“What Matters in PR” shines the spotlight on PR leaders in the industry. We speak with Preeti Gupta, Corporate Affairs & Sustainability Director at BMW Group Asia. In our conversation, we explore her career journey from agency to in-house and understand her leadership style.
How do you explain your job to those not in PR?
When I was at an agency, I would ask people if they were familiar with articles about any tech company. I explained my role as someone that helps communicate information to the journalists who write those articles and helps manage the relationship between the companies and the journalists.
In my current in-house role, I describe my job as a communications consultant to the organization. I consult a number of departments on what to say, how best to say it and the best platform to communicate what we’re saying.
How did you end up in your current role?
I personally believe that everything happens for a reason. The opportunity to work with BMW Group Asia was a result of my decision to transfer from the US to India with my agency in 2007, my experience working with BMW India as a client for three years, my decision to move to Singapore in 2010, my work with BMW Group Asia as a client in 2012. All these experiences, combined with the network I built within the organization during this period, helped me get to where I am today.
Working, and succeeding, at the BMW Group is about passion for the brand, willingness to push the boundaries and try new things, and of course, having a strong network. This last part was highlighted to me when I was interviewing with the organization back in 2016. Thanks to my time in India, I already had a network, although small, within the company and wasn’t starting from ground zero.
How do you navigate an in-house team coming from an agency?
When starting out, it’s important to build trust with key stakeholders and listen to what they have to say. Ask them what has worked, what hasn’t, and the ever-important question…”How can I help you?” From there it’s about figuring out how you can make a difference, at a pace that works with the organization. It’s crucial not to come in with a “bull in a china shop” attitude and change everything right away. Instead, take time to listen, develop relationships, earn trust and support, and then take action.
“A colleague told me that at the three-month mark, fear and anxiety will start to kick in. But when that happens, it’s important to power through and get over that hump. This is what I tell anyone who is exploring an international job opportunity. It may be scary at first, and you may want to leave after a few months, but once you get over that hump, things will start to fall into place.”Preeti on her big move to India
How do you turn stakeholders into advocates?
Find out what their challenges are, what opportunities they want to explore, assure them you are there to support them, and then act. It will make a world of difference when they understand that you are looking at the bigger picture and thinking about the business not just the communication targets.
How do you prove the value of your work?
Our collective goal as an organization is to positively impact our potential customers throughout the entire buying journey. We want to make them aware of the brand, want them to consider BMW or MINI, and then want them to make the decision to purchase vehicles from our brand. However, none of this is driven solely by PR and requires a collaborative effort from all departments within the organization, from marketing to sales to product quality. It’s not a competition of which department contributed more, it’s about doing everything we can to support the end goal.
When it comes to the media, our goal is to build strong relationships, provide quick access to information, and ensure positive experiences with our products and brand. When the end result is a positive article written with emotion, rather than simply facts, we’ve succeeded. However, it’s important to remember this ongoing effort.
What is your leadership style like?
I want to understand what my team wants to do and what will make them excited to come to work each day. Once we lock that down, I believe in empowering them, giving them control over their careers, and working with them to achieve their goals.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, communications is a 24/7 job and can be overwhelming at times and filled with a never-ending list of things to do. As such, I encourage my team to speak up if they want to change things up with new challenges and opportunities or if they need help. In my view, asking for help is a sign of maturity and not weakness, as it shows that you understand your limits and can leverage the resources around you.
“Ambition, a sense of passion and the desire to learn. I want to work with people who are eager to grow, and are comfortable making mistakes and learning from them.”Preeti on the qualities she looks for in her team
What is a question you get asked a lot?
It would be, “How do you stay so committed?” I love the work I’m doing and the people I work with. Furthermore, I’m learning every day and am constantly being challenged!
However, since my role is not 9-to-5, requires me to travel across multiple time zones regularly, and be ready to move quickly, it’s important for me to make an effort to have work / life balance. Fortunately, those I work with know as much as I do that I can’t be effective in my role unless I take care of my well-being and mental health.