When a Hero rises and Goliath falls

Communication is the key in everything that brands do – whether it is the formation of Hero MotoCorp or a David Vs Goliath showdown in Citibank’s case

e4m by Shanta Saikia
Updated: May 2, 2012 10:13 PM
When a Hero rises and Goliath falls

Communications is the key in everything that corporates and brands do – whether it is the birth of a new entity such as Hero MotoCorp or an individual investor taking on the might of Citibank.

Hero MotoCorp launch – Birth of a new Hero
When Hero and Honda parted ways, there was a lot of doubt in the minds of stakeholders of both the companies, especially Hero. Hence, the formation of Hero MotoCorp has been result of as much meticulous planning at the board room as it has been at the communications drawing board.

Taking charge of the communications side has been Corporate Voice Weber Shandwick, which undertook a communications blitzkrieg not just in India, but in places such as London to herald the arrival of Hero MotoCorp.

Sharing key learnings from this entire exercise, Dilip Yadav, Executive Vice President - India, Corporate Voice Weber Shandwick said, “One change, multiple new opportunities was the strategy that we followed.”

The need for speed was imperative – while Hero had the rights to use the Honda name till 2014 and the technology as well, the launch of the new company was fast tracked and the company was launched it in 2011 itself, three years ahead of the expiry date.

Another learning was the importance of the pre-launch phase. The PR consultancy proactively went to the market talking about things such as key appointments being made or the new agency being appointed to handle media, besides announcing the new name of the company. In fact, as soon as the Registrar of Companies gave permission for the new company name, the agency announced it at eight in the morning the following day.

The third learning was the need to engage with multiple stakeholders in a 360-degree manner. The launch of Hero MotoCorp’s global brand identity was held in London. Thirty-five media personnel were flown to London. The company also took about 1200 distributors, dealers and employees to take part in the launch event in London. Multiple stakeholders were reached out in a span of about six months. Shah Rukh Khan anchored this high profile event.

Yadav reminisced, “Contrary to conventional belief that we should take one announcement at a time, this was a situation where a lot was packed into one event. The idea was to give the complete picture, so it was not just the brand identity, but it was also the entire forward strategy for the company, which was code-named ‘The Power of Ten’, which was announced by the Hero MotoCorp managing director. The event also saw the world premiere of Hero’s signature tune, which was composed by AR Rahman. Also, two new products – a bike and a scooter – were launched at this event.”

The Power of One – An investor’s battle against Citibank
In a case of David versus Goliath, Sanjeev Aggarwal, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Helion Venture Partners and a high-profile investor, took on Citibank alleging fraud.

“I’m finished, all my money is gone,” were the words Aggarwal uttered when he approached Genesis Burson Marsteller to represent his side of the story. He had come to the agency directly from the police station after filing the FIR.

Shivraj Puri, a disgraced Citi relationship manager, defrauded several wealthy investors in and around Gurgaon. Aggarwal, though not a part of Puri’s fraudulent scheme, alleged that he had lost about Rs 32 crore, with Citibank using his money to buy securities that were never transferred to him.

Giving a first-hand account of how her agency helped out Aggarwal, Prema Sagar, Principal and Founder, Genesis Burson-Marsteller said, “The first thing that I told Aggarwal was that we wouldn’t charge him any money because he didn’t have any money. So, if he got any money, he could donate it to any foundation that he wished to.”

Sagar and her team of senior colleagues SMSed all editors, informing them about a press conference being organised in the garden of Aggarwal’s home in Gurgaon. “It was an event, something that we said had to be done before sun down; that was our target. Everyone landed up there and everyone wanted to know the story. So there was literally a press conference happening while the tickers were changing,” Sagar recalled.

She said that everyone was worried about their money, while the media was focused on Puri and his nexus and how this money could be recovered. “Here we had to see the various regulatory bodies that should have been involved in it, the law enforcement agencies, the industry at large – how does everybody come and help you and create a surround sound in a crisis like this,” Sagar added.

As long as Citibank was communicating with Aggarwal it was alright, but what happened here was that Citibank stopped communicating with and had blocked out Aggarwal – that was the key. Highlighting this action of the bank, Sagar stressed that there was a systemic failure with Citibank, whereas it was their accountability to at least give Aggarwal an answer.

On Genesis Burson-Marsteller’s part, the agency expanded the media beat, so it was not just editors and chiefs of bureau, but also crime and city beat journalists, who were covering the story. “So the story kept coming out and didn’t stop after the press conference in his garden. We even came up with TV ticker releases. With such multiple communication activities, the exposures of the fraud kept coming out. We encouraged public opinion and debates on this matter,” Sagar added.

When one looked at it from a PR perspective, it was about how one delivered one’s message and how many opinion articles were there and how much of exposure there was. Public opinion and debates were carried on various channels and it became very high profile, keeping the pressure on Citibank.

Ultimately, Citibank was forced to acknowledge its responsibility and the bank resumed engagement with the client to make good his losses.

Prema Sagar and Dilip Yadav were speaking at the Annual PR Summit, help in the capital on April 27, 2012. The theme this year was ‘Need for Speed’.

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