If one statement could sum up the Zeitgeist of PRestival 2012, it was that PR needs to change, evolve, grow out-of-the-box.
Over a period of time, some phrases have become ingrained into the fabric of Public Relations – one of my favorite (next to “thought-leader”) is “360 degree campaign”.
It’s become frequent on pitches – an easy promise by a PR company: we’ll use all media possible to get the message across.
But do PR campaigns really customise their 360 degree campaign?
Or are buzzwords being used to communicate the traditional?
“Social media” which gets name-dropped so casually, often just means Facebook and Twitter.
For example, a vanilla social media campaign for a restaurant will leave out Burrp.com, even though food reviews, (like everything else) ARE social media. Maybe what your Twitter does for your campaign today, Instagram might do better tomorrow.
The ongoing Indian political drama is a great example to explore the need to constantly re-tailor the 360 degree campaign for different situations, for the following reasons
Lack of attention spans for traditional campaigns
That this is a traditional PR(opoganda?) technique is evident. Traditional marketing attempts, like full page advertisements don’t attract eyeballs the way they initially did. Due to the highly competitive nature of marketing campaigns, audiences are spoilt for choice for the campaigns they respond to/are engaged by. Looking at the above-mentioned clippings of Jayalalitha’s front page ads, how many of you actually remember them? If you did see them, did you awe at her? Once upon a time, journalists would have protested, and even organised a strike if their editors permitted a front page ad – the front page, they teach you in journalism school, is the pulse of the nation.
Now, it’s so commonplace you actually skim across it unless there’s something really in your face.
Failure of traditional media in communicating messaging
Everyone, including Congress party members are savvy to the party’s culture of demonstrating sycophancy to Gandhi-surname holders. Keeping this in mind, the Gandhi family has, for decades, used mainstream, print-media advertising to promote itself. Most visibly the front page of leading newspapers – all was well until 2010 and beyond, when widespread social media criticism as well as outspoken editorials changed all this.
However, in the face of current heavy criticism, this doesn’t achieve an intended response of respect and adulation. The Hindu even issued an apology in the Wall Street Journal’s online India edition.
Another example – the photo-opp gone wrong.
People were amazed by the strong messaging in the photo of Arvind Kejriwal setting fire to the government’s version of the Lokpal.
When Rahul did a copycat and ripped it up – the response was less than satisfactory.
Changing modes of consuming content that makes it necessary to evolve
There are two undeniable truths that everyone in media and allied sectors knows.
• Print is a dying medium.
• The mobile medium is the future of media.
Do American Presidents still do the kissing babies and signing autographs campaign? Of course they do.
But they also share pumpkin recipes on Halloween, and share bytes with contemporary pop-cultural icons. An Obama byte will break news on Twitter faster if it has the added buzz of Jay-Z in it.
Therefore, a photo-feature in a magazine can be replaced by a virtual scrapbook of photos online.
The ‘PR’ becomes too apparent, and new avenues of pushing content to change perceptions becomes necessary
Rahul Gandhi’s old messaging of “youth icon” and “secular” is falling apart because he has not tried new avenues of showing this. He doesn’t have an official Twitter feed anymore .
Instead of Narendra Modi, he could have had a Google Plus Hangout and fielded questions, instead of only communicating his messaging through newspaper articles
The need to establish new channels to reach an audience is what launched Obama on Reddit.
And this is what Indian PR needs – the willingness to explore new avenues, and to add new variables to the 360.
Written by Kunal Anand for Image Management