LOTUS in bloom.
Selina Rashid heads Lotus Client Management & Public Relations – a one of its kind, Lahore based PR Company dedicated to the art, entertainment, and lifestyle and fashion side of life. It is not an event management or advertising company – ‘PR is always confused with event management and advertising! We do event PR not its actual management: we look after their publicity needs. This essentially means ensuring the event is hyped in the press before it happens, while it happens (live TV and radio) and after it happens through interviews, news bytes and features. We cover every medium of press communication, such as broadsheets, unit and broadcast and tailor made specific press strategies according to the event, looking at specific press for specific events. It’s a waste of time for the editor of blue chip for instance, to be receiving press releases about a fashion show! At the actual event we look after the press guest list, ensure all media get to talk to/interview the relevant people and make sure everyone gets a press kit, complete with all information about the event and other such goodies! However, our main focus is working with individuals and projects on a more sustained and annual basis – events are not our main area of focus at this point’ explains Selina.
Selina studied at Warwick in England and came back to Pakistan after completing her degree in Politics. Once she came back to Pakistan, she got into debate coaching and coached her alma mater’s debating teams, LACAS and the Pakistan Debating team to Singapore. ‘I have always been very passionate about debating and coaching was a great experience. Our teams did very well that year but I am glad that I was able to accomplish what I had set out to do and then move on to develop a new aspect and dimension of my life – I didn’t see myself as a debate coach for life’. Bridging the gap between her former job and current career is Selina’s involvement in the debating community as head of publicity for the Debating Society of Pakistan.
Post debates, Selina returned to the UK in a fit of spontaneity. Selina and her mother were sitting on a plane, an hour away from Heathrow for holiday, when her mother said ‘what if you just stay here in London and get a job’? I said ‘ok!’. ‘It was a frivolous conversation which ended up with me actually staying on – I had two weeks to find a job and I narrowed down my interest to marketing – if I am honest, I don’t quite think I knew what it was but it sounded interesting. Within marketing, PR fascinated me although again I had no clue as to what this entailed. I applied everywhere, indiscriminately and got lucky when Avalon, a comedy based company in England called me in. I worked there and loved every minute of the green rooms, the personalities – some famous some note, the tellie shows we worked on, elaborate sets, stages, sketch and stand up shows until I moved back.’
How and why did she make the decision to come back to Pakistan? ‘I woke up one morning and felt ready to move back to Pakistan’ says Selina . ‘I came back in March  – I thought ‘well this is what I have learnt and this is what I am good at – now what? I then combined all elements and started LOTUS in September 2007 – I had three clients – Kamiar Rokni, Nickie and Nina, The Fourth Article and Hassan Khan aka Jimmy. They were thankfully willing to sign up with me and invest’, recalls Selina.
If Selina had begun the same company in London, does she believe it would have been different? Yes because London has a diversity of PR companies and LOTUS would have been one among many. also wouldn’t have been able to represent my country’s talent and I feel that the bond one has with one’s own is stronger. By operating locally and with clients within the country, LOTUS is able to publicise national talent both at home and abroad.
Professionally what ticks Selina off the most? – The lack of professionalism and the inherent lack of a suitable and agreed upon definition of what professionalism means. Is she planning to add more services under LOTUS’ umbrella? ‘Not as yet. I personally have no experience or interest in events and management of these. Organising the table wala, tamboo wala etc is not up my street and my aesthetic sense is also questionable at the best of times! Nor do I foresee LOTUS venturing into image consultancy in which again, I have no experience and no interest. We can’t tell our clients how to look, we can only tell them what to say’ remarks Selina.
Would Selina refuse to take a client she doesn’t like on board? Is it more about money or personal satisfaction for her? Selina believes that personal satisfaction is paramount and money is also important in that it allows to continue striving towards improvement and satisfaction in business. With clients, her aim is to bring something out which the company can sustain in terms of talent and an image that client can reconcile easily and naturally with themselves. – ‘we don’t reject clients just because we don’t like their look, swagger or manner of speaking. Rather, we enjoy working with those whose talent is genuine, whose contribution to their field is definitive in its own way and who have the potential to go even further with their work if given the right exposure at the right time. It is always important to work with people with whom you can share a common vision but it is equally important to work with people who may not necessarily always agree with everything you say – a client-publicist relationship is always a delicate balance .‘
Who are the people working for LOTUS? ‘The LOTUS team is young, hardworking, spirited and always interested in bringing something fresh and dynamic to the table. Once a person joins the team, it is often that they settle into a particular area of expertise in which they grow.’ Selina tells us that the LOTUS team is growing, of which is very proud and is particularly appreciative of the fact that this is not a team of people who have come in on a ‘safaarishy’ ticket but people who took the initiative to join a small company in a brand new field.
Speaking about brand new field and as mentioned at the beginning of this article, Selina insists that there is a big difference between advertising and PR. To explain this difference, in a financial sense, Selina explains ‘you pay to put ads in papers but in PR you do not pay to put in interviews or articles.’ PR she suggests, is also very qualitative and there is no quantifiable payment procedure as such unless someone devises a method to quantify public recognition, image recall and image association. ‘We give our clients a strategy for that time period – what media you should target, when and why.’ However, Selina explains that such strategies are usually at the behest of the socio-political situation in Pakistan which in turn affects the media, its role and function.
Have any politicians approached Selina to represent them? ‘There have been opportunities every now and then to get involved in political PR but thus far we have stayed away. To be honest politicians need full time publicists/spin doctors dedicated to them and I am not qualified for one and prefer the field I am in. I personally am interested in politics though as my degree will testify.’
Where does Selina see LOTUS in 5 years? In Karachi and Lahore – in both cities, ideally. According to Selina, growth in the right direction has a lot to do with support, not just from one’s family and friends but from those that one meets in similar industries and professions. ‘I have been fortunate enough to meet some extremely inspirational and helpful people’ and hopes that she too will be in a position to support newer and dynamic people in the next 5 years.
Selina also has plans to continue working on the media-talent relationship and infrastructure. ‘The balance of power between the media interested in good content and talent looking for a good platform in the media needs to kept steady – I hope that we continue to assist this in a more influential way in the next 5 years.’
If Selina were to start the same company in Karachi would she have to make major adjustments? ‘I hope not she says confidently, ‘because we follow international strategies and try to implement indigenous get semi standardised approaches that ideally do not fluctuate significantly.’ Lotus currently has Karachi based clients and enjoys working with clients from there and from Lahore equally. Speaking about the miscommunication between the 2 cities and bridging the gap, Selina is confident that ‘If you’re honest and know what you’re talking about, you can go anywhere in any city and break any stereotype you want. Its simply delivering what you commit to.’
Why the name LOTUS? Here is the real story: – ‘The story is not very exiting I’m afraid. My younger brother and father were setting up a retail company by the name LOTUS at one point, which did not materialise. My father then suggested I use the name for this company and I added on Client Management and Public Relations to it to make it relevant! Also, the LOTUS flower qualities I have now come to reconcile and identify with the company!!’
Selina’s take on LOTUS perhaps going international? – ‘Even if we do open branches international, our main focus of work and passion, if you will, will be to promote and support brands, projects and people who are contributing to Pakistan – we are after all, a Pakistani company.”
Could Selina handle a little competition? ‘I am looking forward to more PR companies coming up in Pakistan, but part of you feels really pleased that you are the only fish in this pond. That said, I do hope more people show interest in this field as it may be niche, but there is enough good talent to support and a good mix of media to interact with.’
Speaking about working in the third word, Selina says, ‘I feel very strongly that developing countries house visionary individuals which explains why people like Asim Buksh for instance, are so successful and skilled at what they do. We need to recognise, guide and support such people and all those smaller individuals who are starting out, like myself, who have a passion and a vision – it is essential to work together to hone such passion into something tangible and beneficial for our country. I believe good PR is indeed bringing benefit to our country.
The key to consistency? ‘Security, Stability and a guiding vision’ explains Selina.
What kind of a boss does Selina see herself as? ‘I’m a demanding person and I assess people on their work ethics and professionalism. Yet I believe that we all have room to learn more but we must be willing, regardless of whether we are trainees or CEOs of companies.’
By the by what’s currently on Selina’s i-Pod? ‘KAAVISH and John Mayer’