Monthly Archives: March 2013

Fame, Popularity and the Definition of Intent

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“Life is a reflection of intent”- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

The Economic Times ‘Brand Equity’ featured a piece on what Tarun Chauhan of JWT Mumbai had to say about fame, popularity and the importance of intent in the world of marketing. With the proclamation of a brand’s intent comes its purpose, USP and pitch- all in one. What the brand seeks to be to its audience can be read easily through the advertising campaigns that they propagate. Being famous isn’t the same as being popular. While popularity hauls in high brand recall and low equity, fame lasts longer and garners equity and respect.

Plenty of ads are made with the weak intent of ‘going viral’ or trending and do not make an impact on the big picture. They remain merely “good looking ads” and fail when it comes to brand building. According to Chauhan, “commitment solutions” should be preferred over “creative solutions”; long term solutions that can deliver on the promise of retaining customer patronage over the years.

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The Story of an Internet Minute

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With an ever progressive information highway and with the traffic flow on the Internet rising every minute, even Intel has taken to developing a new communications platform along with equipment managers and service providers to make data processing more efficient. Code named Crystal Forest, it aims to provide Mobile Internet Devices faster and easier communication infrastructure without comprising security.

Intel also stated that while the number of MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices) is now equal to the global population, the number of networked devices will be twice the number in 2015. While this mushrooming growth may seem a sure sign of Internet accessibility and information control, there also arises another issue. Nearly 640 GB of data is said to pass through the network during any one given minute. This staggering figure is nothing compared to what it looks like broken down- 204 million emails, 20 million photos, i.3 million videos on YouTube and so on.

There is a high risk of our information pathways crashing down unless the next generation developments they are subjected to can strengthen them and assure expansion and security sans interruption. More on this one minute story on What Happens in an Internet Minute!

Cause Marketing- a mine of opportunities

Social Marketing

Cause marketing refers to ventures that corporates undertake, involving the cooperative efforts of a ‘for profit’ company and a non profit organization. With internet users increasing day by day, the scope for online cause marketing is also on the rise. In India the only notable cause marketing in recent times has been the ‘Jaago Re’ campaign by Tata Tea. The time invested and the noble venture undertaken made sure that the impact on people was huge.

The effect of sponsorship branding and marketing may be hard to measure but cause marketing campaigns are a win- win situation as the investment to promote a noble cause never goes to waste. An audience will always root for products and services offered by a company they know is supporting any humane cause. Marketers can always invest on this general appeal; with the obvious gain of image building comes the secondary benefit of increased revenue from sales and increasing patronage. Marketing and communications strategists can always round off their high end tactics with a simple sign of care for the community. While contributing to the implementation of corporate social responsibility activities it also helps them follow the wise motto of “Doing Well by Doing Good”.

The ROI drama

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Read an article recently on how ROI was the most important aspect of business. And chanced upon a sentence that went:

“What clients really want is to be shown the money”

Interesting and appalling at the same time. If all that clients were interested in was the reaping of profits why would PR people lose sleep over complicated strategies and market research and press kits? it reminded me of an episode in the fourth installment of the Harry Potter franchise: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. During the Quidditch World Cup (an awesome game as HP fans would know) the participating teams are egged on by their respective mascots. Tiny green leprechauns begin showering gold coins onto the thousands who have gathered to watch the game. Their motive being the garnering of support for their team. People scramble over themselves to hoard the falling gold. If the statement above is to be believed, this is an excellent PR tactic. Who wouldn’t want to support a team that gave them gold?! If customers get incentives to like the client, they’ll stick on. Or at least that is what some believe. The catch in the mascots’ PR trick being that it was all leprechaun’s gold and would disappear after some time. It is the same drawback that affects clients who try to bribe and woo customers. Money just doesn’t last, reputation does.

The way that customers are influenced by the client’s behavior, the goodwill they can rake in and their genuineness of their corporate social responsibility endeavors all matter in the long run. Media expertise and concise content can work wonders if the client is sure of what to tell the audience. Clients have to arrive at a clear understanding of what their prerequisite is: money or goodwill. Unless they prioritize their needs and come to terms with the fact that monetary profit is indirect and secondary, PR isn’t going to do them the world of good it otherwise does!

The Why and How of Listening

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Every textbook of communication would testify that incoming information is equally important as outgoing communication. Listening is a quality that is becoming rarer as time progresses.Managers are immersed in checking exchange rates when their employees talk to them. Employees are busy scribbling notes during meetings, when listening carefully might do the trick more easily and effectively. A tactician cannot plan his client’s agenda unless he listens to what they have to say and arrive at a comprehensive understanding about the root of their problem.

Listening is a world apart from simply hearing. It is a choice. When you choose to listen you are letting your mind relax and take in information that comes from an external source. In corporate communication, and more importantly public relations, this is translated to mean a level of trust. While listening to someone you give them your complete attention and time; more important than a dozen documents, emails and harried meetings. When the speaker understands you are being attentive, he/ she will have no qualms about confiding in you. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree, the fact that you choose to listen will convince the speaker that you are ready to arrive at a mutually beneficial understanding. Listening dampens conflict. This in turn increases the productivity of the work force. Employees and clients who are assured that the management will listen to them will automatically be ready to perform better. When companies develop business relationships with their customers they have to make sure their ‘listening mechanisms’ and feedback channels are fine tuned to the customers’ needs.

Take heed of facial expressions, gestures as well as non- verbal cues. Pay attention when people choose to divulge their strengths and weaknesses so that you can chart a game plan where players can collaborate to cover each others’ deficiencies. Listening is a continuous process. Apart from being an effective feedback device, listening also helps generate a general awareness about clients and their environment which in turn fosters empathy.

The Age of Utter Transparency

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If everything were transparent, PR would be a dead art. Though public relations deifies transparency and truth, it is a hard- hitting fact that PR professionals would have to switch careers if all their clients became oh-so-honest. Transparency is more of a principle than a tactic in PR. And most clients tend to forget this basic rule of thumb, quite frequently.

Let us take into consideration the grey area called reputation management; a branch of PR that has broken off and flourished of its own accord. We have come to accept cover ups and crises management strategies as part of ‘effective image building’. even when complete disclosure is inevitable and threatens to bring any reputation toppling down, there is a tendency to downplay the same and portray the company as a victim of circumstances instead.

Even in- house communication tends to be a exaggerated and flattering at times. While employees know the show behind the curtains, employers simply turn a blind eye towards the obvious and try to make it as unimportant as possible. Picketing and employee strikes are often the results of failed talks between both parties. Open forums are seen as an opportunity for grievance redressal by employees and as a crisis by the management, instead of a feedback platform that can help bring about mutual understanding if both parties are willing to cooperate.

With Wiki Leaks and every bit of possible information easily available on the Internet honesty has become a mandatory characteristic of corporate communication. Even though the possibility of ‘lies’ cannot be ruled out PR personnel struggle to keep afloat the notion that their client and company is 100% believable, trustworthy, accredited and a lot more; the simple reason being that the audiences can easily find any skeletons if they wish to.

Where’s the Beef?

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The 1984 ad that took the ad world by storm featured nothing more than three wizened ladies who were impressed with the “very big fluffy bun” but bemused by the minuscule beef patty. An effective ad that gave pop culture one of its best catchphrases to date: “Where’s The Beef?”. Also a sharp prodding reminder to PR tacticians when they tend to get lost in a quagmire of ‘innovative’ and ‘path breaking’ strategies.

While keeping clients’ sensitivities and trying to work out a pitch that appears sensible to both customer and audience, PR folks often forget the simple purposes of their professions: to foster goodwill and to help all involved parties to arrive at a mutual understanding. Though these purposes are written by off by many as traditional and conventional definitions of public relations,  they forget this is precisely what the audience is seeking- a clear, concise message sans drama.

Most often the target audience is a layman, who may/ may not share the corporate’s viewpoint, but most importantly, someone who is intelligent enough to understand when he/ she is being taken for a ride. . It isn’t 1984 anymore. You might not even get a Peller screaming “where’s the beef”. The public will just trundle their cases to the next choice. So the next time you think up a mind blowing tactic, think twice and make sure you give ’em the real deal.