I am sure you all remember the famous Maruti Suzuki campaign. In one of the ad, a NASA scientist is giving a brief description of a spacecraft to a group of Indian tourists, who look pretty much impassive even as the scientist divulges some high-end details about the spacecraft. The most inquisitive query about the high-tech space shuttle unfolds when one of the tourists sincerely asks: “Kitna deti hai?” The question brilliantly sums up the obsession for mileage among Indian consumers.
So, why am I talking about it here? Well, I have a context. A friend called yesterday and was expressing his frustration over the mindset in the communications business that still revolves around media coverage. While all the talk of strategy, analytics, integrated communication, influencer engagement etc. is good for discussion, in the end what matters is, “did you get ET?” or “When are we going to get featured in Tech Crunch?”
The obsession with print, front page coverage, Times of India, Economic Times, etc., is not going to end any time soon in India. Maybe companies like Tesla have disbanded their PR teams and it may even work for Tesla as many claim Elon Musk with over 40 million followers is media in his own right. But for many, digital is still a good to have, one of the marketing mix element.
The challenge for most PR firms pitching for integration of digital tools in their offering is that most of their clients expect them to do what they are best at i.e. getting media coverage. For digital they talk to the new age digital consultancies and this mostly is driven by brand manager and CMOs who seldom understand PR. We all would agree that PR firms are best positioned to reach all sections of target audience as they know what messages would work with each section of the stakeholder community. But sadly, we are not there yet, and hence we are still evaluated on the basis of how many clips we can generate.
When are we going to be digital first, when will we bring back engaging directly with public, back in public relations? I am leaving this open for debate and expect your personal sentiment to take the discussion forward on the subject.
P.S.: In the same context, once a guy asked Anand Mahindra ‘Kitna Deti Hai’ for his $2 mn Battista & Mr. Mahindra’s come back was the best and remembered till date, he said, “Sirji, electric hai..Shock deti hai!
Pt. 1 – Sanctity of an influencer in the PR ecosystem
Formal Public Relations evolved with a fundamental axiom of fulcrum that you press lesser on one side to derive greater output on the other side, without touching it. another such example is that of a catalyst, which remains unchanged in a chemical reaction while boosting the outcome.
In PR terms, it was always about influencing the influencer, without letting anyone know that the content has been manipulated/ pushed/ motivated.
The sanctity of a story in eg. The Times of India lies in the fact that it is done by a journalist/ fourth estate that is not influenced and impartial. The great fall of XXXgate mediapersons was b’cos they were exposed to be ‘influenced’.
Point no. 1 here is that the sanctity of an influencer is very important in this ecosystem.
With that point proven, will move to the second and final part of the my version/ argument.
Very few celebrities like Amitabh Bachhan, Anand Mahindra have, over the decades built the stature where they can cut through PR teams and influencers to reach out to public-at-large.
Thus, i believe that the leverage gained by influencers outweighs the new system where the PR strategists and respective influencers are eliminated to connect the Subject and its audience directly through social media.
I feel that these two means of gaining influence are two of the many cogs of the same wheel that need to be leveraged differently to achieve different outcomes.
And, thank you sir for bringing this topic out in public for an open disucssion.
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