Kapil Rampal: Founder & CEO, Creative Crest

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Having an extensive track record in PR, Kapil Rampal established Creative Crest 1999, and has been heading the agency ever since. He has received several awards and accolades in PR, and has addressed international events and forums. He previously served Live World, Inc. as a consultant, handling both key media organizations and Fortune 500 companies. He has an experience of more than 4,000 interviews, events and client activities around the world.

How did you get into the industry?

At the start of my career, I started working with Live World Inc., a WPP company that focused on engagement solutions. It gave me an opportunity of working with clients such as IDG Books, NBC, CNBC, Grammys, US Open, Microsoft, P&G and others at the age of 21. I also managed online interviews of a future American President and the then British Prime Minister. It gave me a tremendous exposure of the ivy league of PR industry and I was completely hooked!

Any emerging industry trends?

The industry has just scratched the surface of the opportunities that it bestows. Social media has made so much positive change to the industry. Public Relations companies are changing from mere consultants to the soul of modern organizations. Those who ignore this important aspect of PR do so at their own peril.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Change is the only evidence of life. Public Relations is an industry that sees frequent changes in the established norms. Those who are slow to adapt the changes are often left behind. You should really not wait for the change but be the change. There should be a continuous lookout at opportunities to improve and enhance your business. Paul Holmes says, “Disrupt or Be Disrupted.”

Often PR agencies complaint about competition from other disciplines such as advertising agencies, digital agencies, management consulting companies, content specialists, and market research. However, doesn’t it mean that a PR agency can now do a lot more than what it used to before, and it has avenues of expanding its horizons to include areas such as brand building, data analytics, content, digital, and other areas.

After all, PR agencies tend to know more about the client business than most other external partners. If they expand their scope of services beyond traditional PR, it will mean that they can do more for the client and in return make more revenue.

There is also a scope for agencies to partner better. Often PR agencies use other agencies just for geographical reach. I think there are so many more opportunities to collaborate.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

I manage several businesses that had their origin in Public Relations but have become a full-blown business ventures of their own. This includes our specialized education marketing entity, which has become one of the top three players in Executive Education. Our consulting company focused on assisting mining companies is one of the leading specialists in Corporate Social Responsibility for the mining sector.

PR agencies should always think beyond traditional PR but look at the ways that they can bring in more value. There’s so much that can be done if we just see the big picture.   

What's next for the Business in the near future?

The market needs a lot more consolidation. I foresee that large independent PR agencies may be either acquired by larger players or would take capital infusion to expand and become larger. More M&A is likely in boutique and specialized agencies. PR agencies will no longer exist in the way that we have known them – they either will have to become a full-fledged management consultant with a whole array of content and digital solutions, or will go into oblivion.

Many old CEOs who are unable to lead the transformation will be replaced by young leaders in their late 20s or mid-30s. The industry needs young talent to lead it to the future.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Creative Crest started the first international outsourcing center for PR – PRKPO, which has become one of the important strategic players to help large agencies manage their business better and also to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to explore international PR at a fraction of cost compared to hiring agencies in multiple countries. The center has also managed integrated campaigns for international PR. Interestingly, we had used Philippines as a base for this, and it has worked very well for us.

India and China give is the maximum growth. We have integrated practices in both these countries that are working with international clients to succeed in the two markets. Both of these countries are giving us a very high growth. Both the markets are a complete contrast to each other.

For each important practice area, we try to build an independent entity and empower the team to make it an independent profit center. It has helped us grow very well.

Apart from encouraging innovation within the organization, we also identity new businesses that offer a product or service that can enhance our business. We invest in these businesses and integrate their service offerings. 

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

The most difficult thing to deal in life is death. We have had to deal with situations which no one could ever predict. These include managing crisis situation for our clients after terrorist attacks such as September 11. Initially, we got overwhelmed both in terms of resources and also emotionally.

Security agencies have adapted to the changing times. Sadly, so have we. Terrorism is covered in our crisis management plans.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

We are proud to have clients who work with us for several years. In fact, attrition in our clients also enhances our business as when they move on to another organization, they want no one else but Creative Crest. While anyone can provide world-class Public Relations services like us, there are just very few who would be as enthusiastic about our client’s business as we are. Our clients find that we are so focused and committed on enhancing their business and not our billing.

We have recommend against many high cost ideas which would get us great billing but will not provide an equivalent benefit to our clients. During tough economy, we spoke individually to CEOs of our every client and asked how we can contribute more at these times. We stand solidly with our clients instead of just be an ‘agency’.

How do you motivate others?

Creative Crest is regarded as the Google of Public Relations industry. Not in terms of search ability but in terms of the work environment it offers. Nothing motivates you better than to see you grow as a professional. Creative Crest has a program to nurture our employees as they start their career till they move on. We do basic hand holding and allow them to grow. Depending upon the capabilities, we have seen young professionals rise to managerial level positions in just few years.

Just to illustrate how we motivate our employees to do well, we encourage them to have their own startup! We have had employees who moved on from Public Relations to start their business in areas such as hospitality, education, healthcare, analytics, logistics, ecommerce, and others. Our company allows our employees to gain so much industry insights that they develop the confidence of having their own startup. We also have an incubation cell and an angel fund just for our employees. We also recommend our company and our clients to use them as preferred vendors.

Career advice to those in your industry?

For those who are planning to enter the industry, you should definitely consider Public Relations as a career. However, you may find that many businesses in the sector almost work like cults and are not welcoming to those who are starting their career. Rhinos and Hippos survive more easily in the wild than tigers – you need to develop a thick skin and be resilient in order to succeed in the industry.

For those in the industry, you need to look out of the number one – that is you. If you think your organization is not innovative and is not doing enough to meet the changing needs of the industry, switch. You need to adapt with the changes that are expected. Identify key critical abilities that you need to develop to succeed in the industry and work towards developing those.

Nothing matters more than the quality of life. Often I see agencies where the employees are overworked and work late nights to meet the deadlines. In case you are one of those then you really need to reconsider what you are into.

Feel free to switch agencies or consider other careers apart from working in an agency. It’s never too late to switch. The skills that the PR industry gives you can help you do well in many other areas such as corporate communication, marketing, marketing communication, HR, and others. Also, exposure of multiple industries can help you do well in almost every other sector. You will be able to bring a positive change wherever you go.