Monday, 27 July 2015

What’s the social buzz word?

Quite recently, my mom asked me, ‘Can you tell me..what’s a selfie?’ I wasn’t surprised at her question, as my mom has always had a penchant to learn new things much faster than my dad. I explained the process of taking a selfie and even demonstrated it on my mom’s smartphone. Well…guess what…she wasn’t very impressed. ‘That’s it? That’s a selfie? It happens to me all the time,” she said “Sometimes I press the camera button by mistake and it clicks my picture! Why is everyone so crazy about it??”

Hmmm…she did have a point. What I couldn’t really explain to her is that while the selfie itself did not hold much value, being part of the social media buzz, where posting a selfie is a considerable achievement, is what made our lives really cool.

Today the online world is a profusion of a million voices, each one vying to grab its five minute of fame. Almost every second that we are online, there seems to be an avalanche of information. How much can we consume and what really stands out in the clutter, is the perennial question.

As PR professionals trying to reign in the wildness of the online space, this is a dilemma of our lives. What should you do to stand out? After wading through pages of advice on this topic, I have put together a few pointers for the uninitiated:

Long or short?: Do you know how much time does the average reader spend on social media? A poll by GlobalWebIndex indicated that the average user logs 1.72 hours per day on social platforms, which represents around 28 percent of all online activity. And have you ever guessed what is the optimal time that can hold a reader’s attention? Seven minutes. Here again, on an average, 3 minute posts tend to have the most views. This does not mean that we must rush to write either very short or long posts. What you write and who you write it for matters equally. For e.g a newly pregnant mother will spend hours reading posts on prenatal child care and expect details on every possible scenario. On the other hand, a young geeky professional reading up on the latest technology trends, may prefer a concise view of the latest trends and spend between 2-3 minutes, before he moves on to the next post.

Making content a conversation: If you want your post to register in the reader’s mind, remember that whatever you say, do put your heart in it. You’re telling a story. Say it like you mean it. Content should grab attention, be understood easily, be topical and considered worth sharing. Ride on the wave of what’s happening at the current moment in time, it will resonate better and have a higher chance of being shared.

Who is reading your content:  Be aware of your target audience. What age bracket do they belong to? Are they students or working professionals or retirees? Identify what they want to hear and then give them the right content which will make them listen.

Shout it from the rooftop: So you have an FB page and have been posting regularly. You have the same set of people liking it and a few shares? Obviously you’re not doing enough. Have you thought of other mediums of communication? Tag it. Tweet it. Instagram it. Say the same thing, but increase your reach by spreading yourself across different platforms. Remember …somewhere, someone is listening.

What makes content go viral? Ever wondered how a post or a video spiral out of control and goes viral? The answer is nobody really knows. There is no fixed formula on what really creates the spark.  But most posts that have gone viral have one or more of these ingredients – intrigue, emotion, information, feel good factor.

Make it visual: Want to grab someone’s attention quickly? Get visual. Research has proved that the human brain processes images faster than words. Boost your content with either a visual or an infographic. It gives more credibility to your post and increases the chances of it being shared.
So that’s my two penny worth tips on creating content that is delicious enough to be consumed and shared. There is no foolproof method, but it’s important to be consistent and to regularly revisit earlier posts to see which ones were liked or shared more than the others. This is your quickest feedback to understand what is working and will help you to develop better content.

So let’s get started…happy writing !

- Anju Verghese

Monday, 22 June 2015

Art of driving a car

Few months back a handful of us were asked to suggest a topic for our blog and then write
few hundred words on it. Well the topic needed to be interesting and end of all leave the readers with something to ponder on.

As it turned out with all my sanity (reads insanity) put together, I suggested ‘Art of Driving a Car’! and I had hoped to be able to pen down something, that is intelligent and correlated with the industry we work in. 

What? was I thinking! And why didn’t I think of topics like Leadership? Teamwork? Communication Skills?... considering that one has been making a living in this field for more than a decade. Then I thought that I have also been driving a car on Delhi roads for close to a decade now. Which actually stood synonym to my years of working (prior to that I rode a scooty… a moped… hmm let it go).

I still recall my first drive to office, thinking that the roads will be empty on a Saturday and with no traffic I will manage the drive as smooth as an ice cream, without realizing that the damn ice cream had nuts and raisins added to it… that Saturday happened to be the first weekend of India International Trade Fair… roads were infested with people needless to say the other living beings followed…I somehow managed to office and the feeling….that feeling actually was incomparable. The truth, however is that it wasn’t the feeling as much as the challenge, confidence and of course the belief that (yipeeee) I can drive all by myself surpassed everything. So my friends, nothing as the old saying goes is impossible.

Many of us go through this (you can choose to say no, but Mr. Einstein we all have) …could be with family, friends and of course not to miss the place where we spend 8 x 5  per week(quite a few spend less or maybe more… but I am not judging here) … office! I have often noticed that at work, we tend to miss feeling the feeling and give up very easily; stop taking challenges and even more stop believing in ourselves, so here are few tips that you may want to ponder on

  • I do understand that the environment today is quite challenging and the hurdles it presents are not uncommon at all. But then we complex it further by believing in the environment. Take the challenge! All we need to do is to understand and get the basics right. If we know what our deliverable are, align your efforts then hurdles by themselves disappear
  • I believe that I can fly, I believe that I can touch the sky (not a Bette Midler song). What is key here is, for you to believe in your efforts and that you too can achieve it. It is important that you are true to your task and what you are doing to achieve it is in the right direction, if you are unsure then ask, someone is there to guide you (for sure) and then nothing is impossible
  • Learn from experience; don’t let it wither away. Pick brains of those who have been there, done this and that. Gather as much understanding on learning from others, even mistakes that they had committed and how they resolved it…. Interestingly these will give insights and perspective which will come handy….. Try it. Never fails.

At the end you would be wondering, what has, ‘Art of Driving a Car’ got to do with the blog written above…. Well I drove you till the end of the article.. didn’t I?
J So till we meet next, drive safe.

- Deepika Bansal

Monday, 8 June 2015

An Interesting World of Contradictions

I read a few days ago about India getting its first transgender principal at a women’s college
in West Bengal - this is definitely a massive leap for us as a society but the bigger achievement lies in the fact that this news comes from a state that is known to many to be mostly conformist and laidback, albeit of course not to forget the land of intellects, writers and poets as well. What makes this even more radical is that this move has the full support of the state government without which even conceiving such an idea would probably not have been possible! 

Interesting to note is that while some in India are taking bold steps towards slow but sure transformation, the military of one of the world’s biggest superpowers defines gender nonconformity as a psychological disorder (!) forcing those serving to do so under constant fear of being revealed! 

We live in an interesting world of contradictions where in many cases social boundaries are defined by the strata of society we live in, or the gender we belong to, or maybe even what we eat and what we don’t – the list is endless. But we have to admit that we are infact a very privileged lot to be part of a generation that is privy to, and in some cases even the driving force behind social change.

Manabi Bandopadhyay’s (the newly appointed transgender principal) victory is only one such instance but it can spark many-a debate that could free many-a communities from the shackles of social stereotypes we could happily do without.

And while the press is playing its own part in mobilising this change, it’s refreshing to see brands too becoming bolder in what they say to their audiences. So is evident from campaigns like Ariel’s share the load, Red Label’s surprise visit, Airtel’s boss wife, Fastrack’s move on and’s ShaadiCares which are attempting to bust traditional norms and offer a leg up to sections of society that have long lived ‘by the rules’. 

Special mention again is most deserved by’s ShaadiCares – not only have they boldly taken up against one of the most prevalent ills in our society but they’ve done so at the risk of antagonising their own client-base. Absolutely commendable and honourable move!

On a more personal note, for those of us who come from traditional families where conformism is highly rewarded, altering the way our lives were planned for us is a matter of great debate and judgement. But it’s refreshing to see more and more families and some sections of society putting their weight behind unconventional choices and bringing change in the most unexpected quarters.

In the midst of all the social turmoil that we read of every day, it’s heartening to hear of students in a neighbouring land protecting those of another religion as they celebrate a festival of another country! At the same time it is heart-rending to see the plight of refugees unwanted despite their worsening agony – it’s a big question mark on ideologies around humanity to say the least!

But contradictions continue and that’s what makes our society the interesting pot-boiler that it is today. And the more we open our minds to change, the more welcoming some of these will be, even for those of us who don’t necessarily subscribe.  

- Naina Shetty

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Go for the heart, wallet will follow

An interesting conversation with an advertising veteran this weekend gave me some food
for thought. Let’s call him Mr. X for the time being. He asked me if I have ever seen a consumer. Without even blinking an eye I said I am one and I am sitting with one. I thought it was too cool an answer that must have impressed Mr. X who immediately rejected my thought and continued, ‘that’s the problem with us marketing professionals. We think of our offering as only product and people buying it as mere numbers that add to the profitability. No one tries to look at the human behind that number who has a need to satisfy or is looking for a solution to his/her problem.’
Mr. X’s take on consumerism got me thinking. Today, many companies think of business as merely sales and create their marketing strategy around increasing the numbers. They tend to ignore the humans behind those numbers and don’t attempt to connect with them emotionally. The ultimate objective of such companies is to maintain a healthy balance sheet. What they forget in the process is appealing to the person they want to sell to. In order to validate this, I connected with few acquaintances and asked them to name the top companies that they loved in the consumer technology and FMCG space. Brands that constantly popped up were the usual suspects – Apple, Google, Sony and surprisingly Philips in technology and Cadbury, Loreal, Nivea in FMCG space leaving behind various obvious ones that rely heavily on advertising but still don’t resonate with the buyer.
It is simple, each of these top brands have become part of our lives, have truly attempted to satisfy our needs and have built a relationship with us over a period of time. Why else will an HUL invest in creating the largest network of dealers across India or Apple become the most innovative company offering the best experience and after sales support in the country or Loreal spend 18 years, millions of dollars in localizing innovation for India and reach out to innumerable salons across India to improve skill sets of hair care professionals. These brands also have a business to run, are profit centric but still prefer to develop a bond through their offering to buy user’s loyalty. Successful brands don’t sacrifice long term gain for short term profitability.
Given, the fast spreading start-up culture in India, it is important that the new ventures keep customer connect in mind. Inspite of pressure from the investors to demonstrate immediate return on investment, it is important for the leaders to resist the urge of preferring immediate sales over long term bonding with the audiences. Even the established brands that are still trying to find their feet in the market should go back to the basics and rethink their strategy.
Few pointers to keep in mind while trying to sell in the market are:
  1. People first - stay true to your brand identity and its emotional appeal. Keep reminding yourself why did you start the venture and what purpose does it serve. Make sure that your marketing machinery is focused on delivering this message to people across.
  2. Don’t let the greed of short term profit mar long term gains– be in it for the long run. Make sure you look at the person behind those numbers who will buy your offering. Invest time and money to connect with this person. Let the brand offering resonate with his requirement.
  3. Let buyers’ need drive innovation and not the other way round – Not everyone can be like an Apple that can develop great products without any support from market research. Hence stay connected with people. Get feedback, identify gaps and use it to improve your offering constantly. Philips is one such company that does it well. They keep visiting people to understand the challenges they face with their existing products and then use the findings to improve upon their offerings.
  4. Keep reminding yourself constantly of the real business that you are in – Like Loreal is in the business of beauty. Everything at Loreal including R&D, innovation, sales, and marketing revolves around making people look beautiful. Similarly, while we see Apple as either software or a hardware company, it actually is in the business of building ecosystem. Apple realized it way before anyone else that cellphone or an MP3 player or laptops or tablets should not exist in isolation but be so well interconnected that you cannot leave it even if you want to. And while doing this they focused on experience, design, technology and sales support that is so robust that you won’t even feel like leaving the network. Figure out what you really want to sell in the market and then stick to it. Let innovation stem out of this need as well.
  5. Have a plan to give back to the society – that’s your responsibility and as well as marketing pull in the long run. Look at Tata, this attribute alone has only made the brand stronger every day. The faith that people have in the brand is so strong that it has helped the company stand strong amidst various controversies it has been subjected to in last many years. Coca Cola and Pepsi have their CSR initiatives in place that has helped them wither through various crises. For a start-up this might be a big ask but atleast make sure that your proposition and message is always towards the betterment of the society. It will pay back someday.
Although businesses are meant to be profitable, it is people and their emotional need that should come first. Because people don’t use logic while making purchase decision; they buy for emotional reasons and then use logic to justify it.
- Priyank Dubey

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

6@6 – My first Blog!

It feels amazing to complete six years with Six Degrees PR. Also because I am the first employee to
do so, and I love to show this off! :)
After working for one year at Turner Broadcasting - Corporate Communications, I had joined Six Degrees to learn how a PR agency functions and to get agency experience without any further plans. I feel I was extremely lucky to join a start-up with amazing people like Rishi & Zach, where I could see how a 3-4 members’ team grew to 50+ people today! It had been an incredible journey while learning things from the scratch.
On my first day at Six Degrees, I was just reading the office policies’ documents and seeing how many leaves will I get in the year, am I supposed to wear formals everyday etc. etc., Not just this, I was trying to understand my first client Hughes and was scrolling through its website and the DCR – which all looked French! Coming from Turner and working on channels like Cartoon Network, Pogo & CNN; Satellite – Broadband – VSAT – all looked like another world. This happened for a week and I was finding it very boring, but then you don’t develop interest and start understanding things of a different sector in one day!

After a week, I went for my first client meeting with Rishi & Supriya! Four engineers (as I remember) at Hughes took us through their business verticals and all I did in the meeting was to take copius notes – without understanding a bit! After coming back from the meeting and after being asked by
Rishi if I understood the client business – I had to be honest!

Rishi then explained us in simple terms and everything seemed clear! This is the first thing I loved about Six Degrees. If you get great guidance and have great people around – things become easy and interesting.

Six Degrees and the clients I have worked with in the last six years – have given me chance to grow as a professional! Some extremely professional clients and some those – who have made us more patient in life ;-)

Another thing I loved (and still love) about Six Degrees is transparency. Each and employee is encouraged to talk and convey issues – so that these can be resolved. I believe if you get good environment to work in, great people around, no politics (I haven’t seen that), good clients, accessible leadership team – you know you are at the right place!

Moreover, I have been really glad to have a rocking team and super cool bosses Sid and Karan. Six Degrees has also given me some of my lifetime friends like Deepika Mehrishi, Manveet and Sayanti!
Last, but not the least, Amazing Off-sites, Bunker meets, Office parties – have made this journey more memorable! (p.s. It isn’t my sign-off letter ;)

Thank you Six Degrees!
- Vilsha Kapoor

Monday, 27 April 2015

Will the ugly duckling become the swan? Why Cyrus Mistry needs to re-think the Tata Motors’ design language

It’s not often that a share price can say as much without saying anything. The Tata Motors scrip
closed at Rs. 517.3 at day end today. Down from a lifetime high of Rs. 1340 sometime in 2011. The scrip remains largely buoyed by a resurgent Jaguar Land Rover. The Tata group’s bid to buy the iconic British brand (from Ford) has perhaps not worked to bolster Tata Motors’ image as a global company and help it go upscale (in the same way that previous acquisitions such as Tetley Tea Ltd and Corus Group Plc. did for Tata Tea Ltd and Tata Steel Ltd, respectively). Instead strong performance by JLR has helped shore Tata Motors share prices which otherwise would’ve been languishing much lower. Share price aside, the problem with Tata Motors is extremely deep-rooted. It’s a brand that’s become synonymous with all that than can possibly go wrong with a brand – which is exactly what happened. 

How has this impacted the brand? Is brand Tata Motors dead? A quick look at Google’s search trends reveals anything but. After Maruti Suzuki, there are more people out there searching for Tata Motors than any other auto brand in India today. But ask a young working couple today if they’d like to buy a Tata car and they’re probably likely to decline. The Zest and Bolt, though interesting vehicles, have hardly set the cash registers ringing. 

That the folks at Tata Motors have a problem on their hands is well known. The untimely demise of Karl Slym, the erstwhile managing director of Tata Motors was definitely a huge loss for the company. Karl had articulated a plan running up to 2020; this includes appropriate focus on alternate fuels, hybrids and electric vehicles. The new Tata Motors would resolve to foster a culture of customer centricity and innovation, so that the company's products and services consistently exceed customer expectations. That vision is now the baby of Cyrus Mistry – known to be an auto aficionado himself.

"There is a need for a cross-functional team, which will be manned by young talent and monitored by senior most leaders, so that youthful team can bring the latest insight into the products for the future," Mistry told employees through a webcast recently. The address happens at a time when the company is facing its biggest loss as well as lowest market share in both passenger and commercial vehicles in a decade. With the recent launch of the Zest and Bolt cars, Tata Motors has managed to arrest its slide in the market, yet the company's volumes at the end of fiscal 2015 showed a double-digit decline. Its market share of 6% was the lowest since fiscal 2005. 

So wherein lies the problem and is there a solution?

I believe that the single, most important issue affecting the car division at Tata is design or rather the lack of it. Performance, quality, reliability etc are defining attributes and not to be negated but for the purpose of this article and specific to the brand resurgence required for Tata’s car division, the three most important elements are design, design and you guessed it, design! Everything else comes later.

Let’s see why. Go back 10-12 years. Look at the auto brands present in India (and still existing). There’s market leader Maruti Suzuki, Tata Motors, Hyundai, General Motors, Toyota, Mahindra and Ford.  All of them produced at least 1 iconic brand (from a design perspective) that even today evokes exclamations of nostalgic ecstasy. For Maurti Suzuki there’s the Zen that continues to have an incredible fan following and was a great car. Hyundai’s tall boy Santro was another icon as was its Accent (which most Indians pronounced as ‘Ascent’). The ‘Ikon’ was the trailblazer for Ford while GM’s Optra was almost there (a good, under-rated car that did not see as much as it should’ve). For Tata Motors, yes, the Indica – the “More Car per Car” did enjoy unprecedented success, but simply forgot to evolve beyond that.

All the above icons had a strong element of design that emerged as a critical aspect of success.  This is also true for the Indica when it was launched (or the Sumo and Safari). But while the design philosophy of most car makers evolved with time, it did not with the Tatas. The Indica morphed into the unbelievably ugly Indigo and each iteration of the series became uglier than the last. And as old icons gave way to new icons (the Santro to the i-20 or the Zen to the Swift), somewhere down the line, the mandarins at Tata Motors lost the plot and the Indica remained exactly that…an Indica, a remnant of the coming-of-age era for Tata Motors.

Cars need to have a personality – something that talks to and engages with the driver / owner. It can be edgy or sublime, in-your-face or subtle – different strokes for different folks and the design (followed with performance) will speak that language and set the context. Marketing and brand gurus milk this for all its worth. From TVCs to ambassadors, influencers to salesmen, customers to aspirants, everyone will speak this one language and set the context for a particular model or series. 

Automakers call this a ‘design language’. The Hyundai’s fluidic range has worked wonders for it in India. In contrast, Ford’s ‘kinetic’ global design language did not work in India with the Fiesta but has done wonders with the Eco Sport. Even Mahindra did a fairly good job of the XUV5OO and earlier with the Scorpio. At Tata Motors they’re calling their new design language DesignNext, to “shape our philosophy in engineering vehicles that not only look good but feel good too.” The Bolt and the Zest followed by the Tata Hexa Concept SUV (and other models) follow or will follow this philosophy. But given the tepid response to the Bolt and the Zest, how DesignNext evolves and is communicated to a wider public in relation to newer cars, SUVs and crossovers remains to be seen. And also whether it bites!

- Rahul Mishra 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish

Two great thinkers said two very profound things, that together sum up the need of the hour.

'Stay hungry, stay foolish', made famous by Steve Jobs, prescribed attitudinal shifts to remain successful. George Bernard Shaw said, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, while the unreasonable man insists on adapting the world to himself, therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man". Wise words from two men living in different times but highlighting the same issue – the risks posed by our inherent need to ‘conform’.

Workplaces today are dominated by professionals that would rather ‘conform’ than ‘transform’; in turn putting at risk the very notion of what these places were meant to be  - a highly charged environment of talented individuals focused on improvisation, improvement and innovation. A conformist attitude brings with it huge risks, and for a creative services industry like Public Relations, those risks can be dire. 

Over the last 15 years, PR in India has evolved in many ways. From offering geography based media engagement services at a time when information and access was at a premium; to offering multi-stakeholder engagement services today when both are a given; and ‘authenticity’ and ‘advocacy’ are the Holy Grail. The wave of technological innovations that are changing the way we connect and engage with people, make this an exciting time for PR professionals – challenging and often confusing, but with great potential.

The industry at large is responding quite well – with new service lines, standards and processes being developed to manage this opportunity. At the same time, we also need to be careful to ensure that these don’t stifle ‘creativity’ and ‘imagination’ and encourage ‘conformism,’ which is rampant. Here are some basic questions we need to ask ourselves to check if we’re headed towards conformism:
  • Are we clear about the differentiated value of PR in the evolving communications landscape? Many of us struggle to understand and articulate this, which eventually bears on our ability to ideate.
  • Are we rewarding process and compliance, and stifling curiosity, creativity? I often find that missing deadlines becomes a bigger issue than coming up with mediocre ideas. 
  • Are we too scared to fail? PR agencies have always had it tough, and the external change is making it tougher. Conforming to expectations, is digging ourselves deeper into a hole at a time when authenticity is the true differentiator.
  • Are we limited by our experience or the lack of it? The environment we operate in continues to evolve and as such none of us have all the answers. Do we accept that and seek to learn and grow, or stay comfortable within the scope of what we know?

If we’ve answered yes to the last three questions, we need to be extra careful and course correct. We need to reward creative risk taking as much as the ability to manage. We need to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset as much as a ‘get the job done’ mindset. What’s also missing today is passion, and there’s nothing like invoking the entrepreneur within people, to stoke passion which is what differentiates between good, and great and is crucial for a creative services sector like ours in particular. 

We need to stay hungry - look beyond short term results and be focused on driving disruptive change for our clients and big opportunities for ourselves. We all need to stay foolish - in the way we look at campaigns to challenge convention and drive real advocacy even if it comes at a risk.

These are imperative to drive the next level of growth for our industry. We have a big opportunity staring at us. We can augment our foundation and build on it, or hand it on a platter to others.

- Karan Punia