We Khan Do It; Public Relations and Bollywood

The three Khans know how to stay relevant

For over two decades, ‘Club Khan’ – Aamir, Salman,SRK and the charismatic Saif have not only been capturing the nation’s hearts but also been successful in re-inventing themselves, year after year, for the benefit of their fans. To a large extent, they have amongst themselves, permeated the Indian fabric of life with their savvy public relations campaigns and ensuring that they remain the flavour of choice at all times. Having been in the limelight for many years now, their charisma, ability to be talked about and ability to talk about – is admirable.  Trust the trend setting Khans to master and manoeuvre the art of positive and at times even negative public relations, to their benefit.  In fact, some of these PR ploys could make for some excellent case studies on PR and marketing.

The following are three pointers on how the Khans have stayed relevant, even though times have continued to evolve.

Being Human – From Bad Boy to Caring Man 

Some of the methods deployed are public relations triumphs. Salman Khan, from being termed as the bad boy of the Hindi film industry is now touted to be a very caring man, who through Being Human is trying to help and reach out to many underprivileged sections of society. A chequered past and a shaky future, to say the least, people are still reminiscent of his hunting and rash driving days. Scrutinised by the media from day one, it is only in the last two-three years that his career graph seems to have moved northwards, as the Being Human campaign became an essential part of who he is – correcting things, especially his image.  He has emerged a hero with a heart and his recent outings have also reflected this very same image; through the earthy and simple characters he has chosen to portray. The man in red pants, which seem to become synonymous with Salman, and his irreverent humour, are a far cry from the bad boy tag that he was saddled with for quite a while. A smart new take on the classic way of reel meets real.

In the fast changing and ever evolving news scene, remaining relevant is often  challenging and also calls for reinventing oneself constantly, as the people consuming news and their likes, have short memories. All of them vie for attention and therefore only the shiniest one’s stand out.

A stars life is under constant media scrutiny and can, quite accurately, be described as a bed of thorns. And it does not help that most misdeeds get huge reportage while the kind gestures often go unnoticed or receive a small mention on page 10.

Always Remaining Relevant – Reinventing Yourself, the Aamir Way 

Now let’s talk about Aamir Khan, an inspiration to a generation of perfectionists.  Every recent blockbuster that he has either starred in or bankrolled has had a unique PR campaign running alongside it, especially top-grossers like Ghajini and 3 Idiots.

In 2009 an innovative marketing strategy to promote his upcoming blockbuster film, “3 Idiots“, actor-filmmaker Aamir Khan virtually ‘disappeared’ and was on the run across the country, suddenly surfacing in remote parts of the country. In 2008, Aamir had set up a barber shop on the streets of Delhi to promote his last film “Ghajini” which became a roaring success. Both these stunts were huge public relations and marketing exercises, each resulting in its own coverage and a buzz across the country, earning them both a position in the top ten Hindi film grossers of all times.   The astounding success of both, is in no small measure a toast to the great public relations campaigns created around them; beautifully planned and executed. More recently, Aamir’s media blitz for his new TV Show Satyamev Jayate had him. Among other endeavours, sharing a meal with army personnel – providing the perfect photo ops.

My Name Is Khan

Another Khan who started out as the proverbial outsider in the Hindi film industry and then went on to change and turn everything topsy-turvy is King Khan, himself. Shah Rukh Khan has remained the flavour of the month for years and has usually ridden the wave of popularity with great élan, always managing to have the media eat out of his hand.  Like the other Khans he too has made headlines, and lots of them around his blockbuster releases, smoking in public, and general chic demeanour. His keen sense of timing and witty one liner answers are in addition to clearly possessing a knack to knowing just what will make the media stand up and take notice. In fact, when he was recently detained by US authorities for the second time, SRK quipped “Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America. The immigration guys kicked the star out of stardom.” This attitude has stood him in good stead and he has maximized his celebrity status by aligning with causes and reasons that are often centre stage. These have included the environment, wildlife causes, vaccinations and other social issues. His very aptly titled biography, released last month, ‘I’ll do it my way’ finds echoes in the topic of this article.

But all said and done, the most interesting tangent to ‘Club Khan’ is the so called rivalry and turf wars between them. Stories based on hear-say, often initiated by ‘no-one’ are fodder for media channels. While what the real truth is, in genuine PR style,  is strategically kept hidden.

Each of them endorses a number of brands and it goes without saying that many be lesser known, however with the images these three gentleman have come to acquire, they rub off on those many brands they endorse.  In fact though there are no definitive studies to prove the rather symbiotic link between a well known public figure and the product or service being endorsed, it’s the word of mouth and messaging from these very stars that help sell in huge numbers.

Many a brand have very successfully hitched their bandwagons or better ‘brand’wagons to the Khans specifically.  Also keeping in mind the current clamour of messaging and rising head and shoulders above it is quite a challenge for every star and related brand. So stars, who endorse everything from vests to laptops, cement to cars, find themselves in a pretty cacophonic situation; it is the great messaging, clever stunts, right timing that helps the Khans rise above the clutter and ensure that PR is a practice they sure “Khan” do.

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