BABY STEPS AND GIANT LEAPS

At the end of every amazing experience of my life, I’m faced with this annoying yet inevitable question of “what’s the next step” or “where to from here”?  9 days away from flying back to India, I’m faced with the same inescapable questions.

I went through the same yet different phase of my life in 2010 when i completed my first masters in Mumbai, getting good grades, adding all the extra curricular cherries on the top…working in the PR industry for 2+ years, only to find I wanted to do another masters. I think University life is an AMAZING experience and I wish everyone could go through it.

Life at University of Westminster hasn’t been a cake walk. Its been one helluva journey. The never ending assignments, sleepless nights at home, nights at the library, mid night snacking to keep awake and texting friends to make sure we’re all awake! A year of trying, failing, learning, growing, taking a few teensie weensie steps and a few giant across-the-universe leaps. Life at university may not have been perfect but it has come pretty damn close to being awesome.

I just realized my post is getting way too cheesy, corny Doritoish. So I’m gonna end it here.. I just wanted to acknowledge and appreciate my teachers and classmates for all the support and love.

I have realized there is a light at the end of every tunnel..that the only direction where life is headed from rock bottom is upwards..all it needs is a few baby steps, a few giant leaps and the Goldspot/Modest mouse voice singing “we’ll all float on ok” at the back of your head 🙂

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MA PR, University of Westminster, London, 2013

It’s business time, people!  Get your business socks ready! I sure am 🙂

– Juhi

CSR – WORTH EVERY PENNY?

Long hours were spent last month researching the UK smoothie market and big boys in the industry for a product launch campaign for my consumer module.

All of you living in the UK probably know about Innocent Drinks. Although I am not a big smoothie drinker I have started to love Innocent smoothies. My love for Innocent Drinks is of course boosted by the fact that their smoothies are made from 100% natural ingredients.

Wait, it doesn’t end there. During my research I came accross posts and news on the Innocent Drinks Foundation. http://www.innocentfoundation.org/

Lately, there has been a lot of debate about the importance and morality of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and sometimes it becomes difficult to tell whether a brand or an organisation is using CSR as merely a salad dressing or if they really want to give back to society.

In the Innocent case, 10% of their profit from sales goes to charity, most of it through an independent foundation called the Innocent Foundation.

The main aim of the Innocent Foundation is to offer long term support to places they source their ingredients, India being the most important.

Innocent drinks and the Innocent Foundation have been successful in developing innovative long term projects that support thousands of families in India and to lift themselves our of poverty.

Today CSR is a “buzz” word. The skeptics have noted that CSR has morphed into a multi-billion dollar public relations specialty.

Clearly, CSR does not always have the same outcomes as in the case of Innocent Drinks. There are and will always be, a number of brands who use this as a tool to increase goodwill and branding opportunities.

In case of innocent drinks it goes to show that with the right spirit, clean heart and good collaboration, it can really go a long way.

– Juhi

 

SILENCE IS NOT ALWAYS GOLDEN

There is an old adage “Silence is golden.” But is it always so?

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As a Public Relations student and having worked in the industry for 2+ years I have always learnt the importance of being proactive, and thus i have always learnt,  “silence is not always golden”

Crisis happen to everyone, don’t they?

From the BP, Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill to Cadbury and their worm infestation crisis. Or Coca-Cola’s disastrous re-launch of its Dasani water, which was pulled back in the UK. And then there was Toyota, which in 2009  recalled 3.8 million cars because of floor mats that trapped accelerator pedals, followed by an additional 400,000-vehicle recall four weeks later

PR blunders and crisis have always spread quickly. They got even worse with all the local radio and 24 TV news channels. Today, its gotten uncontrollable. In the social media age of Facebook and twitter where brands use this as the primary channel of communication in reaching out to their target audience it is increasingly becoming tedious for us PR professionals to deal with a crisis.  The one thing that I have learnt is never to remain silent in times of crisis.

I am not going to dwell on brand PR crisis instead I would like to highlight the horrific gang rape incident in New Delhi  that hit us Indian’s with shame and disgust.

Communicating with an audience has never been a strong point for the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. He managed to remain silent for a week before he made a public  appearance on the sorry episode —  also where he appeared  off-key.

The leader of the world’s largest democracy needed to connect emotionally with the public and ease the situation, needs but in this case he was found wanting. One only has to consider the contrasting response from US President Barack Obama to the recent Connecticut shooting of schoolchildren.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. The point I am trying to make is, SILENCE KILLS!

The way a brand or a party handles its crisis communication public relations in such instances is of critical importance. It is important you respond right away. As Public Relations professionals we are always taught the importance of dealing with PR blunders.

Below are a few points I consider important when dealing with a PR crisis:

  • NEVER avoid the media
  • If your brand or company is at fault, it is best to admit it right away if you can
  • Issue a statement, line up media interviews, show determination to resolve the crisis

These are a few I believe are the most important. I’m sure there are tons you can think of. Please leave a comment and let me know.

– Juhi

 

 

 

 

 

THE POWER OF GLITTER

I have often, actively been involved in debates in my previous job and during class lectures about the value of a celebrity when considering client campaigns and PR stunts. My perception has changed over the last couple of months.

A closer look at some of the recent PR campaigns for fashion and consumer brands indicate the growing number of celebrities fronting brand campaigns.

Whether it’s  Ed Sheeran and Lily Alen cleaning out their closets for charity, celebrities supporting campaigns for aids awareness or H&M signing on David Beckham for their latest underwear campaign, it seems that adding star power to a campaign adds resonance.

(This video is a property of the Black AIDS Institute)

As shoppers, we are surrounded with celebrity endorsements for everything we consume, from our coffee to the clothes we wear.

Does this mean a celebrity is the answer? Maybe Yes.

A brand when thinking of signing a celebrity on board needs to question whether the celebrity actually fits the brand image. Will consumers relate to the celebrity? After all the main motive of the celebrity is to engage the right audience.

Lately, Kate Middleton and the American First Lady, Michelle Obama, have been viewed endorsing fashion brands in their home countries. Does this mean PR consultants rely heavily on third party endorsements these days? Brands sign on celebrities to generate a buzz and create demand for their products. Celebrities are excellent for grabbing eyeballs and providing mass appeal. It can be argued however, as to how much the celebrity actually influences brand sales? Are celebrities actually a good return on investment?

There are individuals who soak up fashion culture and love buying into celebrity looks. We all know at least one person who loves buying into celebrity culture. Don’t we?

Do you think differently? Do you still believe in the old fashioned way of traditional PR?

Share your thoughts …

– Juhi

THE SOCIAL MEDIA WORLD OF FOOTBALL

Living with 2 and studying with 1 boy who  are football maniacs brings me a step closer to understanding how this industry operates.

Like many industries, the use of social media in football goes way beyond being simply a communication toll for publicity. This channel also provides revenue driving opportunities for football clubs.

Over the last few months i have learnt that team sponsorship deals can only be justified if the club manages to reach a bigger target audience and this highlights the importance of reaching international markets which sometimes becomes close to impossible through the old fashioned way of traditional PR.

Football clubs today are well established on social media networks, engaging the right audience, trying to establish themselves, in a way increasing opportunities by adding value to their sponsorship deals.

I have always learnt, content is king. Social media engagement must be relevant to the group, must be friendly and engaging, in a way attracting your audience to follow your news. It must also provide a two-way conversation, hence a designated role should be created to ensure the content is well-managed and well-timed.

Manchester City Football Club is considered one of the most proactive clubs when it comes to social networking, utilizing the obvious Facebook and Twitter networks along with Flickr, in which they encourage fans to share photography, which the club admits has helped inspire new PR campaigns.

For these football clubs, Social Media is a new tool to engage with fans both domestically and on a global level. Today football clubs use social media channels for market research, product testing, audience analysis and even crowd-sourcing new opportunities. Football Social Media aims to create more visibility, new revenues for merchandise and above all – a better relationship between the club and its fans.

My knowledge is limited when it comes to this game, so to all you football fans out there, let me know how you view this change. I’d Love to know.

And all you Londoners, lets enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

– Juhi

 

 

 

LEARNING’S FROM LADY GAGA

Lady Gaga is a celebrity figure who rose to stardom on the wings of social media. Take a look:

  • close to 60 million likes on her facebook page
  • over 30 million followers on twitter
  • winner of  5 Grammy Awards, among many other music awards
  •  #1 most powerful celebrity and #7 on its list of most powerful women by Forbes
  • It doesn’t end , the University of South Carolina has created a course, “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.”
  • Super, ain’t it? Let us all learn a thing or two from this.  What can Lady Gaga teach us about getting PR in a social media-driven world?

1. Strong Product– to begin with, Lady Gaga is not the greatest singer, although there’s no denying her talent.

A Public Relations strategy cannot succeed if the product is poor. A good product that your audience will pay for is the most important point to consider.

2. Stand out from your competition: From her meat dress to explicit videos, she is not afraid to shock and stir controversy.

3. Create your own news: Gone are the days when you need to rely solely on traditional media channels to publish your news. Social media platforms like facebook, twitter, Pinterest, blogs and YouTube channels help keep your audience news up-to-date with news announcements.

4. Success doesn’t happen overnight: Did you know,  Lady Gaga started out playing in small lounges in NYC. Social media success doesn’t come easy. timely posting of news and other content helps build a brand and attract your target audience.

What other lessons do you think can we learn from Lady Gaga to help us improve our PR? Share your thoughts?

– Juhi

WHEN TALKING ISN’T ENOUGH

Ever heard of the nudge theory?

This concept puts a tag on influences that preserve freedom of choice without engaging the influences. Nudge is a concept that is increasingly being used in Public Relations and marketing.

Behavioural economist Richard Thaler and law scholar Cass Sunstein popularised the term ‘nudge’ in a 2008 book of the same title.

‘Nudge’ is based on research by behavioral economists who discovered, people can be steered towards superior decisions for themselves – and society – by changing the way choices are presented. The idea behind this strategy is to cleverly  influence behavior with targeted nudges rather than more red tape.

This concept has gained momentum in different sectors affecting our every day lives, be it the the public health or the private sector. Deep inside every corporate brand there’s a team thinking up ways to ”nudge” you to behave differently without you even knowing it.

“Nudges are ways of influencing choice without limiting the choice set or making alternatives appreciably more costly in terms of time, trouble, social sanctions, and so forth. They are called for because of flaws in individual decision-making, and they work by making use of those flaws.” (Hausman & Welch 2010, 126)
This strategy plays a crucial role in influencing citizens towards a more positive path pushing under the rug negative aspects of the game. Supermarkets and grocery stores

 use them all the time in the guise of sales, specials, introductory offers and two-for-one deals. Often simple strategies – such as breaking the cost of a good or service into small portions – can be effective. Notice how they place candy and other tiny attractive items at the close to cash counters?

Research into consumer behavior is constantly uncovering new and more sophisticated nudges for businesses to try.

Researchers at Cornell University’s Centre for Hospitality Research found that removing dollar signs from menu price lists (20 instead of $20) in an upmarket New York restaurant increased sales. Another study found that items at the beginning, or the end, of a menu category list were up to twice as popular as when they were placed in the centre of the list.

It’s a fascinating strategy that can be used in so many different ways.
Experienced it? I’m sure you have.
– Juhi

PR – A WOMEN DOMINATED PROFESSION ?

In an economy where women on an average still earn 77 cents to every dollar a man earns, Public Relations, however  is women dominated, particularly in recent decades.

All of which may explain why  people often think of Samantha Jones, from Sex & the city as the perfect PR professional

While she is entertaining and chic, she is in no way our profession’s top role model. The image however persists for various reasons.

According to latest membership figures released by the Institute of Public Relations (IPR), women now outnumber men by 60:40 – a massive swing since 1987, when figures highlighted the opposite at 20:80.

I am proud of the above mentioned statics, but I am also cognizant of the fact that there are still far too few women in senior leadership positions. While men continue to run away from our profession at the entry level, a massive number still operate at the board level, but for how much longer?

According to Gidon Freeman, Editor of PR Week, the gender readership split for the industry’s magazine has moved even more in favor of women, but he’s not at all surprised by this. “PR is all about developing relationships and bringing influence to bear, which historically women have always mastered better than men,” he says.

Ragan Communications put out a segment last year about how women dominate the PR industry, discussing the reason why women may be better suited to work in PR. Silvia Davi, VP of corporate communications at NASDAQ; Alayna Francis, VP of communications at Swiss Re; and Gemma Craven, senior VP Ogilvy.

See what they have to say about this:

Wishing everyone a happy Easter.

– Juhi

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO GOOD OLD PR

Even before a cup of coffee, i grab my phone and check for texts, emails and social media updates.

Does this describe you?

A whopping 90 percent of people use their smartphone first thing in the morning, often before they get out of bed, according to the Cisco Connected World Technology Report.

We’re truly in a connected world.  You may be reading this post on your smartphone right now.

Like it or not, it is affecting the way PR functions! Because Public Relations and social media are interconnected, the question PR professionals these days encounter is, Are you tech savvy enough??! Whatever happened to good old PR.

PR professionals need more technical skills than ever before. Today, it is all about getting your clients news out in the open on different social media channels. Blogs, twitter feeds, facebook likes and instagram pictures is what its all about.

PR professionals these days deal with requests like creating social media profiles for brands/clients, timely posting on social media networks, monitoring client coverage online, tracking tweets and facebook likes, uploading videos to YouTube, uploading press releases with photos to a online site, publish blog posts and so on. It is a never ending social cycle.

Some of these run-of-the-mill tech tasks we’re carried about by designated technical teams, but today they’re considered ordinary tasks PR professionals deal with in their day to day work lives.

I view this as a rather challenging period for us PR professionals. It opens doors  to work even more closely with your client, harnessing the power of old media while staying up-to-date with the rising  social media trends.

How do you view this change? Drop me a note id love to know.

-Juhi

STORYTELLING: BEST LEFT TO PR’s ?

“I had to know and understand my own story before I could listen to and help other people with theirs.” – Barack Obama, US President

“Once people make your story their story, you have tapped into ‘faith’.” – Seth Godin, US Entrepreneur, Public speaker

Brand storytelling isn’t a new method of communication. With the increase in number of social media outlets and content marketing, storytelling has become a strategic priority.

Marketing professionals have created stories for years through advertising and in person brand selling experiences. The art of creative and effective storytelling for brand stories as online content is a challenge that very few are trained to do.

Brands now hire PR agencies, specialized in managing social media content, to actively manage the way they consume content. Brands now choose how and when they engage with their consumers through stories and online content.

Effective Storytelling brings a brand to life. In today’s social media crazy world Facebook, twitter, instagram and pinterest give brands a voice and become a storytelling  stage where conversations happen and relationships are nourished.

monsterdrinks Monster Energy Drinks (the #2 selling energy drink brand in the world) is a great example of effective storytelling.

Packaging, design and innovation are a given, but it is the story that the brand is weaving, each flavor being different from the other, that sets it apart in the booming energy drinks market. Monster energy drinks is clear about its positioning in the market, the audience they aim to reach out to – aimed at targeting sports enthusiasts ( young males ) .

It is this story that sets it apart from the other energy drinks in the market. PR definitely plays a crucial role in narrating this creative story.

Monster is one such example, I’m sure as your read my post each one you can come up with at least one brand that you believe is an example of effective storytelling.

Let me know whats on your mind 🙂

– It’s almost Friday, happy weekend y’all!

– Juhi

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