Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Using Social Media for online promotion

In the present times if we take stock, we can find an intense penetration and impact of Social Media in our lives. Let it be the issue of the mystery blogger notoriously leaking inside information of the Kolkata Knight Riders team at the recently concluded IPL, the wide coverage received by Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher for beating CNN to acquire 1 million followers on the popular micro-blogging site – Twitter or the current trend among Bollywood actors such as Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan, to start their blogs in order to constantly communicate with their fans, Social Media has arrived with a bang and can’t be considered as just a passé.

If we trace the history of Social Media, we would find that there was a sudden spurt of growth in this space in the recent times with steady arrival of various tools and platforms in this space that has made our world a little more ‘smaller’. Social media has now reached the next level wherein individuals as well as companies need to not just deploy it but also need to integrate and assimilate the various tools and platforms offered by this medium, to achieve their target of reaching out and communicating with their customers.

In this regard, we were approached to promote RJ Anjaan in the online space in order to assist him to get through to the next round of an international contest called “The Best Job in the World” conducted by the Australian tourism department. Millions from around the world had applied for it; Anjaan was one among the 50 candidates and the 2nd Indian to have been short-listed. The mandate from the client was to pave the way for Anjaan to help him reach the next round in a span of 2 weeks. Our objective was to get as many people in India aware of this contest and Anjaan, in order to garner votes for him that would allow him to reach the next level.

In the first phase we utilized the varied communities and forums of the social networking sites such as Orkut, Facebook, Hi5, LinkedIn etc. The interactive communities, forums and polls were able to reach the target audience such as his school, college and hometown (Bangalore) people, his colleagues and the general Indian population as well. Simultaneously scraps, walls and messages were also sent to a multitude of people asking them to vote for him.

The second phase was initiated with an E-mail campaign to the e-mail ids in our database. It was supplemented with a campaign in Twitter wherein the link for voting was tweeted and re-tweeted. A press release was drafted exclusively for the online media to be published in various sites and Anjaan was exclusively featured in in an interview. This increased the search engine ranking for Anjaan, thus augmenting the search engine optimization for the website with the voting link. A few blogs also carried the news about this contest, requesting readers to cast their votes at the link for voting.

In the third and final phase, our aim was to maintain the steady flow of votes by continuing our overall efforts with all the tools and platforms utilized by us, till the end of this project. Our efforts bore fruits by the end of 2 weeks when the number of votes cast for Anjaan increased to double the amount compared to when we had initiated the campaign. Hence, via the Social Media, we were able to reach out to a massive number of people for this campaign, to help Anjaan tide over to next phase.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The amazing maze

Gone are the days when getting coverage or publishing an article in the print media was a considerable achievement and the coverage attained was framed and displayed prominently. Though newspapers continue to remain a trusted and good source of information, the ‘International Network’, more commonly known as the Internet has gained significant importance, not just due to its global audience, but also because it is interactive and has instant reach. Working at a tool-neutral communication firm providing customized solutions that meet business requirements of companies, I am increasingly working on online branding and new media for the clients that I am handling.

The clear mandate from one of my clients, a leading talent technology company, was to position them as thought leaders and increase their online brand visibility.

Keeping this in mind, in the last few months I drafted and used their white papers to prepare a number of expert articles on behalf of the Chairman and an advisory board member that would help in positioning them as experts in the industry and not merely as the spokesperson of the company, promoting their offerings. These articles were not only placed in leading print dailies such as The Financial Express and Hindu Business Line, but we also published them in a number of online portals. On an average, 9 -11 online coverage were attained for each article, in which the authors were positioned as thought leaders and solution providers in their domain.

As a result, the Google Search Ranking and online visibility of the client increased significantly in the span of few months, providing global brand visibility. This has been an enriching and an amazing learning experience for me. Though I always knew the reach and capabilities of Internet, this was the first time that I actually experienced it. Presently I am working on another project in the social media segment and I will post a blog on my experiences with the social media.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The ‘Slumdog’ debacle

The million-dollar debacle on the Oscar winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire” refuses to die down. When the movie released in India, many protests broke out across the country and a huge hue and cry was raised over the various aspects of the movie. Issues ranging from the usage of the word ‘Slumdog’ – a dog in the slums to the ‘inexcusable’ display of the negative or rather, the depressing side of India, have been raised and the movie has been slapped with various allegations, showcasing ‘poverty-porn’ (I have not been able to figure out the term yet) being one of them.

Hence I was eager to watch this controversial movie (if I can say so), which had made headlines even before it hit the screens in India. I was not expecting anything out of the movie, but just wanted to know if there was any ounce of truth in all the accusations, which was bombarded on the movie. To be completely honest, I was thoroughly disappointed with the movie. Everyone feels empathy, sympathy or whatever towards the dark horse and in one way or the other, aspires him/her to win. But generally, the dark horse comes up in life not just because of luck/destiny, but mainly because of hardwork and dedication. I did not feel that was the case here, since from the beginning of the movie it was made very clear that the slumdog won million dollars because it was “written” in his fate. Well one can argue that it was just a movie and yes it was just another movie, but then one cannot be cheering a dark horse because he was just lucky (though helped by his cleverness) or since it was written in his destiny. Hence the praises accorded to the movie as being truly inspirational, sensational, mind boggling etc. was not worth it. I also found a particular scene not only difficult to digest but terribly depressing, where the young Jamal takes an American husband and wife for sight seeing somewhere and when they return to their car (a Mercedes Benz), it would have been completely robbed (even the tyres would be gone). Seeing this Jamal says that they (the Americans) only wanted to see the real India and when their driver assaults him, the husband and wife come to his rescue and comment that they would show him (Jamal) the real Americans and hand him a wad of dollars.

The lead protagonist also failed to arouse any sympathy or the feeling of joy when he won or sadness when he lost. The boy ‘Jamal’ was clever no doubt, but he won just because he was lucky or as it was shown in the movie repeatedly – it was his destiny. As a child, ‘Jamal’ was able to grab one’s attention with his wit, audacity and vivaciousness, but he lost it as he grew. Also, the movie that stood out and grabbed one’s eyeballs during the initial stages changes track and becomes just another Bollywood masala movie (in the 2nd half, particularly towards the end). Thank you Danny Boyle for not putting the amazing song “Jai Ho” somewhere in the middle of the movie with Jamal and Latika breaking out into a choreographed dance sequence out of nowhere.

Technically the movie is sound with good editing, cinematography, direction and of course music, for which it deserved Oscars. But I was surprised that it won the “Best Picture” as well. Maybe the Americans were indeed amused and entertained by it rather than with the extremely long and curious story of “The curious case of Benjamin Button” or “The Reader” or “Changeling”.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


When I went home (to a place called Bhilai in the state of Chhattisgarh) after finishing my studies and landing a job as a PR professional in a marketing consulting agency in Chennai, people there used to ask me what does PR mean or what did my job require me to do. After explaining in detail, some would stare at me blankly with raised eyebrows or some would enthusiastically conclude that my job requires me to organize and conduct press conferences. Though I would squirm and undergo a sinking feeling in my stomach, I used to wonder why can not people understand the meaning of ‘Public Relations’ and why do they underestimate as well as limit it to press conferences.

Till now, the only satisfactory answer I could come up for this unique disposition has been that, since most of the work done by PR professionals is ‘behind the stage’, the common man does not get a clear picture of what we do. We hardly acquire any share of limelight, though our job is to ensure that our clients enjoy the full glare of limelight. I have also observed that the misinterpretation of PR is not just limited to small towns. Even in cities, people who are not related to media, marketing communication, HR etc also find themselves at sea when encountered by a PR professional.

In a way may be the PR professionals themselves have contributed in certain ways to build up such a reputation for themselves. If one observes the gamut of the ‘so called’ PR agencies, one will find that many of them (mostly the small and newly sprung up agencies) will be mainly organizing and conducting press conferences. Though I personally do not see anything wrong with that, but are not such agencies limiting themselves to the tip of the iceberg?

Though PR is still in the ‘infant’ stage in our country if companies (as well as PR professionals) prefer to limit PR to just media relations, then we are all losing out on opportunities to use multiple vehicles for reaching out to the target audience. Organizing press conferences is an integral part of PR, no doubt, but we (PR professionals) should also incorporate in-depth and thorough research of our client and their sector, develop branding opportunities for them, develop their brand identity and communicate it consistently to the target audience, reach out directly to the target audience, brief and prepare the spokesperson of the company, apt placement of articles, undertake crisis management and to top it off have good and strong media relations.

All these are not individual verticals, but are infact integrated and constitute the building blocks of an entity that is – Public Relations