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Wednesday, December 7, 2022

‘THE GLOBAL PUBLIC RELATIONS INDUSTRY IS MOVING TOWARDS DIGITALIZATION’

Manjeno Raihan Khan, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Concito PR, also happens to be one of the youngest shareholders of the company. He is quite the man of action, and with his immense sincerity, farsightedness, and versatility in his work, he has brought himself to the position he is in today.

Despite his young age, he has considerable experience in public relation industry, having worked with names like Banglalink, Samsung, GSK, Reckitt, IPDC, Airtel, Huawei, etc.

Fintech team recently went to his office in Banani and talked about the state of PR industry in Bangladesh.

FINTECH: Tell us about Concito PR. When was it established and what’s the story behind it?

Raihan Khan: The journey of Concito PR began in 2009. Before that, I was working in Grameenphone, with GP Marketing team. In fact it was there that we began to see this dream, this dream to not stay behind closed doors and push ourselves to see the world and by seeing the world we would perhaps bring something new, do something new. After leaving Grameenphone, I worked with Top of Mind for a year. The dream was still a part of me.

At Grameenphone, the head of our media team was Moeen bhai (Moeen Tariq, the Managing Director of Concito PR), who inspired and encouraged me to not just dream, but actually do something about it and follow what I wanted to do truly. Thus began our brainstorming and giving a voice to our ideas. It is with Moeen bhai that we laid the foundation for Concito PR.

This idea of a proper Affiliate PR agency in Bangladesh actually came from broad. The Regional office of Burson-Marsteller, one of the largest PR agencies in the world was Genesis Burson-Marsteller who approached us to do a one off project. BM is one of the most renowned PR agencies in the world with office in more than 80 countries. We were only on the verge of forming ours and we were so excited about the opportunity. So, from that single project, our actual journey started.

Impact PR was the pioneer in establishing the first professional institution for public relations in Bangladesh. The second was Masthead PR. We started at number three. However, our structures were very different, and in fact our approach was very different from the others. We were not depending on Media Buying Clout, rather started practicing PR on strategic level, with story-telling and advocacy. BM helped us a lot with the approach.

F: What was it like in the early days for the company?

Raihan Khan: Initially we struggled a lot, to be honest. Mostly because not everyone was familiar with the concept of PR or what it entails. However, around 2013 to 2014 there was this sudden wave of interesting projects coming up in Bangladesh that opened up a lot of prospects for PR. New generation marketers from different brands started looking at PR in a different way and started exploring this arena as a new form of communication. In fact, the early days PR agencies had a good role in educating people about the magic of PR and how this tool can be used to uphold the Reputation of a organization. After all, upholding a positive reputation of a company in the eyes of the stakeholders is one of the core aspects of PR.

F: In countries like the UK there is a specific PR subject called ‘Reputation Management.’ As a PR agency in Bangladesh, how successful have you been in establishing this concept here and have your clients gotten on board with it?

Raihan Khan: Well, Reputation Management is the CORE agenda of practicing Public Relations. And, either way (structured or unstructured), entities have been practicing Reputation Management for long. I can’t speak for everyone, but I will definitely say that the telecommunications started realizing the necessity of Reputation Management in rather structured manner before other sectors. They’ve understood how a consultancy firm can help: By using modern research backed data, doing perception audit among stakeholders and finally use Public Relation to manage the company’s “Reputation”. However, it is not a common practice just yet, and it is not a feeling that has been accepted by most growing companies in our country.

F: Concito PR began its journey in 2009. In the past 8 years, whom have you worked with? Tell us some more about some of your most significant clients.

Raihan Khan: We are currently working with several clients. Samsung is one of them, and in fact we’ve been working with them over the past 3 years. We’ve worked with Airtel, Huawei, Banglalink, United Commercial Bank, IPDC, Horlicks, and we’re also working on a ‘Poricchonno Bangladesh’ project for Reckitt Benckiser Bangladesh. We are also working with Farrer Park Hospital which is based in Singapore. Then there’s bikroy.com, GE healthcare, GE energy, and so on. We’re extremely honored to be working with these brands and we’ve witnessed more growth in opportunities since 2016.

F: As one of the directors of Concito PR what do you think are some of the shortcomings of PR Practices in Bangladesh and how can they improve themselves?

Raihan Khan: There are several things that are lacking definitely. For example, the global public relations industry is moving towards digitalization. Digital PR is an extremely important aspect, and for PR agencies making this move is equally, if not more, important.

Let’s look at it like this: Facebook today can easily be claimed as the World’s largest media, where everyone is a journalist, and also the subscribers. Everyone can talk about their opinion. Everyone is a part of media.

Facebook and other social media platforms are really big resources and important media for customers. But, PR agencies are not working enough on these digital platforms, our industries need to make the digital shift as soon as they can There are a lot of digital agencies coming up in Bangladesh.

In the case of digital agencies, everyone’s working on digital marketing, and they work with brands and products. They publish advertisements like newspapers and on online platforms and then they boost them. The thing is, working with a company’s reputation is different and requires a different approach, especially on digital media. It has become a glaring necessity for us to work a lot more on that regard. The shifting has taken place globally, but it still hasn’t reached our country. We are trying our best to overcome our lacking and become more digitized, but other agencies need to make the move as well.

Secondly, I believe that another lacking is that most PR practitioners here do not maintain the strategic approach to PR. Doing a proper SWOT, Identifying Stakeholders and coming up with a holistic approach to solution should be the way to do it. But, seldom agencies / organizations come up with such approaches and limits only within media exposure through Press Release and Articles, where else they should concentrate on how to improve an entity’s Reputation by engaging with all the relevant stakeholders with innovative ways.

And lastly, our educational institutions do not offer any specific courses on public relations anywhere. I think only ULAB has a PR course, other than that, other universities have journalism courses and teach PR as a small part of it. But, separately, it does not exist as a course or department. That’s definitely a major shortcoming that we need to work on. At our place, we try to offer PR training to whoever works with us.

F: Are you planning on any internship programs with universities for students interested in PR? Or have you worked on any such programs before?

Raihan Khan: No, we haven’t yet, but in the middle we did talk with ULAB on this matter and in fact we gave a few lectures on the topic and offered internships. However, for students who graduated from a different subject or department, working at a PR agency proves to be very difficult. We really want to work with more skilled and experienced people, but we are unable to find such resources. If universities take the initiative to do such programs or embrace PR in their coursework, I believe they will definitely help us take PR agencies a lot forward in the future.

F: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us!

Raihan Khan: Thank you. ■

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