Public Relations & News-jacking : When must you news-jack?

News jacking, pioneered by the good David Meerman Scott ( @dmscott ), as an armor in your public relations strategy is here to stay. And not just stay – the only way you will be able to make a significant value addition to your brand is to use news-jacking, more in the coming times.

That can only happen, if as a marketing or PR pro, you are real-time ‘new-jacking’ ready!

There is also a raging debate on the merits and de-merits of news-jacking.

When should we in PR or marketing news-jack??

When should we in PR or marketing news-jack??

The answer to that debate is this – you must news-jack at the right time, in the right place, in the right context. There are no two ways about it.

While there can be a long debate on the when and how of new jacking as a PR tool, brands must look at news jacking if it has the following impact for them-

  • Will it show the brand, products and services in good light, in the context of the event?
  • Does the consumer see the brand has something beneficial to offer – either by way of information or services, or tangible/intangible product benefit?
  • Will news jacking in the given situation serve brand-lift in the short and long term?
  • Will news jacking stand the test of ethics in business and also stand any legal test, that may come to the fore by any stakeholders?
  • Would all the stakeholders in the product/service be happy with the technique used to news.

As a PR professional, and an avid news-jacker, ask yourself these quick questions when you embark in your next news jacking sojourn!

 

PR take – never outsource your reputation management!

This might sound banal, but this is a harsh reality that can be re-stated a hundred times – the advent of social media, and its proliferation in our lives, has completely morphed the face of contemporary public relations!

Earlier on, even a couple of years back, we communication professionals worked in our own silos, even cutting off from the ground realities of the organization and the media landscape out there! It was a closed world.

The PR folks determined what can be and must be communicated to the rest of the world – and the tools like media briefings and press conferences came in handy in this one sided communication! Even better, PR enjoyed the luxury of entertaining and enjoying the luxury of selective coverage with ‘cultivated’  media (in my opinion, that’s a huge fail – there is nothing like cultivated media – you only get as much mention as your content-worthiness!)

With the arrival of the social world, those small joys are dead and gone!

It’s a democracy of communication both within and outside the organization – the people in your company, and those in the outside world are more informed, and in no time, by the power of social.

You may shy away from conversation; and you may think you do so for the right reasons! Even as you do that, the tools of the social world are making sure that somewhere out there, there are a hundred other voices cooking up a storm in your reputation tea-cup!  If you are not pro-active in informing first, and creating engagement islets with all your stakeholders, then your reputation management is being unwittingly outsourced by you to the entire world!

If you are in today’s public relations business and doing something akin to the above, you must be crazy. And not that, at stake is your own reputation?! Saner communication professionals will never do that!

Manage 'your' reputation, or someone else will!!

Manage ‘your’ reputation, or someone else will!!

Step forward, communicate first and right, and willingly engage…    when you do that, you own the engagement, or if not own, you are well in control of your reputation!

Own the engagement, and never ever outsource reputation management – willingly or unwillingly!

PR + Social media – Do your doctors treat a soc-med sneeze in time?!

If your brand catches a cold in the social media world, leave it unattended and chances are it turns out to a life-threatening disease.

Yes, a sneeze or cold could be common in real-life, but for your brand or organization – a cold is the best time the doctors in your organization attended to your brand buzz. Only thing, the doctors here are your very own social media managers – right up to your CEO!

It’s no more sheer paranoia to keep chanting about an impending social media crises, for the organization. To be ready to handle any social media crisis that will dent the reputation is now widely discussed and advised all over.

Do you have the right social-media doctors in place?

Do you have the right social-media doctors in place?

Just look around your Google or Bing search bar for social media disasters – and there are a few, in which the brand almost got killed, at least ephemerally. You had one guy resorting to a purchased/promoted tweet to express his frustration at a large global airline. As mentioned in the opening lines, the airline chose to delay attending to a social media sneeze, and its brand caught a severe flu.

It is not being prepared to handle such an event or online burst that is wanting – rather, it’s the vision or wherewithal to see a cropping up social media crisis for the organization and the ability to act post that, which is an impediment to effective crisis management.

So, what are some of the signs of such a social sneeze like? How do you know that a social media reputation hit, brewing in out there?!

  • Is there any unusual buzz around your brand (product, service, or people within your team) in the online space? Do you see some strange mentions about any of these, which have not been noticed earlier? This is something which is a pointer that you must take cognizance of the social media buzz, and probe to what may have triggered this. Yes, there is a possibility that this could be positive buzz. But, the cardinal rule in social media reputation management is this – unusual buzz tends to be more inclined on the negative side. A service issue or a misdemeanor by someone in your global team is more likely to generate a discussion or post, that something good.
  • Has there been an event that has occurred somewhere, where you foresee a lot of buzz? Could be a part failure or lack of retail-end availability of your offering. Or just anything like that. Its imperative that you watch out the social media buzz in that region with alacrity. When you know that there could a negative buzz coming in, its easy to deploy the necessary people and tools, and take up and address queries, and have a social-response hierarchy in place – effectively dousing the negative buzz, before it flames your reputation.
  • Has someone in your senior team, be it even your CEO or someone in the top echelons of the organization erred in the manner in which some issue has been communicated to the media, or even in an one of one interview, which has been quoted out of context, and is beginning to set a negative reputation spiral? Good reputation managers, backed by their real-time experience can see the coming in such situations. In such cases, it’s easy to be prepared with an effective response, and even post it to all media, and in all social destinations, and then also handle individual queries on a case by case basis, as the situation or kind of media demands.

These are just three illustrations that give the reputation manager or social media commander a feel of what could be coming in, and how it must be handled effectively to ward off an evil strike at the reputation base of the organization.

Logically, these can be extended to more permutations and combinations across geographies and various social destinations to serve as reputation hit forecasts.

Hope this helps you get that social media sneeze attended to swiftly. But, are your doctors in place?

PR Measurement – Context is the key!

How many times has someone walked up to your organization with this as a pitch – hey, look, you are working with xyzee agency, and I see that you are not getting optimal coverage across platforms : and to seemingly substantiate the claim presents the easy tool in the PR weaponry – the competitive news track?

The tendency of any management or internal communications team is to jump at the prospect of having more column cms’ and more clipping and mentions in prime time television media! At the quest of measurement of PR, the crucial parameter – context – is given a miss.

In PR, context, above all else, matters!

Stories about your organization or about your product, services or people, are not the media’s making… they are always your making – what PR does is to amplify the talking points, at the appropriate time, in the right context. And when the mention or coverage is apt enough, that is a winning communication that some pointless ‘friendly journo’ spiel on your product, which most in your target audience will attach little value to.

Both in the practice of PR (which now effectively is trans-media story telling), and in PR outcome measurement, CONTEXT is the thing to look for. Keep asking, if the media or social-mention of your brand or people, is in the right context in the right form/media.

Good to remember this – one column inch in the right place may be more relevant for your communications program, which a ten plus column inches in a media that does not anyway matter.

So, when someone comes in with a pitch which only speaks the language of quantity (measurement), ask you, whether it will impact to the power of context.

Remember, context is the most relevant and powerful PR measure mantra! and all else is bullshit, loads and loads of that…..!

Public Relations – Online activism!

My country, India, has seen a spur of online activism in the recent few years, thanks to the growing disillusionment of the much touted urban middle class, and a perceived failure of the present country administration on a whole range of issues – from corruption, which has swept the carpet under the polity to law and order – where my sisters do not feel safe to step out late evenings, right at the heart of my national capital.

Online activism - just about anywhere?

Some notable examples of recent online activism

  • The movement, India against corruption which sprung into existence thanks to the moral leadership of Anna Hazare, has used online tools in a big way, to spread the message across, gather people, and consolidate views and crowd source protest ideas. On twitter, they have mad e of numerous handles, the primary one being @janlokpal, and successfully built opinions.
  • In the protests against the recent moral assault and subsequent death of Delhi girl Nirbaya,  by a gang of rogues on a moving bus, many groups and individuals used the social media to spread their angst against the establishment and the police, protesting consistent inaction. Some notable handles in this episode were activist @tajinderbagga who was the target of police action, and a girl activist who was arrested for joining the protests.
  • Online activists crowd sourced strong protest against a Gurgaon hotel hosting a singing even of notable Punjabi singer Honey Singh, whose lyrics provoked anger for their lewd views on women, in the light of events after the death of brave girl Nirbhaya.

(just to illustrate a few; twitter handles selective and not exhaustive)

The increasing spread of information through social media, and a large number of concerted online and offline activists spreading information to garner support for any cause that affects the common man is a new trend that is catching up swiftly in India and neighboring countries as well.

The establishment and the stakeholders who are the target of such activism, either out of compliance and deference to the views of people, or out of the fear that a cascading effect of the information on them from online to offline to the houses to the streets, will impact the credibility – are partly giving in to some demands as a result of online activism.

While the measurement of the effects of online activism will be a bit farfetched as of now, the day is not far when social media mavens will also find out means by which the on the ground impact of such efforts can be quantified and the impact measured.

While in India, online activism has only sprung into action only in more recent times, globally, the trend is in place at least for the past decade, and is only increasing/bound to increase by the day as the social media has proven to be a platform for swift dissemination of real time breaking news and events, and in many countries where democracy is nonexistent or in peril, where mobile devices in the hands of the affected, disgruntled and victimized, are the only means by which they make messages go viral – and for the global media to take note.

There’s also a raging debate that’s been going on since a while on whether online activism is really a cause for worry across the globe – questioning the likely effect isolated groups can have on ground realities.  Malcolm Gladwell’s article in The Newyorker of Oct 4, 2010http://nyr.kr/ap4hO1 stirred a social hornets’ nest, inviting a flurry of responses to the statement “ Social media can’t provide what social change has always required”.

Amongst the many interesting debates as a reply to Gladwells story, Erum Haider from neighboring Pakistan made very relevant and sort of ‘local’ responses to why social activism will make an impact and will stay on, and gain more power if used appropriately, for the right causes too. http://bit.ly/arngfb

With a fair amount of confidence, and the emerging nature of polity and demography in this part of the globe, one can say, with a fair amount of confidence that ‘social activism’ is indeed here to stay, and gain more strength as the clock ticks.

If you are a social media maven, ‘social media activism’ making J must be in your armor as well.

By the way, is it in the things to watch for in 2013 in your trend-watching list?

You can also see a brief history of online activism here http://on.mash.to/qYMYUU  

Public Relations – Why are Indian marketers weary of news-jacking?!

News-jacking, as an all powerful tool in the PR armor is catching up like wild fire across the world.

Yet, how much have you heard of news-jacking being put to use in India? Not much, despite the fact that its our own iconic AMUL brand, being the pioneers of news jacking!

Amul’s witty and thoughtful, and almost daily topicals are best practical examples of news-jacking. When they did it firs in the yesteryear, little would the brand custodians have imagined that what was done in a simple easy to reach way will become “news-jacking”, and pioneered by David Meerman Scott.

Amul - our own news-jackers!

More recently, Groupon India resorted to news-jacking, by making use of the spiraling onion prices in the country – and the marketing and public relations mileage they obtained was phenomenal. If you judge the spin-off in AVE terms, they would have garnered immense value for the paltry PR money that went into the effort.

It was a crash that Groupon would have loved for the attention, and the marketing mileage!

It was a crash that Groupon would have loved for the attention, and the marketing mileage!

Yet, you don’t see it being much used as a tool in India.

Why? Is it that we are too touchy about how sensibilities might get hurt in this sub-continent, or is it just Indian marketers and brands are comfortable with conventional tools?

Just google, and you shall find how every possible event from the US presidential election, to Hurricane Sandy,  and more recently, the Royal baby have been news-jacked – ensuring unimaginable marketing mileage – which would cost very high in other means!

What do you think as  a public relations maven?? Is it time for more and more news-jacking in our public relations arsenals?

 

Public Relations – urge to jump on to social media?

converseEverybody wants to go social… and most of us in the public relations business have jumped on to the social bandwagon. We are all nudging our clients and prospects to do so.

Social media it appears, is panacea for all the image ailments the world was suffering from.

At least, the thought now is this :  Jump on to the social media jungle and there lies the magic wand to all your public relations and media challenges.

Does your organization think that way?

A sheer presence online is NOT the only ingredient to craft a winning social presence… well, a fact that is conveniently missed by most of us who are turned on by the thought of a social media presence.

The two key ingredients, the CRUCIAL ONES for your organization to have a working and winning social presence are

  • a commitment from the top leadership to a meaningful and credible social presence,
  • more importantly, an openness to conversations – conversations that could shake the belief system of your organization, just in case you always have been a company sans internal and external dialog.

On conversations – today, social media presence/management is not about just having a presence on the twitters and facebooks of the world.

The fundamental social media fallacy is to make an assumption that with the presence, you can keep thrusting your products, services and key people thoughts on the target audience. We all think social is an opportunity for ‘uninterrupted monologue’.

An online presence is just a starting point of the unending social journey. The drivers of this media, the audience and external stakeholders – are there not to just hear to what you say – a whole lot of people are there only to have a dialog, understand better, get their points of view heard, and have their real needs and problems addressed in a jiffy – the world out there needs instant answers and not your sermons on how things are good.

So, if your social presence can take part in such an ongoing 24/7 conversation, and at the same time leverage your products and services for a business goal, then you may have a winner in the long term.

If you are not open, and your company would love a monologue, be assured that you will not gain much in this game.

And now to the even more important one – for this to happen, for you to be a willing party to ongoing conversations in this space, the top leadership of the organization you represent MUST be committed to a long term strategy, that is full of such conversations, filled in with a willingness to meet the needs to those in a discussion with you.

So, are you ready to get to the social bandwagon? Think and engage, else do better things!