In the 1960’s Marshall McLuhan coined the term, “The medium is the message”. Few statements, perhaps, have been truer when looking at the way communication has developed over the decades.
Burgeoning technologies, from the use of telegrams, faxes, emails and now instant messaging have all impacted the way messages are shaped and managed. Perhaps, one of the earliest instances of public relations in India was the Ashoka edicts. And in 50 BC, Julius Caesar used his military exploits to spread his message and position himself as the ‘best’ governor.
In 1903, Ivy Lee, considered the pioneer of modern public relations, advised John D. Rockefeller to visit striking miners and understand their issue. Rockerfeller did so and a week later a press visit was planned resulting in positive press coverage.
Tarun Bansal, Managing Director, Blue Pigeon Image Management feels that, “In today’s social media driven world, perceptions have got a very short life. Brands have to play a very hyperactive role to track what people are saying about them. A single wrong move can make millions of people who are following the brand angry. Creating a desired perception about the brand requires effort every single day, while negative perceptions need just one event and it leaves a longer lasting impact. So, an alert, active and informed approach, that is monitored daily, including researching what people are saying about you, is required when managing perceptions”.
Minal D’Rozario, Director, Ideosphere says, “ Segmentation of information on various mediums, be it real time or as per relevance, is driving the conversations amongst the audience and has emerged as one of the key reasons for forming perceptions amongst the community and audience at large.”
Tarun Bansal says that, “The TV, mobile and laptop screens all have a different format for brands to interact with their target audience. TV does not provide customised options for the content and targets the masses, while through internet, brands control which category of audience gets to see what content on their handheld devices or computers. Marketers smartly create content that touches one emotional point through TV and complements the same with customised content through internet. This has been made easier for marketers to create different perceptions about the same product or brand for different categories of audience and therefore selling the same product by targeting different benefits as required by different people.”
A variety of channels naturally brings its own issues. Minal says that, “Multiplication of delivery channels and technology has created the biggest opportunity for perception builders; dealing with the resultant democratisation of opinion has become their biggest challenge.”
However Minal also points to a bigger challenge for communicators. She believes that, “Social media has started a trend of dependency and indecisiveness amongst the target group. Information overload has made people spoilt for choice. I believe the next wave in the industry would need to be focused on dealing with this challenge.”
Minal also adds that the range of screens forces the communicator to be present across the board which has, “led to the danger of causing irritation, bordering harassment, and turning off the target group through an overdose of the same messaging being bombarded at them from all sides. Hence, while it is important to deliver the message at the right time, place and medium, today it has become even more important to ensure that the message is delivered in the right measure.”
Tarunjeet Rattan, Managing Partner, Nucleus PR, highlights another issue raised by the emergence of new technology. She says that, “The lines are being blurred between social media management and PR on one end and advertising placements / paid media and PR on the other end. Both streams seem to be muscling into the PR space. “
Handling multiple messaging
Minal says, “The answer to me is very simple and clear. Profiling of the target group has to be taken to the next level and communication has to be completely insights based. A very interesting case study from our stable, that clearly demonstrates changing perceptions, is a Socks brand, ‘Mustang Socks and Accessories’, we have been working with for some time now. What started as a purely B2B OEM driven commodity brand is surely but steadily being transformed to a lifestyle brand driven by a careful insights based communication campaign.”
Tarunjeet Rattan agrees that, “You need to be doubly careful of what you say and do at all times. Personal credibility is as important to the consumers today as professional or corporate credibility. You cannot separate one from the other."