Here we discuss the basic ingredients of Public Relations: Topical Issues, The backdrop - economic and social, What makes PR tick, the pain points, the problems, the positives, the negatives... almost anything under the sun related to the communication industry!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

NGT's Diesel ban and implications...

Yesterday's blanket ban on Diesel vehicles of over 10 years of age by National Green Tribunal has far-reaching implications and NO, these are not limited to only cars for personal use, which all media reports seem to be suggesting!

Besides the de-registering of these vehicles by Delhi RTO, another major aspect of NGT's order is that no diesel vehicle older than 10 year old will be allowed to enter Delhi. 

The issues are many and have way serious ramifications, and most of them are related to the logistics and transportation sector. Transportation industry today has around 6.6% trucks which are above 13 years of age, as per a FICCI study. It would go up to around 10% or more for trucks above 10 years of age, across India.

In India, 65% of overall freight movement is through roads(trucks). In the segment of over 250 Kms, this becomes more than 80% with only 20% with the Railways. 

In Delhi alone, out of 6 lakh diesel vehicles, over 1.2 lakh are commercial vehicles of 10 years and above of age and these will now be prohibited from plying in Delhi. This constitutes 20% of the total commercial vehicles in Delhi. The numbers that we are talking about are stupendous.

In Delhi/India, most of the products are moved by trucks and with transporters forced to look at ROI in a shorter time-span, the costs are bound to go up. We are already reeling under a high inflation and with higher transportation cost, the products are going to be costlier. Most of the food items / agricultural and animal produce for Delhi's consumption comes from outside of Delhi, so Delhiites need to be prepared to shell out more for groceries and other purchases.

Any movement for industry/businesses/any activity will also be adversely impacted and costs are bound to go up. The cost of transportation will increase substantially leading to an increase in pricing. The B2B businesses will be impacted more, since the B2C businesses may still be able to pass on the increase to the end consumers. There will be pressure on margins in the immediate future.

All in all, we need to be prepared for increased costs, higher inflation and pressure on margins, in the short to mid term, because of the NGT order.

In the connected world, everything you ever say, WILL come back to haunt you!!!

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Today's headlines - Sidhu & AAP coming together - have an interesting aside. 

And I am not talking about the effect of the "union" on Punjab elections for 2017, where AAP was already a strong contender and  Sidhu has a strong background.

I am talking about how two similar(too verbose, too talkative) brands come together and the issues that they may face due to their "social media" engagements.

AAP has been using social media to reach out to the masses very effectively and so has Sidhu. Issue is that they specialize in mud-slinging too. And the fact that they were pitted against each other since the last two years did not help either.

On the one hand, we have AAP which has called Sidhu, "Farar", "absconder", and many similar names, and on the other, in Sidhu, we have a person who has been vehement in his fascination for the "dharnebaaz-dramebaaz" party and has ridiculed them often.

And unfortunately, despite AAP and Sidhu quickly deleting their "anti" each-other rants, most people are enjoying themselves at their expenses. The fun never stops on Twitter, with more and more people joining in the melee. It would also be a lot of fun watching what they say when they do come together!!!

  •  In an industry(politics) where there are no permanent friends and foes, a semblance of decorum will cause lesser embarrassments
  • Communication is important. Reach out to all "online", by all means but taking pot-shots at others as per convenience, is immensely avoidable
  •  Learn to share "relevant" stuff, lest the less than relevant stuff haunts you for-ever!
  • Whatever we may say or do is in the public domain today and it is imperative that we use the tools available to us sensibly and with a lot of caution.
  • Better to be safe than sorry!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Finese PR: PR learnings in the era of Kejriwal/Jung conflict

Finese PR: PR learnings in the era of Kejriwal/Jung conflict

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

PR learnings in the era of Kejriwal/Jung conflict

From being a strong AAP supporter, to an embarrassed AAP supporter, to a "seriously irritated" AAP supporter, my journey over the past 2 years or so has been eventful, to say the least.

My learnings from the political situation that has developed:
  • Speak Sense or lose all credibility: The unending war has caused major major damage to the profile of the main players - A Lt. Governor has never been as badly ridiculed as Jung and a CM has never been called as big a "drame-baaj" like Kejriwal. These guys were very respected civil servants and social workers in their previous avatars and today anything that they say is taken with a saucer full of salt.
  • Stop Abusing:  You do not gain brownie points if you stoop to the adversary's levels... Their is a lot to be said about behaving like gentlemen that these people have proved that they are NOT! The cacophony is unbelievable.
  • Damage Control: Not all things will go your way always - Accepting defeat with grace will work wonders, but no, grace is an unknown entity here... They specialise in making a bad thing worse...

When we train corporates and even individuals in branding and communication, the core points of "let your work / actions speak more than your words", "never ever lose control", "Elucidate your points coherently" are some of the points we begin from. And we completely focus on creating the brand by showcasing the best that we have and not highlighting the worst of competition. 

All PR concepts come to nothing in today's political scenario. Never ever have we had such foolishness being promoted in the Capital as today and I think this will continue till the time both stop playing to the gallery and the media stops lapping up whatever they say/do! 

One can only hope that their respective media teams understand this and try to mend the situation, or else we will have no option but to use NOTA in the future elections!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My baby steps in Public Relations...

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I have recently completed my master’s degree in Mass Communication. I was always attracted to the mass media and would have loved to work in a production house or in the film industry. But, because I belong to a Business family, I have always been attracted to the business of communication and therefore opted for PR (public relations). I find it the best suited to my interest, education and backgroud.

Before joining PR, my conception about working as a PR person and the job profile was completely different. There was a huge amount of glamour associated with the business. I thought and had been taught too that PR meant creating a good image of a company or an individual. This was through “activities”: social work, charities, stage shows and events. Iin today’s world every business, company or individual wants to grow, earn name and fame. I also thought that the medium of Advertising was more effective for branding than Public Relations could ever be. I mean visibility came through advertising, right???

In February, I appeared for interviews and started working with Finese PR, an agency based in New Delhi. And for the first time in my life I was made aware of what PR really was and how wrong I really was about my expectations from the business of communication.

After my Masters, I was made to un-learn what I was taught! I was told that I needed to read and write. I was to begin from the lowest rung of the ladder, and was asked to read, read and read!  The agency has a diverse client roster and I was suddenly looking at categories that I was never aware of: Electrical & Electronics, Wires and Cables, Social Businesses, Technical Education, Markets Research, etc. 

So it required a lot of “education” for me. I had to start from scratch and then learn about the categories of interest for individual businesses, before I could do anything about them. Okay, so there were “cheat-code” benefits that I could use: Material already available with my seniors, FAQs on the category, previous media releases and Q&As. I suddenly realized that I was studying way more than what I had during my masters!!!

So here is the "cheat-code" for the beginners in the sector. Nobody ever told me this, but I believe that if I knew what was in store, I’d have been better prepared!  Before you believe that you are cut-out for PR, you need to be sure of the following:

  • Excellent communication, interpersonal and writing skills – preferably in more languages than one – Hindi and English are a must, in any case
  • Drive, competence, flexibility and a willingness to learn – In normal language, work like an ass and do not be cowed down with all that you do not know!
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills with the ability to multitask: One is expected to have many many balls in the air at the same time – learn to get 16 hours out of an 8 hour work-day. Not having enough time is not an option!
  • Ability to cope with pressure: The kind of business that PR is, the deadlines are always yesterday. There is a huge  requirement of “Just-now” responses and one needs to learn fast. 
  • Creativity, imagination and initiative: In my 4 months in PR, I’ve already had run-ins with all and sundry(read media) and have been called names: useless and several other adjectives. One needs to remain cool, make the conversation get back on track and get the powers to still use our material for our clients. So if you have an ego, forget about PR, or learn to keep in in check! And it is difficult sometimes! 
  • Business awareness and a good knowledge of current affairs: I thought I was well read, but … 

Having said all this, I firmly believe that I have grown as an individual. I now know way beyond what I did a mere 4 months ago, and have lots to learn as I go along. I am hopefully, a better writer and a better communicator than I was earlier. I am still learning the ropes and will have much more to share as we go along. So watch this space…

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Communication Issues with Political Parties

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The fact that the Parliament is in session is not the big story today. The big-stories in the last few days are:
  • PM's degree fiasco:  AAP goes ballistic... BJP responds to the degree issues... Bhakts question AK's degrees... The fun begins 
  • The Uttarakhand Government Dismissal Issues: Govt. suspended: Accusations and Counter Accusations from Congress and BJP: Floor Test: Even before the final results, show of victory...
One common theme that under-runs all these fiascos is the very low quality of public discourse!!! And underlying this is poor communication.

We as a country need to start listening, and stop talking. The diktat that actions speak louder than words is something that we need to re-learn.

In PR, we address major communication issues in all media training workshops. And some of the important points that can work well for the businesses, would have worked wonders here too...
  • Focus on work - Build good foundations and then talk.
  • Back up everything with data and analysis.
  • State Facts and then SHUT UP!!!
  • Neither speak too little nor too much... Too little makes you appear nervous, secretive, dis-interested, or worse lacking in empathy: Too much makes you bombastic, verbose, not believable, etc. 
  • Do not be nasty, overly aggressive or stoop to abuses, whatever the provocation.
  • Saying ill about competition, does not make you smell like roses. People are coming to you to hear about you and your initiatives - limit yourselves to only that. The minute you speak of others, you are inviting them to speak of you.
  • Do not create issues where none exist. 
  • Have a crisis plan in place - so that in situations of crisis, clear chains of command are in place and can address issues as they arise. Never never ad-lib: you get into bigger controversies if you do!
  • Check the veracity of the evidence presented, before you create a noise about it.
  • Be graceful - accept your praises and brick-bats with equal amount of equanimity.

If the political parties start to follow some of the things that our clients are asked to do, our process of communication will better, the cacophony will get reduced and hopefully some sane voices will also be heard, once in a while.

And maybe, just maybe, finally some "right" people may find  a voice too...