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 – 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 – right questions to suit your “image” needs – ask!

PR agency - Are you asking such questions?Public relations agencies of different hue and size may keep pitching with your organization, to get an opportunity to engage with your communication strategy/execution.

Invariably, companies ask – does your agency have the scale, size and a regional/national presence, and would you be able to reach across all (including social) media, in every nook and corner of the world!

There is nothing wrong, and in fact, it’s important to check on what credentials your prospective agency comes with! Well, at the same time, it is important to bear in mind, that the agency must also have the ability & agility to engage in PR needed by your organization – the context being of paramount importance.

You may hire the best agency, but think about this – is there a point if their strengths do not sync with your company’s scale and need, what if their capabilities are more specific to large sized corporations, and not for the kind your company is – a niche small organization, yet with its own unique service offerings or qualities.

So why not check for the following few, when you think it’s time to hire the services of a PR agency.

  • Does the agency have a history of delivering PR value to companies of your kind, and how often have they done it?
  • Do they have the agility – not just in the pitch of theirs, but do they seem to fit in your scheme of things – would they find synergy in working with a client like you
  • Do they have the kind of commitment to work with companies like you in the medium and long term, so that you eventually get the real benefit of engaging with an agency. If you are just looking for one off bursts of media coverage, the need to spend time analyzing the agency can be done away with
  • Do they have the de-learning skills for adapting to your specific needs? This is so important. Like it or not, large and global agencies come with a mindset, and even if they are willing to do their best, they may not be of service if your communication needs are vastly different from what is doable by them
  • Do they have an understanding of your specific industry needs, and would they be willing to invest the time and energy in gaining insights into your media visibility need
  • Are they just a plain vanilla release churning agency? Or do they learn in-depth about you, see what works best for you, and showcase that to the world.
  • How much more credibility and enhanced image value can they bring to the table (not just immediately,  but over a period of 2 – 3 years)
  • Are they contemporary? Are they social in the real sense? And are they in the business of facilitating the news crowd-sourcing?
  • In case your needs are very local, do they have an insight into what works in that market/geography of yours? Sometimes an easy exercise in one part of the world, may not be even doable elsewhere. And they must be willing to tell this, straight on your face. Its important that they are transparent and make promises that work.
  • Do they speak of practical and doable communication work? Sometimes large agencies are too good at large scale events, which will fetch some visibility burst; but the value that you derive from such exercise is zilch.

In your long term communication interests, ask these and such other questions; and make sure that you understand the dynamics of the value promised.

How about a reality check of your present PR agency value proposition?

Public Relations – Is it fair to name/shame clients + media?

In the past few days I have seen some posts in the social media, wherein public relations/communication professionals have given vent to their feelings on issues of impact with respect to the media and some of their clients as well.

Interestingly, I did also see a group in Facebook, formed by public relations professionals. The intent of this group, is to enlighten the PR fraternity of clients and some friends in the media who make some unreasonable demand or don’t keep up their commitments.

The advent of social is making such things a lot easier, propelling us to ‘do’ before we ‘think’….

Media and Client blacklist - Fairplay?

No one denies any of us the right to express our feelings, particularly when a lot of hard work and professional contribution is at stake.

But, is not naming/shaming specific clients or friends in the media (may be a handful of them in the vast media universe, where), taking expression of freedom too far?

Think of this situation – as PR counsels, we continue to promise a whole lot of media deliverables to our client – both existing and prospective.

Some of it is accomplished by us, while a lot is yet missed – but there is no doubt in the kind of efforts we put in, in making sure we communicate our client position to the media at large.

Fact is, even the media works on a whole lot of extraneous factors, and the fierce competition for what is relevant to the consumer! So, even assuming that our media friends did file a story with our inputs, the editor may find it redundant to take.

What if some of our clients gang up together and decide to take on our reputation, for no mistake of any of us? That would be grossly unfair we would think, and defend our duties to the hilt.

By the same logic, should’nt we leave this naming business just to word of mouth, which is by far the best tool in marketing.

Think of this – did you feel good when one in the PR fraternity was shamed big time by a rare public post by “Cleartrip”?

You thought what cleartrip did was right? You'll take that??

Forget the details, the fact is none of us would want to be bashed in public, while as a community, we work on a handful of external factors.

The same ought to apply to the media and client as well.

Except offcourse when it comes to issues of ethics and corruption – even which are  best handled by word of mouth.

So, would you yet think to name and shame if fair? Not sure….?!