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How LinOpinion GH is straddling growth in the PR business

LinOpinion GH’s Jonathan Hughes and Ameer Ismail share key insights on the agency’s success story, developing long-term relationships with clients, and being future-ready

Aanchal Kohli | Mumbai | July 24, 2015

Jonathan-Hughes-and-Ameer-Ismail Jonathan Hughes & Ameer Ismail

It was a year-and-a-half ago that Golin Harris, the public relations firm from Interpublic Group, had joined hands with Indian agency, LinOpinion. The LinOpinion GH joint venture is now in its second year of business transformation and is ranked among India’s leading PR firms. The agency is assembled around the G4 model that brings four areas of expertise – Strategists, Creators, Connectors and Catalysts – into a single entity.

LinOpinion GH provides specialised services in the areas of issue and crisis management. The agency’s client roster includes Etihad Airways, Discovery Networks, Seiko, Starwood Group of Hotels, Shapoorji Pallonji Group, Sodexo Food Solutions, Herbalife, and Tourism Victoria, to name a few.

In conversation with Jonathan Hughes, President, International, and Ameer Ismail, Executive Director, Lowe Lintas & Partners, LinOpinion GH & dCell, speak at length about the advantage provided by the agency’s G4 model, further strengthening the agency’s core strategies, on being future-ready and more.

The Growth Story

Ameer Ismail elaborated, “With over two decades in the business, we have evolved to provide governments, leading businesses and not-for-profit organisations with effective communications solutions and in the last one year, LinOpinion GH has earned an enviable reputation with the kind of clients we have bagged in just a few months. We believe that public relations is the best way to create awareness about your company and to strengthen one’s reputation.”

According to Jonathan Hughes, “The focus has always been to able to deliver best practices to our clients through a single window, may that be in the fields of consumer marketing, corporate and finance or more. The best part is that LinOpinion GH has an in-house creative team to develop design and creative concepts for our clients.”

Account wins

Ismail remarked that while year one of the partnership was more about putting things in order, the second year would be full of results. “By the start of this year, we started witnessing good growth and account wins, which makes it 25 new business wins in nine months,” he added.

Hughes added here that the partnership had helped both the brands garner more results. “In the PR Week Asia, too, we received encouraging amount of awards, which marks the fact that our work is being recognised worldwide,” he said.

Among the 25 new wins are Nazraana brand from Rio Tinto Diamond, etc. The account wins span across geographies and categories.

The Working Model

Looking at the changing dynamics and the style of working, the entire outlook of the industry seems to be changing. Both Ismail and Hughes believe that going forward there would be demand for more innovative and broader ways of working in the industry, hence they had launched The Bridge, which is based on the G4 model. All the people working in the Golin network worldwide are split into four areas of expertise – Strategists, Creators, Connectors and Catalysts. Both top executive said that it was about providing the right content at the right time, when the audience is at the right frame of mind.

Elaborating on The Bridge, Hughes said, “Looking at the growing need and demand, the first thing that LinOpinion GH had embraced is The Bridge, which they launched in their Mumbai office sometime last year. It is no use having everyone divided and working in special departments if one does not have the tools to put that to better use. The Bridge is a great tangible thing which works for this. It is a process, a way of working. So, while you have the physical space here, with all the hub and activity, it is a way of working and thinking.”

Ismail added here, “The market is looking for differentiation in the way PR is delivered. We have all grown successfully and become sizeable businesses, but the critical turning point is happening due to the change in the media landscape, which clients cannot ignore. They want their PR agency partners to deliver on that change.”

Interestingly, what makes The Bridge a successful tool for PR is the fact that one can work independently for a country-specific exercise or in tandem with other global hubs on campaigns, large events or even crises that require real time impact.

In India, this set-up will focus on helping brands engage their customers in real time as well as managing their online reputation. It will be run by dedicated staff from the LinOpinion GH G4 model – specialists who focus on media relations, analytics or consumer platforms, both online and offline.

Growth: National versus International

According to Hughes, the growth had been encouraging in India and the international markets. “The reason for the same is that the team here has embraced the new way of working and thinking at a rapid pace, which is enabling a lot of traction within the agency,” he explained.

Ismail noted, “The account wins and appreciation mark the growth that the agency is witnessing. The clients are willing to retain long-standing relationship with us because of our professional and breakthrough ideas, which lead to meaningful results.”

The Competition

The PR industry is witnessing increasing competitive with new entrants every now and then. When asked about the competition, Hughes said, “Well, the competition is there, but we know how to build and keep consolidating our core essence. With our G4 model and strategies, we believe in standing ahead of the curve.”

The Way Forward

According to Hughes, it was really important to keep enhancing the working model of any organisation with an aim to deliver best and innovative product for the clients. He also felt that content played a vital role and if that was right, then the clients appreciated the work of a public relations firm. On the other hand, Ismail believed that digital had been a key game changer in the public relations industry. Also, quality of service played a vital role. He said, “Today, clients look for best in class services and look forward to partnering with agencies that deliver quality work and content, especially in India.”

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