Monthly Archives: October 2012

Social Media… Who wants to be a champion?


ESA/ESOC goes Social Media _10

ESA/ESOC goes Social Media _10 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Circa 2012, social media has well indeed arrived in full force, and there is no way that you or your organization can continue to look away or turn a blind eye to. Unless offcourse, you suffer from a monumental myopia to what value a social presence can mean for you, your company and its brands.

This has propelled the need for social media champions in these organizations, big and small, to wake up to the need for someone who can lead and spearhead the social media initiatives’ – welcome the social media “executive champion”.

But wait, there are some key facts (factors) you must weigh before you are prompted to take the plunge to usher in your organization and brand to the whole new ‘social’ world – the world of likes, fans, followers, re-tweets and so on.

Behind all the buzz and socmed jargon like above, there is a whole lot of ‘back-end’ preparedness that is really needed before you take the first step.

So, what are some of those ‘musts’ if you need to be a social media champion for your organization or brand?

  • Does the organization, which wants you to be a social media proponent (okay, champion), cede all the authority in you, to facilitate the creation/execution of a long term social media plan? And along with the authority, does it also trust you with all the resources that would be needed to put the social media face in place?
  • More importantly, do you think you possess the relevant knowledge and bouquet of skills which will be needed to eventually make the social media plan a workable, and to some extent measurable (the board always loves to ask – where are the results to see) one? Social media is a dynamo and keeps evolving by the minute, in some nook and corner of this animal called internet – one can never be ready with all the know-how, but must be willing to look around for emerging trends, and what works and what does not – across the globe, across platforms: are you willing to be always on that learning curve?
  • Do you have the ability and agility to sell a ‘vision’ (social media vision) to your internal customers – your big bosses, the CEO, the board, and the stakeholders? And to do that, you must have the insight and prowess as to how, where, why and when of the social media plan. Do you?
  • Social is free is the biggest assumption, out there – which is patently false. This premise leads to too much internal strife once the plan is kick started – yes, platforms may be free, but the team in your organization which will work in delivering the social media plan will have to be paid – and paid well at that. Social media calls for tremendous long term investments in time and money – and once the organization decides to make that investment, then it’s obvious that they want to measure the results as well. So, right at the word go, you must have the wisdom and vision to decide the goals on social media, the investments, and how the final or intermittent measurement will be done. Do you have the ability to do that?
  • Can you seamlessly work hand in hand with all the cross functional leadership of your company – be it with HR, marketing, finance, supply chain and the board/CXO of the organization, with the larger interest of a successful and workable social media presence? This will need the ability to possess the leadership skills and ‘moral’ authority to counsel, in case there happens to  be teething issues – which will be almost always there.
  • You are the social media champion – more of the driving force behind the scenes. There will be a host of people, who will be executing these plans from the front, on the ground – these will be a group of social media savvy professionals, who will need all the support needed; and also the counsel and intervention when there are goof-ups and crises due to errors of judgment. In the social media world, there is nothing like a perfect plan or even near perfect execution- some unexpected tweet or post or comment, unintended may be, will erupt in a big way – it’s your sagely presence and ability to lead in crises that will be the day saver. Think you are that kind of a person who will not wilt under pressure?

Thinking of some or all of the above even when you want or are wanted to don the mantle of a ‘social media champion’ will be the baby steps in your success out there.

So, ready to champion ‘social’??

Collaboration and co-creation… here’s how it’s happening.


JOURNALISTS

JOURNALISTS (Photo credit: drinksmachine)

As a practitioner of public relations, you would agree that change is sweeping the way we operate, strategize and execute the plans for customers, both in the online (call it digital if that entices you!) and offline world as well.

The one word that can describe how we ought to change as communication professionals is collaborate and co-create. The ability to really do that in the communications business increases manifold, when one looks at the various audiences in the value circle and stakeholders, who have their interests and stake. Be it the client for whom the communication plan is strategized and executed, the journalists, the television newsroom, the social media – each of them are consumers of what you have to offer, and indeed look at how much value they derive from what you state and do.

Gone are the days when you sat in the corner room for communications, and kept churning out releases on all and sundry that you or your client thought was ‘news-worthy’ or ‘noise-worthy’.  Amongst other changes, the tectonic shift is occurring at the room and mind of the primary consumer of the communication plan – the journalist or columnist or blogger, as the case may be.

One such example I stumbled upon, and is worth enough illustrating the shift of world Jeff Vance.  Take a look at his online home and you will  see examples of how much value is created by a contemporary journalist, and how much value is sought – true and supreme examples of co-creation and collaboration.

His site features the stories intended, for which he sought inputs (PR pitches) – examples like “Is VMware’s cloud strategy viable?” and yet another story for CIO magazine. In these he even gives the timeline for the inputs and what the story angle was to be. All a good and ‘relevant’ hungry PR professional needed to do was to see how his clients or stakeholders can bring in a perspective to these stories. The site also serves to educate the PR community by inviting them for a Webinar, which was about “How to reach the press in the age or information overload?”

In essence, staying relevant and contemporary is more and more now about how you are willing to collaborate in a manner thing could add tremendous value in every step of the communication value chain – with journalists as the vital link. This is just one of the hundreds of examples that could be strewn out there in the online world. To amply illustrate to the PR community what is needed to reach the target audience in a better way, and thus stay relevant.

So, do you have more examples of co-creation and collaboration? Sharing them will make a difference to the world of PR.

Lets collaborate and co-create, more and more OR…. just perish.

….gosh…. there’s a crisis! where’s PR??


Public Relations Exersise

Public Relations Exersise (Photo credit: Dave W Clarke)

For some reason, the word ‘crisis’ is associated with ‘panic’, and most of today’s organizations tend to immediately get pushed into a panic mode at the distant sight of a crisis. What then happens when there is a real crisis on hand, is anyone’s guess.

There are examples all over of how even the communication savvy leadership/PR team of an organization, gifted with a fair amount of media leverage, gets into a shell and resorts to denial mode when it’s time to speak and write more information, to be virally sent out to every media outlet possible.

The cardinal rule in handling PR in times of a crisis is to get immediately speaking and sending our fact statements to the entire gamut of media houses – including web2.0 and social platforms. The singular intent once the information/details of the crisis is handed out is to deliberately invite media conversations, with the intent of giving more and more details possible.

Never give a remote sense that your organization is shying away from the media – even when the crisis in not your own making, when you shy away, the immediate conclusion is that the organization wants to hide facts.

While there can be well documented papers (by your PR agency or internal communications team) of how to respond when there is a crisis, it’s easy to manage a crisis when some basics are in place.

Just see if these things are in place in your organization, anytime rather always…

  • a designated spokesperson, who will instantly be updated on any crisis that may have hit – he is the points man for all information to be given – facts, details, images, live feed and whatever.
  • Handpicked communication team that swings into action – gets into an auto pilot mode in any mishap – which is connected and networked 24/7/365 to take the crisis PR initiatives. Stay abreast all through the crisis life cycle, and ceaselessly and tirelessly handles all queries from every corner of the globe.
  • a communication mechanism (call it a protocol) which communicates to all the key decision makers and every internal stakeholder in the organization the details and occurrences of any crisis that may have hit, how the consequences will be managed, how internal/external stakeholder interests will be protected, what are the cost consequences and the impact on the organizations’ fiscals et al.
  • a standard template that captures all the finer details of any mishap that may occur, roll it out into the form of a media release, so that the same can be handed to the media fraternity  and follow up questions taken.
  • a mechanism that ensure that all the state authorities are informed of the mishap in the shortest possible time, with as much details as gather-able in the least lead time.
  • a media room which gets activated when such an event happens, where all the journalistic fraternity can report from, with all information fed to them officially, live wire.

    An overload of communications

    An overload of communications (Photo credit: windsordi)

These may sound baby steps – yet, in the crisis management plan, many  times its lack of this basic preparedness that brings in misery to the organization, than the actual crisis itself.

Make sure your organization is set ready in the first steps of managing crises.  As the old adage, being well prepared is half the battle won.

That’s true in managing a crisis too.

Your PR guy with a magic wand?!


Does you PR advisor tell you this – come what may, we will make sure that we get your company covered in the media – in a nutshell, call it a “column cm guarantee”? Nothing can be far from a blatant lie, and honestly, PR never works that way in any part of the globe.

As a matter fact, if you have a long term PR/communication strategy for your company in mind, you must quietly stay away from such ‘column space coverage’ guarantors!

Look at the media (and the journalist fraternity) as end consumers of your content. They have their own creativity constraints – and it’s in a sense a battle between classy content, the most crucial advertisers (who walk away with a chunk of the col cms), and the editor who wields the wand as to what the reader must see and know!

The same analogy can be drawn to all kinds of media – print, television, online and so on. Add to this, the clutter of competition in your own industry – which is only increasing by the day!

In all this, if someone walks up to you and gives you as assurance of guaranteed coverage, it can be only if you are gullible enough to think that any of us in the PR business wield that influence.

The fact is, none of us, yes, NONE of us have that, and to some extent, it would be an insult to the independent thinking of the media if we imagine such a thing!

While we could be your company’s image advisors, we are just facilitators to friends in the media – sometimes involuntarily pushing information we perceive as useful, and at times offering a helping hand when sought. We are only catering to the content needs of the journalist fraternity, and this is in their own terms.

In all this, we also see how well we could position our client PR needs, and offer some expertise in creating media oriented content, which will be relevant and consumed!

Look at PR advisors as partners in your long term communication strategy execution plan. Not as someone who could just wave a magic wand and get you instant headlines in the next morning’s newspapers!

And by the way, such a magic wand never exists with any PR advisor!

Social playbook – you thought it was all about PR or branding??


When was the last time you thought that a communication plan or social media action play book created for your organization (or the client if you happen to be an agency) could be to do with anything other than branding, public relations, buzz, and may be HR/employer branding?

The probability of this is very high – and it’s quite but natural for communication professional to work in a silo – a silo or PR or employer branding et al.

Well, those days are gone, and if there is such a play-book you proffer to your leadership, you are taking the first step in being a social media myopic.

The proliferation of social media across the different levels in your organization is complete, and you are well aware of this. By the same logic the proliferation of social media is as much complete in the external world – a world that encompasses your prospective employees, the next COO you are out to hire from out there, your product/service consumer, your media consumers (aren’t our journo friends consumers of what we communicate, and channels to a larger audience? J), your lenders (banks), your vendors and so on and on – just about every constituent you can imagine to be of present or future consequence.

Yet, how often does a play book you and me make cater to such a varied and dynamic constituency? If social was all about some buzz in the online world, then your playbook can be as you wish. But social is all about engagement, and at some point measurement of what the social media plan has delivered in value to the organization – and how much the plan has impacted the entire universe of constituents’ (call them stakeholders if you wish)

True, it will be impossible to make such a comprehensive play book. But what is important is to make sure that the kind of message that is sent out there is not just plain breast-beating to build an employer brand, but also to cultivate an image of a credible and competitive player in the space your organization is in.

Revisit your social plan now – do you see the kind of silo-isation as mentioned in the first part? Or can you see that you are factoring and attempting to engage the entire universe of constituents in your plan?

Revisit and Rewrite your social book today if need be. Not today, right now! 

Media briefings… some greatly useful notes for communicators


Communication professionals in any organization constantly have to face the media, on a litany of ongoing issues. They could be at any level – be it the Corp Comm executive, right up-to the CEO. Media briefings are regular pressers are just a couple of communication tools that have yet retained the charm, despite the arrival of a barrage of social media tools, which are at the disposal of any right thinking public relations professional.

If one looks around, its it such media briefings and pressers that communication professional are at the risk of exposing themselves and in turn make their organizations image vulnerable – not by mistakes in facts, but by failing to address questions in the right manner.

More so, in times when crisis hits at the heart of an organizations PR armor. Under pressure, its very natural that the communications professional however well equipped, reacts to the situation, as the media event goes astray by the volley questions lobbed in by the media. Faced with this barrage, even the best communicators wilt under pressure, reacting with their emotion laden language – all leading to a perfect recipe for an ‘image disaster’.

Yet, such situations can be better handled, more deftly, and to the complete ‘image advantage’ of their organization.

  • Lay down ground rules – At the beginning of the presser, make sure you lay the ground rules – state it  in clear terms that the intent of the briefing is to address such and such specific issue, and any question shall be around that issue only. Any query that does not pertain to the issue on hand would be taken to be answered later.
  • Better, begin with a written statement – The simple step of circulating a well written media note, detailing the views and facts on the topic would serve well as a pre-cursor in setting the agenda for the right kind of questions. Make sure the facts that need to be taken to the media are mentioned with utmost clarity, and mention that questions can be around the statement. By making such a statement, you also possibly tend to take the steam away for any digressions that are planned by some members of the media fraternity.
  • Plan for complementary statements – You have in hand a written statement; but if there are some questions that can be responded to with more facts, it would be a great idea to respond verbally, and also tell the media that these responses will be typed and circulated at the end of the presser. This can be easily done with the help of the communications team; and not just that, a complementary press note at the end of the press conference is a great way to re-iterate fact, highlight your responses, and way to ensure there are no map – territory distortions at the end of the day.
  • Maintain a friendly and cool demeanor – this may sound way too basic, yet a whole lot of media face offs go astray only for this precise reason. One provocative question, and the communicator loses his cool, making a completely unintended gesture or remark – and however the presser be well armed with facts, this one spar hijacks the image of the organization. The best way to handle any unfriendly question is just a broad smile, or stating can we take it later, or I would come to back to you as soon as I can provide this information. And if the media persists with the same uncomfortable question, the communicator must persist with the positive demeanor, a simple smile, and the planned response – one of the three above. With this, in a matter of few minutes, the questions will move on.
  • Avoid a “we know all” trap – Its often suggested that communication professional while addressing the media, must know all – yes, you must  be armed with a whole lot of facts on a situation. However, that is so different from displaying or exhibiting a know all demeanor in front of the media. That demeanor, mostly leads to a tinge of arrogance, and arrogance is the last thing you need in your PR weaponry. And it is such arrogance that tends to color the most accurate facts with the yellow of distortion. So, it is in your interest and organisation’s interest that you always maintain “I don’t have all the answers, but will endeavor to get them soon” demeanor right through. In fact make it a SOP for your media interactions, and the benefits are immense.

These 5 simple practices will serve to better your image management in a big way. They may sound simple, yet it is these that most of us as communicators or PR professional fail to inculcate in our PR armor, and also educate our spokesperson.

Followers DON’T matter! Engagement DOES….Yes!!


Out there, you will have a hundred social media experts knocking at your door, armed with flashy presentations – aimed at bedazzling you, and indeed luring you to sign up their services to get more followers to your socmed accounts, or more visitors to your website.

Let me tell you a simple, but most forgotten fact – In the omnipresent and connected world – the number of followers or visitors matters the least!

What matters is how engaged are the handful of followers or visitors who are clued on to your work or brand. And how much they perceive that your brand might be of some value to them, now, little later or much later – somewhere in that distant time horizon.

If that is not to be, your hundreds or even thousands of followers may be of sheer cosmetic value, serving just to pamper your ego – the make believe world that you will win with so many 1000s of followers.

The easiest I can illustrate this folly is the retail business in that real world out there (thanks to a handful of my friends in the retail space). Out there, footfalls and actual sales may well have no connect at all. Footfalls are just a baby step – the consumer who comes in has to see tangible value or a great service. The footfall is miles and miles away from the tangible sale – and the interregnum ought to be filled with value, engagement, content, customer support, choice, USP… almost all those terms you will come across in the blue book of marketing.

Every click towards your social media platforms has to lead to content, engagement, and a valued conversation. Much more worthy for the visitor that what he invests in clicking and browsing through your social-omni-presence.

Does your presence out there in the social media world lead to such a kind of engagement? Value? Dialogue?

If the answer is in the affirmative, you are ready to call the bluff of a whole lot of social media strategists!

Are you ready! And Are you there??

How about some ‘information integrity’??!!


All our press releases

All our press releases (Photo credit: Christopher S. Penn)

What puts off journalist friends most, when you churn out information on behalf of a client, in the form of a press kit or a media release is this – factual errors.

Might sound so rudimentary, but as a matter of fact such errors creep in while we battle with deadlines, or with over-enthusiasm to send out the release so that we help the journo meet the deadline?

It’s the journalist’s responsibility to check the facts in any story – that said, if you are representing a client, you are the custodian of the facts mentioned in any media information that disseminates from your end.

Factual errors are not the big ones like the client concealing the facts or misrepresenting reality, in a crisis situation. Simple errors like getting the name of the person/product spelt wrong, getting the timeline of events wrong, or just spelling the CEO’s surname wrong – such errors come easily to the notice of the consumer – the reader of the viewer of the news, when and if it finally gets there.

And if it does, at stake is the credibility of the journalist, the media house, and your own client. In most cases, such mistakes creep in, in minor details which we tend to take for granted.

As a PR pro, make sure that the eye for detail is in play, every time, with every client. When you claim to manage reputation of clients, the least expected from you is to ensure information integrity.

To err in information is a big fail in the world of PR and reputation management!

Who in PR is promising you the moon?


Does you PR advisor tell you this – come what may, we will make sure that we get
your company covered in the media – in a nutshell, call it a “column cm guarantee”?

Nothing can be far from a blatant lie, and honestly, PR never works that way in any
part of the globe.

As a matter fact, if you have a long term PR/communication strategy for your company in mind,
you must quietly stay away from such ‘column space coverage’ guarantors!

Look at the media (and the journalist fraternity) as end consumers of your content. They have their their own creativity constraints – and its in a sense a battle between classy content, the most crucial advertisers (who walk away with a chunk of the col cms), and the editor who wields the wand as to what the reader must see and know!

The same analogy can be drawn to all kinds of media – print, television, online and so on. Add to this, the clutter of competition in your own industry – which is only increasing by the day!

In all this, if someone walks up to you and gives you as assurance of guaranteed coverage, it can be only if you are gullible enough to think that any of us in the PR business wield that influence.

The fact is, none of us, yes, NONE of us have that, and to some extent, it would be an insult to the independent thinking of the media if we imagine such a thing!

While we could be your company’s image advisors, we are just facilitators to friends in the media – sometimes involuntarily pushing information we perceive as useful, and at times offering a helping hand when sought. We are only catering to the content needs of the journalist fraternity, and this is in their own terms.

In all this, we also see how well we could position our client PR needs, and offer some expertise in creating media oriented content, which will be relevant and consumed!

Look at PR advisors as partners in your long term communication strategy execution plan. Not as someone who could just wave a magic wand and get you instant headlines in the next mornings newspapers! And by the way, such a magic wand never exists with any PR advisor!

What should we ask from our PR agency?


Public relations agencies of different hue and size may keep pitching with your organization, to get an opportunity to engage with your communication strategy and execution. And we have always seen that organizations just look for these – does your agency have the scale, size and a national/international 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 and agility to engage in PR strategy and execution of an organization of your kind.

You may hire the best of the agency in the universe, but think about this – is there a point if their strengths do not sync with your company’s scale and strength, and what if their capabilities are more specific to large sized companies, 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 for 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 your scheme of things – would they find synergy in working with a client like
  • 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. Else, if you are just looking for one off bursts of media coverage, the need to spend time analyzing the agency can be done away
  • Do they have the de-learning skills for adapting to your 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 if your communication needs are vastly
  • 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
  • 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
  • How much more credibility and enhanced image value can they bring to the table (not just across, but over a period of 2 – 3
  • Are they contemporary? Are they social in the true sense? And they in the business of facilitating the journalist world’s news crowd-sourcing
  • In case your needs are 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.
  • 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.

So, if you are looking at a PR agency to help you in your long term communication plans, ponder over these questions, and make sure that you understand the dynamics of the value promised.

Happy image management. Happy PR’ing!

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