Asiatic Public Relations Network (Pvt.) Ltd. Karachi – Lahore – Islamabad

Archive for the ‘News & Updates’ Category

Leadership, Communications and Crisis Management in the COVID-19 Era

Monday, May 4, 2020

Once, the most widely recognized word in the world, across all countries, cultures, and languages was said to be the word Hello, followed by Okay and …. Coca-Cola! Yes indeed, recognition of this beverage brand name is global.

Today, the most recognized word on the planet has to be Corona; a word practically unknown to us just 4 months ago.

This article examines the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis for the corporate world, inter alia looking at what is to be done.

Crises are not unusual for companies, even for the best-governed ones. The responsible companies will themselves have proactively prepared, or got a specialized PR agency to prepare, a crisis communication and management plan, covering all conceivable crises they may face. But no one was prepared for this – a global pandemic.

Four months into it, we are now well past the first set of responses – communicating personal safety guidelines and initiating work-from-home protocols. As the enormity of this crisis sinks in, even the jokes and memes have petered out. Weeks into the lockdown, the public frame of mind is now exhibiting exasperation, fear at the continuing uncertainty, enhanced stress and even hopelessness. Work-from-home has become deeply frustrating for corporate executives.

This is a time when strong and visionary leadership can make or break the company’s future.

Each company and its leadership need to customize strategy to best suit its own situation, given the wide range of variables – sector of business, number of employees, size of company, financial strength, complexities of supply chain, and so forth.

However, a holistic set of guidelines is given below, which can form a strong base for strategy planning.

  • First of all, clearly understand that this crisis is like no other. It is not to be trivialized or joked about or false hope to be created about. While most corporate crises get resolved one way or another (resulting in a fair resolution or a victory, or in long-term damage on the negative side) within a few days or a few weeks at the most, this one is going to prolong for a long time.
  • The resolution of this global crisis is not in your hands; your strategy has to focus on how to mitigate negative fallout, how best to adjust, and how to be prepared for the post-crisis future.
  • Understand that the crisis has evoked a range of deep emotions in your employees (and other stakeholders), most of which are negative, and your people are desperate for reassurance, comfort, guidance, and support.
  • You need to be in regular communication with your people; perhaps twice a week, with a short message at the start of each week on Monday by the CEO, and a longer message by crisis team leader on Thursdays. The CEO does not have to be the only communicator from the company leadership.
  • The best communication is always two-way communication. So encourage employees to air their concerns, voice their problems and seek guidance on specific points. One way to do is to set up a special email address employees can write to, on a confidential one-on-one basis, with all incoming emails to be seen and answered by the CEO and / or the crisis team leader.


  • Your communication has to be truthful, transparent, facts-based and motivating. People need to trust you. Focus on people finding inner strength, inner reserves of determination to face the odds.
  • Create uplifting moments – recall past achievements and glory. Good times. Leverage relevant international days for positive messaging. Send birthday greetings to your people when their birthdays come up.
  • Share factual information, covering authentic updates on the crisis, actions the company is taking to protect its business and its employees’ future and contributions the company is making to the national effort to fight the crisis, highlighting which makes employees feel included and proud of the organization they belong to.
  • Weekly messaging to include guidance and practical tips for staying on top of the situation while in the lockdown and at home, both mentally and physically. The communication should be received as proof that the company sincerely cares for its people. Thoughtful and practical tips on how to adapt to changed circumstances, how to use the stay at home opportunity to improve professional learning and acquire new skills, and how to stay entertained as a family will be deeply appreciated.
  • Identify ‘champions’ in the organization – people who naturally evoke optimism and boost spirits. Task them for some of the internal communications responsibilities. But make sure these champions are provided talking points and a list of do’s and don’t’s, so that across all people talking to employees, there is a consistency of thought.
  • Motivate and build strength of employees by creating opportunities for them to be leaders themselves, or help others, as this generates a sense of self-esteem and confidence. Applaud any of your people who are on the frontline under the prevailing crisis; employees who still have to go to office or the factory given the nature of their job, or those who still have to go out in the field, like delivery or maintenance personnel.
  • Identify external specialists like motivational speakers, or psychologists or public figures, who can give an hour long talk via video link to employees at a previously announced date and time.
  • Zoom meetings with dozens of employees participating have become the rage, but may not work for everyone. Just because the technology is there for big meetings, it does not mean it is the best solution for every occasion. In a crisis people need individual reassurance. Schedule several smaller group meetings as well.
  • In the end, continue the internal reaching out and communication for some time even when the crisis is over and everyone is back to work. Restoring faith and believe will be important then, for people who may still be quite dazed by all that they have gone through.

Originally published in ProPakistani







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Interview with Zohare Ali Shariff, CEO APR “Radio is a powerful medium for crisis communication during COVID-19”

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

As the world experiences one of the most debilitating and unprecedented health and economic crises of recent times, corporations have a tough task on their hands—how to continue to reach out to their customers and target audiences while keeping business afloat. BR Research sat down with Zohare Ali Shariff on a virtual Zoom call to discuss what communication challenges Pakistani businesses are facing today, how they are handling it and what strategies would work best to keep customer loyalty intact as the country collectively fights the COVID-19 plight. Zohare is a PR and communications professional who heads Asiatic Public Relations (APR) Network. Here are edited transcripts.

BR Research: Arguably, the government—at the Federal and the Provincial level—have one of the biggest communication obligations at the moment, not only to share progress updates with the people but to keep mass hysteria at bay. What messages does the government need to put out and what specific communication strategy measures would you suggest?

Zohare Ali Shariff: A communication strategy generally, and especially in a crisis, needs to do three things – inform, inspire, involve. In the present COVID-19 crisis, informing the people would entail sharing accurate and updated facts with the publics regularly, even daily, like the British and some other governments are doing through a daily media briefing, telecast live—headed by a key minister and more importantly, an epidemiologist and head of National Health Service as members. The daily update has to be honest, factual and without bombast or populist rhetoric. The second objective is to inspire. This should serve to motivate the public to be united as a nation, not as individual provinces, to fight this pandemic. And the third objective is to involve. The government should work to instill a deep sense of responsibility across society, so that every single individual feels it a sacred duty to strictly adhere to safety measures given and follow the rules, even as these are modified from time to time in line with the evolving ground realities.

In general, the government has to think about who its audience is, what the messages are and what medium should be used to widely reach these audiences. We know the target audience is very wide; but we also know a huge share of this—particularly those amongst the rural populations do not have access to television or newspapers. To my knowledge, radio is one of the most powerful mediums in reaching the wider audiences across urban as well as rural Pakistan. The government needs to utilize this medium. The second important factor to consider is language. A lot of Pakistani audiences do not speak or understand Urdu. Is the government communicating in different local languages? Taking these points in stock would really fine-tune government’s communication strategy.

BRR: Demand for non-essential goods and services has slumped around the world as well as in Pakistan. Companies are watching revenues plunge, many have had to lay off employees; others have raised prices to protect margins and so on. What is the best strategy moving forward for corporations?

ZAS: There cannot be one strategy or line of action for all in the corporate sector. Too many variables are at work—the nature of business of the company, its size, the number of its employees, financial strength and so forth. However, every business must consider laying off people only as the very last resort, and instead try to achieve savings in other operational costs. Some sectors like tourism, aviation and hospitality have seen their business and revenues plummet to absolute zero, and in such cases layoffs, or at least pay cuts may be inevitable. However, it is sad to see that some other businesses which have flourished for decades, who have presumably paid off the initial investment long time ago, and who have huge financial reserves or depth, have also resorted to lay-offs in the very first month of the crisis. Companies who are not laying off people and who are even ready to bear losses now, will find that once things are back to some state of normalcy, their employees will exhibit fierce loyalty and give much higher productivity to help their company make up for the losses.

BRR: How can corporations use these times to develop their brand or would brands in Pakistan rather not spend on brand building at the moment?

ZAS: This is obviously not the time for traditional brand building as consumers have cut back spending to only the essentials, besides being deeply stressed out. Companies should use these times to plan for the future and really delve into research and analysis of what consumers will need post COVID-19, and prepare for it. It is obvious that whenever the pandemic ends, the world will not be the same. There might be some initial euphoric consumer spending on all the things people have missed out on in the long months of the lockdown, but I think consumer habits and priorities will have changed post COVID-19 and things getting back to ‘normal’ will not be easy. To quote from the classic novel, The Plague by Nobel Laureate Albert Camus, ‘Destruction is an easier, speedier process than reconstruction.’ So the brands which can accurately predict what these new consumer wants will be, and have used these times to be prepared with new offerings to meet these wants will be the winners.

One thing to note here is that the world has started to change. The classical school of thought that businesses should only care about maximizing their profits and serving their shareholders has evolved. Customers do care about how companies act at different times. Corporations recognize now—especially in developed nations—that they have to create some kind of shared value in the society. They have to look after their employees, the community and the environment. This feeds directly into their brand policy and how they can accumulate brand equity.

BRR: Do you see growing social distancing, especially if it’s prolonged to 8-12 months, will give strength to e-commerce? If so, then how would branding and marketing change in an increasing e-commerce world?

ZAS: Yes, definitely. E-commerce became a way of life in most developed countries several years ago already. Pakistan has been far behind in this for several reasons, including difficulty in making online payments (remember that only about 10 percent of the population has bank accounts), a culture of buying things like daily groceries on credit from the corner store, high level of illiteracy and so on. Things began changing when easy to use online payment systems like uPaisa were introduced. Also online marketing platforms like OLX gave a huge boost to e-commerce. Today, because of home isolation many more people who had never before tried out e-commerce, because of an apprehension of technology or whatever other reason, are getting into e-commerce. So as e-commerce becomes a habit in Pakistan too, brand marketing will almost certainly adapt to this new sales avenue by reaching online shoppers in more innovative ways.

BRR: How responsive do you think Pakistani corporations have been in relation to their communication with their customers so far in this crisis?

ZAS: Frankly I have not done any in-depth or specific study of this. My general impression is that there is always room to do more and do better. The key for companies and brands at this time is to avoid communications which even vaguely comes across as self-serving, and focus on communications which serves to reassure customers and consumers. People need reassurance more than anything else at this time.

BRR: In the age of misinformation how do you suggest corporations strategize themselves?

ZAS: Today there is both misinformation and an overload of information. So the challenge has two facets – how to counter negative propaganda and how to maintain recall and stand out from the crowd. One classic rule of PR and communications is that if you don’t talk about yourself, others will! So it is important that companies maintain continuity of communications with their defined target audiences. And beyond this they need to ensure their communication is credible and rooted in the needs and wants of the recipients. Unfortunately, some companies treat all communication with an advertising mindset, talking about how great they are or their products are. The public does not want this rhetoric, at least not all the time! Also when strategizing communications, it is vital to disseminate your messaging through multiple channels, the mix depending on who you wish to reach out to.

Originally published in Business Recorder


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Advans Microfinance’s Brand’s Re-Launch

Thursday, May 31, 2018

In April 2018 Asiatic Public Relations Network helped conceptualize and organize the Brand Launch Event for Advans Pakistan Microfinance Bank team in Karachi, Pakistan. Apart from handling the complete responsibility for conceptualizing and managing the entire event, APR also ensured media presence at the event for Advans Pakistan Microfinance Bank’s Brand Launch Event.

Advans Pakistan Microfinance Bank launched its new brand identity and a new logo reflecting both the company’s rapid growth since its inception only 6 years ago, and its resolve to stay committed to adding meaningful value to the microfinance sector in Pakistan. The launch event was attended by senior representatives of regulatory bodies, and of the microfinance and the larger financial sector, as well as by customers of Advans, the media and other invitees. The launch event, held at a local hotel, culminated with an inspiring ghazal session, featuring renowned ghazal singer, Salman Alvi, who was recently awarded a Pride of Performance Award by the President of Pakistan.

This message was positively received amongst local media including the some major newspapers such as Business Recorder, The Nation, Pakistan Observer, & Daily Express. The team also secured two interviews of Advans’s CEO, Mr. Zine Otmani, in both Profit Magazine and Daily Pakistan. Further coverage appeared on several online news portals.

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APR celebrates World Literacy Day

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

We in APR believe that education is the single most important measure to be taken as the long term solution to all our problems. The Citizens Foundation – TCF is playing a remarkable role in this regard. We urge people in their individual capacity, and also companies, to join the noble cause of ensuring Education for All by supporting organizations like TCF!

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Lotte-Kolson Factory Launch Event

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Lotte Group, a Korean-Japanese conglomerate, consists of over 90 business units employing 60,000 people engaged in such diverse industries as candy manufacturing, beverages, hotels, fast food, retail, financial services, heavy chemicals, electronics, IT, construction, publishing, and entertainment.The Lotte Group acquired Kolson, a leading confectionery and food manufacturing company in Pakistan in 2011 and their flagship brands include Slanty, Snackers, Potato Sticks, Bravo and Jam Hearts.

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Lotte-Kolson partnered with Asiatic Public Relations Network to organize the launch event of their new factory located in Phoolnagur, Kasur district. Our team’s support constituted of event management and media management. The factory’s location, about an hour from Lahore made media presence a challenge but the team managed to leverage its strong media relationships and was successful in ensuring significant media presence at the event resulting in impressive print and online coverage.

The coverage in local media (both English & Urdu newspapers) included major publications such as The Dawn, Business Recorder, The Nation, Daily Express & Khabrain. APR was also able to secure broadcast slots of the inauguration ceremony on TV channels most notably ARY News, Waqt News & NEO TV. Further the coverage appeared on some radio channels, on several online news portals and digital social platforms.

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APR organizes virtual press event for launch of Western Digital Corporation in Pakistan

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Looking at the growing potential of data storage solutions and digitization of Pakistan overall, Western Digital has taken the initiative of expanding its presence in Pakistan. The company announced this via hosting a virtual launch event. The unique aspect of this launch event was that the media guests were invited at the on-ground event in Karachi and other media representatives connected from other cities of the country. The Western Digital representatives were connected virtually from Middle East, and we witnessed a highly interactive event.

APR was responsible for the media outreach and management, corporate communication, emcee hosting and most importantly the audio/visual and connectivity arrangements for the launch. Managed superbly, all aspects of the event were successfully executed and secured great visibility on mainstream media.

Following the event, the client shared their views.

I’d like to thank you and your team once again for a successful event – the launch of WDC in Pakistan. Your team pulled off a great and well organized event. The media attendance was also great at Karachi with several others joining us from the 2 other cities as well. I appreciate all your efforts that you put in liaising with our disti for the brandings and the products, and most importantly the logistics of the event and the flow and structure were very well executed!



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Hutchison Ports Pakistan’s inauguration event, corporate documentary

Friday, June 29, 2018

Our client Hutchison Ports Pakistan is the country’s first and only deep sea, high tech port of call. The port was recently inaugurated officially by the Prime Minster of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in a glittering ceremony. APR was tasked to assist and coordinate with the event managers and was also responsible for design communication tasks associated with the event. Along with that, APR managed the entire strategic writing for the inauguration ceremony which included the official event press release, speeches, MC script, newspaper supplement, media invitation and coordination.

Additionally, APR was also taken on board to develop a special profile documentary for Hutchison Ports Pakistan, a short 90-second snippet of which was unveiled at the inauguration ceremony. Our production team conducted an exciting 7-day shoot to produce compelling video footage that demonstrated the company’s distinct features and highlighted why Hutchison Ports Pakistan is the first of its kind port in the country.

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APR conducts Media FAM Trip to Dubai for Emirates

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

With travel and tourism services slowly resuming in various regions around the world, we were tasked with organizing a media FAM trip to Dubai for our client Emirates. The idea was to showcase and document the various safety measures and protocols in place so the audience would have a clearer idea of how travel’s new normal feels like. For this, APR invited leading publications who travelled with Emirates on a four-day trip to Dubai and documented their travel experiences for their respective audiences. The trip’s exciting itinerary included carefully picked activities in Dubai where health and safety protocols were fully implemented. The journalists returned to Pakistan after a memorable trip and were satisfied with the measures in place at the airport, during the flight and in the city as well.

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The legendary A H Khanzada shares industry insights with APR staff

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A senior journalist Mr. Alauddin H Khanzada visited APR’s Karachi office in April 2018 to give a brief on the past and present state of the Pakistani broadcast media industry. He was accompanied by Hamid-ur-Rahman, Secretary Karachi Union of Journalists, and a well-known health reporter of the city.

In a truly insightful and demonstrating talk, Mr. Khanzada shared his deep understanding of the local industry. Along with sharing backgrounds of major media groups of the country and relating anecdotes, Mr. Khanzada’s talk highlighted the issues being faced by journalism in Pakistan currently and how to address them.

Soft-spoken but clearly passionate about journalism, his powerful story-telling skills turned the session into a fascinating learning experience for the APR team.

for web

Mr. Khanzada’s Profile:
Graduating with a degree in Plant Pathology from Agriculture University in Tando Jam, Mr. Khanzada entered the field of journalism by pure chance about 36 years ago.

He began his career from Daily Jasarat in 1981 where served for many years. He later moved to The News International as a senior crime reporter and was one of the famous crime reporters not only in the city but in the country. He was and still is recognized by the government authorities and ministers.

Mr. Khanzada has been part of launching and heading many news channels including Dawn News the first English language news channel in Pakistan where he served as the Reporting Head; He played a significant role in launching Abb Takk News with a great success. He has also worked briefly at Capital News as a Bureau Chief and moved to the newly launched Neo News and remains it’s Karachi Bureau Chief till now.

Mr. Khanzada was elected twice as Secretary of Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ) and he was elected as treasurer of Karachi Press Club four times and served as Secretary of the same organization four times. He has presented a paper in Southern Methodist University in Texas, is an emerging poet and author of a book “Mohabatoon ka Safar”.

DSC_1315 (NXPowerLite)

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Orange Line Metro Train’s historic inauguration

Monday, October 26, 2020

APR Client, Orange Line Metro Train’s historic inauguration ceremony was held on October 25, 2020 in Lahore, which was graced by the Chief Minister of Punjab Mr. Sardar Usman Buzdar along with other notable officials from Pakistan and Chinese side. Through a video portal, the Orange Line Train began to whistle under the witness of the chief guests of both sides, announcing Pakistan’s official entry into the subway era. The Orange Line Metro Train Lahore is the first large-scale technologically advanced rail transit project under the “Belt and Road” initiative and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

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