Tag Archives: PR Agency

Publicity at any cost – Good or Bad?

bad-publicityHow often have we heard the statement, “Any publicity is good publicity”? Our guess is – a good number of times! Brands, big or small, know the power of this statement and at some point of time or the other have tried to take advantage of a bad publicity or bad press. Though it is not exactly something experts would advice, brands and individuals on more than one occasion have benefitted out of a negative publicity.

But, bad publicity is not good for everyone. If a brand is relatively unknown then, it can benefit from the exposure. On the other hand, the image of a bigger brand might get hurt with bad publicity. For example, a theme park in California, USA. The 2013 documentary Blackfish, that won an Academy Award for its depiction of what many believe is animal cruelty, affected the operations of the park. The park’s revenue went down, as the number of visitors had dropped significantly. Laws were proposed in California that would make it illegal for the company to conduct some of its operations. It paid a huge price following the allegations made in the documentary.

On the other hand, a study found that sales of popular singer and entertainer records rose during periods when the singer was in the news for child molestation or dangling his baby over a balcony. So how do we know who gains from a bad press?

On negative publicity, a study by three professors from Wharton and Stanford stated, “A crucial factor is how familiar a brand or product was before the negative publicity. Crunching data that cross-matched book sales against critics’ appraisals, they found that negative reviews of a new book by an established author hurt sales.”

An Indian real estate company, which has been in the news lately due to the controversy that its co-founder and ex CEO, had stirred, might have gained quite a bit. Though the company was launched in 2012, it was only early March 2015 that its nation-wide brand launch took place after its third round of funding and people started “looking up” to the brand. The brand revealed its new logo, colours, brand philosophy and tagline. The launch was also advertised in national newspapers with big hoardings put up in several cities across India with notable posts on the company’s social media pages. This got everyone talking about the brand even giving sleepless night to its competitors.

The company was growing too fast too soon and this was perhaps what made its CEO, a wee bit arrogant as he started displaying his callous attitude. The company became a talking point on several occasions thanks to his actions:

  • Public spat with other industry leaders, where he accused the leader of poaching staff from the real estate portal
  • Tiff with a leading media house where he said, “Who needs a girlfriend when you have the Times group.”
  • The famous spats with the CEO of an online restaurant search and the CEO of a well known cab service, which caused much buzz on the Internet. After his public firing, one of the CEOs even tweeted that it felt like reality entertainment show Bigg Boss season had just ended
  • Resigned from the brand after sending on to the board where he mentioned, “investors were intellectually incapable and not worthy of his time”
  • Gave off 200 crore worth of his shares to the employees of the company
  • Took a pot shot at a software giant’s CEO by posting a picture of him sleeping at an airport lounge

But the bad publicity that he received from the controversies that he created for himself over a period of time did not work for him. Instead, it looked like he dug a pit deep enough for himself to fall as he got fired by the same board that he had referred to as ‘incapable’. He lost the control over his own company, the company that he had worked hard for and co-founded with 11 other people. He became a butt of jokes, especially on the social networking sites and was even trending on Twitter the day he got fired. He is now referred to as the ‘bad boy of Indian startups’.

While it worked in a negative way for the ex CEO, the brand seems to have benefitted from it quite well. Every time he posts something on his face book page or makes a statement, people directly associate it with the brand that in turn gained mileage whether offline or online. Meanwhile, there bound to be some repercussions of this exit internally. He was after all the founder of the company and his firing left the employees in a lurch with reports in the media stating that investors were keen to sell the startup as other companies were keen on buying it. Employees have been worried about their job security and his shares would be distributed to them that they put across to the board.

Interestingly, the brand lost about 15% of its top employees since news of his likely departure was first reported in March. After his exit, the senior executives and investors of the company met and assured the employees that the three-year-old startup can still become a billion-dollar company. As per reports, many companies are interested in buying the brand. The biggest investor of the company was heard saying, “Innovation, product and design are the key strengths of the brand and if we stick to it then we don’t need to worry about competition.”

What most people feel is that the startup though has gained from the entire controversy will play safe now instead of getting innovative.

So how does a brand or an individual handle a bad press? Here are some pointers:

  • Leave the Internet alone. What is posted on the Internet remains there for eternity. Half of the problems come from ranting on the Internet or the emails.
  • Keep a publicity plan in place. Foresee problems and have forecasts of any future problems and accordingly have a contingency plan in place to deal with it
  • Learn from other’s mistakes. The above example should be a lesson for all startups to make a note of the things to avoid
  • Don’t stay silent. Keep people informed, especially your employees as to what is going on with the company
  • Appoint a spokesperson. This person should be someone who can calmly answer any questions related to the company
  • Your first contact with the outside world is your website, so make sure that the website is updated with the current going ons and carries a statement
  • Issue a press statement. Whenever there is a controversy, make sure that you take the initiative to send out a press note first
  • If you don’t have a PR team in place, consider hiring a PR firm that will do the crisis management for you and your brand

The 2-minute PR Failure and How to Deal With Such a Crisis

PRFailRecently, a popular brand of international repute was under the scanner for containing certain amount of metal beyond permissible levels when tested by the Food Safety and Drug Administration (FSDA) The market value of Rs 1300 crores strong brand went down and eventually was taken off the shelves in many states. But, the FSDA report was not the only factor that contributed to the whole controversy. The bigger blow came from the brand maintaining silence over the matter for a long time and not communicating with the customers that proved a PR failure for the brand.

Instead, it reportedly asked its company officials to engage directly with stakeholders, dealers and tradeholders, but not to talk publicly about developments. A report in a well known business newspaper said, “Any engagement needs to be approved and vetted by the company’s legal team only.” When there was a personal touch required in such a sensitive situation, the company opted to communicate through its website and digital media. They included a new section on its website—for Indian consumers—with a detailed FAQ to deal with the concerns of consumers and other stakeholders.

The company has withdrawn the product from the market maintaining though that it is safe, because of a “state of confusion” they are taking it off the market. Meanwhile, the brand relied on press statements that were presented on social media in PDFs discouraging customers to actually go through them. It was an automated response and hardly had any emotional connect with the audiences. This showed the not so supportive or customer friendly nature of the brand whose PR activities were limited to just advertising the product until a few days back.

This wasn’t the first time that the brand faced such a crisis. Earlier, when a certain group, raised an issue about one of the chocolates produced by the multinational brand, the brand had an arrogant response that time too. But, no lessons seemed to have been learnt from that episode as the Indian arm of the brand chose to remain nonchalant about the product tests failure until some days ago when they held a press conference with CEO addressing the press that many PR experts feel came a tad bit late. They started taking baby steps towards damage control and announced the recall of its existing produce worth billion rupees. They even rolled out an ad out in the paper stating customer’s trust as their utmost priority and called out to millions of its customers who may still have the product at their homes and would wish to give them up.

This is one of the biggest crises that the brand has ever faced and has cost it dearly. Could the brand have avoided this crisis? Instead of taking it in a positive way and letting their PR machinery do the damage control, the brand chose to go defensive which hurt even more. This is quite amateurish coming from a brand that is 110 years old.

So how could the brand have managed this crisis in a better way?

  • Quick response: When the FSDA had declared the results of the test, the first communication following that should have come from the brand. Considering that India is an emotional country and the brand engagement with the customers is huge, the brand completely failed in this regard. All the brand had to do is have a press conference and state their side of the story instead of leaving the customer in a state of confusion.
  • Appoint a spokesperson: When faced with a crisis, the first thing that a brand needs to do is appoint a spokesperson who will be only point of contact for that crisis. This spokesperson should be a senior staff member or management committee. This will not only provide consistency to the voice of the company but will also be professional and show people that the brand is serious about solving the crisis. This was lacking from the multinational brand.
  • Make a statement: As a brand, make a statement that will adhere to the following format: 1. Show sympathy to people adversely affected 2. Explain what you are doing to tackle the situation e.g. cooperate with an enquiry, conducting further tests etc. The brand in question had many chances and yet failed to do so.
  • Communicate: What the brand forgot was that one should never leave the audiences in the dark and let them make up their mind based on one side of the spectrum. Communicate with them! It could be in any form – website, email networks, newsletter and face-to-face contact. Reassure your users and stakeholders that you are taking the issue seriously and let them know whether there are any changes to your products or not.
  • Investigate: Even if it means that you have to set up your own enquiry or co-operate with an external investigation. Make sure staff and volunteers are supported through this difficult time.
  • Give importance to social media: Social media plays an important role in crisis management so give its due and use it diligently. This could be your easiest mode of communication with the customers and stakeholders. When you are sending out a message, ensure that the tone of your response is aligned to the tone of your company. It is important to react on time; even a genuine and credible response will fall flat if it is not delivered at the appropriate time to make sure that you don’t rush to make a statement.

8 Tips on Effectively Using Social Media for PR

PR-social-mediaToday every company wants to have a social media presence it doesn’t matter whether the business is big or small because everyone is aware of the reach of social media. What started as just a tool for social networking has now become a hub in itself for marketing.

One of the fields that can most benefit of its use is public relations (PR). Using social media for PR is an effective way to promote your brand. No start-up or small business can afford to ignore this aspect of marketing. The big brands are already doing it and with great results. Here are a few tips on how to use social media for PR effectively:

Social media is more than just Twitter

Social media does not mean just having a Twitter account and tweeting. There’s so much more to it. With Twitter alone you don’t get analytics, direct SEO benefit and nor do you control the network. For a truly effective social media presence to help your PR, move beyond twitter and use other networks too. But, while you are on the micro-blogging website, make sure to talk about your company and the services to the maximum. There is no limit to how much you can publicize about a product or service on Twitter.

Become a platform-agnostic thought leader

Don’t be famous only on one network. Try to be a thought leader for your brand across networks. You should be known for your path breaking views on a particular industry. So, keep an open mind to try out different channels on social media as you never know which one will work best for you until you experiment.

Don’t focus too much on one network

We all know where Orkut is today. Spending all your time and focusing your energies on one network could backfire if the network falls out of favour with users. Focus instead on community building and funnelling subscribers to one common destination. Though Twitter and Facebook are famously being used now by many and are quite popular, seek more of such sites to use for your benefit.

Choose strategy over tactics for long-term benefits

If you share content that strikes a chord with people, you will see results and fast! But that’s only a tactic. You need to engage in several such tactics over a period of time. That’s when you have sound strategy, which will translate to long-term success. You’ll have to experiment with different tactics before identifying the ones that will work for you.

Outlast your competitors

Continue to generate content in those sites where you’ve been doing it for a long time. You need to reach the point where publicity is generated as a by-product of participation.

Find the link between Social Media, SEO and PR

There is a connection between social media, SEO and PR, and smart PR agencies capitalize on these connections to get higher visibility on numerous fronts. Do proper research before you apply it in practicality, what works for your competitor might not work for you.

Use your keyword glossary across all media

Don’t restrict your keyword glossary only for your SEO. Use it across all channels and media to optimize the content and improve your inbound marketing results.

Build links through social participation

Through social participation, you’re going to get attention for your brand and attention on the web translates to links.  This, along with other link building tactics can result in better rankings and referral traffic.

So go ahead and take that first step to use social media for PR. It’s something that can no longer be put off. It’s a must for every start-up or small business, which can take a leaf out of the books of large corporations who are doing it and with élan.