Starting a new job during a pandemic is daunting but starting a new job during a pandemic and in a completely new field must be an experience in itself. For Sarvesh Raikar, the creative head of Lintas Live, his first foray in his new role has been a learning curve and experience that he embarked on only a few short months ago.
As Lintas Live positions itself in the market as the first digital-first creative PR agency in India, most of that creative work is coming from Sarvesh and his team. Here he tells LBB’s Natasha Patel about why this position is, for him, a dream come true and why creativity in PR is key for brands.
LBB> As creative head for Lintas Live, what does your day-to-day role entail?
Sarvesh> I think the most interesting part is since myself and Lintas Live are new, it was initially a role of figuring out my strengths and the agency’s in order to understand our way of working. It was almost like a dating phase while the PR team was understanding how the creative side works.
Now we are getting cracking on everything, so every PR brief is now opened up in a different way and looked at as what could be the creative solution to a problem.
LBB>What is it like working on a digital-first PR agency in a creative role?
Sarvesh> I think, in a way, it's almost a dream come true because everybody's currently looking to solve business problems, and the briefs are not so regimented like in a classic creative setup. It comes to you as a real perception problem that you get to manage and that's where it gets interesting and where the thinking is not inhibited by a brand structure or brand. You have a lot more freedom to look at solving a business problem or a perception problem more creatively.
LBB>Have you worked on anything that’s stood out to you from a creative perspective at Lintas Live?
Sarvesh> We won a couple of pitches which we are yet to disclose, but the Mumbai police campaign
was the first one that got us together. We are now planning to make it a 2.0 as self-policing is such a concept that it is spot on. We found that there is a huge public acceptance at the thought of self-policing in helping out already overworked police.
LBB> Is there a big need for creativity in the PR sphere? If so, why?
Sarvesh> What is happening is that the way PR is getting consumed is changing. The whole perception shaping business has moved from conventional media to everything shaping opinions. It could be an influencer video, it could be a TikTok video or it could be a good properly produced YouTube pre-roll. I think that's where I feel that creativity has to be the mainstay of PR. Unless your story is a thumb stopper, nobody's going to stop and that's where I feel that there has to be an intersection between creativity and PR. The industry of PR itself has changed, and it begs for creative intervention.
LBB> You previously worked on the Lifebuoy account, how has it been to move out of this advertising mindset to a more PR-led one?
Sarvesh> I think when you're working on the big global brands there are very systematic processes and research so your job, in a way, is defined by the processes and the systems because it's like a huge machine that is making that thing happen. On Lifebuoy of course, it's a huge brand and there are many sides to it. There are ads, there is also a PR angle to it so the thinking of Lintas Live is it's a product in its growing stage and we want to apply it to all the brands that we have within our full leg.
Also, along with the two agencies which we have - Lowe Lintas and Mullen Lintas - it's almost like we're collaborating with these guys to make the brand's thinking also inspired by PR-led thinking.
We are currently working on something in the context of the agricultural outburst that is happening in the country, so we reached out and we created a campaign and have tried to apply all this thinking that whatever is the creative product has to be talkable by nature, and that's where we feel that every idea that comes out of Lintas Live has to be talkable.
LBB>Being talkable and relevant right now is important for those working in PR, but what challenges come with this?
Sarvesh> You have to be on your toes. It is almost like a meeting ground of creativity and PR, like the Mumbai campaign, the way it broke out celebrities but then found sustenance with all the influencers, beyond the main celebrities, and it became a mainstream campaign. In a way it is almost becoming a new way of approaching communication, that's the vision - you don't restrict it to just PR. But, instead it's a way to do organic talkable advertising in how we find a meeting point between PR and communication. More and more we are seeing that these divisions are working. So many brands who we were only looking for PR are now asking us to also handle their digital media or creative media, so we are finding that everybody is wanting a more unified approach to their work, that's where I think everyday is changing in the way we are working. Even the people we are hiring - we had never imagined that a video editor is part of a PR setup and we also have some kind of ‘mini influencers’ that we’re trying to recruit.
LBB>What do you think are the biggest differences - and similarities between PR and advertising?
Sarvesh> I would say that advertising warrants a bit of PR and PR warrants a bit of advertising, that's the honest truth. Every creative person wants their ad to go viral, and every PR person wants their story to go viral. As we stand right now, advertising is a little bit as per the rules. We think that there is a lot of scope to do new work which influences people. Especially on the digital front, so many influencers and influencer-led thinking is coming to the fore. People are willing to experiment a little more with PR, versus in advertising the media and everything is getting so regimented that people are only spending on 15- or 20-second ads.
In a way, very conventional PR is getting a little more free and liberating, having said that we have to break boundaries on either side.
LBB> Lintas Live has positioned themselves as a first for India, but during your time at the helm what has stood out to you?
Sarvesh> I think we've tried to keep it very simple, while we are digital first and we really want to leverage the whole group's strength into this agency, we also come with having our DNA as Lintas so therefore, we know the pulse of the country.
Since our DNA is Lintas we know what storytelling is. Therefore, it's almost like a 2.0 of ourselves. When we say we are the first of our kind, we want to take all our skills, and adapt for a new division or new thinking. In a way it's a new vision for ourselves that we have set for the future.
LBB> And finally, what are your hopes for the future?
Sarvesh> Our hopes are that we can really bridge this gap of having separate digital, mainstream and PR agencies. I hope that five years down the line we can track that magic where for every client there is one agency or one approach which really knows how to create talkable stories that define the ways of leading communication. Because as brands are struggling to find their budgets, it will all eventually boil down to who is most talkable at the right time. That’s where we have made a start walking down that path.