Category Archives: Sights and Sounds

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”.

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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.

Of Celebrities, Obsessions and We the Paparazzi

ImageIt’s an open secret that the country is obsessed with anything remotely connected to celebrity. Quacks claiming to be Ms. X’s physician and obscure fashion houses scrambling madly for the limelight because Celebrity Y happened to touch their door handle are only common fare in the papers nowadays. But what of quality advertisements and promotion campaigns? We, the honorable citizens might make righteous statements about how celebrities should be granted their privacy by the interfering paparazzi. We, the very same paparazzi, who are waiting to hear the latest tidbit on how so- and- so was spotted with another so- and- so at some cafe, the very same audience who do not hesitate to beg, borrow and steal a copy of the latest tabloid or cine magazine.

Celebrity endorsements have begun morphing into the most outrageous wars of ego. Business publications of yore have taken to writing paeans and editorials on how different brands of mango juice are endorsed by various grades of Bollywood top brass. Does it matter? When one is thirsty and wanders to the nearest refrigerator for a glass of mango juice, does it matter whether it was portrayed most sensually on TV by Mr. Khan or Ms. Kaif? Or would one grab the first cold beverage and gulp it down? Does every “serious and sentimental” ad require a yesteryear veteran actor to endorse it? Sensibilities decide to take a rain check when India’s Celebrity Mania comes into action.

Every corporate might not be able to make do with frugal marketing. Not everyone can stay content with investing more time and less money. One can also not deny that genuinely interesting effective celebrity- endorsed  have been unleashed on potential consumers. But the good is often overshadowed by the tasteless. it would do certain marketers a world of good if they looked before leaping and rethinking the necessity and relevance of their celebrity studded marketing sagas.

The Contemporary Mahabharata and Social Media

ImageThe February 18 issue of India Today featured a special report on the eternal war of India’s greatest political clans, the Congress and the BJP. Their latest warfare tactic is to resort to social media, namely twitter for live updates as well as Youtube to stream videos of speeches, rallies and other political events.

To the aam aadmi, politics is a part and parcel of life, so is the Internet. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India’s study conducted in June 2012, there were 200 million Twitter users globally of which 18 million accounts were from India. More than 45% of Internet users discuss politics on social media sites and online forums. The majority of the population have taken to voicing their feedback through the Internet in recent times. Politicians too, have understand the wonders of social media and its effective reach. The Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari remarked that a change had indeed been embraced and that the Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are now accepted political media. The Congress opines that this is not merely a tactical decision aimed at Election 2014 but a long term strategy.

The importance of social media rests mainly on two points. The Indian middle class, which earlier felt it could not affect election results have taken to popularity polls and seeking information through the Internet. Secondly, and more importantly, it is seen as a far reaching mouth piece which can communicate directly to the masses without being edited or abridged by news reporters, editors, TV anchors and other media middlemen. Statements being falsified, cooked and twisted to suit unhealthy media agenda and political shrewdness is a popular routine. which is why social media is seen as a straight forward channel, albeit a smart tool to foster the right ‘buzz’ and hype. “It’s you, dealing directly with the people. the benefits are obvious”. says Tewari.

Tailpiece: ‘Like’ to cast a vote for your favorite candidate might not be too far away. Wonder if the #Election Commission needs to have a think tank. Or maybe a #Parliamentary discussion? Food for thought.

Kerala shining…

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Bustling Edapally, from God’s Own Country, has been basking in the glory of being home to India’s largest shopping mall. The arrival of Lulu Shopping Mall is an eagerly awaited celebration begging to happen. With recognized metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru readily available, why choose Kerala and it commercial hub, Kochi for a gargantuan venture of 1.6 million square feet?

Kerala was first projected as a rapidly progressing metropolitan city by the Malayala Manorama, the largest circulating Malayalam daily globally. With convenient access and transport facilities, population density, purchasing capacity,international airports, international container terminals, historic highlights, state-of-the-art health centers, rocketing health indices, international mega projects such as the Smart City, educational facilities, entertainment and recreational options, potential investors can change the question from “Why Kerala?” to “Why not Kerala?”

Professionals from other parts of the country have often tried to implement business and marketing plans in Kerala without making an effort to understand the sensitivities of the Malayali psyche. While the obvious choices for a metro would be Delhi and Mumbai, closely followed by Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad, one also ought to keep in mind the fact that these cities have reached saturation limits in progress and development and are stagnant in growth as time goes by. Kerala differs with its high literacy rates and employment statistics, signifying the greater audience available to the marketing tactics of any investor who wishes put down roots here. Kerala has matured into a self- sustaining metropolis; a city fit to join the pantheon, rather than remaining aloof as a state in the Republic.

Well, we couldn’t have asked for a more befitting retort. As Bang in the Middle’s Naresh Gupta told one of the senior ResPublicans, Jeevan Chandy, last day: “It’s our belief that real opportunity for India is with brands that have regional roots.” A major project such as the Lulu Shopping Mall is just the tip of the iceberg; a mere indication of how the underdog has arrived in style.