Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Guerrilla PR

A form of ‘guerrilla warfare’ against big budgets and larger brands, ‘guerrilla PR’ is an effective tool to combat peer group branding activities.

The concept of guerrilla advertising and guerrilla marketing has been around for a while now. The practice essentially comprises of targeting specific focus groups through a controlled effort by initiating spurts of high intensity campaigns sporadically keeping in mind the industry scenario and peer group activities.

The result in terms of brand association and end-customer engagement has been encouraging. This is music to the marketers in a sluggish economy that a broader impact can be achieved with a minimal budget!

We see examples of this on business pages everyday where a small banner of a capital market listed company is placed in the centre of the article which talks about biggest stock gainers of the day with associated tag line ‘Biggest gainers choose …’

Contextually placing ads to leverage content for a brand is a common practice in the digital space. Google along with many Social Networking Sites (SNS) have monetized their business and made a fortune by offering user profiles and activity details which help in placing contextually relevant advertisements.

Public relations thrives on user connect and third party endorsement which makes the maxim ‘influencing the influencers’ a functional necessity. In PR target audiences and media based on client brief are defined at the strategy and planning stage.

Niche audience targeting is a more specific and precise science than the general ‘spray and pray’ method generally practiced. Can traditional PR practitioners develop messages and campaigns which can be leveraged at key moments in a company’s business cycle keeping in mind the organizations environment and arrive at a viable business proposition viable to the company?

Here, social media can be a handy tool to conduct sporadic campaigns which are targeted specifically and engineered towards maximum consumer engagement. Brand building and sustenance of perception through consumer engagement has become a flatter process for organizations as they can initiate contact with a consumer directly rather than relying on an influencer to carry forward their messages.

A form of ‘guerrilla warfare’ against big budgets and larger brands, ‘guerrilla PR’ is an effective tool to combat peer group branding activities.

The nature of the medium aids in implementing simple, tactical digital media practices to leverage a brand for a short-term and long-term, as well. For instance, during crisis when a negative link to a company appears on the first search page on Google, a new positive release is disseminated online to bury the link in older pages. This is just indicative of the broader possibility and is already practiced by many traditional PR firms.

Guerrilla PR can bring about a sweeping change in traditionally accepted PR practices and redefine the communications business. In times of an economic slowdown where advertising and PR budgets are taking a hit across the board, can the business offer customized solutions which are cost-effective and help the company to achieve its branding goals.

The change is just around the corner. Are we there yet?

Friday, August 22, 2008

As newsprint prices undergo steep rise, is digital the final solution

Business Standard has carried a story today which says that due to rising newsprint prices leading publication houses are deferring their new edition launch plans and increasing their advertising rates.

Newsprint prices have risen by 50% over the past 6 months which mirrors the global scenario of the print sector. Until now, India was an anomaly to the global trend of decreasing newspaper circulation and ad rates. India, a booming media market, with market projection predicting bullish trends for the next two quarters may undergo revision.

Indian Newspaper Society (INS) has asked its members to reduce its newsprint usage by 20%. This downward trend puts a serious question mark over the proposed plans of many mainstream publication houses in India, as the report suggest.

It has been long suggested that the newspaper in its current form will soon be extinct and be replaced by other digital mediums like mobile, internet, digital kiosks and tablets, etc. This may be an early sign.

Technological innovation has changed the media business time and again. As Marshal McLuhan famously proclaimed, ‘medium is the message’.

Social media, the much abused yet little understood term, may be the next big wave to define the way we imbibe and consume information. This virtual congregation of masses to connect and share thoughts, ideas with each other will perforce necessitate that news dissemination also undergoes a change to cater to these new media audiences.

With these changes inevitable, the business of engaging with the media will also change. This is where specialized new media practitioners will enable entities to engage with a tome of dynamic, coagulating yet disintegrated mass.

The writing is on the wall, it is time we start preparing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Continuing the debate: Todd Defren says...

I was reading Brain Solis’s Essential Guide to Social Media this morning where he emphasizes the need of being immersed in a social community to be accepted and become a part of it. Only this would eventually lead to a sustainable relationship.

To further the observer and user debate, Todd Defren posts that those who are using social media tools to monitor brands, influencers and conversations (in that order because for most that is the priority hierarchy) must be empowered.

I agree with this view, even though deliverables in social media can be measured effectively, is widely considered an ‘all fart no shit’ exercise. So the need is to find that connect with consumers, the end-users, which is must more often than not due to decision levels and dependency which delay the process of engaging.

But you can take it further, into the realm of “Actionable Listening.” The difference here is that the folks doing the listening/responding are empowered to effect change within their organization, on customers’ behalf.

Read on: Actionable listening vs. active listening

Brain Solis, Todd Defren

Friday, August 08, 2008

Social media divide: User versus observer

In the ever expanding social media space, there is an inevitable chicken and egg question? Do you need to be a social media user to devise online brand strategies or would suffice being an online media observer?

Public Relations practitioners in the traditional media space need not be active participants. Most PR firms are keen to have ex-journalists on their roll, as they have the real world knowledge of actual practices in media. It is easier for an ex-journo to conjure all possible story ideas and sector updates which could be carried in news during lean news days. Also, a media relations as a function becomes relatively easy as most of them share a level of camaraderie and bonhomie with the media.

But, this is not the case with most PR professionals. They are merely observers or at best consumers of mass media with no active involvement in the process of creating content or the real world experience of working in a media firm or a publication house.

New media professionals can merely observe and implement brand strategies by imbibing dispersed knowledge across the web. But is it necessary for them to be active participants and users of web 2.0 tools?

Being an interactive medium, it is relatively easier to be involved with a broad spectrum of platforms and tools in social media space. So, PR persons can acclimatize to the new world order by engaging their audiences themselves.
Also, being a part of the community would help in greater acceptance amongst peer group, communities and potential influencers making PR component an extension of the online persona.

One is clued into new technologies and emerging avenues of message dissemination by being in the know rather than merely accept redundant tools which are no longer effective.

The benefits of being an active participant rather than merely being an observer are obvious. At the same time it is very simple to be a poser in new digital space as the general discourse is easily available.

What defines the two is quality. This will differentiate the posers and pseudo practitioners from the real users and knowledge experts who are clued in. The quality will determine the eventual pay out and survival of the lot.