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 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 – 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!

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….?!

Is it time for Chief Social media officers in our Government?

Every time there is some untoward incident in some corner of the country, or some flare-up which goes out of control (mostly owing to state action or inaction), the social media is the favorite whipping boy of the powers that be, the opposition, and surprisingly, the media which feeds itself from the social media like no one else does,

The latest communal flare up in Muzzafarabad, in Uttar Pradesh, India has come as no exception to this trend.

Social media is the whipping boy in UP riots!

Social media is the whipping boy in UP riots too…

With unanimity, most government officials, including the Home secretary of the state, and many other leaders of the ruling party blamed the social media squarely.

Its surprising that every time some this of this sort happens, no one wishes to see this fact – Social media can only be an amplifier. It cannot substitute the reality of the ground situation.

Not just that – Social media is one great leveler, a real democracy where everyone wields the same power.

So, rather than blame social media, it is much easier for the state/center also to get into it, be in it, and take the so called adversaries and rumor mongers head on – this if done effectively, will counter facts real-time.

Its much easier to wait for issues to get out of hand and then, as a post mortem blame the media conveniently.

In social, the state can drive the conversation too.

 

This is not the first time it has happened. Earlier there were incidents in the southern state of Karnataka, where in rumors led almost to the exodus of North East Indians, and then too, the role of social media came under the lens.

Given the complexity of the Indian polity, and the fact that social media might be a contributor to the menace of rumor mongering, it is only fair that the state/central governments get their act to suggest people representatives and bureaucrats stay active on this media, and address issues real-time.

When this happens, the chance that the state’s point of view is communicated and amplified real-time is very high. Rumors can be quelled, and the peddlers of rumors, if at all any, can be shamed with facts.

This is also an easier route than just deploying resources in monitoring and taking action on those who are seen to be acting against the facts.

With this in mind,  is it time that the Indian government thinks of forming a cadre of “Chief social media officers” with people drawn from the Indian administrative service??

Having a set of elite officers in charge of this fast paced, real-time, and ever changing media, will only  serve disseminating information, quickly, and stay in charge of any conversation that affects peace and tranquility.

Is it time for “Chief social media officers” in India? What say??

Public relations – One promise that must make you think…!

What’s one public relations promise that should make you wary of the agency that comes in to make a pitch for your account?

The answer is simple, and straight forward.

And most of us on the other side – the client side – of the table know this answer well.

Its the promise of column inches in print and air-time in news channels and GE channels!

With the advent of competition and a handful of also-ran self styled PR guru’s and their clan, column inch and air-time promises are offered on a platter, and even put in the RFP’s by the clients inviting pitch.

Gujarat government may be a good brand for PR measure, but you?

Gujarat government may be a good brand for PR measure, but you?

And when one brand gets the promise of PR measurement in its terms of engagement, there’s an irresistible itch with a host of others who seek public relations counsel.

Columns centimetre driven PR is passe – and whomever does it in the pitch is in a wild goose chase…  the probability is high that the team that comes in to make the pitch, with promises galore may not even be seen after the win. The team that shall deliver the work on the ground will be different and just try pleasing you with a promise of the future.

Not just that – what is the context, where do you want you to be seen in the news? in print and visual – is it relevant to your target audience, the product you wish to sell, and in your segment…  there are so many questions in the PR outcome vis a vis your need.

Every brand cannot be like a Infosys or Namo – where even loads of column inches even in the negative, will make sense. Would it be so for your company and brand?

Then why would you fall for the PR pitch that promises the PR measure moon?

Look at the specifics, the context, the placement and the timing. Those are the relevant factors.

See PR measure in that framework. That will make eminent sense, that trying to paint image stripes on your ‘cat brand’ trying to emulate the tiger.