Paid PR is no different from advertising says PR Guru’s expert panel

Starting this week, our expert panel will pick and choose question to answer on varied topics from our readers. Dive in to read about what you need to win at integrated PR

Our panel includes...
Kunal Kishore Sinha, founder director, Value 360 Communications Pvt. Ltd.
Gayatri Rath, director, corporate communications and citizenship, Microsoft India
Deepa Thomas, general manager, group communications, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd
Paroma Roy Chowdhury, vice president, public affairs –SoftBank
Sujit Patil, vice president and head of corporate communications Godrej Industries Limited and Associate companies
Shravani Dang, vice president & global group head of corporate communications at the Avantha Group
Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat, co-founder & director, Ideosphere Consulting Private Limited.

How does digital PR work?
Shraddha Shinde, Pressman India

Expert Advice...

Sujit Patil, vice president and head of corporate communications, Godrej Industries Limited and associate companies.

“To simplify the clutter around multiple definitions and complexities, at Godrej we have defined Digital PR simply as “Earned Social Media”. So in simple terms, it is same as traditional PR but on social platforms.

A robust process is important to enable digital PR in any organization. For us, it included:

  1. Setting up a standard format of a digital press release that had sections available to embed videos, headlines, pictures, links, Twitter handles, Facebook links.
  2. The second key step was to identify vertical wise platforms and bloggers who would be targeted for this distribution.
  3. The next step is to put a protocol within your organization in terms of expectation setting. Creating a full-fledged digital press release entails patience and investments as you would probably want to create a video byte, an infographic, a video testimonial or a video interview. It requires time to have a game plan for enhancing share-ability and hence proper planning works better. So a brief change in mindset is required in terms of being more meticulous, thoughtful and cautious as one small mistake can lead to a crisis on the social media space.”

Gayatri Rath, director, corporate communications and citizenship, Microsoft India 

“Digital communications is about connecting with your ‘digital native’ audience. Digital platforms could be social media sites, online discussion fora, your company and product websites or content delivered directly to mobile phones, fitness bands and smart watches. The important insight when embarking on digital communications campaigns is to understand what digital platforms are frequented by the audience you want to connect with. Your audience may be visiting these platforms to consume information, share a point of view, connect with friends or to interact with your brand.  The platforms could vary depending on the industry or product category. While Twitter, Facebook and Instagram may be good for some categories for the inherent share-ability, sometime product websites may be great for their richness of user experience.”

“The other important pillar of digital communications is content. Creating and curating content that resonates with your audience is key to successful digital campaigns. A one-line tweet may sometimes trump snazzy video content. Having said that, video content is definitely more successful than plain text in the digital world. Of course, there are millions of examples of successful digital communications strategies and there is a lot we can learn from what others have tried out successfully or otherwise. I think, digital communications, like all other communications, must help you connect with your audience and make them feel closer to your brand or better understand your point of view.”

Kunal Kishore Sinha, founder director, Value 360 Communications

“In the present era, Digital PR works best in delivering successful marketing strategies. It is all about making the switch from offering stationary news to reinventing it innovatively for people sourcing and sharing information online. Digital PR primarily draws on content marketing, social media and search engine optimization to make the maximum impact. All this requires identifying the best tactics either by reaching out to the influential and relevant bloggers, journalists and other professionals active on social media or projecting your own self as a thought leader.

We focus on tapping the trends like customer experience model, marketing in 3D, incorporation of big data, live video streaming, Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technology to make it big in the digital PR revolution. This way, it becomes easier to educate people and start conversations with your target audiences directly without having to deal with the media.”

When it comes to integrated PR, how do you balance between paid and earned PR. The lines are blurring and if one person manages both, it is difficult to negotiate with the media and bloggers?
Nirjhara Rastogi, senior manager, corporate communications, Philips India

Expert Advice...

Sujit Patil, vice president and head of corporate communications, Godrej Industries Limited and Associate companies.

“Great question! Paid PR for me means advertising. Going forward, the lines that traditionally separated earned, owned and paid media are going to vanish! Integrated communications have shown better results for me and I feel they are the way to go. While the lines take time blurring, as a strategy, it is important for one to know what works well for the said brand or corporate. It can mean sequencing your blitz in a way that best suits your campaign.

My experience says that before any product launch, executing earned PR followed by paid PR (advertising!) works well. PR creates an ambience and sets the tone, if done well and then the paid route can be used to amplify the same message. As PR professionals, it is our job to position the PR story in a compelling way so that the bloggers, influencers pick it up. This can be done by associating with a cause, a social message and/or ensuring that the story is really media worthy. The real magic happens when your earned and paid media complement each other.”

With the PR skills and practices that we've grown up with, what is the integration of new skill sets and traits that will be required in the coming years? What skills will leaders of communications need in a few years?
Aahna Gandhi Gupta, PR consultant

Expert Advice...

Kunal Kishore Sinha, founder director, Value 360 Communications

“A new age PR professional must understand the guidelines and apparatus of the integrated PR and create a crossover plan for execution, using both traditional and modern strategies as per the demand of every individual account or campaign and the nature of their marketing activity. There aren’t any set parameters to guide a PR professional on the effective integration of traditional and modern PR.  It all depends on their knowledge, understanding and whether they are able to decide the contribution of each medium in a right manner. Further, for best possible results, there must be perfect synchronization between the PR team, marketing team, social media experts and media planners.”

Deepa Thomas, general manager, group communications, Mahindra Group

“Powerful storytelling skills across multiple medium so we can create impactful owned & paid content (Images, Video, White Papers & Infographics)
Social media prowess with a presence & familiarity across multiple social mediums (think High Klout score)
Data & Analytics mavens who can analyze metrics to tell a story or prove a trend
Economists & Trend Watchers: Finger on the pulse of world economy, climate change, immigration influx & other world concerns
Arsenal of Mobility friendly employee channels: For today’s geographically dispersed, on the move, employee workforce”

Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat, founder-director, Ideosphere Consulting Private Limited

“-The communication eco-system and the role a communication professional play in the business of any brand has changed dramatically over the last decade. The surge of communication platforms, the power the consumer has today to voice an opinion, and the speed at which these opinions can penetrate has enabled communications to come to the forefront. A successful communicator in this new-age environment of communication needs a well-rounded understanding, of all the aspects of a business and how communication aligns to it; in a sense, the professional needs to be a ‘king of one, along with a jack of all’. Today, the communication professionals need to understand the business of the brand they work with in depth, and more importantly, the alignment of the business objectives to the communication framework the wish to build.

-In a time, where brands are jostling for space on every platform, the new-age PR professional needs to creatively create stories, ideas and engagements that can separate their brand from the clutter. Story-telling is an art every communication professional needs to master because as important as the story is, it’s all in the way we tell it and where (medium innovation)

-The third major skill set is understanding the use of analytics to measure message delivery and impact. With a stronger focus on communication, a PR professional needs to understand the ways and methods to evaluate the brand’s communication effort. This is critical in a space where there are billions of conversations happening online and offline at any given point of time. “

‪Integrated communication approach needs brands as well as PRs to enable themselves with an integrated mindset. What could be some ways to get these skillsets for a seamless transition of mindset in the industry?
Mou Chakravorty, Aim High Consulting

Expert Advice...

Sujit Patil, vice president and head of corporate communications, Godrej Industries Limited and Associate companies

“While many brands still believe is a traditional PR approach, there has been significant work done in the integrated space. At Godrej, when the communication team gets a brief, as a process, it is first viewed from a lens of integrated approach. There are some really good examples of integrated communications successes available today. As the lines that once alienated CC&PR from marketing and advertising blur, there is a huge opportunity for PR professionals to retain their core PR strengths, yet also adopt the new media and other contemporary platforms.

 Constant evolution and experimentation is the key here. To enable this, the first need is to be interdependent and stop operating in silos. The necessary skillsets can be built on the job by working closely with the marketing and brand teams and achieving some quick successes to set a process. PR needs to be done in a strategic way with measures that are able to demonstrate a direct impact on the brand building objectives. When a direct relation is established, it becomes all the easier to shift traditional mindsets and gain more acceptance for PR as a key part of the integrated communication mix. A bit of PR for PR would also help!”

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