Behind the Headlines with Harjiv Singh

Chief storyteller and serial entrepreneur, Harjiv Singh is the founder and CEO of Gutenberg, a digital integrated marketing communications firm with offices in the U.S., U.K. and India, where he works extensively with clients across a diverse range of industries and organizations. Gutenberg recently announced their rebranding and launch of its expanded suite of services making it a one-stop shop for complete integrated marketing communications needs for brands. Gutenberg’s integrated marketing services offering will expand from PR to include digital, content, video and mobile.

This week, I sat down with Harjiv to discuss the next phase of PR growth, how to send a message across multiple platforms, and the importance of encompassing paid, owned and earned media.

Congratulations on the rebranding of Gutenberg – formerly Gutenberg Communications. What motivated your launch of expanded services? Could you articulate a bit more what this will mean for your clients and the services your organization offers?

Thank you for your wishes. Gutenberg’s rebranding was a well-planned move that is very critical to our long-term positioning and growth as a company. The strategy behind the rebranding was to expand our client offerings to include service lines with rapid growth across all our geographical markets. Through this rebranding we have accomplished three things:

  • We have built a full range of capabilities to address contemporary challenges faced by any Chief Marketing Officer
  • We have integrated our offerings to focus on delivering measurable ROI for clients through analytics
  • We have also expanded our addressable market to US$227 billion, by broadening our service offerings to include digital, mobile, video and content in addition to our core strength in PR and storytelling

In this way, we will now be able to work with our clients to help build their brands through an integrated approach and provide a wider array of marketing strategy, tools, and ideas to help our clients reach their target audiences.

Why is it important to have integrated digital, PR, video, content and mobile all in one place? How is PR changing and how does this keep you on the cutting edge?

Integrated marketing has been around since the 1990’s. What has changed is the landscape and tools available today. If Facebook was a country, it would be the largest country based on its active user base of 1.9 billion by the end of 2016. More people access Facebook on mobile than they do on a laptop or PC. The fastest growing area of content consumption both online and on mobile are videos. Marketers need to watch these changes closely to ensure their brand messages are relevant and resonate with their target audiences. For example, the US$1 billion acquisition of the “Dollar Shave Club” by Unilever underscores how a digitally savvy start-up completely upended the traditional razor blade industry. Dollar Shave Club launched a monthly subscription service in 2012 with a simple yet brilliantly researched YouTube video that crashed their site. The video has garnered nearly 24 million views since it launched and took the revenue of the company to US$150 million in a short span of four years until it was bought by Unilever last year. Digital is changing how companies target audiences and drive revenue growth and marketing needs to keep pace or stay ahead of these changes. Gutenberg will help our clients navigate these exciting developments with our new approach.

How do you see the future of PR and what do brands need to continue doing to stay at the forefront of those changes?

I am excited and optimistic about the future of PR as long as folks in PR understand that we are in a new era for marketing that requires a multi-dimensional view to storytelling. This new era started with the marketing view of paid, owned, earned and will now evolve into combining these three for driving ROI.

Your organization works with a variety of clients in a multitude of different sectors. What are some of the differences in building a PR strategy for a large company versus a small non-profit? What stays the same?

At Gutenberg, we strongly believe that each client has a unique story to tell. It is important to have a clear understanding of a clients’ business, their industry, competition and their target audience. Based on understanding these, we formulate a communications and PR strategy for our clients. Larger companies have more resources to deploy across all paid, owned and earned media where smaller companies tend to focus more on earned and owned media. It is critical to start with an overarching strategy of what marketing objective we are trying to solve and then choose the appropriate tools available to address those objectives.

What are some of the key components of successful strategic communications? Can you also speak about how analytics drive a PR strategy?

The key components of a successful communication strategy are to clearly identify the target audience demographics and what is the core objective of the communication plan. Based on these you can choose the right combination of paid, owned and earned media, mapping it against your marketing funnel. Analytics is very important today as it can provide a measurement of a clients’ PR and marketing efforts. Increasingly with social and digital campaigns both organic and inorganic, you can compare reach and engagement.

To craft a presence in the marketplace, it’s increasingly important to shift between paid, owned and earned media, as you’ve mentioned. How do you use each type of media? Do you find one more effective than the others? How do you advise your clients to use each format strategically? Any other advice?

The combination of paid, owned and earned to use is based on a clients’ strategic marketing objective, the target audiences, and resources. Early stage start-ups and smaller NGO’s may focus their effort more on owned and earned. But a combination of all three for larger companies is more impactful.

What advice do you have for those looking to begin a career in this field?

This is an exciting time to be in marketing. This shift to digital is upending the traditional offline advertising business and the industry needs people with a multidimensional perspective. For anyone starting today in this industry, I would suggest that they research and understand their own industry, tools and also the client’s industry. Most importantly, for anyone entering any career, invest in building and nurturing relationships. In the long run, your ability to blend your expertise with strong relationships will define your success.

Rapid Fire Round:

  1. The best gift I have ever received is… my three children are the best gift ever.
  2. If I was a superhero, my powers would be…  to make the world slow down to “smell the coffee” and enjoy what nature has given us.
  3. If I could only eat one meal for the rest of my life, it would be…. Mutton Curry with basmati rice.
  4. My favorite book is…. The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.
  5. I’m motivated to work hard by… my team who strives each day to do its best for our clients.
  6. My proudest accomplishment is…. to see my teams achieving their potential.


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