Thursday, 20 August 2009


1. Upfront attitude - a high level of honesty, integrity and transparency go a long way, a very long way in your career.

2. Easy accessibility - with technology in your palm and on your fingertips, there is really no excuse.

3. Reliability - you owe it to yourself, to the identity you have carved for yourself and to the brand you represent.

4. Exchange information relevant to new ideas - nurture the media, be nurtured by their exposure to a wide range of issues and develop a winsome two-way information & knowledge sharing street.

5. Give complete information - Tailor make it and often go beyond the brief.

6. From reporter to senior editor, treat everyone with respect - Today's cub reporter will be tomorrow's editor.

7. Adhere to timelines, however acute they may be - this may just be the single most important reason that keeps you in news and your competition out of it.

8. Be genuinely friendly and not falsely flattering - believe me when I say that people can see through the sham.

9. Be professional - would you like to be any other way!

10. Always be interested - in people, in issues, in the news, in your job. The six inquisitive men are, then, your best friends for life.


Prabhjot Bedi, Founder-Editor of and Proprietor of Eclat Institute of Hospitality Management - Chandigarh, saw a nice article on hospitality public relations and asked me to send in my comments (

Prabhjot thinks they make an interesting read. If you are in PR then its obvious why, but, perhaps all hoteliers should be looking at developing PR skills. This is it.

So here follow my high-five for an effective Hospitality PR Expert -

1. Develop multi-level skills set - You need to be a good writer, good with graphics and creatives for all your marcomm needs, good event organiser, tech savvy and with a bit of finance and business acumen in order to understand the bottomline well and add your spin to it.

2. Nose for news - When writing press releases and backgrounders ensure that your pitch has a high news value for both the target audience and the vehicle you want to see it carried in. Otherwise you just end up wasting paper and the journalists time who then would subject your release to the waste basket treatment.

3. FACE & THE BODY - Since you are the face of your organisation that interfaces with a wide range of publics - from heads of state to the celeb clientele to the media - you need to have well-honed social skills, be charming in your demeanour and engaging in your conversations. At the same time, since you are also the dogsbody that carries out the nitty gritties of the PR functions, you need to be always on the ball to keep the PR machinery well-oiled and running, seemingly, effortlessly. Being like the duck that seems calm on the surface but paddles madly underneath, is then a virtue.

4. KNOW IT ALL - You must have a thorough understanding of the various operations of your business. Definitely what keeps Sales & Marketing, Food & beverage, Catering, HR ticking but you must also be in cahoots with the Security Chief, Engineering Head, Housekeeping people, the interior, art or flower expert, the Purchasing Head - in order to keep all your ten fingers on the various pulses and be well equipped to develop interesting, multifarious story angles aimed at a plethora of publications.

5. Be Locally sound and Globally propelled - since you work in an international industry and are also driven to market your specific destination, being international in your approach at the same time being a great cultural ambassador is a major plus.

While on this subject, I would like to share Charlotte Novom's views on the FIVE musts for effective public relations that have appeared in hotelworld NETWORK ( -

Public relations and marketing communications have taken on an entirely new level of importance in recent years. With the popularity of social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, and the application of mobile messaging, electronic message distribution and many other 2.0 methods, public relations has a dramatic new face and the potential for driving even more dramatic revenue-producing results.

As a hotel operator, it is important to grasp the importance of this new role. Your message needs to be clearly crafted and tailored to specific audiences—and message consistency remains paramount. Your communication methods must be geared to the audiences’ preferred way of consuming information. In today’s economy, you need to focus on public relations because well-conceived plans can influence business results more effectively and at a significantly lower cost than advertising. It is also true that public relations allow you to speak directly to the customer in a personal tone that motivates prospects to take action. Finally, your public relations campaigns can be measured.

Consider these “Five Musts” for effective public relations today:

Think with vision. Make your positioning extend through to every message point you or your agency communicates. Nobody has time for a boring message.

Maintain an active press release schedule. Press releases, which came to be thought of as less effective than the direct pitch to a specific journalist, are now quite valuable. They populate the Internet with your product name and in today’s fast-paced communications environment, they often become a primary research tool used by journalists to write their stories.

Invest in and use technology to save time and increase your understanding of the reach of your message. Articles in the press can become “test marketing” tools and help you refine your broader marketing goals and strategies. Some agencies subscribe to highly sophisticated database management and news retrieval systems that allow you to view the penetration of the message down to the neighborhood level.

Measure results. Ensure that your PR department or agency is providing you with a strategic analysis of results. A listing of articles, copies of these and the calculation of audience impressions and approximate advertising value are the standard. Regard your PR professionals as your collaborators, engaging them fully in shaping strategy and implementing your organization’s plan.

Embrace the Web 2.0 world. Integrate your messages and deliver them through planned multiple distribution channels.

(Pictures courtesy - AND

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The three components of good management!

What is more important in good management -- education (knowing why), training (knowing how) or experience (knowing when)- a friend asked sometime back.

I would say that it has to be a composite of all three.

Good education is like a strong foundation. It is a resource that you keep dipping into consciously, sub-consciously and unconsciously all through your work life.

Training is like the cement and mortar that fortify the structure of your house (you in this case). You keep adding suitable inputs given the kind of outcome you wish to see.

Finally, experience is the beautiful structure that you have built / acquired through years of slogging and tilling away in the right direction.

And I do agree with the others that for a well rounded management, you need to add understanding, compassion, wisdom, adaptability, humour, MBWA, lead by example, Gestalt and fore and farsightedness.

(Picture courtesy - Google images)

Monday, 20 July 2009


Summer of 2001 is finely etched in my memory as one of the finest. I was selected for a cultural-ambassadorial fellowship to the US of A by the Rotary Foundation under the aegis of Rotary International. This meant that I, along with four others were sent to Washington DC and the State of Maryland on a red carpet for a really VIP trip. The agenda was to familiarise the decision makers and opinion leaders of these two geographical locations with the culture, the heritage as well as the charm of contemporary India. As a quid pro quo, we were allowed to be keen and close observers of the quintessential American culture and lifestyle. This was a five week programme, but I decided to extend it to a four month stay travelling from the east to the west coast and spending sizeable time in places like Florida, LA, San Francisco and New York in addition to the two mentioned above. With invaluable help from my boss at the time and the one more recently so, I managed to turn it into a busman's holiday as I not only experienced the American way of life at close hand but also got to meet important hoteliers and stay at some of the nicest hotels......... Ritz Carlton, Pasadena; The Campton Place and Fairmont, San Francisco and The Pierre, New York.

But back to the American culture. It was in Frisco that I was hugely entertained and amused. For something to click, it is always about being in the right place at the right time. And I happened to be in this lively city at the time of the Gay Pride Parade. Having heard enough about it and not wanting to miss it for the world, I coaxed my husband's cousin on the said morning and off we trotted to the area where all the action was to happen. Once there, my Asian sensibilities were teased by the occidental forthrightness. I saw handsome men baring their well rounded bottoms, revealed cannily in strategically snipped leather pants. The toned bottoms were then used to talk about the gay-issue-of-the-day. A few steps on to the Union Square, and I was greeted by the frontal view of a lesbian beauty in the nude (covered tantalisingly with the bare minimum of faux fur), who had used her bountifulness for yet another bold, in-the-face, in-the-eye message on the strong take on her personal preferences.I was quite taken in by America's ingenuity in this exercise of branding & marketing.

On another trip, this time a pure vacation, my husband and I found ourselves slaking our thirst at the famous and naughty Hooter's Bar in Interlaaken. The sprightly, gym-toned waitresses are known, not only to satiate the thirst and hunger of the guests, but also titillate their other senses as they go about flitting in body hugging cropped tees and hot pants. Their well-endowed bosoms are used to full effect to advertise the famous Hooter's Bar logo, thereby leaving an indelible impression on the consumer. Playboy bunnies have been better known to use their twin assets to advertise the company they represent.

Come World Soccer time and we see the choicely shaved heads becoming billboards for advertising the various teams as passionate fans campaign for their faves. The act is so sacred that die-hard fans cut, colour and create mind-boggling hair styles as they sacrifice their hair at the altar of idol worship.

Even in the subcontinent, just as in every other part of the world, the female fans too trade their much-coveted make-up routine for face art as they go about getting their country flags painted on this very visible medium.

So that's back, front, face, head of the human anatomy ingenuously used by the advertising and marketing world.

Very recently I read reports of the latest bastion conquered by advertising. It is called Pitvertising and it uses the arm pit as the possible backdrop for advertising for deodorants. Simply brilliant and mind blowing, I think.

Man's reach in advertising has known no bounds - under water, giant air balloons set soaring in the sky, food packaging, kiosks, bill boards, airwaves, the tele medium, camouflaged as news, insides of public toilets, poly wraps that magazines get couriered in, air ticket jackets, birthday coupons, landscaping done creatively to convey a message, steps to or the wall by a holy shrine, tea stall shed, back of a car, front of a cart, train sides, plane sides, cycle carriers, scooter stepneys (spare tyre at the back), pouches of new products stuck messily inside popular magazines, book jackets publicising other books, patches of pitch on sporting grounds sacrificed to the might and the moolah of advertising............

The accent and onslaught of advertising is everywhere. Everywhere where the eye can see, the ear can hear, the nose can smell, the hand can touch, the mind can feel, the tongue can taste..............

The deluge is devastating. Eating into the mind scape, relentlessly. You laud some efforts and then you loathe some, but you cannot remain impervious to any.

Most you have come to terms with and accepted as a way of life, as it were.

But you need to raise an alarm when some things sacrosanct enough begin to get threatened. Like the sky above that has come to mean so many different things to us at different times of our life - sun-kissed sky, a cloudy sky, a rain-soaked sky, a clear blue sky etc. etc. A muse for poets and writers, a source of inspiration for others, a sign of faith for the believer and just a matter of fact for the agnostic.

But now, we have flogos coming up. Short for floating clouds, flogos are meant to be logos of companies shot out like clouds in the sky for everybody to see and hence to maximise the eyeball capture. "Flogos are a revolutionary new way to market your event or business," proudly state companies who deal in this line of business.

"Its not a bird. Its not a plane. Its Flogos," state some others. Brainchild of designers behind companies characteristically named as Snow Masters and Foam Masters, FLOGOS, according to me are a bright idea gone bad. A spot of brilliance turned devious in this big bad world of commercial success.

Companies are bound to lap it up, given their incredible reach. But it touches a raw nerve. It hits on to a space that has been held sacred by all, almost universally. With children getting robbed of their innocence in today's texted, short messaging world, here's another pitfall that takes away from traditional lore and the romanticism of the bygone era.

When we were young, we went to play in the outdoors, picnics were a fun activity, we had real time friends, we wrote letters, we went to the parks and museums, we had excursions as part of our botany classes, chasing butterflies in the daffodils or mustard fields was playful activity with cousins during vacations, zoos were places for a Sunday visit with parents, we squealed at the sight of the rainbow across the sky and shot up a silent wish.

Now we send SMSes, we have play stations, Second Lives, virtual friends, Facebook / MySpace / Orkut relationships, virtual pet Societies. We give Endangered Hugs virtually, develop our own and friends' green patches on our personal computers without having to pick up a shovel and get our hands dirty.

Given the disassociation and dispassion of the new world, it is a miracle that we still can talk of a sunny day, a rain-soaked morning spent indoors, a clear sky with wisps of white cotton wool clouds or a cloudy one garbed by the dark nimbus.

But not for long. With flogos looming large over the heretofore pristine sky, we can all look forward to telling our kids what the real clouds looked like when their sight was unmitigated by the ugliness of these fake ones that assume the shape of companies that pay for their genesis.

Let the debate begin. Clear sky vs the one fed with flogos? Let the good man win, in this tussle between the ethics and everything-goes.

Lets flog the flogos before they fester or else be flooded by this fascinatingly fiendish new medium.

(Picture courtesy - Google images)

Would you rather work in a progressive organization and achieve more or stay put in a mediocre one striving to improve it?

We all have worked in both kind of organisations. There, really, is no ideal organisation and every place has its mixed dynamics as much as there are a matrix of people who work there and bring in their set of values, drives and energies adding to or depleting the corporate culture.

I used to lament about the deep-rooted politics, credit-stealing, clique driven and yes-man culture in my last organisation. And now when my niece (adopted daughter) talks of her experience with a Swiss MNC or a progressively Indian Legal Services sector, I notice that things are not very different.

I am sure, most of us want to work with wonderfully progressive organisations with utopian work environments without realising that each of us are essential cogs in the corporate wheel.

My experience says that we need to do a lot of internalisation and introspection in order to make our organisations optimum places to be in.

Yet, having said all this, when the going gets really tough (and absolutely against your grain) then the tough get going (to find another place under the sun).
(Picture courtesy - Husein & Go-Devil-Dante -

Sunday, 19 July 2009

How Does One Feel About The Efforts of One's Co-Workers?

A Mixed bag of thoughts and feelings depending on the personal and professional characteristics of the person in question.

There are great and efficient workers with questionable personal attributes.
There are excellent people with poor set of work related skills.
There are pathetic workers with deplorable personas, AND
There are wonderful, top notch colleagues with exemplary attitudes.

No organisation is immune to this awesome foursome of categories.

Our response to them, our dymamics of equations at work and the matrix of relationships therein is a result of the chain of reactions set off by each of these conductors.

Isn't it???
(Picture courtesy - Claudio Ricciardelli, Anita Overgaard Hansen & Ragged Robin -

What would you prefer in an employee, if you had to choose only one? Why?

Here's my pick -
It is definitely, Passion, Zeal, Enthusiasm, fire in the belly........and any other name that you may call it by.

Passion for ones work ensures that the tiller paves smoothly all the paths that lead to his work or Goal. Be it, then, the path of wisdom or desire or honesty or punctuality or efficiency or being not just able to lead but always blend well with the team.

And because one has the passion, it certainly means that one has made sure that the essential requisites that arm him well for the road ahead - such as education or experience - are well honed.

Likewise, while passion can make people feel flighty, it still is going to ensure that for the success to be achieved again and again, shades of wisdom are roundly and squarely employed.

Finally, if it weren't for passion, then serendipity, creative genius, excellence, going beyond the brief and the marvel in the mundane would well be lost.

(Picture courtesy - D. Stodart & deviously idiot -

Hotel industry seems to be shy selling its product except some seasonal offers in fine print? Do we agree?

A lady working for a marketing firm asked me recently. And this is what I had to say -
"Not at all. As with any other product, hotels too are extremely discerning about their target audience, the messages they want to put out and the vehicles they choose to put those messages out in.

Internet is a very popular vehicle as a new media. Weblogs, banners, company's own website, tie-ups with booking engines and other travel companies are common options.

Depending on the geographical location of the end user, hotels have also used the traditional media rampantly, including the extremely expensive option of advertising in mainline media - think International Herald Tribune, Conde Nast, Travel & Leisure, L'Art de Voyager, Vanity Fair AND closer to home The Times Of India, Hindustan Times, India Today and the like.

But straight advertising in mainline media or travel trade publications may not get the desired eyeballs and volume driven traffic due to the publications' mass and non-specific reach.

Hence hotels end up using other avenues prolifically, such as Direct Marketing, tie-up with related business group such as credit card companies (depending on the profile of the hotel and its target audience the continuum would run from AMEX Platinum or VISA Platinum to SBI Card), appearance in travel companies' directories and brochures etc.

On account of the allocation of marketing budgets and the need, hotels draw up a matrix plan that includes both the old and new advertising and promotional techniques."

By posting my thoughts on the blog, I welcome all views - agreeing with mine or in dissent. :-)
(Picture courtesy - Lauren E. Simonutti & Mark Erickson -


My piece on Success Mantras, given below, has appeared on Prabhjot Singh Bedi's career-related website -

Prabhjot is a Hospitality professional, trainer and life coach.

GUEST POST| 3 Attributes of Success

Aruna is an experienced Corporate Communications, Marketing Communications and Public Relations professional with 15 years of experience in the Diplomatic and Hospitality industry.

I asked her to do an article on 3 Attributes of Success.

As a keen observer of people from different walks of life and their behaviour, I have come to the conclusion that success is not only the life-force of an Identity, but that it is also subjective.

While to the world, in its most generic manifestation, the rich entrepreneurs and businessmen, the heads of organizations, famous people in sports, media and entertainment are all supremely successful, I have a skewed view on that. To my mind the cobbler-by-the-street corner who has been practicing his craft over all these years and has become the colony favourite is a successful man. The deft nurse who gets asked for by most of the patients, who does her work with utmost sincerity to the Hippocratic Oath and ably assists the doctor in saving may lives yet many a times remains nameless, is a successful health provider. The teacher who has earned a reputation of churning out students who go on to become stars in their chosen profession yet she stays on at the same school year after year content with practicing her job to the best of her knowledge and with a rare sense of commitment, is a highly successful Guru.

Many years back we had a lady who used to work for us at home, tending to our domestic needs. Like other members of her profession, she worked in several other houses besides ours. But what stood her apart was that she was never short of work. People asked for her to come and join their households, she was bestowed with a lot of gifts both on occasions and otherwise. We took turns in giving her money if she ran out of cash or needed the extra buck for getting herself or her husband treated. When she decided to leave this line and join a school as an administrative support, we all gave her glowing references – all true, mind you. Even now she visits us and is welcome anytime. And I think she is one of the most successful people I know. She is not rich, mighty or famous, but she IS successful.

If Sunita Williams is a successful astronaut, so are the set of skilled workers who work hard to ensure that every cog in the wheel of her spaceship works smoothly. If the flamboyant striker in a football league team is successful then so is the goalie who does not drop even a single ball.

If we must take names of the very famous, then Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar - India’s celluloid superheroes - are all successful. Yet each has had a different approach or strategy. Shahrukh is populist, has a lot of fire in his belly, is hungry for recognition and for being the best in whatever he does and plays unabashedly to the gallery. He has a deep need to be the number one in whatever he chooses to dabble in – movies, endorsements, cricket, television, even awards and the recognized lists of the rich and famous. Aamir is more niche, likes to do only what he really likes to do; makes wonderfully intelligent and sensitive films yet refuses to fill nominations for the popular awards, turns down million bucks offered by corporates for making run-of-the-mill films. Aamir has a maverick approach to his art and follows his heart and breaks several moulds in the process. Akshay cashed in on his strengths – action, martial arts, dancing – to gain a foothold; worked on his weaknesses – voice modulation, dialogue delivery; and added to his skill base – drama, comedy, romance. Three people, three strategies and three success stories.
Having established that success permeates through caste, creed, colour and social standing, I would like to state that there are several common threads that run through the successful people in their respective ilk and genres.

The first thread or quality definitely is hard work or smart work. If you need to get somewhere you will have to burn the midnight oil to get there. There are no short cuts or quick fixes. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow uttered the following famous words, definitely my favourite quote –
Lives of great men reached and kept
Were not obtained by sudden flight;
They while their companions slept
Were toiling upwards in the night.

That was then, but even now look at the success stories of the geek-entrepreneurs dotting the Silicon Valley skyline and you will discover that many of these young guns end up sleeping for only a few hours putting in 18 working hours to realize their dreams.

If you want to be promoted, if you want to move up the corporate ladder then you need to be a fast, smart worker who packs in quite a punch in terms of his deliverables and quantum of work.

The second quality would be persistence, perseverance and a consistent internal push. We would not have had light bulbs or telephones or planes or the revolutionizing concepts of relativity and Archimedes principle, to site a few, had it not been for the never-say-die spirit of these zealous, determined folk. How many times have we been told by our seniors – If you try and fail once then try again. Would any of us have learnt any of the stuff we did while growing up, be it academics, sport, dramatics, elocution or hobbies had we just tried them once and not gone back, again and again? Ask the innovators, developers, manufacturers and entrepreneurs and they will reel off some mind boggling numbers for the times they tried, failed, tried again, failed once again, re-attempted ………………till they finally succeeded.
With persistence I would link in grit and tenacity that keeps you in the groove of your chosen activity.

So go for it and keep going till you get there.

The third most important quality is, undoubtedly, passion. That definitely is the main driver in your path to success. If you don’t let that little light within you extinguish or quell the inner voice that eggs you on or keep the fire in your belly alive and stoked then it is passion that does it for you. It is passion that keeps you motivated in the face of flak, failure or fear.

Fervour, ardour, enthusiasm, zeal, craze ……………… it by any name but it is passion that is your undying spirit which keeps your dreams alive and brings you a step closer to your coveted calling.

Vincent van Gogh, Christopher Columbus, Johann Sebastian Bach, King “Tut” Tutankhamun, John Keats …….. some of the world’s super famous and successful who either died poor or unknown and gained fame only posthumously. But it was their unstinting passion that kept them at it as they went about churning masterpieces after masterpieces.

If I could get to vote a fourth quality then it would be serendipity. The streak that sees the need, that truly believes that necessity is the mother of invention, that takes risks and craves for finding the extraordinary among the ordinary. It is the curious, insatiated spirit and the un-accepting diehard mind that lets you chart a new course, YOUR course in a direction uncharted before.

To sum up, lets coin the ‘W’ factor – Winning attitude with a high winsome quotient; Want as in desire or ambition; Way as in methodology, strategy, action plan; Wisdom as in assimilation of knowledge with practicality; Why – the curiosity, the thirst to know more and do more; Where to – the vision, the far sightedness; Will as in determination and fanaticism and finally Worship – by that I mean faith, veneration of the one above (whatever shape and form he or she takes for you) and a belief in yourself as an integral part of HIS universe.

So, success is an attitude and a way of life. And yes, nothing succeeds like success.

For comments & further talk…write to
(Picture courtesy - dhuusaraH & BalionuFeja -

Saturday, 18 July 2009

What qualities make you the leader of the pack in your chosen profession?

Here's my analogy worth its two cents -

Sight -

Hind sight

Vision -
for self
for team
for society
for world

Sound -
Ear to the ground
Great listening skills

Mind -

Touch & Feel -

Smell -
scent of opportunities
stench of trouble

Taste -
the sweet taste of success
the bitter taste of failure
the spicy taste of efforts put ceaselessly
the sour taste of rivalry
the salty taste of sweat over the big (and not small) stuff

And that to my mind is the recipe for a great leadership template.
(Picture courtesy - Jorge de la Mata & Rishi (Mt-Ris) -

Programming without passion, purity & piousness of intent and poise!

We have recently lost Vijay Tendulkar - one of India's best known playwrights and dramatists as he passed onto another world after an eventful and meaningful life on this one.

The Times of India's obit on him mentioned, in passing, the other illustrious member of his family - his fiery, actress daughter - Priya Tendulkar, who the art and entertainment world (as much as the viewers) lost to death a few years back. Priya became best known for her magnificent portrayal of Rajni in the eponymous TV show that ran to high ratings and very high viewership, I guess sometime in the eighties. What stood Rajni apart, besides Priya's inimitable histrionics, was the content of the show. It seemed to have a compassionate soul, a caring heart and a mind that thought out solutions for a common man's everyday woes. The programme was a true change agent and brought in a wave of reform, as the man on the street took up cudgels against the system and the perpetrator, bringing about a conducive environment denying scope to crime and corruption.

But that was then. When TV was an intelligent medium, the choices were few and sensible and the commercial hunger for space and money had not eaten into sense and commonsense. With more choices of channels and programming fighting for the same pie of viewers, the bastardisation of culture in programming, I guess, was inevitable. A lot of television critics bemoan the loss of news sense in the sacrosanct news as well, that has been whoppingly dumbed down.

While America, a major TV viewing country, where even the Presidential battles are won and lost on the small screen; may still have a TV evangelist in the likes of Oprah (never mind the happy coexistence of Jerry Springer and his ilk), we in India, unfortunately are going down the other way.

Quickly count on your fingertips any programme of real import across the channels. At the risk of admitting that I am no couch potato and do no more than 1-2 hours of TV per day, I can just muster a few names - perhaps "We the People" on NDTV and the other programme hosted by Gitanjali Kirloskar that ran for sometime on another channel. I can't seem to come up with any more names. Perhaps you could do better, if you have a better memory than mine and are exposed to better and more programming than me.

The point I am coming down to is that when we all agree that things are getting from bad to worse (more crime, more corruption, more chaos, more anarchy......), why isn't a powerful medium such as television rising up to the challenge and bringing out something really meaningful and productive instead of the plethora of all that song and dance it makes about well, song and dance in various hues and avatars. Even the news centers on sensationalisation of news with true bollywood touch given to the representation of the facts and the faces that have suffered.

The media is the mirror of its society. When do we stop seeing distorted, exaggerated and unreal images of ourselves as if we were all taking a jolly ride in a fair detached from reality and life.

When does the media retrieve its soul, do some realtime soul-searching and make a trailblazing impact on the mindscape instead of gunning after eyeballs that have become stupefied with the senselessness and unreasonableness of it all.
(Picture courtesy - WolvenFlames & RamonZuton -

Friday, 17 July 2009

The power, the influence and the ethics of advertising!

Going through the full page advertisement of Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre Ltd. in the latest issue of City Limits today, I was taken back in time to Circa 1999. I was at The Oberoi and had just got initiated (courtesy my company) into the benefits of an Executive Health Check-up offered by biggies such as Apollo and Max. Once my regimen was completed, I was tempted enough to get one done for my Mother. That is when we found out that while my Mother had a heart as strong as that of a young man, she had several almost fatal blockages in her aorta and other main arteries. We began taking her around to Delhi's best Heart Institutes. For the Angioplasty and stenting routine (which was going to save her life), we spent sleepless nights tossing over the options of Apollo VS Escorts. We sought opinion of family and friends and received equally divided votes between the two medical health providers. For us personally, the swankiness, the cleanliness, the international appeal and the strong buzz for Apollo veered us towards them and that's the way we went for my Mother's treatment. Again, personally for us (and I am sure not for everyone), this turned out to be a hazardous step. The consulting cardiologist had a private practise on the side and that's where he liked to consult my mother often. We spent money like water but I eventually lost her within eight months of her Angioplasty. Lot of friends, sharing our unimaginable grief, lamented that we should have gone to Escorts which minus the Apollo lustre at that point of time, boasted of some of the finest cardiac experts. We had been sadly taken in by the hype that the other Hospital had created and the superficial sheen it presented. The permanent damage had been done.

This is not the first case for me or for you, as we turn out to be suckers for fancy advertising, giving in to their agressive, above-the-line and constant persuasion. We are constantly urged to drink fizzy drinks, eat trans-fat rich, preserved and packaged foods, buy over their prime as well as, sometimes, their expiry date international products that have been dumped into the third world super / hyper markets, exercising the optimal pull and push factor on the crazy mall novices from these places. We get done in by the promotional offers, on-site advertising and discounts that play on our minds heavily while shopping in these glitzy places. Pushpa Girimaji, a consumer behaviour expert, warns us against such shopping pattern with dire consequences both on our health and pocket.

Every waking moment, we are attracted to a product by our favourite celebrity endorsing the product unabashedly with two hoots given to its overall brand value. Aerated drinks eat the biggest share of the pie. So, while Shahrukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra and their ilk, put the might of their immensely appealing persona to persuade us to buy stuff that they would think twice about using so rampantly themselves or allowing their kids to do so, there is little thought, if any, given to the hazardous effect of some of these products on the people of a country which is fast becoming the Diabetes capital of the world, for one.

While earlier we would pay heed to what our mothers told us OR our Nani-ke-Nuskhe (grandmother's tried and tested tips) OR some of the relevant old wives tales and passed the rich knowledge down to our progeny, today it is blatant and pretty often unethical advertising without a conscience that rules our mind.

The moral order crumbles down ever so often in the face of the commercial greed. Sadly, in a country where millions are spent on advertising and celebrity endorsements on stuff that has very less realtime value for its masses, there is pittance reserved for health care and educational initiatives.

Do a quick stat analysis or reality check and see how many Indians are denied the basic right to proper health care, hospitalisation, education............. even three square meals a day. Then look at the reach of advertising even in the back-of-beyond hinterland where real and spurious drinks or foods do brisk business. And then somewhere in your heart and mind, the little voice will grow into raging anger against the immorality and unethicalness of it all.

(Picture courtesy -


I was once (in 2002) voted as the best PR person in the hospitality industry by the Hospitality editor of Indian Express Newspaper in India. A highly satisfying and motivating recognition that, today, gives me the confidence to share some of MY tricks of the trade -

1. I try to be a good strategist and look at new avenues (even unprecedented) to get my company's story or message out.

2. I have tried to develop a reputation of reliability and responsiveness in good turnaround time, even if sometimes the response is in the negative. I always try to respond and close the communication loop.

3. Employ lateral thinking and use varied, multi-level opportunities, some of which are freshly created, either in isolation or in sync with a co-worker.

4. Understand the media's perspective instead of being a push-over and forcing someone to give you column cm space.

5. Be a good ideating, fact-crunching support that the Boss can fall back on at interviews. Be his mouth piece without taking the credit and the shine away from him.

6. Be an excellent writer and an eclectic one, so that one could be good at doing the press releases, articles, speeches, manuals, business letters, web text and so on.

7. Be a good public speaker.

8. Build long-term relationships with the media and the other significant publics. Respect even the cub reporter (regardless of one's own seniority) and watch the relationship blossom once the cub grows into a lion of an editor.

9. Be abreast with current, business and industry news. Not only does that make you intelligent but also a lot of ideas come from there.

10. Be adaptable and flexible and thin yourself out in terms of gaining experience and meeting new job requests. At my last job, I got to train even the telephone operators on communication skills, write manuals, prepare lot of archival documentation, write most of the business letters regardless of the department, write the web text myself without outsourcing it and enjoy the privilege of designing, writing and creating a lot of marketing communications collateral.

11. Be eager to learn and raise my personal benchmark at every instance.

12. Be a good mentor and trainer to my subordinates.

13. Be able to integrate the PR function into the larger business plan of the company and cease to see it as a soft, fluffy side-function.

14. Play an integral role in Company's profit protection by honing a lot of in-house skills.
(Picture courtesy -


Grate! Grate! Grate!! Screech! Screech! Screech! On my ears and in my head that is. Cold blooded! Murder! Killing not so softly! Of the Queen, er..... Her Majesty's language that is.

Open any channel - Hindi or English on Indian Television or switch on any wavelength on the radio, right now. And you will be nodding your head in unison with me.

My mom-in-law, a conservative yet widely travelled lady from the Uttar Pradesh lives with us. And the only conflict I have with her is that of her joyous murder of any language - English or Hindi, with an overriding sense of ignorant bliss. Her eyes twinkle and you can almost visualise her rubbing her hands in innocuous glee as she muddles up the sounds of 'z' and 'j'; 'sh' and 's'; 'va' and 'ba'.......... And watch me take offence as if it were a cold, calculated slight to my person. After all, I was born to a mother who even excelled in a foreign language, viz. Urdu - foreign to her native place of origin and learnt to beautifully intonate the varying sounds including the difficult 'kha'.

Pan to the present and watch and hear our current crop of radio and TV presenters mercilessly mutilate any language they wish to speak in. The phonetics, syntax, delicate details of the usage of English language, grammar, pronunciation.....nothing is cared for. To hell with it all, as long as they look prettily made up (both sexes) and are seen on popular channels with high TRPs to their shows.

As for our mother tongue, I am sick and tired of listening to a really nice language pronounced really badly..... 'Hamesa,' 'Aajaad,' 'Aajaadi,' 'Jabardast,' 'Jaroorat,' 'Sukriya,' 'Sayad,' 'Sam ke char baje,' 'Jindadil,' 'Suruat,' get the drift, right!

My sharp reaction is quite justified as I once again spent an elated three hours watching with utmost pleasure the exchanges between Professor Higgins and his pupil Eliza Doolittle this past weekend.

Get the ear plugs, please someone!!!
(Picture courtesy -

Thursday, 16 July 2009


Each of us faces small or big failures in the course of our lives. But the idea is to get up, shake up a bit and get going. Staying motivated is the key.

Some other tricks -

Self Esteem and positve visualisation -
Positive strokes entailing thinking of all the wins in the past, the triumphant moments and the glorious feedback on outstanding work, glowing references - once you have been an excellent and above-the-target worker you tend to collect hordes of such gems in your kitty.

Get on to Plan B - all good workers will always have a Plan A and a Plan B and implement that effectively.

Circle of family and friends who tell it like it is, yet know your actual potential and stoke that in the right direction.

Promising self talk and introspective moments guiding you to learn from the failure and turn it into a good learning exercise that eggs you onto the next level.

Also, always facing the issue full on - with tears or other emotional display - and getting it all out so that one can start afresh with no extra baggage.

(Picture courtesy -; Vertical picture - MrBadger; Horizontal picture - Molly Nagel)


I would like to start this blog with a bit of tom-tomming, a beating of one's puffed up chest, if you may. When you work zealously and are committed to your profession as if it were your religion then it feels tremendous to be lauded publicly and to be recognised by the media, one's seniors and the peers.

Here's a copy of the article that appeared in the Indian Express in Circa 2002, bestowing the recognition on yours truly.

FACES BEHIND THE PARTIES: PR pack of Delhi hotels
Anoothi Vishal

New Delhi, February 19: Dinners for Sir Vidia, champagne for Picasso, kebab for both the Hus(s)ain saabs— not just MF, but also the ‘wheeling’ Amir Raza, supper theatre, Subbirammi theatre, spirited book launches... So, we’ve been partying like there’s no tomorrow and unlike last season when the constant refrain was ‘‘a quiet sit-down at a friend’s’’, this season, it’s more like ‘‘Mondays at Maurya and Tuesdays at the Taj!’’ But even as the swish set squeezes out the last drops of the Red, many remain ignorant as to those who make all the happening parties happen: The women with perfect smiles and the often unenviable task of being the hotels’ faces. For those who may have missed their presence, here’s an introduction:

Anjali Chatterjee, InterContinental: With a 15-year experience behind her, Chatterjee is an old-timer even if she doesn’t fits the kanjeevarams and kundan image. But, then, as she says, ‘‘PR has changed. You can compare it with formal dining of a decade ago, where it used to be stuffy four-course meals.Today, people want something relaxed. Similarly, with PR. People want you to be direct.’’

Best of competition: Everyone. PR Talk?

Abha Negi, ParkRoyal: She’s the other veteran and tries to perhaps unconsciously propagate a maternal image by addressing everyone as ‘‘beta.’’ She places a premium on being ‘‘sensible.’’ Well, that’s one adjective you could use for her.

Best of competition: Ashok’s Manjula Arun for her no-nonsense approach

Aruna Dhir, The Oberoi: She confesses to be always in ‘‘fourth gear’’ and may not be the easiest of people to work for. But even her detractors confess to her competence. As for Dhir, she’s simply ‘‘benchmarking with the best’’— with the likes of Leora H Lanz, ‘‘PR diva’’. Her mantra: To reinforce her hotel’s image in any which way — right from the way her faxes look, to her own body language.

Competition: Chatterjee; Abha Negi ‘‘no one’s ever had a bad word for her.’’

Vandana Ranganathan, Taj Mahal: You could be excused for thinking she’s one with the swish set. Like this person at the last Subbirammi do at her hotel obviously wanted to confirm: ‘‘She is someone, isn’t she...’’ Ranganathan is certainly orbiting there, but that’s another story. What’s more pertinent is that she was perhaps the first to set off the whole trend of ‘book launches’ over kebabs and sharab, when she took up the Penguin offer for Shobha De’s Speedpost.

Best of competition: Madhulika at Maurya Sheraton — they always get ‘‘covered’’.

Madhulika Bhattacharya, Maurya Sheraton: She won’t reveal her age because she wants to be taken seriously. Ask her about her hotel’s image, and that’s serious business too: ‘‘We are not a frivolous hotel.’’ Well, people are taking both Bhattacharya and her hotel very seriously these days. So, Bhattacharya doesn’t complain even if she has to be on best behaviour every minute. ‘‘I’ve gained in confidence and maturity’’, she shrugs. It helps when Amitabh Bachchan is tete-a-teteing with you.

Best of competition: Aruna Dhir: ‘‘I like the classy way in which they are covered.’’

Sakshi Dureja, Taj Palace: Dureja’s forte has to be one-to-one relationships. Suffice to say, everyone likes talking to her and never mind that as a ‘‘hotelier plus PR person’’ Dureja doesn’t believe in having ‘‘raw conversations.’’ With anyone.

Best of the competition: Aruna Dhir; Amrit at Le Meridien and Abha Negi at Park Royal.

Vinnie Narang, Hyatt Regency: Agreed Anjoo Mohun is a tough act to follow but Narang’s not even trying!

Competition: Aruna Dhir is a brand !

Dilip Cherian on what it means to be the best PR/ Event Manager

The top two hotels in terms of high-competence, high visibility PR are Taj Mansingh and Maurya Sheraton... The PR people at Maurya are becoming more aggressive but the Taj still manages to pull in more people because they target the right people for the right event...

There are four qualities, I look for in a PR-event manager

How much influence does she carry with the hotel’s management: Aruna Dhir of The Oberoi has that.

Ability To Create: To use your imagination and be able to refer to your ‘potted memory’ given the constraints of the hotel. I won’t rate anyone on this.

Willingness to detail: Aruna again.

Accessibility: They should be on a 24/7 availability. Some people are so much on the move that they return calls half an hour later. If I’m doing an event with you and want to speak to you right now, I should be able to. Vandana Ranganathan of Taj Mahal is good at this.