EXCLUSIVE | Neha Khilnani, Connekting Dots: Relevance is the key to consumer’s attention

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Neha Khilnani, Founder, CEO and Media specialist of Connekting Dots, is an entrepreneur and marketer whose expertise lies in client servicing, corporate strategy, planning, public relations, brand consulting, social media, and brand partnership. In 2016, she founded Connekting Dots PR and Brand Communications, a boutique communications agency specializing in media relations, corporate positioning, social media, content strategy, and design.

In this exclusive interaction with MediaBrief, Neha speaks about how and why she started her firm, what separates it from other agencies, the impact of COVID-19 on the PR industry, its evolution, and shares how diversification will be the key to agency survival in the coming years. Read on.

Tell us about Connekting Dots’ inception. What inspired you to set it up?

As the name suggests it literally started to connect the missing dots 5 years ago. Having worked with multiple agencies across PR, Advertising and Films, we had to stick to the guidelines and boundaries set by companies for the brand.

So when I decided to be independent I wanted each stakeholder of Connekting Dots (CD) to add more value to their respective clients and media that they would be servicing. If that meant going beyond the set expectation from a boutique communications agency.

The hunger to give more and having the vision and passion to build a brand from scratch just made me take the bold risk of leaving a good-paying job and take up the challenge of entrepreneurship. Hence CD was born to Engage. Inspire. Connect.

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Tell us about Connekting Dots’ different verticals, team size, and what sets it apart from other agencies?

Due to downsizing because of the pandemic, currently, we are a team of 6 skillful members overlooking 4 verticals Public Relations, Influencer Marketing, Branding Studio, and Digital Marketing along with our alliances.

At Connekting Dots, we customize strategies and implement the plans accordingly for our clients. At CD we plan in two parts – A short-term plan and a long-term plan for each brand. We always rework and revisit our strategies keeping in mind the current scenario.

Connekting the dots are all about forwarding the mission, products, and services of companies and clients we believe in. We always work towards our creative ability to hone the skills as a product and create distinct market positioning for both the brand and the personality of our client.

How does the current roster of Connekting Dots’ clients look like, and where do you see yourself in the pecking order today?

Our current roster of clients are across Lifestyle, Entertainment, FMCG, and Hospitality, which includes the below: 

  • 7ink brews: A young and dynamic food and beverage company.
  • Monika enterprises: One of the largest importers and distributors of premium liquor and spirits in the country.
  • International celebrity chef Sarah Todd
  • Yazu: Pan Asian Supper Club
  • Elephant & Co Neighborhood bar and eatery
  • Not So Arranged: A serious dating website
  • Zero Latency: Indias first Virtual Gaming studio, and many more, our clients span a broad spectrum of various industry sectors.
  • And many more

What has been the impact of COVID-19 on your business, and how have you helped your clients navigate this crisis? 

The impact of COVID-19 has been more of a reality check. It was more like teach multiple new subjects one after the other, which needed more focus, dedication, effort, and understanding than ever before. We now also have to filter and choose our clients and the brands we work with carefully.

COVID-19 has made Indians realize the importance of PR and treat it as an individual subject by itself. We strongly believe that digital agility will be a critical factor for the new remote workforce to communicate and collaborate effectively and for employees, as well as our customers to have reliable access to applications and services that they need.

I have also realized that effective relations have the power to transform organizations, leaders, and people’s lives. Conclusively, I ascertain PR to be my field of business, where I have chosen to place myself as a creative and solution-oriented Entrepreneur. My biggest learning would be that one has to rise like a phoenix and constantly reinventing is the key. We Never Stop building and rebuilding. The Show goes on.

Connekting Dots has become a one-stop shop. Along with PR, we make sure that digital tools are taking centre stage in adapting to this ‘new normal’ we are helping our clients clean up their social media strategy, marketing collaterals, and other needs that thrust their mission seamlessly to enter the post-COVID-19 world.

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Has the COVID crisis radically changed the PR industry? If so, in what ways?

It goes without saying that the coronavirus pandemic has had a major impact on almost every business and industry. Hence the PR industry has also been affected but it’s been truly awakening.

Some pros and cons come along with any change. The year of the virus left a legacy in the industry with a slew of offerings that shaped the way communication professionals and the industry as a whole worked.

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly altered consumers’ perceptions, affecting preferences, attitudes, and trust; this, in turn, has invariably impacted and changed the way companies operate, altering the work of the PR industry as well.

How has the PR industry evolved to brave through the challenges of the pandemic?

Business objectives aligned with PR objectives – The communications teams have been helping the process of change in strategies and helping both the employees and businesses adapt to the new realities. A brand’s dependence upon their PR partners to communicate authentically has dramatically increased in the year.

PR is no longer just a traditional form of PR. It has evolved and bought together multiple variations too.

How have brands changed or modified their communication strategy post-COVID?

Brands have started to deal with only relevant communication and messaging. Relevance is the key to consumer’s attention. Hence, being careful about where they spend or invest to bring about the main communication.

The way brands are using media is also changing. Many brands that used to be heavily dependent on advertising alone or using traditional mediums now feel digital PR along with social media Management is their best bet. 

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During the lockdown, many brands diverted their attention, ad budgets towards digital and PR. Do you think this trend will continue when we return to normalcy?

This is the ‘New Normal’; there is no looking back from here. The need for PR and Digital will continue to grow here on. PR has always been a dynamic industry, which is ever-evolving.

There is no doubt that it has become a quintessential part of a brand’s organizational structure and a more integrated approach has already been adapted. Given the economic uncertainty and pick-up of technology, it is clear that the way Digital PR will work is set to expand and change rapidly.

The way we communicate changed drastically in 2020. What were/ are some changes that will shape the communication industry in the coming years?

The standard operating procedure for the way we communicate has changed drastically in 2020. Earlier, PR was more about one-on-one meetings, holding media events, etc. Now we have shifted widely towards digital, zoom meetings, attending/hosting events virtually.

Keeping future trends in mind. Seamless streamlining through all online and offline communication will definitely be a key way of communicating in the future.

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Can you share with us your plans, strategies for Connekting Dots’ brand building and growth?

Given the current situation, and after a thorough study of the market dynamics we decided to expand our horizons by incorporating Influencer Marketing and Digital solutions as a part of what we do, as we believe it can strengthen one’s brand reputation, improve audience engagement, and increase conversions.

Further, looking towards the future with great zeal and fresh eyes, we are hoping for sustainable growth, surviving COVID.

The future is here, that’s why it is even more important than ever that we up-skill across all digital communications and it is exactly why Connekting Dots PR and Brand Communications has evolved from a traditional PR agency into a one-stop-shop solution provider for all media needs.

Diversification will be key to agency survival in the years ahead. Avoiding the mistakes of wrong hiring is also another important plan to stick by. Our broth will depend on balanced progress in people, purpose, and profits.