – I’m happy, and there’s always more room to learn.
Q. What are the skill sets needed to reach this role?
A. Learnability is the most essential skill set. You must have an open mind and the willingness to learn. Learn, unlearn, and relearn – it is a continuous cycle. Having good communication skills is important. This means being comfortable in communicating, and being confident. We practically spend 85% of our time communicating with people – verbally, through e-mails, texts, snapchat, and so on. If you do spend a major amount of your waking hours doing something, does it not make sense to be good at it?
Interpersonal skills and people skills are important. How you treat others says a lot about you. This does not necessarily mean it must be in the time of need, it is at all times. People are what makes a good leader, so it is important to get to know them, understand their issues, try to solve them if you can, and help them grow which in turn helps you grow.
Of course, you cannot get anywhere without ambition. One should aim high and dream big and then with some hard work and some smart work and luck, there is no end to what one can accomplish.