Wednesday, December 3, 2014

From Press conference to Twitter conference

PR agencies in India have started weaving in digital arm to their overall PR strategy
and campaigns. However, there are many agencies which are still thriving on traditional mediums and don’t feel the need to venture into digital completely. This might be due to various factors including lack of resources or not being prepared for a change.


But for how long?

Since second half of 2013, there has been a downfall in the print industry (papers/magazines discontinued). In fact, many electronic channels have also discontinued few of their shows (for example, ET Now discontinued one of their most popular tech shows - Technohik, NDTV Profit cut back on all non-market-hour programming which meant the channel only needed a handful of anchors and reporters).

This trend is still prevalent and will continue to surprise the industry!

With such alterations in the media industry, the PR agencies get a window to get more creative and embrace newer avenues. It gives an opportunity for both the clients and traditional PR agencies to explore social media platforms more aggressively than before.

It’s imperative that agencies start thinking differently to sustain themselves in the ever evolving digital ecosystem. It’s time to change now and important to integrate offline and online mediums to fetch best results for a campaign/launch.

Xolo makes the move

That said, Xolo - a premium smart devices brand in India, made a very interesting announcement on Twitter!  

The company recently shared a tweet regarding their product launch exclusively on Twitter on December 05th, 2014. While it may seem little bizarre at the first instant, I believe this is the move we would eventually like to see by corporates. Here’s what the media/bloggers are already talking about!





According to industry experts, only people who have registered for the event will be able to participate in the one hour (12-1 PM, IST) event. While this still leaves me confused as to how the live event will be managed ultimately, it will be interesting to evaluate some pros and cons of Xolo’s exclusive Twitter launch:

Pros:
  • Saves time (for media and others involved in the launch), money, travel, cost of booking venue/setting up
  • Finally we save paper!! - It’s annoying to see agencies still handing over press kits during events. E-mail sends across just the same message which is there in a press kit
  • Tracking who all participated in the event is easier online than sitting at the desk asking media to register themselves
  • Message/opinion reaches out to a wider audience while interacting with the brand in real-time
 Cons:
  • Twitter feed blasted with tweets - in case one is following the brand/ media. This definitely will annoy people who aren’t keen on the announcement
  • No face value - while during events, you do see the top management taking time out to brief the media about their new product. However, online medium can trick you with someone else replying on behalf of the senior management
However, I still believe it definitely is a good move by the company and kudos to the FrogIdeas team for bringing in this change! Unless we experiment, we would never be able to up the game.

So do you think Twitter conference will take over the regular/traditional press conferences in India?

Nonetheless, stay tuned for the pre-launch buzz at #TouchOmega and let’s wait and watch how India’s first ever smartphone brand performs at the live mobile launch on Twitter! 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

When the #AndroidOne launch in India went mute

Few weeks back Apple launched its iphone 6, 6+, Apple watch and Apple Pay. I’m sure most of
you must have tuned to Twitter and Apple’s live streaming to get real time updates on the announcement.

That’s how we have started consuming news, breaking news or any big announcements happening across the globe. Isn’t it? We love to share interesting news, stories and engage with the community.

But I guess the biggest search giant thinks otherwise!

AndroidOne – the launch without a social strategy

On a lovely Monday morning, Google was all set to host firm’s first global launch in India - AndroidOne. The idea behind launching AndroidOne was to cement Google's position in the low-cost smartphone segment for the "next billion" users, especially in developing countries like India.

Like any other big event, I assume that the pressure on Google India and the top down hierarchy was to ensure the event went smoothly and everything was perfect! Needless to say, making sure all top media/bloggers attended the event and got the firm the coverage it deserved for hosting their first global launch in the country.

Amidst all the madness, in my opinion, little did anyone think of a well planned social media strategy. Like every tech enthusiast, I glued to my Twitter feed to check updates on the announcement.  

While everyone excitedly went on tweeting on their way to the event and anticipated Google’s announcement, it actually fumed the journalists/bloggers when they reached inside the venue and got to know that the event was under embargo and no one in the room could share any live updates/information on social platforms.

How can you possibly stop everyone in the room from sharing updates without any prior notice of an embargo?

The event which started by noon was under embargo till 2:30 PM and the sale for AndroidOne products was slated to start from 3:30 PM on e-commerce websites including Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart.

It did amaze me when I started reading the tweets from media and I wasn’t really sure whether the launch is going to be a success or will the embargo kill the excitement around the launch.

Here’s a sneak peek of what the media/bloggers/netizens had to say:








Interestingly, Economictimes.com had a live blog just for the event and by the tweets I read, it seemed like Google never informed the journalist about the embargo.



A new Twitter handle for AndroidOne India was launched post the announcement - @AndroidOneIn. It attracted few thousand followers within minutes and as of writing there are 3943 followers. There were few tweets on @GoogleIndia handle post the launch event as well.

In fact the next day, all the newspapers were flooded with launch news and interview of the spokesperson and it surely did make for an amazing offline PR activity.

However, In my humble opinion, this was a social media disaster. Do you feel being one of the biggest tech companies in the world, the positive announcement overpowered the negative tweets that went online?

Do you think Google wanted to set apart its social strategy from Apple?

I’d love to know your thoughts in the comment section below! 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

That feeling called Love

Do you know what that one definition of love is? Even the Oxford dictionary doesn’t have just one meaning of love. Phew! So how must I figure out what love is? No, Google doesn’t help either!!!

I always found love confusing and in the ardour to understand what love is, I decided to speak to few folks around me and perhaps should share what it means to them. Here it goes!

·         Romantic euphoria
·         Self-destruction
·         Lust
·         Commitment
·         Combination of butterflies & comfort zone
·         Physical & emotional closeness
·         Complete understanding
·         Growing old with your partner

After understanding the psyche of people in their mid-20’s, I realised that everyone defined love basis the relationships they have had and the experiences they have gone through while dating someone. However, did you ever wonder that love could be beyond the romantic context?

Interestingly, the first thought about love was associated with being romantically involved with their partner. I wonder why that happens but it’s fascinating to see how we end up thinking alike at a certain age about an expression and feeling as pure as love.

While as a kid, one might have a completely different perspective on love; it’s certain that as we age, it dawns on us that love is abstract and it is extant in small actions we perform every day.

Love beyond the romantic context
Sitting with your friend on the swing and discussing life, cuddling with your pet, hugging your mom before going off to sleep, sharing your deepest secrets with someone, playing with your kid or chasing your passion are all various forms of expressing and experiencing love.

…and some of my friends quoted love very beautifully

“Love is allowing yourself - and those you care about - room to grow and soar. It is finding your joy, and living it, every day. It is taking care of yourself, because only then can you take care of those you love. Love is being the best "you" you can be... every day.”

“When I listen to the radio or see people describe "love" in the movies, it reminds me of the blissful
superficiality of the beginning of a relationship. I don't experience that brand of love anymore. My wife and I have been together for ten years and have two kids, and the exhilaration and newness that we once experienced has been replaced by familiarity and extraordinary responsibility. For love to exist and endure, the people closest to you find a way to empathize with, forgive and embrace your imperfection constantly. As unromantic as some aspects of an enduring love are, it feels far more gratifying for me to be loved in this way. That said, I have the most exceptional wife in the world so my worldview could be completely skewed by her brilliance. ;)” – Jim Dougherty 


“Someone once told me that love is a verb instead of a noun. That has always stuck with me. You have to actively love. You don't get to buy it from the store or keep it in the closet to use at your convenience.” – Daniel Cohen


"Love is putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and understanding what bond most comforts them, inversely accepting the person they are, because if you try to change them as per your likes then you'd be loving yourself and not them" – Anish Quenim



All of these different kinds of love and relationships have similar meaning but have a little something different to be unique.

According to many philosophers, the only aim of life is to be happy. And there is only one happiness in life; to love and be loved. But no one defines who should be the object of our affection. As long as there is love in our lives, there is fulfilment.

Love is essentially an abstract concept, much easier to experience than to explain. What do you think? 


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Match Makers go Social by Breaking Stereotypes

[Ed: The tradition of arranged - as opposed to "love" - marriages has been practiced in India for
centuries, and is still a thriving and commonly accepted practice on the sub-continent. A relatively recent proliferation of matchmaking sites is bringing the tradition in step with the tech age.]

Most of you reading this post have, or will go through, a phase in life where it seems the only goal of your friends, family and strangers is to get you married!

Image: Weddingsforaliving.com via Google, CC 4.0

That’s when you get anti-social, run away or hide from family get-togethers, parties and weddings. People around you suggest uploading your profile to matchmaking sites, so as to find the best fit in a potential life partner. But little do they realize or understand that it’s not just about finding “a suitable boy” (or girl).

It’s about finding someone with whom you’re so compatible, you can imagine spending the rest of your life with them.

Recently I came across TrulyMadly.com, a modern day matchmaking service that claims to effectively use science and psychology to find suitable matches. The website offers a new way to connect with like-minded individuals who are looking for serious relationships.

At first, I wondered how different it was from other matchmaking sites like Shaadi.comMatrimonialsindia.com or Jeevansathi.com (which I personally have very little experience of). But my perception about such sites in general changed when I came across a unique and very promising campaign by TrulyMadly called #BreakingStereotypes.

It made me think that, perhaps, matchmaking sites aren’t such a bad way to meet your dream boy/girl after all.

What makes TrulyMadly stand out from the rest of these sites, is that it matches people’s profiles based on who they are and what they are looking for, instead of the traditional matches based on caste or location. The campaign was aimed at disproving stereotypes, thereby supporting compatibility and personal interactions among individuals.

#BreakingStereotypes
The campaign introduced 10 fresh stereotypes a week. Each stereotype was illustrated using photographs, articles and tweets, which also frequently used humor. And what they did was to refute the cliched opinions we form of people, based on superficial elements such as the colors they wear, and the work that they do.
Check out a few #BreakingStereotypes which created quite the buzz:

 

  



#BreakingStereotypes ran for five weeks. Over this time, 53 different stereotypes were posted about, which reached over 1.1 million people through social media. According to reliable sources, 90,000 people engaged with the brand on Facebook and over 9,000 interactions were recorded on Twitter by 375+ participants. And, most interestingly, a 330% jump in unique users on TrulyMadly was observed over a span of a month.

It’s fascinating to see how social media is taking over every aspect of our lives.

There was a time in India when people didn’t believe in such sites, and the only way to find the right fit in a bride or groom was through suggestions from extended families and friends. And what TrulyMadly has done is to get a step ahead of the competition, as people have become more tech-savvy and started using matchmaking sites, taking advantage of the way we live our lives in and through social media.

The #BreakingStereotypes campaign gained a lot of attention in the virtual world. What do you think it will take for it to gain traction offline in what is still a fairly traditional society? 

Images: Breaking Stereotypes via TrulyMadly, CC 4.0

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Have You Heard of the #CoolestInterviewEver?

#CoolestInterviewEver
Disclosure: HCL is a client of my agency, Six Degrees PR. However, the campaign partners are ITSA Brand Solutions and FrogIdeas. I thought this was an interesting campaign, and wanted to share my thoughts with my readers.
Have you ever been to an interview where you don’t have to speak at all, yet are expected to answer whatever the interviewer asks?
Image: HCL via Google, CC 4.0
Sounds weird? Think again. Because India has been buzzing over the #CoolestInterviewEver, where one of the country's largest companies wanted you to be "cool" enough to work for them.
Recently HCL Technologies (NSE: HCLTECH), India’s fourth largest software services firm, started a global recruitment campaign on Twitter. Here's how they said it would work:
  • Respond to questions on Twitter: Over a two-week period, participants were to respond to various questions posted on Twitter (this round closed on Feb. 21, btw). One hundred would be selected to participate in the next round, which was ...
  • A two-day TweetChat: this would be held with with HCL Technologies' HR and Recruitment Office, where participants would be asked (and could also ask) further questions related to their areas of interest.
  • For the final round, five candidates from the semifinal round were to be selected to visit their nearest HCL office, and answer the final round of questions on Twitter.
In the third and final week (that's this week), the company will select a winning candidate for one of the “cool” job profiles featured on the site. The winner will also receive a US $75,000 prize and have access to an HCL leadership mentor in his or her particular field.
The buzz that shook the IT industry
  • The initial buzz started through videos and banners. As of this writing, the promo video has more than 74,000 views.
  • According to Campaign India, as of Feb. 17 the campaign had received more than 110,000 replies, tweets, re-tweets and favorites.
  • #CoolestInterviewEver trended in India on February 18th (Tuesday), 21st February (Friday) and 24th February (Monday) for more than 12 hours.  
It has been interesting to observe a big brand experimenting with a different recruitment strategy altogether. HCL and its agencies have gained a lot of attention for this campaign, and many Indian online influencers have been talking about it. As a Millennial in the workforce, I’m probably not alone in hoping that many other IT/Non-IT companies will soon follow suit, and start to look for - and hopefully, find - new talent through social media platforms.
But... how authentic is social media recruitment?
When I first heard about this campaign, I felt it was the most innovative recruitment campaign ever. After all, it takes a lot for a big company to invest in a campaign like this. However, I had a few questions about the authenticity of getting to the final round.
If all the preliminary - and even second-round - interviewing was on Twitter, I could get someone to help me with the answers, couldn't I? After all... who would know? So technically at least, I'd be able to make it through at least the first two rounds, right?
I remember the days my parents would tell me how important it was to look smart and confident at a job interview, how important that “first impression” was on the interviewer. But in this situation, it really wouldn't have mattered whether I'd showered or not, or had messy hair, or food stuck in between my teeth. In this instance, if I were "cool" enough, then I'd be able to crack the interview from the pool, or from bed, or the couch... right?
While there's been a lot of buzz around the campaign, it's also been noted that:
  • A reliable source mentioned that "more than 80% of the participants for #CoolestInterviewEver were either very irregular Twitter users, or created accounts simply to participate in the campaign" 
  • The requisite spoof page goes by "Coolestintervieweeever" (it's funny, but not that funny)
Online meeting offline
Perhaps crisp, to the point, and quick communications are now the "first impressions" we should be concerned about. And while it remains to be seen if/how the winner (and even the finalists) lived up to their online "conversation," kudos to HCL for an initiative that will hopefully help job seekers  understand how to communicate well via today's social platforms and stay ahead in the competitive landscape.
Do you think that a 140-character tweet can land you your dream job in the near future? Will digital interviews replace the traditional method of one-on-one interviews? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment below.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

How Social Media Impacted the 2014 Indian Elections

This year, Election Day in India (for the legislative assembly elections in which the Indian electorate choose Vidhan Sabha (or Legislative/State Assembly) fell on a weekday (December 4th). The first thought I had – and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone – was, ”Thank goodness, we get a day off from work!” Isn’t it? After all, what’s better than a mid-week day off?!

But a day off work – even if it’s for something as important as exercising our franchise – can tend to blur our focus. Our priority becomes how we’ll spend that day off with family and friends, rather than the importance of the elections and choosing the right candidate and the right party to govern our country.

Image: aamaadmiparty.org  via Google, CC 4.0

Most of us get laid back rather than step out of our homes to vote.
This year, social media played a very important role in encouraging the citizens of India to vote. A few months ago, I wrote about how Indian Politicians were using Google+ Hangouts to reach out to Indian youth and a wider audience to connect with them.

The efforts Indian politicians have been making to reach their audience through social media was clearly reflected in this season’s election results. For years, India has seen only two parties realistically compete: the BJP and the Congress Party. This time around, a third party was formed and became a viable competitor: the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). [Ed: "aam aadmi" translates to "common man."]

While the BJP and Congress have been in the political system for an eternity (at least, it feels like it!), the new party, AAP, and its founder Arvind Kejriwal brought a breath of fresh air to the whole political scene in the country. Not unlike President Obama in the U.S., Kejriwal did what so many politicians dream of doing: he enthused the youth of the country to vote.

I have never before felt so strongly about the elections and my personal ability to effect change in our country.

And while social media has certainly changed the face of political campaigns, it has not replaced other traditional forms of communication. That said, the issue of funding often poses problems for smaller campaigns or new candidates. After all, it takes money – a significant amount – to produce and run expensive television or radio ads, which are still key in reaching audiences.

But that’s when a smart social media campaign comes into play.

AAP did not restrict itself to Facebook and Twitter, but used Google+ and Linkedln in a big way; in fact,  the latter proved to be a major source of donations. Mr. Kejriwal didn’t just use Google+ Hangouts to expound his philosophy; he actually used them to raise funds. Using G+, AAP reached people not only here in India, but the Indian diaspora in the U.S., Canada, and Hong Kong, answering their questions, gaining their support, and raising clean (i.e. not illicit) funds.

AAP’s use of social media was not just integrated, it was fascinating. It urged NRIs (Non-Resident Indians, a critical audience and source of investments in India) to leave video messages of support for the party on YouTubeQuora too had a lot of threads where people spoke about AAP, and the party ensured that these threads were kept updated. The supporters of the party were very active on Twitter, making sure to provide answers if anyone had any questions or needed clarification.

Interestingly, when the party wanted people to stop donating money for the elections, they announced it on Twitter.

According to an article in Business Standard, “… the campaign raised approximately Rs. 20 crore [Ed: ~$4.6M] through marketing, and most of that money was raised through online marketing. Mind you, it wasn’t email marketing in the form of a daily blast to millions of faceless Indians, it was digital marketing, tested and clearly targeted.”
That’s a lot of money!

Engagement and amplification

While politicians believe that in-person support lends credibility to their campaigns, the same holds true for social media campaigns. It’s about more than having a lot of followers. It’s about getting them to amplify the campaign’s message as well.

On Election Day, I saw my Facebook timeline swell with pictures of people in my network with ink on their finger (the sign of participating in the elections). A few of them updated their status to inspire people to go out and vote. This surely showed the sense of pride that each felt after voting. 

The AAP is clearly the first political beneficiary of the social media revolution in India. Today (as of December 10thwe have a hung assembly (in a two-party parliamentary system of government, a hung parliament occurs when neither major political party – or bloc of allied parties – has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament, i.e. legislature).

There is no clear winner, but AAP has managed to emerge as a strong and respected opposition party to the BJP.

Building such credibility among Indians in such a short span of time and beating Congress is praise worthy.

Interestingly, Rahul Gandhi (VP of the Congress party) has zero social media presence. He is neither on Twitter nor Facebook. In this plugged-in era of engaging in social conversations, sharing opinions and stories online, and building connections virtually, a politician’s strong showing in social media does tend to have a positive impact on votes. This is exactly what the election results showed, with the AAP blowing the Congress party out of the political race!

More and more young Indians are getting on the social media bandwagon, and this will increase with time. According to a recent report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International, the number of Internet users in India has reached 205 million in October this year. And by June 2014, India will have 243 million internet users, at which point of time, it is expected to overtake the U.S. as the second-largest Internet base in the world.

These data indicate that even for “the rest of us,” social media, online sites, and live streaming are now a new way of life. While it may have a long way to go, Indian politics has come a long way, and social media is a large part of that. I can’t wait to see what happens next.


What do you think? Have you seen social media impact government and politics where you live? If you voted in the Indian election, did social media play a part in getting your vote out? Do share, I’d love to know!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

With fall of Media and Advertising, will India see a rise in Digital PR?

61! Yes, the rupee is 61 against the dollar (as of September 20, 2013). It looks like the dollar is
on an escalator and the rupee is on a ventilator!

The falling rupee has indeed hit the citizens of the country professionally and it seems to have caught up with the Indian media in the past few months. Apart from the usual layoffs, cost reduction and restructuring, we have observed newspapers and magazines getting thinner, TV channels cutting back on programming and several publications and channels are on the block. Due to tight marketing spend, even advertisers are shortening their commercials while maintaining or increasing the number of times they are aired to ensure maximum spread for their ad spends.

That said, few examples below will help understand the changes that the Indian media industry has been going through in the past few months:
  • In May, NDTV Profit cut back on all non-market-hour programming which meant the channel only needed a handful of anchors and reporters.
  • In August, the TV 18 group laid off around 500 employees including many people responsible for its features programming.
  • In July, Outlook Publishing (India) Pvt. Ltd discontinued the publication of three foreign titles, Marie Claire, Geo, and People—around 130 people were laid off—and also converted its personal finance magazine from a fortnightly into a monthly.
  • Business Standard sold its motoring magazine to Delhi Press.
  • Bloomberg India TV laid off 30-40 people.
  • HT Business  and HT Shine (Supplements of The Hindustan Times) discontinued and became a part of the main paper – The Hindustan Times
  • Bengal Post paper in Kolkata discontinued and all employees were laid off
  • Business World was sold to exchange4media
  • CRN, UBM Channel Unit was sold to Management
  • In September, Mint announced that they will be reducing the number of pages, from 28 to 24, four days a week, Tuesdays through Fridays. The Monday and Saturday papers will remain unaffected.

It is rightly said that PR and journalism are interdependent. With the economic slowdown, we are observing slight difficulty in traditional PR activities along with the rate at which newspapers/magazines are shutting down, number of pages getting reduced and broadcast channels cutting back on the hours of programs/news.

With the ever increasing competitive eco-system and never ending client demands, traditional PR is surely set to face challenge in India.

However, I believe that the PR agencies should take this as an opportunity than a challenge. With such alterations in the media industry, the PR agencies get a window to get more creative and embrace newer avenues. It gives an opportunity for both the clients and traditional PR agencies to explore social media platforms more aggressively than before. India now has nearly 74 million Internet users, according to ComScore report and it’s time for the next big leap in the way PR agencies work in India.

Getting Digitally Evolved

The current alterations in the media industry can surely mean a faster move into the digital domain in the Indian marketplace. Sooner than expected, many media houses have started looking at digital as their next step. Kasturi and Sons Ltd, publisher of The Hindu, has, in the last six months, launched iPad and mobile apps for its general and financial newspapers.

In the past one decade, there has been a steep fall in the number of those who prefer thumbing through the newspaper with the sip of morning tea. Now, checking news feeds on smart phones, scrolling through one’s tweeter handle, checking updates on blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and other online networks have become part of the urban lifestyle.

Interesting statistics from Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) states that:
  • The size of the digital advertising market in the current fiscal year is estimated at Rs.2,260 crore and is expected to touch Rs.2,938 crore by the end of the next year
  • Ad spending on social media has shot up from Rs.94 crore in FY2012 to Rs.300 crore in FY2013
Also, estimates by media buyers states that video advertising on the Internet has been growing at a rapid 40% over the past one year and is expected to speed up further to 60% in the next few months.
Considering all these statistics, we surely are seeing a faster shift to the digital platforms and are expecting digital PR to catch up the trend sooner than expected.

PR evolution in India

Persuading and pitching to journalists via phone calls, e-mails, and SMSes for publishing stories in newspapers are not the only way of building brands anymore. Holding events both online and offline is now part of media management. Debate/Discussions on Hangouts and live chat on Facebook or Twitter have become a new promotional trend.
But what will be interesting to see in the coming months is how many brands are really willing to jump on the digital bandwagon and dedicate proper marketing budgets to it. Today, getting the news release online is of not much value to the clients compared to a good spread of print coverage. However, with the changing media landscape, it will be fascinating to see if the clients start to value the online promotional mediums as much as they value the print medium. What are your thoughts on it?

This post was first published at Vikypedia.in