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!

 

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?

 

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…??