27 August 2008

10 rules for brand builders in the age of social media

\Market madness\

Last week, the Public Relations Consultants Association of India called me for a panel discussion on, "Social Media--Its Impact & Challenges."
Luckily, my home PC conked out and I had an official excuse to skip a PowerPoint presentation. After a long-drawn, patient do-it-yourself kind of persuasion by Rajesh Lalwani of Blogworks (who has emerged as a pioneering figure in approaching blogs from the other side of the media fence!), and some words of wisdom from Nikhil Pahwa of Medianama (who sounded more like a good investigative journalist than a I-am-having-fun blogger), I got to speak --and felt a bit like the Prime Minister speaking in parliament on a bridge in Nagaland: half-the house had left. But then, I decided to have fun and rolled on with a 10-point programme for brand-builders, written on the back of the invite-sheet for the session (Backs of envelopes are hopelessly out of vogue, you know!).
So here are my 10 points..actually there are only 9 but I made up the last to complete the magic number.
Here goes my two pennies for brand builders, modified on the fly as I write it. I tentatively called it "Blogs and Banter in the world of brands" -- so the rest of the social media gets mentioned only in passing.

1) Blogs are not about the media, but about democracy

Everyone is a reporter, you know. You gotta deal with it. Imagine a world where everyone had a secret diary which everyone else could read. It is nearly that bad.

2) Blogs are not about recall -- they are about reputation

"Recall" is a 20th Century expression, smugly portrayed by ad men and monopolistic publishers and broadcasters. People will remember your brand, but HOW THEY FEEL depends on what these blogger types think. Think about it.

3) Blogs wear pyjamas

No blue-suits, pinstripes, jhola-carrying kurta journalists, whatever...blogs tend to be informal in general, and defy stereotypes. Media persons and professional corporate-types blog, but so do NRI moms, housewives, whoever..and guess what? Everyone mentions brands, somewhere, somehow. Go figure.

4) It ain't just about blogs; instruments abound in the world of social media

E-mails are part of it all-- if someone forwards them (they do!). Chats, RSS Feeds, widgets, Twitter, social networking pages, random remarks, discussion forums, message boards. Sounds complex? It is simple, really--instruments have multiplied, like TV channels and mushrooming PR agencies. (If some of the things mentioned in these instruments sound alien, it is time for you to learn)

5) Influence the influencers

Does it matter if it is Kantabai, the most glam maid in your block, sending a vernacular SMS? Things are getting there, sooner or later. You've got to understand. Special correspondents are kind of passe (I am trying to be humble, you see!)

6) Kill the press release, make corporate blogs happen

Tell your clients to type. Ghost-write, if they insist. I see a future in which the informality of the medium must be matched by a counter-informality. Google has already done it with its blogs. I am told the world follows Google these days. Even Bill Gates does.

7) Beware of mobiles and big mouths

I have kind of hinted this already. Somebody, somewhere is talking about those brands and it is not all systematic. I have coined a term called "feed-on" to replace "feedback" (I have written a separate post on it)
Market research, word-of-mouth, customer referrals happen on the go over the Net to just about anyone, not necessary companies or dealers or shopkeepers. And mobile handsets, cheaper by the day, will make it all multiply. Confused? You should be.

8) It is not about relationships. It is about Truth, Transparency and Tact

Okay, the PR profession must now stop behaving like lawyers. Hee, hee. You gotta face the truth and tell it like it is. It was always this way, but now you have NO PLACE TO HIDE. Some quantity of spin may just be allowed, though. If you are lucky.

9) Mix now, fix later

Be yourself. That point number eight about relationships ain't all over but relations only help you take the message forward, not fudge the message.

10) Read MediaWatch India

(That is the name of this blog and it needed to be mentioned in order to take the number of points to 10. Not sure if it will improve my brand).

End of story. Comments welcome.

25 August 2008

In the age of Internet, 'feedback' is out, 'feed-on' is in

Just for a lark, as I spoke to some public relations professinals the other day, I invented a word: "feed-on"..in response to somebody, who was asking about customer "feedback"
I am reminded my younger days, when some Delhi shopkeepers had a nice-lil board that said: "If you are not satisfied, tell us. If you are satisfied, tell others!"

These guys must make more sense in the age of Internet, where customer bad-mouthing can take wings and fly over emails, blog posts and sites like MoutShut that specialise in customer opinion. I have seen message boards in social networking sites raving and ranting about bad customer service or instances of short-changing.
Word-of-mouth loops have an authentic ring to them.
A decade ago (Sigh! During those pre-dotcom-bust days!) I attended the launch of a company that fancied itself as having a business model through the Web to connect companies to customers. It was called Planet Customer. It even went through a merger! Here is the story.
And then, the company disappeared. Here is what I found when I clicked the original URL: Just a plain domain site.
Where are you guys, when your dream is happening?

19 August 2008

Kyunki Ekta bhi kabhi Murdoch ki thi?

I just remarked in an editorial meeting today: Wasn't that supplier's credit? In the world of manufacturing, a client helps a supplier with advance payment,like a loan. I suspect the stake that Star TV had in Balaji Telefilms, which has now been bought back is nothing but a smart loan disguised as an equity stake.
I may be overstating the case, but given the non-exclusive nature of Ekta Kapoor's soap factor (she will supply similar-sounding three-handkerchief weepies for anyone who kkkkkcares), it did not make strategic sense for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to hang on. Content is increasingly outsourced to independent vendors, and Balaji and Star must have realised it all. But it must be said that the deal was good while it lasted. A soap queen was born and the frothy weepies gave market leadership to Star.
A Kool Kase of Kash-ing in and Kash-ing out?

17 August 2008

The Medium and the Massage

I have to say a lot, but I am saying very little. This blog has been silent for a week, not in spite of, but because of too much going on in my head. At work, yes -- and that took away my time. My computer was acting up both at home and work --- and that took away my convenience.
But more important, I attended a television awards seminar and function, visited a Hindi newspaper's swank office and chanced by the studio of a well-known channel to meet a friend. Yet, I have not found the time to pour out what I saw and felt.
Above all, I had this experience of an anonymous commenter saying this blogger was "full of yourself" -- which provoked thought -- even if I were to dismiss it as the ranting of a PR person upset over my criticism of her/his tribe (as the post was at the end of a caustic reference to PR)
Of course, this blog does reflect my view of things, but then, this was the right moment to pause. I need to figure out why people see "me" when I see an "it!".
I have learnt a lot writing this blog -- about readers, viewers, peers, partners, technology, Internet and myself.
I have been deeply disappointed -- but not surprised -- by the lack of numbers in comments but then this is because this is not a gossipy blog and it is not even newsy in the what's-in-it-for-me sense that most careerists seek out the media these days, irrespective of what career they are in.
Time was when the media was about a large, wide social interface, and time was when issues were discussed in a broader context.
The movement of this blog gives me a lot about what has changed.
I have also learnt hell of a lot about blogging itself -- and what it can mean to people of various kinds. To that extent, I see it as successful experiment.
No money, no ads, not even rah-rah comments by the dozens. But I still feel richer. There must be something to it.

7 August 2008

US journalists became self-indulgent, says Murdoch

I am not done with the Murdoch visit to India yet. Always looking for telling quotes from the man, whose furrowed forehead and creased smile attracts me as much as his insights into the business.
Here is my takeaway quote from the visit:
Newspapers in America became
monopolistic. Proprietors became lazy, and journalists became self-indulgent because they were writing for each other and lost touch with the public.

Full interview
story from CNBC -TV 18 here

Career challenges for journos in the Age of Convergence

Three years ago, I had made a presentation to media students in Bangalore about prospects and challenges in the age of the Internet in a booming economy. I find a lot of it relevant -- in fact more relevant than in 2005, when I made it.

Uploaded on authorSTREAM by madhavan

6 August 2008

Time-Warner segregates content from carriage

The message is clear.

Nearly a decade ago, Steve Case was the big man at America On Line, which, like a tail wagging the dog, acquired one of the world's most reputed media content companies, Time -Warner Inc, because AOL owned the Net connections that would carry content to homes.
Then came the dot-com bust...and then Web 2.0 and all that. It is now clear that content and carriage of content need not be, and in fact, better not be, in the same company.
AOL's carriage part is being separated from the content part.
This is the future of the Net - and indeed the media.
A few decades ago, publishers owned presses.
One decade ago, the pipe-wallahs took content.
Not any more.
My next prediction: Ad sales will be increasingly separated from content. It is happening already on the Web with publishers and ad networks working as partners, and not as one entity.
Why can't that happen to old-world old media houses?
I see it happening, though the pace could be painfully slow.

Nice and cynical...

5 August 2008

Murdoch's baraat goes to Bharat: And what's his message for Indian media barons?

So Rupert Murdoch is going to invest $100 million in India's regional language channels.
I already watch Vijay TV in Tamil in which he has a hand through Star TV. He is now up for Saam TV in Marathi and Asianet in Malayalam, we are told.
This man knows his long-term onions.
I watched Star Plus grow from a 50-50 joint venture with Subhash Chandra's Zee TV that had a strong contract which limited Hindi content, before the relationship ended. Subhashji got rich, but guess what Mr. Murdoch got?
Two things: 1) Freedom 2) Ground-level knowledge.
I do believe that a serial like Kora Kagaz, which ran in the constricted Star TV, as the forerunner of the famous mother-in-law soaps that took Star Plus to new heights.
If I were an Indian media baron, I would be floating a joint venture with other regional satraps.
You know, cricket is not the only thing Australians are good at.

4 August 2008

Is the Net making media investment laws obsolete?

"A lot of countries have restrictions in the media, but with the expansion of the Internet, the rules are getting ridiculous."

"I think in time these rules will be done away with."

--Rupert Murdoch in Mumbai, quoted by Reuters

Here is the story

Journalism books --Easy at Google

Amazing how Google is enriching us in so many ways. I have to grudgingly acknowledge its glory, even though it is becoming a monster of sorts. I have discovered how the books part of Google can help you locate tomes by the dozen on your favourite topic. For instance, I just typed 'journalism' in the books link and it threw up immediately a neat pile of searches, which, unlike the usual Web search, is focused and very rich. Here is what I came up with. I am truly impressed.

3 August 2008

The Power of Google--loved this cartoon!


Arushi and the return of the responsibility debate

It is becoming clear that the Arushi murder case in Noida has become a test case in measuring the (ir)responsibility of journalists. The television channels that went overboard in 2007 in their zealous search for television rating points (TRPs) and/or that Big Big Story are facing criticism across the board.
An article by Indira Jaisingh, an eminent lawyer, in today's edition of The Hindu makes that point with the following intro.
"While freedom of the press is vital to retain accountability in the judicial system, the thin line between reporting facts and expressing opinions on them is being increasingly crossed, as it happened recently in the Aarushi murder case. What about accountability to those whose reputations are being damaged in the process?"
Libel laws are weak in India, and even more weak are institutions that disseminate information, such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the police, which often brief the media without knowing the consequences of what they are doing.
Who is going to bell the cat? Certainly not article-writers. I wonder if the Press Council of India can act on its own (suo-motto, as they say in the judiciary).

1 August 2008

The Future of News--debated by ad guys (er, where were the newsies?)

\Ad-libbing news\

The good news on news: somebody was discussing its future.
The bad news on news: there was no newsperson on the dais.
Sounds funny?
Here is the release. If you see it carefully, it is full of ad-biz folks. Nothing wrong with that. But surely, one would expect a hands-on news person to have a thing or two to say there.
Reminds me of the famous Sherlock Holmes story-- where the clue was in the dog that did not bark.
The invitation sent to me earlier mentioned editors among panelists, but apparently they were too busy making or breaking news elsewhere to turn up here.

Here is the news--oops, the release.

New Delhi, August 1, 2008 – afaqs!, India’s leading advertising, media and marketing website, hosted a conference on “The Future of News”. Speakers discussed and debated the prospects of both the content as well as the business of news in New Delhi on August 1, 2008.

The event has come at a time when the very definition of news is changing as is the way in which it is delivered. Unusually, the conference discussed the morphing nature of news across media: be it print, TV, online or mobile.

Among the topics discussed by well known media professionals and marketers were the abundance of news, the localisation of content and whether it translates into revenue, why investors are funding news, an inquiry into revenue streams beyond advertising, a look at how digital content can pay for itself, and whether the tabloidisation of news is affecting the way advertisers view the news genre.

Sreekant Khandekar, Director, afaqs!, said “The consensus of the speakers of the conference seem to be that we will be flooded with even more news brands in all media. We haven’t seen anything. There will be need for many different types of news and many different brands will be born to service those needs.”
Eminent personalities like Ajit Balakrishnan, Founder and chairman, Rediff.com; Lakshmikant Gupta, Chief Marketing Officer, LG Electronics; Punitha Arumugam, Chief Executive Officer, Madison India; Ravi Kiran, Chief Executive Officer, Starcom; Santosh Desai, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Future Brands; Shashi Sinha, Chief Executive Ofiicer, Lodestar Universal; Rajesh Jain, Managing Director, Netcore Solutions; Salil Pitale, Head – Media & Telecom, Enam Investment Banking; Shubhodip Pal, Head Marketing, Consumer - Personal Systems Group, Hewlett Packard addressed the conference.

Turn Anything Into a Screenplay--Wired's Wiki shows you how

I stumbled on this rather hilarious, but insightful, piece on how to write screenplays.
1) It seems pithy and funny, but not without wisdom
2) It shows the power of Wiki -- this from Wired mag's how-to wiki
3) It shows how we are in the age of "knowledge manufacturing" -- from reverse engineering of high-value patent drugs to movie screenplays, there are people out there who will crack your formula.

There is a nakedness you feel when tricks of the trade are up there on the Web.
Creatitivity must reinvent itself now!

Here is the piece:

"'If you follow''' the advice of screenwriting guru Robert McKee, almost anything can be made into a great story — even, say, Slashdot, the site run by Rob Malda (aka CmdrTaco).

'''1. Create a protagonist.''' CmdrTaco lives on Netopia, where his people, an enslaved race called the Bots, are forced to feed information into the Great OS.

'''2. Establish what the protagonist wants.''' CmdrTaco wants to be free.

'''3. Be sure to have an antagonist.''' CmdrTaco fears the evil Regional Information Acquiring Agency (RIAA), which polices Netopia for rebels.

'''4. Decide what the antagonist wants.''' The RIAA knows that the only way to keep the Bots enslaved is to stifle all attempts to share data.

'''5. You need a conflict to drive the plot.''' CmdrTaco has to free the enslaved Bots or die.

'''6. Don't forget a beginning, a middle, and an end.''' CmdrTaco escapes the capital, Vistopolis (in a car chase you really have to see to believe). He then tells the Bots of Netopia to log on to the Great OS and simultaneously upload the most useless piece of data in the galaxy: "/." Overwhelmed, the Great OS explodes, taking the RIAA with it.