Wednesday, 13 January 2016


The real-time value of New Media is unsurpassed. Everything in it happens in the realm of “here and now.” Your news is as new or old as your last post or blog or tweet.

Sites such as Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube have heralded the coming in of Web 2.0 – a whole new world that provides excellent chances and opens up new vistas for a Media Manager. With the onset of Social Media in the arena of media coverage and planning, a PR Professional must be adept at handling each of these avenues. 

While Social Media is expanding career options by introducing such positions as a Social Media Manager or an Online Reputation Management Expert, not many companies have the finance or inclination to bifurcate responsibilities and hire separate individuals to handle such posts. Hence a role such as this has landed itself in the kitty of the Communications or PR Professional who needs to learn, unlearn and relearn to become a master of both the traditional and new age media. 

This, to my mind, is an extremely welcome change that encourages you to shape up for the New Media defined roles otherwise you may be shipped out by those who are more adept and trained.

Come to think of it, as PR experts with our strong skill base in writing, media handling, planning, website management and marketing communications, we are the naturally skilled workforce who should be entrusted with the responsibility of managing the New Media.

A lot of the power has shifted to you – the Communications Specialist – from those on the journalistic side. If you have proved your worth and your Brand is considered of significance, then even the journalists are becoming fans of your Facebook page, following you on Twitter or linking up with you on LinkedIn.

You get to decide what, when and how much you wish to share with your target audience through your blog posts that link neatly with your parent website (thereby also increasing footfalls on your website), your Facebook updates, your tweets and YouTube plug-ins.

You get to learn instantly whether your Brand is ‘trending’ or is being given the cold shoulder by the online traffic.

With the old media, it was difficult to measure the reach and penetration of your story – the only measure being the circulation figures which often failed to tell you whether the information on your company was actually read by the key audience or not. 

In the New Media, you can actually count up the “likes,” “views,” “shares” and “follows” to define how much a sub-product has been liked and whether a marketing idea will fly or fall with the end consumer.

While the old media and your story in it had the misfortune of being retired to the waste paper basket or sold to the ‘Raddi recyclist’ (Scrap paper dealer) or of reappearing as a wrap for snacks sold by the street vendor, there is no such danger with the New Media. 

Of course, the biggest fear in the New Media is to go completely unnoticed by those very eyeballs that you wish to catch as news and information flash by at high speed across the information freeway. 

Yet, the New Media has this great propensity to go Viral in the biggest way possible. Imagine the circuitry your story can create – from your company website or blog to LinkedIn to YouTube to Facebook to Twitter – with innumerable swaps in between - to a large river of search engines on which your story continues to appear.

And often with proper Search Engine Optimization it would appear in the initial few searches itself. This brings us to the importance of skills such as business writing for technology driven platforms as verbose as blogs or as crypt and concise as the 140 character Twitter. 

The other skills to be polished would be intelligent use of keywords, learning to link up well, using such tools as hashtags, bing, klouts, RSS, Social media alerts, tickers, Feedjits and the like. But this is a subject matter of another article which we may get into another time.

With New Media, you have the advantage of creating your own community that follows you, likes you and becomes a fan or a member. Your article that is liked or viewed by ‘X’ number of people has actually been read by those numbers without any wastage in the count and as a bonus has also been shared with their respective networks. 

Your Brand that is followed by a certain number of people enjoys loyalty from this number which has the potential to grow into a large population. Think about the online hits that certain features/stories invite on the internet and you will instantly know that this population can grow to a size of millions or more.

New Media is also an excellent platform for networking widely with larger demographics or pointedly with chosen focus groups. The networking and linking up chances with the like-minded groups on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook help you increase your audience base taking you beyond the geographical boundaries within which your company exists. 

There are hundreds of Groups for Hoteliers, Travel professionals and other such defined categories with which you can network and share your information.

With an avenue like Wikipedia, you can be your own Editor and create a User page or article for your Company. If it has universal significance then you will be easily inducted into the Wiki pages and enjoy easy searchability and wide readership.

With New Media, everything happens in the present so much so that the stories are listed every second and every minute of the day and through the night. The World Wide Web never sleeps and to make matters worse the Social Media keeps it on its toes at all times. 

There are no lunch breaks or pit stops on this information highway. Hence you need to be consistent and constant with your messaging. The rise in the relevance of New Media has caused a decline in the attention spans, therefore there is a greater need, now than ever before, to be pertinent and prime in your ‘newsability,’ otherwise, your input will remain popular only amongst employees, family and friends.

With New Media, you can reinforce your message with the ease of clicking a button. Simply press share or retweet and your story comes alive once again. But you must learn to do this prudently and in the right time span lest you become a social media outcast. With so much of information threatening to deluge their mind space, your guests do not wish to be bored with old news or annoyed with the repetitive nuisance.

All forms of New Media present wonderful options for inter-linkages. So, your official blog piece or website page can be tweeted or shared on LinkedIn, Facebook etc. simultaneously with just a couple of clicks and you get to showcase your product amidst a large number of users of these sites with so much ease that it makes a kid’s play appear difficult.

One of the biggest boons of New Media is that it is absolutely free and adds admirably to your profit protection strategy. View this point in the light of big dollars earmarked for the annual media plan covering advertising and other media spend including Press FAMs and individual Press Trips for media coverage on your Company. Virtual Property Tours with exciting 360-degree views that have been traditionally put up on the website can now be uploaded to YouTube or tweeted or shared through LinkedIn, Facebook and the like for free and to multitudes who just need to have an access to a machine and the medium of Net. 

This, however, does not reduce the importance of the human touch, the impact of relationships with the media and the power of experiencing a property for real.

With these huge benefits come the bad lemons too as is a given with almost anything in life; with everything there always being two sides. Opening up to a wide readership and onto instant news platforms such as these also calls for immediate feedback. Your guests are at free will to tweet back or post a negative comment or deride your new sub-product or product in the same open, worldwide medium that you use. The onus lies on you – the Newsmaker - and your Company to be more responsible, meaningful and noteworthy.

With you as the Communications Chief, New Media also allows for much greater engaging and involvement of the employee base that can be part of the news making process, thereby developing a stronger bond and belongingness with the Company they represent. 

While not everybody can be allowed to post or tweet – given the crucial baseline of adhering to the Company Profile and Brand Standard, but they can send their submissions to you, who as the Chief Brand Custodian can play the editor to the hilt and include the appropriate ones on to the forums. Seeing one’s tweet or post feature in the virtual world gives almost the same high as seeing one’s article in print, well almost, and is especially true for the non-writers.

While the importance and significance of the old Media cannot be ever denied, the New Media is all too powerful, in your face, productive and result-oriented so as not to be taken lightly. It is not a fad and needs to be fashioned out sensibly into your media strategy.


Picture Courtesy - Google Images

Monday, 11 January 2016


As any Public Relations expert – Hospitality specialist or any other – knows, media is the veritable best man, the strongest ally and one of the most powerful tools in the PR toolkit. 

Nobody can deny the usefulness and power that the media mix holds over a PR person’s overall role. So much so that in many companies and PR agencies, the efficacy of a PR person’s performance is measured by media presence garnered for the company represented.

Today, a PR person is spoiled for choice, between the old and new media. Some professionals are from the old school of thought and still hold the old media in a prominent place while warming up to the idea and prospects of the New Media. 

There are others who are fans of PR 2.0 so much that they make the mistake of ignoring the traditional media, of course at their own risk. But the wisest are those who hold both kinds in esteem and continue to reap benefits out of the two.

As we all know, there are distinct qualities that set one apart from the other and enjoy brownie points over the second when brought to comparisons.

Since the success of our campaign and PR Strategy depends on devising a good mix of the two types of media, here is a quick snapshot of the Top Five pluses and minuses of both kinds of media –


TOP FIVE +es –

1. It is the best form of credible and creditable Third Party Endorsement.

2. To appear in a top notch publication immediately ups or reinforces the profile of your Brand in the minds of the significant publics. Think Condé Nast, WSJ, New York Times, The Guardian, Forbes, Fortune and you get the picture.

3. To be written about by the renowned reviewers/writers of these publications is a major achievement in media presence. Imagine getting a first class rating by the likes of Gostelow, Middlehurst, Weinstein and see how proud and pleased the owners, management and the guests are.

4. Mention in traditional media has a sense of permanence to it. The news report can be filed and archived and can easily be dug into when it needs to be referenced again.

5. It is easier to control what is being written about you (either through your Press Release or on account of your established relationship with the media representative) and form opinions in the traditional media as compared to the information circus that exists in the New Media. 

TOP FIVE –es –

1. It faces the danger of getting dated and being lost in the annals of time. A news story that appeared in print at so and so date gets time stamped; a Tweet or update on a Company Website / Facebook page can be put out at one time and easily resurrected in a new avatar at another.

2. The negative review hits the Brand hard, going by the same logic of appearing in a top notch publication and written by the high profile reviewer.

3. In today’s times of excessive information being delivered to your desktop, laptop or palmtop every second, it may face the risk of getting lost in the deluge.

4. With new information coming up every second, your article in traditional media can become old news sooner than you think.

5. Because of the timelines it adheres to, there exists an inherent gap between sending of your press release or a journalist reviewing your product and the actual appearance of the story. That could be on account of a backlog of stories in hand with the media or something of more importance coming up at short notice. Many a time your news report gets printed as a post-event publicity and that is half the battle lost.  


TOP FIVE +es –

1. You can control what is being said about you through your blog, pages, updates and tweets.

2. You have a direct access to your guests and can reach them with ease in relation to your news, offers and promotions.

3. Instead of just one media platform, you have the ability to turn your news into a viral phenomenon and see it appear in several media planks simultaneously.

4. You have the opportunity to send out more information about yourself. There is no restriction on how much you want to or can share.

5. The power publications and the publicists that pack a punch are also on the New Media. Which means they can not only continue to write about you in the online editions but can also do so in their personal spaces of blogs, twitter page etc. which also enjoy additionally huge following.

TOP FIVE –es –

1. You have less control over what people say about your product through their blogs, pages, updates and tweets.

2. In the New Media, just about anybody can turn a writer or opinion maker and send their comment into the Social Media whirlpool. This can and does include your guests who can make direct comments on their experience. The realm of news does not just belong to the journalists anymore.

3. You must ensure that your news is meaningful and useful to the guest for it to be lapped up and for it to be something that your guests look forward to. Otherwise, it is very easy for you to become an irritant and face the risk of being unfriended, unfan-ed or unfollowed.

4. It is difficult for you to control the vehicles where you wish to appear, keeping in mind your Brand personality and profile. Through the channels of New Media, your brand can find presence even in those media outlets in which you do not wish to appear.

5. It is hugely difficult to grab the attention and enjoy readership penetration as the window of appearance and presence has been sizeably shortened in the flux of all that information that floats in the world of Social Media World; be it Blogosphere, Twitterdom, Facebook zone, LinkedIn Groups, YouTube or innumerable others.

And a final comparison – to have my piece or property featured in a publication of repute is a prominent feather in my cap. But then the Social Media opens up a whole new world with its wide reach and focused penetration. It also offers the advantages of “viral-ability” with sharing and re-sharing and being followed by the key groups of an audience that we wish to address. Going by this measure, Social Media is several notches up as compared to the traditional tactical vehicle of Direct Marketing. With the latter companies often lamented whether the expensive mailer was being read by the CEO or his secretary. There was always the question mark about whether or not that pricey, glossy flyer was managing to hold the interest of the end user for the right amount of time, ensuring grasping of the offer that you wished to sell.

I am from that group of people who believes that we will always get to hold and feel the crispiness of newspaper with our morning cuppa, that we will still leaf through glossies and not just at salons or clinics and that in spite of the up surge in the demand for Kindles we will still get to hold and smell the mustiness of paperbacks and hardbound, at least in our lifetime. I also belong to the set that uses the socially relevant New Media optimally, intelligently and with such mastery that it reaps rich dividends for the Company we represent.

In my PR scheme of things, both the media have their place, position and prevalence and both need to be used effectively in order to enable me to stay on top of my game and you on yours.


 Picture Courtesy - Google Images

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Earn your stripes first! Top Resolution of a True Professional!

You know the three jobs that have been continuously downgraded, bastardised and undermined in the millennial are easily - the Writer, the Professional Speaker and the Life Coach (the last being, a tad reprehensibly, dire need and invention of the Millennium).

To my chagrin, anybody claims to be a writer these days. Just as everybody wants to ride the speaking /coaching gravy boat!

A woman who has plagiarized content into a chapter and has got it inserted into a book - which is a series of chapters 'authored' by different people - through her social networking skills calls herself an author. In the same vein, journalists turning compilations of their articles into book form are being called authors.

People writing 140 incoherent characters on Twitter, fudging posts on LinkedIn, writing elaborate updates on Facebook are staking a claim to the honour.

Industries that are not technical, but are people centric are easy victims to a jaundiced eye treatment from us. We effortlessly club the sectors of Hospitality, Advertising, Writing, even Anthropology, Psychology (Applied, not Clinical); Art and the like into areas that we think do not require advanced skill and technical qualification. We completely disregard the almost scientific approach these fields, too, apply to their strategic and tactical functions.

And what a folly it is to cultivate such a mindset! Ask a chef who has earned his Le Cordon Bleu stripes by gruelling over demanding ranges and whimsical palates. Ask the advertiser who must be able to understand the demographic effect on consumer behaviour, study mindscapes shaped both by culture and fads and gauge the pulse of the client to deliver copy and artwork that ensnares the consumer interest and loosens the purse strings.

To my personal annoyance, Public Relations, especially in the Hospitality Industry, is a free parking zone for anybody – from a Guest Relations Executive, a Sales Representative to an HR resource or the Executive Assistant.

Nothing wrong with that! But please get enough educational background and experience in the field and then merrily jump in. After all, however flossy, flashy, fun or fickle our work may seem to you, it involves a lot of hard work, with refined strategy and tactical application of established techniques and methodology. Yes, it is not just about looking natty, talking smooth and shaking hands.

The same is happening with the legion of speakers and life coaches who claim to have the power to help you reclaim your life, find divine meaning and discover the simply good life of renunciation - all the while, shamelessly attempting to fill their coffers on the might of regurgitated, recycled age-old data that has been floating in the stratosphere of recorded literature. While such evangelists are appearing on the horizon of almost every industry, these good folks fail to add anything new, novel or of lasting value - unabashedly reaping the fruit of somebody else's labour.

We don’t do this with essentially old world professions – think law, medicine, engineering. Why do we think writing or photography or even fashion designing is any less a craft that requires focused education and hours of practised skill!

In the past, Freud, Jung or Adler wrote path-breaking books but they were primarily psychoanalysts who also recorded their researches, findings, experiments on paper.

Even today, an APJ Abdul Kalam or Sheryl Sandberg or Howard Schultz or any other heavyweight from any industry may pen down bestsellers - either on their own merit or through ghost writers - but they have predominantly been recognized for being the businessman, technocrat, Statesman that they are; who also incidentally have a way with words. Secure in their roles, they do not make any false claims.

Amidst my social media circles, I see true blue authors burning the midnight oil, or getting up with the larks at the crack of dawn, laboriously chugging away on their desk for larger parts of their exhausting days to write their books that they wish to get published, distributed and read, but more importantly earn from. They and their ilk need to be lauded and their tough ladder to success emulated.

I dabble in writing and I know it is not an easy job. I have been on the broad side of the mike and I know it is such a monumental task to fight your own fears and inhibitions and then come out speaking engagingly in public.

First learn to pick-up/use the artillery (in case of the writer it is the proverbial pen), shoot an enemy (fell a competitor with your brilliance), raise your flag on a summit (pursue your goals to get the ultimate recognition), get wounded (face failure), relearn and return to the battlefield before you bestow upon yourself the title of a writer or coach or whatever else that may have taken your fancy.
Today, anybody who has drunk a few good wines socially wants to be considered an oenology expert. A gourmand who can ladle out passably tasty dishes claims to be a respected chef with aspirations of becoming a TV or YouTube celebrity or even starting their own under-the-bridge eatery.

And don’t even get me started on art and music and film and food critics. We all, with our substandard two-bits, put out on our Twitter handles or Facebook pages, would like to strut about like able, knowledgeable critics who have studied the subject and know as much about it as the people practising that field. There was a time when the badge of a critic brought in fear and respect amongst those that were reviewed; enough to get them to deliver better and above bar.

Anybody who clicks a photo for his instagram feed or plays around with his camera phone thinks he’s a photographer – to the utter displeasure of the professional photographers who have spent a lifetime learning the technicalities, the art and science behind their profession and have spent a fortune investing in their state of the art equipment.

Same seems to be happening with musicians and fashion designers. Every person who can sing in tune; heck, even those who sing quite off-key but still go ahead and upload their mishmash or dubsmash if you please on YouTube think they are the next best thing after Sting or Sir Bono.

Any woman of wealth courtesy an affluent spouse but with no real qualification, men who have grown up on a staple diet of couture glossies, and those innumerable ladies at leisure with the luxury of free time shoved in their uber luxe and over-sized handbags love to brand themselves as fashion designers. They then go ahead and float labels, host parties to get media attention, rip-off designs from magazines or the runways in far off places (whatever is more difficult to trace back to) and hand it over to the seamstress in their hole-in-the-wall sweatshops – and for such sham they merrily get themselves a calling card of a designer.

These days everybody wants to be the next serial entrepreneur. The goals are misplaced – they being easy money, quick (even if short-lived) recognition, quick gains, pseudo popularity, two minutes of fame as against novel products, innovations that promise to bring value to the society and credible standing.

For this and more, I detest the growing breed of spineless, unskilled, unzealous cretins and zero-conscience easy-gainers who do not bat an eyelid before snaking their way into positions and posts that others spend a lifetime to attain through hard work, perseverance and purely on merit.

On stolen thoughts, plagiarized ideas and filched business plans we go ahead and audaciously label ourselves as Thought Leaders, Visionaries and Entrepreneurs. It is quite dismal to note that we end up slotting ourselves into such newly coined words as ‘Voluntourism’ and ‘Humanitarian Douchebaggery’ to define our lack of ethics.  

It is a reflection of our society in which Kim Kardashian is one of the most followed Twitter personalities. A society that does not recognise real talent, does not reward excellence is a dying, sick society.

Let it be a 2016 resolution for us that we will pursue excellence, give hard work and merit its due and earn our stripes first before embellishing our calling cards, curriculum vitae and virtual profiles.

Before you embark on the path you have envisioned for yourself in 2016 and beyond, let this be the resolve you start your journey with. Have a wonderfully productive and meaningful year ahead!


Picture Courtesy - Google Images