Tag Archives: public relations

The politics of charity – CSR is often an abused word

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a much abused word.
Every organization you and I know claims to be a good corporate citizen ’cause they gave away some money for charity. It is often an attempt to to absolve themselves from any responsibility to really participate and yet be seen as a kindhearted organization. Donations allow a beautiful way to be associated on the very surface. More often than not, these donations are motivated by misguided directions from the PR team or the CEO’s desire to make some press.
“Can you invite the media, particularly the photographers, at the Tsunami hit village as we donate 5 boats to the fishermen who lost their livelihood.”
I still vividly remember a full-page national ad campaign, worth a few crores of Rupees, by a large automobile group, announcing a donation of 20 lac Rupees and 5 cars towards Army Relief Fund after Kargil – I thought it would have made more sense the other way round. More contribution, less noise.
Donations typically go in the way of ‘crisis of the moment’ as most it serves the purpose for visibility greedy corporates and also helps rid guilt/ need to do anything else.
Not for profit organizations too are constantly clamoring for funds – primary means for them to sustain their ground efforts. ‘Competition’ among them to outdo each-other is intense. Funds on the other hand are finite so, for example, what was meant for the girl child as a cause, now goes to Tsunami – not additional funds. The process is often random and driven by herd mentality, with little concern for:

  1. Need
  2. Impact
  3. Sustainability

Ironically, ever so often even these funds/ donations don’t reach the needy or even when they do, often they reach so late that the purpose is lost.
A surface approach to CSR is not the solution to whatever purposes it was directed towards. This approach is flawed – creates imbalances and potential dependencies rather than enablement.
What is needed instead, is a thought through approach. This can be done by adopting a longer term approach; focusing on areas where an intervention by the group can make an impact; need assessment; relevant partnerships and a focus on setting objectives and mile-stones. Great CSR, I have always believed, has nothing to do with money, but with taking ownership.
What do you think?

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Relive the Learnings 5 – Your tone will decide the results.

Expect the slowdown, on writing, to continue until end of October, due to personal commitments. I will keep writing intermittently though.Come November, I am back with a vengeance :).
The Relive the Learning series I started earlier got great response, and we have already touched upon:

  1. Say more in less.
  2. Close the loop.
  3. Don’t presume, ask instead.
  4. Make things idiot proof.

Here is the last from the 5 learnings I wanted to share:
“Your tone will decide the results.”

  1. “Did I catch you at the wrong time?”, you ask, as you call me on the phone.
  2. “Well, I am a little busy, can we speak later?”, I reply.

How about trying “I hope it’s a good time to speak with you? I needed a minute”. I might actually be busy and you may still get a no, but I still prefer the latter version. Positive tone, and phrases, evoke positive responses, I believe.

  1. On days that a former colleague, from a public relations agency we used to work at, was unwell or feeling weak, I would strongly discourage her to call journalists on the phone to pitch a story on that day – chances of success would be bleak. Rather that the she wrote an email and followed up on the phone next morning, or handed over the task to another colleague, just for that day.
  2. Organization ABC is facing a potential crisis with the sudden departure of very senior colleague. The news needs to be communicated to the customer, but there could be repercussions. A communication is being drafted:
    – Senior colleague has left; we were expecting it to happen; we thought we would inform you. Expect your support.
    A little probe leads to the discovery that the senior resource had done did precious little in the last year to deliver business impact. That the team is well entrenched and is delivering value. The team-lead had recently been promoted. As a result of the departure, another senior person with relevant skill-sets had been pulled into the team. The CEO has decided to jump into supervising the relationship and a new, very senior professional, has been admitted on the advisory board.
    There seems to be a plan. Then, why not communicate that too?
    The revised note for the operations team at the customer-end highlights the team’s work, promotion of team-lead, shares the news about additional resource brought in, thanks and shares good wishes for the colleague leaving. Additionally a note is sent to the key stakeholders at customer-end about departure of colleague, about CEO’s enhanced involvement in the business and the addition of new member on the advisory board.
  3. Mass sealing of commercial establishments, including consulting services, operating from residential areas in New Delhi in the recent months has meant dislocation of many start-ups. A friend’s web services business too shifted from a more central, but not so cool, South Delhi locality to a not so central, but bigger, institutional address, in West Delhi.
    A mail communication to all business contacts started with an apology on the distance (which client visits an agency office in the first place?) instead of celebrating the new office.

What would you have done? Your tone will decide the results.
Keep writing.

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Client and Agency Engagement – Today's Paradox

A recent telephone conversation with a friend, a senior communication professional, prompted this post. Do your own experiences as a participant in the communication profession, whether as a veteran or a newcomer, whether an agency or a client validate this paradox? A somewhat controversial one…
It is a paradox emerging from today’s business reality and the situations it creates, range from hilarious to frustrating – depending on who you are, and where you are at that point.
The booming economy, of the last few years and (some claim slowing down now) and the resultant demand for communication professionals by organizations has meant:

  1. Talent is in short supply, compared to demand.
  2. Corporates are often willing to dole out higher pay packets, in comparison to most agencies, leading many executives to prefer these, over an agency job, which is also considered more rigorous/ stressful by many.
  3. Most corporates, other than the larger ones, are not able to accommodate very senior talent, given the business need, ability to pay/ justify the payout, match the growth aspirations of these senior professionals and so on…
  4. Where the organization is indeed large, senior talent is busy on the big picture mandate and often have a team of mid-level and junior colleagues assisting.
  5. It is this layer that often engages with the team from the public relations agency on a day on day basis.

Herein lies the paradox, or the situation.

  1. A more experienced team from the agency is engaging a relatively less experienced professional, the client interface.
  2. Senior involvement from the agency is ‘expected’ whereas senior involvement from the client maybe simply be ‘not being priority’ or not available in absence of said talent.

On many occasions a relatively less experienced client will look to towards the agency leadership for learning and guidance, but on many times ego comes in and the resultant situation may look funny to a spectator, but not so to the agency team and leadership.

  1. The senior team from the agency is trying to explain the big picture to a relatively less experienced client, who is just not able see it .
  2. A less experienced client sharing a clumsy assignment brief with a much-much senior professional, defeating the very value of ‘distilled learning’ that experience brings with it.

Net losers:

  1. The brand
  2. The relationship.

Do share your thoughts and experiences.

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PITCHH.COM is now live. Go on, make the right connect.

Pitch_logo_Final(2)(2).jpg

I have been sharing developments on this project over the last few weeks and we are NOW live, still a beta though. Allow me to present Pitchh.com – why the extra ‘h’? We think it’s sexy! We think it gives you an extra H – oops, ‘extra EDGE’ we mean. 🙂
Pitchh.com, is a business utility that lets Brands and Agencies “Make the Right Connect” globally.

  1. Brands can create and invite pitch applications for wider choice of ideas and partners.
  2. Agencies across streams of advertising, public relations, marketing, social media and more, can connect directly.

We got off to a good start, in terms of reviews with Amit Ranjan’s Webyantra, giving us more than passing marks 🙂
UPDATE: And we are on Exchange4Media.
, Alootechie ; MediaWatch India and Watblog.
What will Pitchh do for you?
Pitchh.com lets Brands & Organizations, looking for communication and marketing partners; reach out globally, seamlessly, in real time, for a wider choice of ideas and partners by just writing a pitch invitation. Responses from Agencies can then be evaluated privately.
For Agencies, Pitchh.com performs the critical business discovery function and creates a level playing field that lets the ‘right’ partner be counted, participate and make a winning case.
Pitchh.com is a global platform and Invitations and Applications can be seen on the website in a variety of views- including by country, last date, popularity and others.
How you can use it.
You are a Brand or an Organization looking for an agency > go to Invite a Pitch > fill in an assignment brief > publish – and you are done.
No more reaching out to just a handful of names; no more hunting for specialty partners in those obsolete directories that can’t help anyway. Pitchh lets you reach out globally, seamlessly, in real time, for a wider choice of ideas and partners. Just let them know you are looking for them and Make the Right Connect. You can evaluate applications privately – no one, other than you, gets to see the responses.
You are an Agency > go to Apply for a Pitch > View invited pitches> Create a profile> Apply for the pitch and you are connected.
No more working the phone just to be let into that hallowed circle; no more hush -hush pitches that you never got to hear about until they were long over; no more back-and-forth over emails with missing attachments. Pitchh lets you raise your hand and be counted, so you could participate, Make the Right Connect.
Quick and Effective. Try !!
You will see content come alive too, as YOU create profiles. Do so. You can expect many more changes, features in the next few weeks – your feedback would enable many of them.

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