Why the Indian PR business has the biggest opportunity today to shape the news cycle through social media

Every decade has change and revolution that transforms everything. This decade it is the social media revolution and to be present at this revolution is very important.  There is a very strong case for the CEO to be online, participating in social media.

The first thing that the CEO stepping out to create his or her personal profile online is to be sure of the personality and persona that you want to create. This personality is an extension of your organisation’s brand value and not you as an individual. There is a persona you will need to maintain at all times, especially as the CEO and maintain a line that cannot be crossed. You cannot become friends with all those who follow you.

While there is no need to make this a heavy duty exercise -it’s not rocket science- you must be aware  of the brand values that your company reflects and keep pushing the envelope in that direction. President Barak Obama is one example of someone who does that really well; he is the first social media President in history with his re-election picture becoming the most tweeted picture in history.

Secondly, react quickly. What does this mean for the PR agencies and in-house communicators? The PR function would need to be bumped up a notch and they need to be available immediately to respond to any issue. It’s very important to be visible and not treat the social media as a traditional PR platform that can be used to post press release links. When something goes wrong, react immediately. You cannot spend more than 2 to 4 hours in reacting. You have to be quick to reach out, convey and close the issue at hand. The advantage of this is that like traditional media, social media does not carry on hammering away at the issue and you have an opportunity to interrupt and shut down the news cycle of that issue.  PR companies need to be on a hotline with the CEO and be able to react quickly, or you will lose the plot in a crisis. For example, if during the December protests at India Gate, Priyanka Gandhi had tweeted and expressed her concern as a mother herself that would have helped to calm down the situation even if no one from the Government spoke out. Or if Rahul Gandhi has used social media to indicate that he would be reaching out to the protestors soon, it would have helped to convey concern. Instead there was a vacuum of reactions, which only fanned the protests further.

Thirdly, post sensibly. This is not a job for young rookies without the experience and depth of knowledge to convey what you need to in such a public medium. It takes a well honed mind, even if it’s a young person, to convey your values as a brand. There is the example of the Kingfisher group where tweets by close relatives of the senior management –owner nearly destroyed its’ reputational equity, faster than you can tweet. The nature of the tweets in the middle of a payment crisis for hundreds of employees of the failing Kingfisher Airlines did not exactly endear the “King of Good Times” to the public.

 Vivek Bahl is Founder and Director of GoVivekGo Social Media Marketing

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