The Internet space in India is galloping towards newer heights with features like blogging and social networking sites receiving immense responses from the users. Blogging as a tool for communications, across the vast digital space, has been on the rise over the years with more users relying on reviews on them, before subscribing to a service or buying a product. In that sense, these are becoming the next form of advertisements for the brands and most importantly, the companies owning the brands as any negative publicity about them or the brand will be detrimental to their sales.
With the growing knowledge of Internet and in this case, blogging, brands and corporations are trying their best to maintain a good image among the consumers. As a result, PR companies are acting on behalf of the clients to quell any negativity about their clients and a new segment called ‘e-initiatives’ are emerging in this area.
“With the increasing PC penetration in India, we believe that there will be more focus on Indian companies using blogs, community sites like Wikipedia, Youtube, Orkut etc. I see this change by the turn of the decade,” observed Ameer Ismail, President, LINOpinion.
Explaining these e-initiatives, N Chandramouli, CEO, Blue Lotus Communications said, “This so-called uncontrolled forum, which is still in its nascent stage, is bound to grow by ten folds in seven to eight months. There are two parts involved in the process – one is the company’s image building, by reinforcing the positive image with as many touch points as possible, and second, is the control of negative information.”
Agreeing that the medium is nascent, Sunil Gautam, MD, Hanmer & Partners, explained the medium, and divulged some of the initiatives H&P has taken here. He stated, “At present we continuously monitor niche segment blogs and keep the blog owner updated on developments on our clients, who fit the blog’s profile.”
Ashwani Singla, CEO, Genesis Burson-Marsteller believes that as a representative of a client, a public relations company can respond to those views, correct any factual inaccuracies or present facts not known, or presented. He remarked, “The most important part of this dialogue is ‘transparency’ and ‘disclosure’ of the person or the company making the representation.”
When queried on the increasing plugging and falsifying of data, Chandramouli observed that it is inevitable in any medium. However, Gautam feels that blogging is a form of media and hence an opinion maker. “Therefore, as long as the blog has a strong editorial policy governing its content, I am sure it can continue to maintain its fiercely independent stance, thereby reducing chances of ‘plugging information’ or publishing biased opinions,” he pointed out.
Echoing similar thoughts, Ismail noted, “They are the voice of real people who may exist or potential stakeholders of a company. Blogs essentially are an unregulated platform for ordinary people to speak out and talk about their experiences.”
Concluding the conversation, Gautam remarked, “Going forward, we do expect blogging to become an important and integral part of corporate communications, especially since internet search is becoming a mainstay of primary research and data basing,”
With almost every PR agency on an image building drive of their clients, there has to be a thin line of differentiation between fact and fiction; good and bad. The problem is, ‘Who will draw the line?’ No one knows.