A Day With…Viswakumar Menon

We’re going behind the scenes with communications professionals across the APAC region, learning more about their diverse roles, what they love most about their jobs, and how they got there in the first place. In the third part of the series, we sat down with Viswakumar Menon, Global Lead – External Communications at Tata Communications.
Briefly describe a ‘day in the life’ of you as a communication professional

The day begins with catching up on whatever has happened in the media universe and checking if the company is mentioned anywhere. We take up mentions and coverage featured for further action as necessary. We are also looking at what competitors are doing. The rest of the day goes into building new narratives, engaging with the media, speaking to business folks to check what is around the corner and things we need to be geared for and ensuring delivery of those objectives. We have a plan at the beginning of the year which is broken down to what we need to do here and now. Fulfilling those then takes up whatever time is left. No day has ever been the same and that’s exactly how I like it.

What’s the best part of your job?

When you finally see the results of all your actions in print, television or digital versions, that is really gratifying. We end up meeting and talking to a lot of people and learning as well on different topics and nuances, and that is critical to pitch our stories externally. The ‘Aha’ moment of finding the right set of words to tell the story is also a wonderful thrill.

How did you enter the communications industry? (i.e., university study, internships, worked your way into communications, another route?)

The only thing I was any good at when making a career decision was writing. So, I took up journalism as my major in college. Serendipity landed me in a corporate job managing the communications function for a consumer durable brand in my salad years and the learnings / writing kicked in to enable my growth thus far.

What’s the best piece of communications advice you’ve been given?

Read it again’ – One of the most undermined tasks in Corporate Communications is proofreading. Because we are doing so many things, most times, we’re only skimming the text or quickly punching in the words and sending out documents. It has landed me in trouble too often. The aspect of proof reading and making the words efficient in the process and positioning the document in the right space is so important in our role. A pro-tip I’ve used is also getting the document (non-confidential ones) read by someone completely unrelated to the subject from the team. The number of edits they recommend has always been invaluable.

What’s your superpower as a communication professional? 

Tenacity. Come what may, the job will get done, in time, with quality and meet the set objectives. I do not have a magic wand, but at the beginning of every task, thanks to the varied experiences, I’m able to estimate the time and effort required and arrive at my goal post with my stakeholders. It sometimes means dipping into my vitamin N. Vitamin N is the ability to say ‘No’ and come to an agreement with difficult stakeholders who might want things yesterday. We find such folks everywhere and a seasoned professional should develop the skills to understand the different tasks within Communications, time and effort it requires to get things done and how to get there. And with practice, you will also learn how to get things right, the first time.

Looking ahead, what are the three most critical skills comms professionals should develop to meet the business needs of tomorrow?
  • Digital Media skills: the lines are blurring and whatever used to be considered traditional media is slowly becoming more and more digital. So, a communicator of tomorrow must be well-versed and understand how that universe works.
  • 3600 campaigns: Ten years ago – this meant Print, Television, Outdoor and some activation on-ground. This has changed to consumer wraps. How are we connecting with our audiences in a contextual manner, at their convenience, having an emotional engagement and finally, commercial exchange. Digital and social media play a large role here. Today, it is focusing on a customer under a closer lens and reaching them with finer granularity.
  • Stretching the Dollar: No business has enough dollars to chase every customer audience and profile, so communications have to make a choice and look at clustering their audiences. This process will continue to evolve with every message and you keep tweaking the platforms and messages as you go along. Targeting, segmenting and developing narratives with key journalists writing on the topic is critical. To further amplify, one can use a newswire service and then to deliver the message across similar profiles of customers – harness social media such as LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube to reach out to them. Always remember to customise content depending on the platforms you are using. 
  • Bonus Tip: Expand your professional horizon. With AI and machine learning slowly seeping into the function, I see press releases being created on AI platforms. So, the human advantage is that you will have to bring multiple skills sets and add portfolios other than pure-play corporate communications. Look at sustainability, financial and analysts engagement or worker relations (if in manufacturing) as an add-on to your portfolio. Go for certifications or on-the-job learning to be qualified for such roles and continue growing.