A necessary evil or a neglected child? A PR professional’s view on PR
For Valentine’s day, Snapdeal.com announced the launch of India’s Love Capital for the year 2013. ‘MY LOVE CAPITAL’ was a pan India campaign by Snapdeal.com planned to capture votes of people across the country for the city they love the most. A dedicated microsite with integrated presence on all social media networking sites like Facebook and Twitter was launched by the company. It was a user engagement campaign to gauge the interest from people across India.
Celebrities like Ayushmaan Khurana, Sania Mirza, and Huma Quereshi also participated in the campaign, explaining the love for their favorite city in India. The campaign was a huge success in terms of publicity where it was extensively covered by publications like The Times of India, The Hindu, Hindustan Times, IANS etc.
We also saw OLX.in, reaching out to a new and otherwise neglected section of society with their “Every Mother Counts” campaign on Mother’s Day. This was a social initiative by OLX.in celebrating the bond of mother-child. The activity encouraged OLX patrons to give away their personal items and belongings to destitute kids for gifting to their mothers thus enabling both to celebrate the joy of Mother’s Day for the first time.
It reached out to over 50 shelter homes for women and children and over 40 odd slum areas across Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata, with over 600 donors and 3000 plus items being donated from all four cities. They also reached out to a shelter home for the underprivileged by ‘Indian Global Social Service Society’ with veteran actor Sharmila Tagore, much to the surprise of its inhabitants. The coverage for the event appeared in Financial Express (Brand Wagon), CNBC Awaaz, Hindustan Times, The Hindu, Asian Age, Hindustan Times etc.
What is common behind both these heart-touching campaigns? Of course, a good intention of spreading love and joy to the society, but there is also another common link – the public relations startup Value 360 communications, which spearheaded both these campaigns. There are always conflicting, and not very famous, views about PR agencies. If all of the infamous and unlikable things were true, PR would have died long back, but it has not only survived but is growing day by day. The curious mind wonders why.
Kunal Kishore, founder of Value 360 communications, shares his perspectives about PR, its importance and necessity and the role it can play for startups’ growth.
YS: According to you, what are some popular myths around PR?
KK: There are several myths that surround the world of PR, primarily because this profession is constantly evolving and has become far more specialized in the last few years. Many feel the profession is about deception and selling lies, but this idea is absolutely incorrect. The profession is based on communicating the truth and building brands that instill a sense of trust. The most important skill of a PR professional is to identify the strengths of the client and crack brilliant ideas about marketing these strengths to the world. A popular but fallacious myth is that media contacts are most essential in PR. Yes, contacts are important but they can only take you so far. If you cannot offer a great story to journalists, no matter what your relations are, they will not put their professional reputation at stake and give you coverage.
Another myth which has been busted, of late, is the cliché, “Any press is good press”. In the age of social media, a single careless remark, tweet or blog post can cause grave damage to one’s reputation for a long time to come. It can be reproduced and reiterated over and over again and go viral if it suitably angers any section of the masses. In the age where only traditional media mattered, after a while a controversy would be forgotten because the journalist would decide that a fresher topic is needed to keep audiences/readership engaged. Thus, today, one needs to be very sensible and strategic when it comes to the attempts to get noticed.
YS: What are some communication functions that PR agencies serve but people don’t know of or consider it to be falling under other marketing strategies?
KK: A PR company is no longer merely a bridge between the client and the media. As a PR agency, we cater to all communications needs of a client, right from strategising on how a product will be positioned, how it will be differentiated from other players in the same segment to eventually executing the communications plan along with building all the concomitant content. PR agencies support and strengthen every aspect of a marketing plan. With the skyrocketing importance of social media, a PR agency also designs social media plans and builds suitable content which treads the fine line between being fresh and catchy while maintaining a dignified stance. The extent of a PR agency’s involvement can sometimes be as deep as being involved in advising how the client communicates with each stakeholder from customers to shareholders to the media.
YS: How can the involvement and inclusion of PR right from the beginning in marketing plans help organizations?
KK: PR is now indubitably an important tool in achieving marketing objectives. While marketing aims at influencing target markets, PR specialises in influencing the influencers. The effects of marketing may result in direct monetary gains, while PR results in a long-term return on investment in terms of a good reputation and good customer relations. Thus PR needs to be integrated right from the onset of the marketing plan so that there is a cohesion between the chosen target markets and the target media that speaks to and influences these specific markets.
YS: Startups feel PR is only for big corporations. What do you think?
KK: I feel that PR is in fact more essential for start-ups than big corporations. Big corporations, because they have been in the market for long, automatically garner a robust reputation and credibility. However, a start-up needs PR to help them strategize on how to break the clutter and distinguish themselves. They also need PR to effectively communicate their USP to third parties. Basically, you need someone to catalyse the process for people to start talking about your brand. A simple, well-ideated story can result in direct sales, investor interest and more media attention for your start-up. At Value 360 Communications, I have personally seen start-ups like Olx.in and Snapdeal.com go from the absolute foetal stage to the zenith of success they have reached today with a well-planned and executed PR strategy.
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