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?

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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.

PR & Reputation – the “infy” lesson!

Infosys is (or should we say was) a benchmark when it comes to great practices as to how a company ought to be run based on merit.

That was a thing of the past, you may say, but the image of the company was built on that foundation.

Every news that came out of the IT bellwether (do you yet call it one?) was almost testimony to what a great company Infosys was and what impregnable values the founders and promoters stood for.

The cardinal rule in public relations and managing your reputation is – you just cannot build an image out of a hollow core – the core of what your product, service and people stand for!

At least a few of us, if not all, think – with our expertise in the practice of PR and story telling, we can create an image for a client – a positive image, irrespective of what the ground realities be. That’s a fallacy, and will be grossly misleading.

Reality is bound to catch up – and when it does it can hit hard, and create a solid dent in the image – a dent deep enough to maul the hard built image.

Not just should the core be in place – it must remain for the life of the organisation, undiluted.

If not, then the risk of being like Infosys would haunt you.

Whither corporate governance.. What Infy teaches us in PR.

Whither corporate governance.. What Infy teaches us in PR.

The earlier image of Infosys was solid and impeccable, only until the very people who promoted and stood by the values went on to dilute the same for the sake of expediency.

Who would have thought that you would see a day, when the experts in corporate governance, and those at the stock markets would ask Infosys, on why there was a semblance of nepotism, and erred corporate practices in the way the company is run?

Even a great image lasts only until your core is in tact – and the PR or reputation is garner is directly related to how great the core is, and is perceived as well.

Dilute the core values, and through the eyes of Infy, you could see what the world speaks of your brand.

So, whats driving your image? Sheer hollow PR, or is that PR as an outcome of what core values your brand stands for??

 

PR – Groupon India’s Onion news-jacking!

If you have been following current affairs in the Indian sub-continent, and are a student of marketing, you will not have missed the fabulous campaign by Groupon India, riding on the current menace of rising Onion prices.

It was a huge huge PR and marketing sell-off – what began as coverage in the Indian media culminated in the global media…  a kind of coverage even the architects of this campaign would not have foreseen.

Apparently, albeit for a brief while, owing to the customer rush for online onion buying at deep-discounts, Groupon’s site crashed to be up later.

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!

PR professionals in India & the world, who are proponents, and avid practitioners of news-jacking as a great tool have always wondered why the Indian subcontinent has not seen much of action on that front.

Groupon India, with this Onions for deep discount campaign has in a way, ushered in the practice of news-jacking as a tool in the PR and marketing armor.

Will this marketing move of Groupron usher in a wave of news-jacks by marketers and PR pro’s  in this part of the world? Will more Indian brands now jump on to the news-jack bandwagon or are they yet news-jacking shy…??