Buy by Wire

If you wanted to buy an electronic device a couple of years back, there was always this ‘guy-geek’ in your circle of friends whom you would call upon. He would definitely know the market like the back of his hand. He would give you some much needed but heavily boring gyaan about clock speeds and sensor sizes. A conversation that would help you purchase the much needed gadget but would leave you with a headache.

Let’s fast forward to today. How would you buy an electronic device, for example a digital camera today? The first thing you would do is put it up on the social network of your choice – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc.

Or, you would find a forum that is discussing about cameras and ask the people there. The chances are that the ‘guy-geek’ is also there, who is giving his valuable inputs. But, there are even greater chances of hearing from normal people (non-geeks) and their experience about the device that you are about to buy. And, sometimes, that information is a lot more important than just an objective comparison provided by a magazine or your geek-friend.

This is exactly what our findings tell us too, according to Text100s Digital Index – Consumer Electronics, Indians place less importance on word-of-mouth when researching Traditional Electronics and Home Appliances (33%). However they do rely heavily on what may be termed the ‘modern word-of-mouth’ – online sharing – particularly when researching Smart Devices and Wearable Technology (49%-56%).

Why do you think we are seeing this shift to online research rather than word-of-mouth. Yes, its true that we have better broadband penetration in terms of fixed line as well as mobile broadband. But, as history has told us, its more about the application of technology than the technology itself.

The biggest reason for this is the opportunity for people to complete the purchase cycle easily in India. Earlier, we could research for hours for a product that we wished to buy, but buying it was a different story altogether. I remember waiting for months for some of the game titles to launch in India before I could buy them. But, no more.

Let me illustrate this with an example of my cousin, who stays in Gwalior. One of the major cities in Madhya Pradesh in India, Gwalior has an important place in the history of central India. It is a small city with an abundance of monuments that are a photographer’s delight.

My cousin, who has been born and brought up in Gwalior, was always mesmerised what his home city offered. He started his photographic journey with a a traditional film-based Nikon SLR. And, he was using the same camera for the longest time. Mainly because of two reasons – firstly he could not buy a new model and its accessories easily in his city and secondly, nobody was ready to buy his traditional SLR kit to help him upgrade. It took him almost a year to get rid of his old camera and buy the equipment necessary to shift fully to a DSLR.

This was about seven years back. Fast forward to today – he has just changed his loyalties and has moved to a Canon DSLR kit. Try speaking to a photographer and you would know how difficult it is to change camps from Nikon to Canon and vice-versa. None of the accessories like lenses and flash are compatible. How long did it take for him to shift? Less than 15 days.

This included selling off his old camera and its lenses, researching for a new Canon camera and buying all the accessories. All of this was done online. He sold his old camera on OLX (an Indian auction site), researched using various forums that he was part of and bought all the new equipment from various online portals like Ebay, Flipkart, HomeShop 18 and others.

To summarize, while the new order has increased the choices for consumers in metros; the real impact is more countrywide for people in tier 2/3 cities. They can not only research products online they can use that research and actually convert that into a purchase of a product from virtually any part of the world. Finally, they are able to complete that purchase cycle. Something, that could not even be imagined less than five years ago. 

Authored by Geetaj Channana, Senior Consultant and National Digital Lead at Text100 India

Measure the value of PR, what’s that?

India and globally as well, despite knowing the benefits that PR delivers to a brand or product, spends on it are miniscule in comparison to advertising. PR budgets are a part of the advertising spend that a company plans and then only about 3% to 5% of the advertising budget is set aside for PR.

There are enough studies done to gauge the impact of PR on company’s products and services and more importantly their reputation. In fact, an InterBrand study found that 27 percent of a brand’s value is tied to how often the brand name appears in the press. In industries that involve more research before purchases are made, public relations can account for nearly half of the brand value. It is also a well established fact that good editorial coverage is considered 6x to 8x as influential as advertising. Despite these facts, budgets for PR remain abysmally low and no investments are made for measurement of PR either by companies or by PR Agencies.

To the best of my understanding, the challenges that remain for measuring the impact of PR are 2 fold and interrelated.

  1. Since the budgeted spends on PR are very low, the budgets for measuring PR either do not exist in the budgets allocated or are so low that nothing much can be done in that money besides, Advertising Value Equivalents (AVE) calculations.
  2. The problem is also compounded by the fact that other measurement techniques and services come at an exorbitant rate in comparison to measurement in advertising.  For example, in advertising usually a company spends about less than 3% of their advertising budgets for measurement.

Sadly, in India specifically, Advertising Value Equivalents (AVE) method of measurement is quite prevalent with a lot of Corporate Communication professionals. AVEs are calculated by measuring the column inches of coverage and based on their placement (page) multiplying it with the publication’s advertising rates. The resulting number is what it would have cost to place an advertisement of that size in that publication.

Advertising Value Equivalents have no place in public relations or media measurement is a fact known by several measurement experts, public relations professionals and academicians, besides, this model has several inherent flaws too.

  • Advertising and publicity have complementary but not same strengths: Generally speaking, advertising tends to command attention and create awareness. Public relation tends to build credibility. Normally a business needs both. However, AVE tends to cloud this issue by falsely equating advertising and public relations. This in turn reinforces the ancient but ever-popular fallacy that public relation is “free advertising”. In fact, it is not free and it is not advertising
  • Advertising Rates & Calculation: The calculation of AVE itself has several problems. In many cases no advertising rates exist and in a few instances, publications don’t accept advertisements on their front pages. In recent times publications have further segmented their rates through cross-bundling (other publications & channels of the group), promotions, colour and other such variables. The measurement agencies are not reflecting this segmentation in their calculations
  • Positive coverage: A highly positive article can be worth much more than a single advertisement in the same space. This is because readers consciously or sub-consciously think of an advertisement as an instance of a company boasting about itself. However an article is viewed as an implied endorsement by a presumably objective and knowledgeable third party. So, from this perspective, AVE underestimates the value of the editorial
  • Negative Coverage: There is no advertising equivalent to a ‘negative’ or ‘unfavorable’ story. So how does AVE factor for this type of coverage that impacts perceptions? Most times, it is simply ignored, thus giving a biased measurement result
  • Industry Coverage: Many articles are industry stories where several companies are quoted. There is no benchmark of calculating AVEs in such instances; is the entire article to be used or the portions where the client is quoted or mentioned to be used?

There has not been much investment by PR companies in developing proper tools, science and systems for measuring the work that they do and linking it to business performance of their clients. And unless we can develop a system of measurement linked to the business performance and show the impact of PR on that, investments will continue to be low on PR and even lower in measurement.

The leaders of the PR Industry need to make investments into developing measurement tools that are cost effective and showcase clearly the impact of PR on the company’s bottom and top line. They also need to come together as one and adopt a method of measurement as an industry standard instead of having multiple methods of measurement being recognised. There is much merit in learning from our richer cousins – the Advertising Industry.

Some of my more erudite clients asked me to provide them with an easy solution to measuring PR, they like me did not believe in AVE, however, needed a volume based system to be able to satisfy the accounts division who questioned ROI and others who were also looking to pull down the work that the corporate communications department was doing. We designed a metrics based system on readership, viewership and page views and it’s working well so far. Perhaps we as an industry can begin with this married to the message being delivered and the audience that we are reaching through the media vehicles we are using. This can be the first tiny step we take together.

Authored by Rafi Qadar Khan, Deputy Managing Consultant @Text100India (Delhi) – ace communications consultant, self-proclaimed amateur photographer, foodie and someone who talks for a living. 

A Syrian war of words! Can cross-border PR save the world?

Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin are fighting the big fight. Not with bombs and missiles, but with words. A softer and in the long run, a more powerful weapon.

What, you may ask, is happening?

The Background: It’s got everything to do with Syria. Following evidence (just like Iraq had WMD’s I suppose) that sarin gas was used to kill 1000’s of its citizens recently, the United States and Obama is chafing at the bit to go to war with Syria. A limited, no boots on the ground war, that aims to take out “key” targets. Early in September, Obama stated publicly that he planned to seek approval from the US Congress for war against Syria. The deadline for approval was set as Sept 9.

In the interim, Russia and Putin, counter argued that US could not unilaterally declare war on a sovereign nation. They interceded and offered a silver lining to Bashar Assad – if Syria would agree to handover their chemical weapon stockpile, war could be averted. Assad of course grabbed that with both hands.
Obama however is not convinced. Arguments for and against war is raging in the US media (the US has to be and wants to be the top dog of the world. Anything that will undermine their position will not be tolerated).

Something else that is different from any of the wars / potential wars of before – Obama is looking for permission from the public to go to war with Syria, couching it as the US’s duty to protect people who are oppressed. However, the citizens are tired of war. Afghanistan and Iraq are still simmering.

Here is where PR comes in.

Putin, in all his KGB brilliance, penned an Op-Ed piece in the holy of holies, The New York Times! So well crafted, that a person reading it will come away marveling at Obama’s foolhardiness and 2ill-thought approach to the Syrian crisis. [As an aside - if anybody ever questions you about the power of an opinion article, please share this with them].

The article is sheer brilliance. Words are used ever so subtly. A few of them below:

  • “RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders.” –Americans love forthrightness. By and large, the regular folks are pretty straight. By using “speak directly” Putin touches a chord
  • “The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter.” – Hammer the point that UN Charter was developed with US consent
  • “Potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims” – The Pope is referenced. America is a very religious country (Surprised? It is very much so) and jotting down that the Pope too has voiced his concern adds might to his argument
  • “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.” – This is for everybody’s benefit, not just Russia
  • “Reports that militants are preparing another attack — this time against Israel — cannot be ignored.” – Israel is a touchy subject. Anything that might threaten Israel’s security does not go down well with American public
  • The ending paragraph is again sheer brilliance (yes, I know I have used the word too many times). Please, please read it.

The article was placed with the help of Ketchum, who is representing Putin in the US. There is reason to believe that the translation might have been done by them. I wonder how many drafts it went through!

I can’t think of any other time a leader of a country has written to citizens of another, to appeal them to *not* side with their own elected officials!

If you want the back story on how the article was placed, read it here. The NYT says that it is one of most popular opinion pieces they have ever featured. Editor Andrew Rosenthal also answers questions on whether it was morally (it is universally acknowledged that Putin is no angel) right on NYT’s part to give Putin a podium to voice his opinion.

So, what do you think? Is this PR at its finest? …or worst?

Authored by Zibi Jamal from @Text100India (Bangalore) – a communications consultant par excellence. 

A conversation with PR guru Deirdre Breakenridge on all things PR

In a way, 2012 has been a watershed year for Public Relations and Social Media in India. With 2 major conferences held in the same year, the profession couldn’t have asked for a better PR boost for itself. The world danced to the tunes of Psy in true Gangnam style, including India’s biggest superstar from Bollywood. The country engaged in heated debates on article 66A of the Indian IT Act. Even for the naysayers, Social Media emerged as a stark reality, that promised to redefine the paradigms of human interaction and brand engagement. The opening up of FDI in Retail revived the Lobbying vs PR debate. The profession hit front pages of business newspapers in the backdrop of one of India’s most high-profile state elections. It all happened in 2012. But that’s just the tip of a massive PR iceberg.

 We, at Text100 India, caught up with (virtually, ofcourse) PR guru Deirdre Breakenridge to provide an international perspective on the year gone by and crystal gaze into the communications trends to watch out for in 2013. Deirdre is a veteran with over 20+ years in the communications industry and is the author of four acclaimed Financial Times books – “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations,” “PR 2.0, New Media, New Tools, New Audiences,” “The New PR Toolkit” and “Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy.” She recently made her maiden visit to India as the Key Note Speaker at #PRAXIS2012 in Pondicherry.

 You may be a Marketer, a Corp Comm officer, a PR consultant in an agency, a Social media enthusiast, a businessman or a PR/Mass communications student… Read on to get a perspective on the future of the Public Relations and its marriage with Digital and Social Media.

Deirdre Breakenridge

Deirdre Breakenridge

How was your experience at PRAXIS 2012? Did you find any commonalities with similar events abroad in terms of themes, content, participation, etc.?

PRAXIS 2012 was an amazing experience for me, as it was my first trip to India. I met so many incredible professionals and found myself definitely wanting to spend more time seeing and experiencing India, during my very short visit.  With respect to PR and commonalities with similar events abroad, the same types of vocal concerns about measurement are expressed worldwide. Whether it’s in India or in the U.S., PR professionals know that they are accountable and, although the Barcelona Principles are in place, there are still so many questions about the value of PR, business outcomes and how to show that ROI to executives.  I also find that regardless of the country, PR professionals are eager to participate in events to learn about the integration of social media into their communications programs. However, they find out quickly that the degree of challenges vary across the globe, both in the internal and external environments.

What are your views on the state of Public Relations in India and its growth?  

India will experience a great deal of growth in the area of PR and social media, as the Internet and technology continue to become more essential to businesses.  We have already seen heavy usage of social media participation on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. PR professionals in India will be required to expand their knowledge, skills and communications practices as consumers and business come to rely more on social media communities to deliver communications and to engage with the public. Although PR doesn’t own social media, because it is proliferating worldwide, we need to be able to breakdown the communication opportunities for our brands, and also be able to counsel and measure results.  During the keynote Q&A, the moderator, Anant Rangaswami stated that, similar to what happened in India with TV (going from a few channels to many), the same will happen with social media.  India must be ready.

What according to you were some of the defining trends in PR and Digital / Social media in 2012? What trends do you foresee in 2013 and beyond?

In 2012, we got a taste of new practices, learning more about social media and how to engage on collaborative platforms, developing content for social media channels and learning the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We also grew our knowledge in areas including video, multimedia and web analytics.  This year also proved important for PR and mobile communications as well.  At times, we saw ownership issues over social media; who owns social media? Is it marketing or PR. We learned that it’s a shared responsibility that doesn’t solely live in the communications department anymore.  In 2013 and beyond, we will see the silos between marketing and PR breakdown even more. In addition, PR professionals will be working more closely with other departments including customer service, IT, Legal, HR, etc., as a result of social media. Moving forward, content marketing will become increasingly important, as we embrace how PR content is no longer restricted to news releases, white papers and customer testimonials.  As a result, PR professionals will learn to write for different channels including Twitter and Facebook and our content will be more interactive by nature.

Many PR agencies continue to focus on media relations as their primary deliverable. At the conference you spoke about a “Hybrid Professional”; what according to you are essential qualities for being a communication professional of the future? Or simply put, Professional2.0 !

PR people are learning that media relations is one part of our role.  We will continue to rely on credible third party endorsements whether it’s through the media, bloggers or our customers.  However, the Hybrid PR 2.0 professional understands this new approach; there is no more mass or broadcast messaging in web communities. Our approach has changed from top down messaging to a bottom up approach that includes listening closely to conversations and involving your audience much more in the brand communication. Through direct social media engagement (a peer-to-peer approach), brands are becoming meaningful resources by answering questions, solving problems, helping in purchase decisions and providing valuable information and resources to stay “top of mind” with their stakeholders.

‘Putting public back into public relations’ – that’s the title of one of your books. Is this relevant only to Western economies or do the principles apply to countries like India too?

The thought process behind Putting the Public Back in Public Relations is to involve any public in brand communication, and is meant for every economy. Today, consumers are driving and controlling their own communications. They rely much more closely on their peers (who are trusted influencers) so much more than media, government or corporations.  Consumers are also deciding where, when and how they want to consume their news and information. With so much power in the age of public conversations, it’s best for a brand to become a part of these conversations; to breakdown the corporate walls and show the human side of the company. People want to talk to people and as this type of communication is proliferating through social media, brands that don’t put the people first will not capture the trust, loyalty and advocacy from today’s media savvy consumers.

Any final words to PR consultants / Corp comm. professionals /Marketers reading this interview?

My advice for 2013 is to take the best of traditional communications forward; our ethics, critical thinking and great communications skills serve as a guide to best practices. However, be open to new types of engagement with people through social media, by embracing and experimenting with what is new and often unfamiliar. You will always need to be 10 steps ahead of your companies, yet on the same page with consumers, to understand their preferences and to better serve their needs. Media models are shifting and changing. Regardless, we have to learn to work closely with journalists, whether they are more “traditional” or these journalists are also bloggers. We also have to help our brands learn to build closer and more human relationships with new influencers as well as their customers. Technology will continue to change and so will the media.  As a result, our roles and responsibilities will expand too. This is our greatest opportunity to be strategic in all types of communication and raise the profile of PR in the eyes of our executives and in the eyes of the public.

You can follow Deirdre on Twitter @dbreakenridge

Papa Don’t PReach it right?

An interesting PR battle is being baked in the US with Papa John’s Pizza. Though the crisis is not of a monumental scale a la BP after the oil rig disaster, this one has the potential, if not addressed, to do real damage to the brand and company in the long run. Why? Because public opinion is rife against Papa John’s and it has even caused the stock to take a downward slide in the market.

This post will look at Papa John’s positioning/messaging before, during and after the recently concluded, US Presidential elections, a bitterly fought ballot with accusations, innuendos and low brow tactics employed by both the campaigns to malign each other. Lot of PR lessons to be learnt, if one is so inclined.

Before I delve into the PR bit, here is a short brief on the topic: One of the most polarizing issues during the elections was the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more popularly referred to as Obamacare, a sort of universal health coverage which Obama was successful in getting passed during his first term. Mitt Romney and the Republicans were dead set against the ACA as it makes it mandatory for a) Every organization to provide health coverage to all full time employees and b) Individuals have to purchase coverage from the market.

Healthcare costs are sky rocketing in the US and it is believed that it will get even more expensive in the days to come. Many Presidents tried to bring about legislation to rein in costs (Clinton did too) but never succeeded. Anyway, moving on.

As you can imagine, multiple organizations opposed the legislation and aligned themselves with Mitt Romney who promised to scrap or at the very least, overhaul the ACA.

PR part of it: For those who are not familiar, Papa John’s is a pizza delivery chain, built on a franchise model, as Pizza Hut and Domino’s. It is a well known and loved brand in the US, and has a global presence. PR before the elections centered on how “Papa John’s has the best pizzas because they only use the best ingredients.” John Schnatter is the CEO.

During the elections, John, and by extension Papa John’s, were vociferous in their opposition to the ACA, noting that forcing employers to provide health care coverage for all FULL TIME employees (i.e., those who work 35 hours or more per week) will:

  • Put the squeeze on small to medium enterprises (a typical Papa John franchisee) – therefore there were implied threats that the pizza chain would either reduce the hours of employees to make them part time workers or lay off hundreds of them
  • Increase the final cost to consumers (12-15 cents per pizza!). Otherwise, Papa John would incur a loss to the business to the tune of $8 million per year

Stories were a plenty in the blogosphere, SM platforms and in mainline press debating Papa John’s position. A Forbes reporter investigated the price increase claims and published that as opposed to 12-14 cents, providing health care would only increase pizza cost by up to 5 cents.  Even Jon Stewart of Comedy Central got in the act. That kind of gives you a flavor of the craziness around the topic. Here is a sample if you want to read more about it. Be sure to check out the video:

Now that the election is over, and there is no hope of repealing ACA, Papa John’s finds itself in a tough spot. All those election time messages of “giving healthcare to all will lead to business closures” have ensured a lifetime of negative publicity for organizations loudest (more examples – Applebee’s, Denny’s) in their protest against ACA. There have been calls to boycott Papa John’s pizza, and a number of franchisees have seen sales decline as a result.

What does one do in such an instance?

Schnatter decided to write an article clarifying his position on Obamacare. The article went up on Huffington Post, one of the most widely read news blog sites in the US. In the article (The Real Scoop on Papa John’s and Obamacare, Nov 20, 2012), John argues that he was misunderstood and all that hullabaloo was a result of words taken out of context from a speech he was giving at a Florida school. The article is earnest, and clearly lays out his position:

  • He is not against Obamacare
  • Papa John’s will not lay off employees or reduce work hours to circumvent the employee policy
    • Cleverly noted is that it was the position that he thought would be taken by Papa John franchisees over which he has no control

Reading the article, it is clear that a PR mastermind is at work, clarifying and subtly deflecting all criticism directed at the company and the CEO. Taken at face value, the letter is a good move and I believe people will react to it positively. It is always a good idea, in my opinion, to address concerns directly and transparently when crises strikes. It cuts down on rumors and helps the organization take back control of the message. A status update on Facebook read “Nice to see a primary source going on the record. : )”

More discerning readers however will have a lot of questions to do with timing (why did Schnatter take 2 months to correct the negative stories) and his disingenuous response to the comments attributed to him.

It is too early to tell what the fallout will be. Early reactions to the article are not positive. Comments on Huffington Post are overwhelmingly against Schnatter and call his integrity into question with a random one thrown here and there acknowledging his stand. Reaction on Twitter too seems modest, nothing much to write about. A comment on Facebook said the article seemed “backpedally” which is to be expected.

What we can expect to see more from Papa John’s is how they are all about valuing and taking care of employees. Interesting times ahead.

What do you think? Will Papa John’s succeed, or do you think they will come out stronger than ever before?

Authored by Zibi Jamal from @Text100India (Bangalore) – a communications consultant par excellence that enviously embodies all positives of her sun sign – magnetism, wit, intelligence and compassion. 

…and the “Digital Student of the Year” goes to – #TEXTRAVAGANZA !

Text100 can you fix our SM?
Text100: YES WE CAN
Twitter, Wikipedia and Facebook too
Pinterest and Quora join the crew
Youtube and Blogs are so much fun
Working together, Text100 gets the job done…

Yes, with some poetic license I rejigged the “Bob The Builder” title song, but I don’t think there is any other song which can summarise The Textravaganza any better.

Since Karan Johar’s Student of the Year is releasing today, let me take this opportunity to narrate it in the same KJo style.

Text100 India introducing in its own grand style ‘Textravaganza: The Competition of Life’ for the Digital Student of the Year (DSOTY)
Directed by: Award winning duo Sunayna Malik / Pooja Parikh
Produced by: Raj Rathi Dollars & Rupees Inc.
Lead Actors:       DashingDavid Lian
Smashing Anne Costello
Crashing Ashish Arora (in some alphabetical order)

Day 1, Scene 1:
41 sleepy Texties from Mumbai arrive at Mumbai airport. In the flight, the ever so charming Mr. Ashish Arora tried to keep the spirits of mumbaiites high but alas, waking up at 2:30 am had made some grumpy and others exhilarated (the goody-two-shoes ones)! Finally they arrive at The Clarks Amer, Jaipur wherein true Karan Johar isshtyle, they are greeted with Aarti thali and teeka! Enter – the pretty – Anne Costello and and the heart-throb – David Lian. Ashish weighs his opponent – David, afterall Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge! Lo behold – horror of horrors – when roomkeys are given out – Ashish and David are assigned the same room…. (Voice over of some people over emoting horrific expressions)

Day 1, Scene 2:
Meet and Greet with the rest of Texties – Lunch Time :-) Filler – Some laughter and lame introduction jokes!

Day 1, Scene 3:
Presenting the best SM presentations. Six presentations to be filmed, to show that the movie isn’t all fluff and phaff but incredible depth. Also fit in a flash mob on ‘Oppan Gangnam Style’. After a lot of blah, bluh, bleh the winners are announced. While all the girls are hoping the ever so charming Abhilash wins the ‘competition of skills’ but the combined super prayers of boys make the gorgeous Delhi team of Sonali Bagchi, Hot Bhawna Sharma Ningthoujam Swati and Abhilasha winners, and the first runners up being danseuse par excellence Sharmita Mandal and team of Sharmita, Pallavi and  Sanjeevitha.

Day 1, Scene 4:
Text100 Spoof Awards. These awards were bestowed on the most ‘hardworking and spirited’ Texties – Spammie of the year, Foodie OTY, Chamki Chameli OTY, among others. Each nominee had struggled a lot through the year to be mentioned in the coveted list. And this wasn’t all, everyone has to dance and drink and just be their own selves – Drunk! Ashish was a compere par excellence but stealing his focus was: David’s charming ‘plug the bulb’ moves AND Ketan and Aleem’s Nagin dance and who can forget the HERO of this event – Alcohol!!! Alcohol helped all the tired and the thirsty travellers in focusing on their future!

Day 2, Scene 1:
Cut to Breakfast scene- Camera pans towards a lot of dispirin infused glasses of water and red eyed crowd. Anne and David enter breezily and greet everyone with morning salutations. Ashish on the other hand is croaking and tries to play a puppeteer with Geetaj as his aide.. Don’t even think that Geetaj does what Ashish commands him to… Geetaj has a mind of his own and is very well able to convey his dialogues without any help!

Day 2, Scene 2:
Smaller groups of people are taken to different conference rooms / living rooms (they are all grand, keeping up with KJo tradition). Sessions on Social Media and how practitioners can replicate the best practices with their clients are discussed. Interesting discussions to help the enterprise client, the end consumer client, making events eventful and a session on SM press releases are filmed. It is also ensured the camera focuses on people yawning and catching a wink during sessions immediately preceding lunch are also filmed!

Day 2, scene 3:
The global Exc1te awards India portion is relayed. These awards are given to students who have actually passed their exams with flying colours and win a whopping 1500$ prize. The rest of the students are left gaping and salivating at the amount post INR conversion! Also enter Ramu the Elephant who was invited just for a photo-opp (subtitles – No animals were hurt during the shooting of this film. Who knows if they were hurt but out motto is just to keep PETA , Ketaki, Disha, Anne, Avantika and Hardik happy)

Day 2, scene 4:
People immediately exit to practice for the song and dance show scheduled to happen later at night!
Day 2, Scene 5:
Finally some Skin Show. Girls in their skimpiest formal best and guys in their boring colourless suits! And like a KJo blockbuster needs serious drama, this scene is all about serious excellence awards for those students who’ve delivered their best performances. And post that the real show – skits and dance. The greatest battle of BIG B (Batman) vs KaJo (Joshy from Karnataka) vs God (Rajinikanth) ensues. No prizes for guessing who wins!

Day 2, Scene 6:
Cut to room 701- all rogue students of the year playing LOUD music, screaming, xxxing, xxxing, … (sorry , yet to receive Censor Board Certificate).  No item songs now! Just numbers such as Koi Kahe from DCH!

Day 2, Scene 7:

Enter the drunk bawa when people are ready to hit the bed.. Ensuring no one goes to sleep and get more drunk from his very own stock of Grey Goose and the best of the shots! Finally people retire to bed at 9am! (In the loo next morning all held their stomachs singing “Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai God)

Day 3, Scene 1:
2% people arrive for breakfast.. 5% go out to shop at the picturesque Jaipur bazaar (close shots of the lehriya sarees and bandhani dupattas with silver jewellery). Pan shot to the rest of 93% red eyed drunkards who are scurrying here and there to throw-up their early morning drinks!!

And the end!

 

Credit Roll…
Everyone must be thinking what the end of the love triangle be.. Not that anyone saw any sparks.. This is a U/A movie dude… But since this is a KJo movie, Anne goes to her real hero – Wilson!

Yes, yes you are bored of this long blog… But what the heck his movies last for almost four hours and you sit through them and rarely complain!

Also I have used KJo and Student of the Year keywords many times so this blog also throws up on google search ;)! See the trainings were extremely useful! Muahaha!

(Authored by Ketaki Manikeri from @Text100India (Mumbai )- the coolest Konkani media queen to have walked the PR universe, and a self-confessed massive-foot-in-the-mouth victim.

Empathy is an essential ingredient of the “Art of Client Management”

Dictionary.com defines “empathy” as “the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.” As prolific as its usage may be in sociological & philosophical discourses, my personal experience suggests that it merits more rampant application in corporate circles. And it’s relevance in the “volatile” field of public relations & communications cannot be overstated. This post is dedicated to all those PR pros who can’t seem to decode their clients’ “recalcitrant” behaviour.

The answer lies in… Empathy!

If you thought being a client was about throwing orders at your agency and enjoying a ‘comfortable life’ yourself, think again.  Curious about what ‘life as a client’ could entail, I decided to venture out to the other side of the fence and consciously decided to get back to the agency fold.

So, here’s my two cents worth of suggestion on how perceiving your client contact in a different light can make you build a solid relationship with them. At the risk of sounding like a “thought leader”,  here are some “Tips to strengthen the Art of Client Management” in PR & Communications.

Never drop the ball - You could pride yourself on great relationship skills with your client, you may accompany her shopping once a month (an ex-colleague actually did that), send them a great bunch of flowers with a warm hand-written note, but that can never be more important to you than the delivery on his/her account. In fact, consistent delivery is the only foundation of a relationship. Like we propagate to our clients that a story sells on merit and not on a relationship with a journalist, the same principle applies to a successful engagement with a client. SMART ALEC says: Like in cricket, it’s all about that perfectly pitched “delivery”.

I’m smarter and I know it- Sitting in the ivory tower of arrogance, PR professionals tend to underestimate their client’s knowledge levels. So you may be more “intelligent” (the two are different and we must learn to differentiate), but the fact remains that your client always has better exposure to the business than you do. The very fact that they manage a larger portfolio, deal with the top management, sit in on sales meetings, interact with business partners etc. makes them better exposed to their business than we are and can ever be, ‘googling’ about their business.  So the next time, you deliver a verdict “He has no clue about what he’s talking about”, credit him/her with some sense. SMART ALEC says: There are no free lunches, all are doing their job.

It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been working like a dog – It’s about the choices you make. We made a choice to be cooped up in an agency that has great working vibe, chatty people and a casual work atmosphere. The client decided to work in an office where he sits next to the MD’s cabin, where he’d get reprimanded first thing in the morning, for not being part of a competition story and consequently not being able to manage the agency well! Get the drift? All said and done, a client’s life is as challenging and differently so, than ours. Be sensitive towards that and you’ll be able to handle the ‘10:05 am-why-are- we-not-a-part-of –this- story-type-of-client-calls’ with a lot more empathy and maturity. SMART ALEC says: Grass is not greener on your client’s side.

Never falter on your deadline commitment- The harsh reality about being part of a corporate communications set-up is that you’re’ always “dependent” on your agency for getting the job done. While this may seem like an obvious statement, you realise how much you take it for granted when your agency doesn’t give you a desired document by the stated deadline and your boss has called you umpteen times to follow-up for it. The worst part- you can’t even step in and help them out because you already have 20 other tasks at hand. SMART ALEC says: Watch Salman Khan’s “Wanted” 

Lastly, the big impact is in the little detailing. Some questions you should ask yourself to check your score on the client servicing quotient-

  • Do you change the subject line of a continuous exchange of mails?
  • Do you send a media opportunity in a mail that is so comprehensive and well positioned that the corp comm. person wouldn’t have to additionally convince any of its spokespeople to participate in the story, apart from just sending that mail?
  • Instead of disturbing the client 10 times a day, do you make a note of all pending items and do a quick run-through with him/her first thing in the morning?
  • Do you send documents an hour before the stated deadline and consistently surprise your clients with your promptness

These things seem trivial and commonsensical, but it’s all about applying it on a daily basis that can bring about a dramatic turnaround in agency-client relationship. Public Relations is really about commonsense elevated to a status of a profession. And the art of client management is one of them.

Authored by Disha Hoskote – an award winning communications athlete @Text100India (Mumbai), who has mastered the art of running complex client engagements and running diverse teams.