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Online activism, India et al


Online activist... can you ignore me??

Online activist… can you ignore me??

My country, India, has seen a spur of online activism in the recent few years, thanks to the growing disillusionment of the much touted urban middle class, and a perceived failure of the present country administration on a whole range of issues – from corruption, which has swept the carpet under the polity to law and order – where my sisters do not feel safe to step out late evenings, right at the heart of my national capital.

Some notable examples of recent online activism

  • The movement, India against corruption which sprung into existence thanks to the moral leadership of Anna Hazare, has used online tools in a big way, to spread the message across, gather people, and consolidate views and crowd source protest ideas. On twitter, they have mad e of numerous handles, the primary one being @janlokpal, and successfully built opinions.
  • In the protests against the recent moral assault and subsequent death of Delhi girl Nirbaya,  by a gang of rogues on a moving bus, many groups and individuals used the social media to spread their angst against the establishment and the police, protesting consistent inaction. Some notable handles in this episode were activist @tajinderbagga who was the target of police action, and a girl activist who was arrested for joining the protests.
  • Online activists crowd sourced strong protest against a Gurgaon hotel hosting a singing even of notable Punjabi singer Honey Singh, whose lyrics provoked anger for their lewd views on women, in the light of events after the death of brave girl Nirbhaya.

(just to illustrate a few; twitter handles selective and not exhaustive)

The increasing spread of information through social media, and a large number of concerted online and offline activists spreading information to garner support for any cause that affects the common man is a new trend that is catching up swiftly in India and neighboring countries as well.

The establishment and the stakeholders who are the target of such activism, either out of compliance and deference to the views of people, or out of the fear that a cascading effect of the information on them from online to offline to the houses to the streets, will impact the credibility – are partly giving in to some demands as a result of online activism.

While the measurement of the effects of online activism will be a bit farfetched as of now, the day is not far when social media mavens will also find out means by which the on the ground impact of such efforts can be quantified and the impact measured.

While in India, online activism has only sprung into action only in more recent times, globally, the trend is in place at least for the past decade, and is only increasing/bound to increase by the day as the social media has proven to be a platform for swift dissemination of real time breaking news and events, and in many countries where democracy is nonexistent or in peril, where mobile devices in the hands of the affected, disgruntled and victimized, are the only means by which they make messages go viral – and for the global media to take note.

There’s also a raging debate that’s been going on since a while on whether online activism is really a cause for worry across the globe – questioning the likely effect isolated groups can have on ground realities.  Malcolm Gladwell’s article in The Newyorker of Oct 4, 2010 http://nyr.kr/ap4hO1 stirred a social hornets’ nest, inviting a flurry of responses to the statement “ Social media can’t provide what social change has always required”.

Amongst the many interesting debates as a reply to Gladwells story, Erum Haider from neighboring Pakistan made very relevant and sort of ‘local’ responses to why social activism will make an impact and will stay on, and gain more power if used appropriately, for the right causes too. http://bit.ly/arngfb

With a fair amount of confidence, and the emerging nature of polity and demography in this part of the globe, one can say, with a fair amount of confidence that ‘social activism’ is indeed here to stay, and gain more strength as the clock ticks.

If you are a social media maven, ‘social media activism’ making J must be in your armor as well.

By the way, is it in the things to watch for in 2013 in your trend-watching list?

You can also see a brief history of online activism here http://on.mash.to/qYMYUU  

@twitter handle – are you in the 30 minute response league?


English: jacket cover of Dominate your market ...

English: jacket cover of Dominate your market with Twitter – UK edition (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does you company have a dedicated and real time twitter handle for service to your customers? Be it for your product or service or promotion?

Well, if your answer is yes, then you are in a special 23% league! Yes. As per a survey by simplymeasuredthat’s the percentage of companies which have a service-handle on twitter!

But whats the point if you have a handle, and take eons to respond to your customers? Today, with social media at the touch of a mobile screen 24/7, every minute of delay in your response is adding up to the dissonance in the customer’s mind.

In the same survey, not many of those 23% companies responded to the tweets coming in, within 30 minutes!

And that is a big big fail!

So, have a service twitter handle only if you man it real-time and 24/7/365.

Else, don’t have one. Period.

Does your organisation have the soc-med ecosystem to pass the 30 minute response test?

If you say YES, you are in the 30-minute response league.

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.

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!

Is your PR armor packed with ‘twinterviews’?!


A good PR pro constantly looks around to beef up his communication armor with the right kind of tools. There are so many of them, and with the advent of the 24/7 barrage of information powered by social media, you have a new kind of ammunition that is kindling the imagination of communication professionals.

Yes, welcome to the world of “twinterviews”.

If you are consulting a client for their PR strategy, it is high time you suggested twinterviews to them; and same to your friends in the media fraternity.

Twinterviews, as the name suggest are twitter + interviews – so brevity and factual accuracy is at the core of them.  As compared to some of the other tools in our communication armor, the time and energies that need to be invested in doing twinterviews is the least.

In the media world-over, twinterviews are catching up fast as a powerful tool – that help organizations and their spokesperson to state powerfully points regarding any issue – it could be a product launch, a employee engagement issue, a shareholder issue or even a crisis that is just sprouting up for the organistion.

The biggest advantage of a twinterview is that the Q & A format can be shared in advance, and the response, loaded with accurate facts, be scripted to fit in the power of brevity – in 140 characters that is. Once this is done, the interview (twinterview) can be run at the most opportune media time – depending on the trends, and the availability of the target ‘resources’ on the time line. As it is with any other tweeting event, the chances of re-run, and emphasize what is needed (RT) etc as available options for the communicators.

Taking twinterviews to the next level, interaction with a group of journos across the globe, by a targeted announcement, can also lead to a twit-conference.

So, are you ready to add ‘twinterviews’ to your communication armor?

How about a twinterview today?

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