The realm of public relations today has widened to include newer elements and managing reputation has become imperative today. PR practitioners need to understand the realities of going social in the new normal world.
Giving his observations, Abhinav Rahul, VP – Corporate Communications, Max New York Life Insurance, said India was no longer isolated and that whatever happened at a global scale impacted the country as well. He stressed on the speed at which action happened in today’s scenario.
Speaking about the life insurance industry, he noted that post the global recession of 2007-08, growth in the industry fell and life insurance companies were faced with trust deficit issues. “There is need to rebuild reputation and trust,” he stressed. Outline how Max New York Life went about doing this, Rahul said that the company tracked what was happening in the online sphere, what people were saying about the company in various forums. Based on the positive and negative feedbacks of consumers, Max drew up what the consumer pain points were and addressed them by engaging the customers on a proactive basis, dealing with issues that mattered to them.
Citing the example of the Xbox, Jaspreet Bindra, Regional Director at Microsoft India’s E&D Division, said, “New normal hit us about two-two-and-a-half years back. Microsoft was ahead of its time with the Xbox.” On how Microsoft went about tackling the issue of acceptance of the Xbox, Bindra said that online and social medium was used extensively. Today, 100 per cent of the ad spend was on online and retail activities. The company also withdrew from things that didn’t matter. According to him, “PR should be online first and then on traditional media.”
For Jessie Paul, Director, Paul Writer Strategic Services, “The fundamental function of marketing was to create pull through ads or PR.” She, however, felt that the views expressed on social media were often “high on credibility, but without much authenticity”. “How can one completely trust what a stranger is commenting on or writing about in a social forum?” she asked.
She further said, “People are more open in an online forum because of the anonymity that the medium provides. Social media brings out facets that normal conversation doesn’t facilitate.”
Paul warned against revealing too much in online forums and added that social media was just another tool.
Rajesh Lalwani, Founder & Principal, Blogworks, noted here that lines between advertising, communication and PR were merging. He, however, was wary of influence becoming manipulative.
To offset this problem, Prashant Deorah, MD, Puretech, stressed that conversation was king. He remarked, “User is in control. Hence, one needs to actively listen across all online forums as well as monitor and participate in these forums.”
Here, Lalwani asked whether there was need for a social media policy. Replying to this, Bindra said that Microsoft had a social media policy in place, however, it was left to personal discretion as to what one said on social media. He noted that online media was an open, free-for-all medium and added that more than a threat it was an opportunity for companies. “The whole thing is about giving preferential treatment to the community,” he pointed out.
Agreeing with him Rahul, too, stressed on making the online community one’s friend. “Idea is to engage with this community – online as well as offline,” he added.
Engaging with the communities also aided in times of crisis. Continuous conversation helps one recognise who mattered online and one could empower one’s fan base. Early preparedness on a regular basis was needed to contain crisis according to Puretech’s Deorah.
For Paul, one needed to be a publisher and use the medium to make conversation and provide insights in times of crisis.
Bindra’s advice was simple, “Love your community.”
Rahul noted here, “You can’t manage crisis by managing people.”
The industry experts were speaking at the second exchange4media India PR and Corporate Communications Conference, which was held in Delhi on March 16, 2011. Rajesh Lalwani moderated this session, which was titled ‘Going Social: The New Reputation Management Mantra’.
The Conference was presented by Adfactors Public Relations. CVB News Service was the co-sponsor. Eikona was the measurement partner, while ISB&M School of Communication was the academic partner. Insights were provided by Penn Schoen Berland.