Fiona Nanayakkara & Ianthe Yatawatte Raj
Introducing Sri Lanka to a new age of collaborative agency concepts.
The Founder of News Publisher – Fiona Nanayakkara and Director – Strategic Marketing at Quire Sri Lanka – Ianthe Yatawatte Raj, manage the only two agencies in Sri Lanka that can confidently offer corporate communication solutions, via a traditional marketing agency concept coupled with collaborative agency policies. This new concept has begun generating waves within the marketing sphere. The partnership between these two entities has certainly been fruitful as both their cumulative strengths have allowed clients to receive a gamut of services focused on efficiency, return on investment and innovation.
Tell us about your individual companies
Ianthe: Quire Sri Lanka originally started in 2016 as a content writing company, with the aim of meeting the market’s need for quality technical writing particularly in hospitality and investment. Quire works as a consulting agency – (“cagency”) and has created a culture of collaboration, eliminating the fear of competition. Effectively cultivating an innovative and forward thinking partnership both internally and with collaborative agencies, such as is the case with NewsPublisher or Socialshott, both of which we work closely with, on large scale projects.
Fiona: In terms of News Publisher, we differ from other PR agencies as we focus on innovative, efficient methods of offering corporate communications solutions with more focus on bridging the gap between media relations & publicity, whilst educating our clients on the complete utilisation of PR to ensure the creation of brand equity. Public Relations has always been one of our strengths; this has led to us access so much collated content, experience and above all immediate reach. This enables us to easily understand the pitfalls, platforms, target audiences & messaging. Through agency collaborations we are able to give a complete Corp Comm solution to our clients. Quire is an exclusive writing partner for News Publisher because when your core strength is PR we can’t afford to compromise on the content quality.
What drove you to the entrepreneurial direction?
Fiona: Since we have both been on the client, agency and media side of operations, we have a clear understanding of the pain points that the industry has to deal with. We realized that there were gaps in the market from all three perspectives and as a result, we wanted to bridge that gap. In essence, we are trying to ensure that corporate communications between all three stakeholders are elevated to an international level, even for entrepreneurs and SME’s that seek strategic marketing.
Ianthe: We had identified a widening gap in the market for consultancies that provides customers with industry-specific knowledge, whilst being able to supplement that with the marketing creativity. Most consultancies focus on return on investment and long-term strategy – the paperwork, the research, the black and white; and outsource the creative to a traditional agency that consists of seasoned creative and innovative talent.
From left: Fiona Nanayakkara and Ianthe Yatawatte Raj
How do you stand out from the competition?
Fiona: A typical PR agency has to learn the brand, company, values and their language as soon as the contract is signed. This gives the PR professional the opportunity to learn the company, their stakeholders and communication objectives within a very short period of time. What sets News Publisher apart is that once we collate valuable data and news-worthy content we don’t just stick to PR. We give our clients publicity – whether we use social media or mainstream media the objective is to get the right message to the right audience.
As consultants, we also understand our duty to direct clients to the services that they really need. More often than not, clients will approach us with a requirement for PR services, but in reality, what they need would be for social media or vice versa. We direct them to the right platform so that they can reach their desired target audience.
Ianthe: Quire stands out for a few reasons, firstly having understood agency and client woes, we attempt to provide our clients with an efficient one-stop-shop as opposed to working in strict silos. Secondly, we have no qualms with regard to working with other traditional or innovative agencies, as a complete marketing department as opposed to separate 3rd party agencies. We absolutely believe in eliminating the fear of competition entirely – to ensure 100% focus on client benefits, and practice transparent, ethical marketing and business development in aid of this want to eliminate fear of competition. Thirdly, we understand that we are working in service of another brand, and as such our own takes an absolute backseat.
Can you elaborate on the automation you recently introduced to the Sri Lankan PR industry?
Fiona: News Publisher.Online’s purpose is to streamline the process between all three stakeholders within the industry; PR agencies, clients and media.
Those who work in media rarely get a break. They have to rely on their inboxes on a day to day basis. With our website, they can go online, choose which press release they want to feature, and then set their pages for the next few days. The problem with this is, not everyone will have the time to actually go online and download press releases. This is where the distribution system comes in. We have established a database where clients can access the media by simply uploading the document (press release) to our platform. It is then disseminated to the inboxes of all national business editors depending on the targeted language.
Having said that, our strength does not lie just in the media database. Our strength is in understanding the client’s message and then pitching it to the media. For example, a communications manager at a firm will have a KPI of two press release per month; regardless of whether it is newsworthy or not, it has to be published, thus creating a gap in understanding the way to utilise PR, putting more pressure on media to accommodate vs. maintains news standards, ultimating flooding reader with “news”. We overcome this, by educating and advising our clients on efficient use of PR. In addition, the system, has left room for small businesses & Entrepreneurs to reach the media with newsworthy stories. Clearly, in order to battle the competition, they too are offering something unique but lack the budgets required to commit to a PR agency.
What are some emerging trends and threats in the industry? How are you going to adapt to them?
Ianthe: In terms of threats, most agencies tend to pitch to clients based on a departmentalised system rather than a holistic approach this leads to disjointed marketing in most cases. We educate and try to bridge this gap, it may be outside of the scope of a traditional agency, but it creates a better long-term effect.
Fiona: Another threat would be that investment and training on the growth of agency staff is not something that is commonplace. In other industries, education of staff is funded so that they can gain global exposure. In comparison, one has to learn everything beforehand when it comes to agency life.
Ianthe: As for trends, in the coming years we’re going to see a massive need for creative minds and innovators as opposed to more left-brained vocations as AI takes over. Artificial intelligence and Virtual Reality are picking up throughout Europe. The latter in particular is now being used to pitch stories and briefs to media outlets and editors – to bridge gaps in society, across borders, etc.
Fiona: Trend-wise, most of the world is moving toward the use of digital PR tactics, however, Sri Lanka still lacks in the full understanding of this field.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
Ianthe: Becoming an entrepreneur is just as hard as you plan for it to be. Having said that, there is very little that you can plan for when the universe has their own plans for you, but it never hurts to do your homework, have your finances in order, understand what you’re going to offer and why.
Fiona: Be the leader that you wish you had when you worked for others previously. Being an Entrepreneur means letting go of your ego because a lot of departments are expected of you. Be open minded to new experiences because change is the only constant in life.