Evoc on Public Relations – II

In the first post of this two-part series, we saw how the function of public relations is used to perform two key roles for any public entity – marketing and advocacy. The role of marketing comes into fore whenever PR is directed at an entity’s customers. Also, recall that from a marketing perspective, customers include buyers of a firm’s products and services, its employees and also investors and lenders – virtually any stakeholder who derives an obvious and articulable value from an organization’s operations.

The goal of PR, as with any marketing communications, is two-fold, make customers aware of an organization’s (public entity’s) value proposition as embedded in its products and services (this includes the organization’s value as an employer), and persuade them to choose its products or services over those of competitors, or even close substitutes. These two categories of goals synchronize perfectly to the standard brand building process, and now let us examine these in detail. Continue reading

Evoc on Public Relations – I

It is astounding to observe how public relations; when seen as an organizational function; continues to search for its identity with marketing as a frame of reference. Inside many client organizations, the PR or communications teams often seek to understand whether they are supposed to contribute to the marketing goals, or the organizational goals at large.

This confusion is no doubt matched and sometimes exceeded at the PR agency-end, although remarkably, both clients and agencies are intuitively clear on what PR is all about (publicity and earned media) and what it is not (paid media). Many public relations industry events continue to allocate discussion slots to the topic year after year, and yet no clear consensus has emerged on whether public relations is a subset of marketing, or a superset.

This two-part post seeks to clarify what is perhaps intuitively known, but seldom recognized or articulated and therefore often debated scope of public relations with reference to marketing. But first, let us agree on what public relations is- it is both a communication tool and an organizational function – whether or not an organization or any public entity chooses to identify it as such. The other important point is about the term ‘public’ in public relations – it refers to what is often collectively known as stakeholders of a public entity and includes its customers, investors, lenders, employees, partners, associates, regulators, policy makers, law enforcers, industry players and finally, the public at large. Continue reading

The problem with social media engagement

Marketers live and die by buzzwords. Engagement is one buzzword that has taken the intersecting worlds of marketing and communications by storm.

Buzzwords that define a concept or seek to package an idea, as engagement is, find acceptance for two dominant reasons. The first is to adapt the traditional or accumulated knowledge base – the generally accepted and universal understanding of how the world works – and bring it up to date with the times – the classic repackaging approach. Engagement is thus simply the evolution of a largely one-way or asynchronous communication process – the traditional advertising and PR for example – into a two-way synchronous communication, made possible by digital media. The second reason is the pervasive human need for abstraction – buzzwords help simplify the traditional knowledge and conceptual frameworks and abstract it to a level where they are more accessible to a larger audience.

The problem with (social media) engagement as preached and practiced today is that it fails to deliver on both counts. As a concept, it fails the internal consistency test with the existing brand building theory and literature. Contradicting or circumventing the academic and practitioner theory built over decades is possible only if the counterarguments are both intuitively persuasive and backed by empirical data, which ‘engagement’ does not offer.  Continue reading

Why campaigns fail

A large number of advertising or communications campaigns fail to achieve the desired results. Many of us are familiar with how a typical scenario plays out. After two quarters have elapsed in running a promising new campaign, it is realized that the sales did not grow as expected. The market share stayed constant or worse, declined. It became apparent both through intuitive judgment as well as hard data that people responded quite indifferently to the campaign’s message.

The marketing or brand manager caught in such a scenario finds it difficult to justify her investments to the internal stakeholders. The creative strategy is questioned and frustration with the agencies on roster grows. “It’s a communications problem, so the agencies should solve it,” goes the lament.

Except, it may actually not be a communications problem at hand. Which is why the agencies are unable to tackle it. Take for example a technology company facing the problem of falling sales of its flagship product –a mobile device. A structured product-market fit analysis might reveal that its targeted customer segment has actually dissipated, or its product’s value proposition has been completely undermined by a set of competitors. Attempting to solve this problem, as a communications problem is tantamount to applying bandage when the injuries are internal – the effort is bound to fail in achieving its purpose. Continue reading

Evoc on communications

As social entities, organizations have an intrinsic need for effective communications. One of the best-known definitions of marketing places communications as the key link between the creation of value by a business on one end, and the delivery of this value to customers on the other. Customers are but one of the multiple stakeholders of an organization, and the latter needs to build effective interfaces with every element of the environment in which it exists. Effective communications contribute significantly to an organization’s long-term growth and success.

When can communications be strategic? The answer lies in the expected payout of a communication decision – it can bear long term or strategic gains, or solve a short-term problem, in many cases killing two birds with one stone. Savvy marketers and owners of communications function within organizations have always realized the pitfalls of taking a decision that offers short-term rewards, but one that is in conflict with the strategy, organizational goals or vision and mission of an organization.

From an organization or marketing perspective, the true strategic import of any communications decision is whether it contributes to, or takes away from the desired corporate or brand image. This is the reason why any effective marketing communications strategy always flows directly and naturally from the positioning of a brand or product. Sending an important signal to the industry, lenders or investors, often done through public relations, also falls under the strategic domain. Continue reading

What is strategy

Strategy, like synergy and sex, begets its legions of proclaimed experts. The Harvard Business Review calls its cartoon, Strategic Humor. Strategy can also be beguilingly easy to for an intrepid observer to call out as such. However, strategic choices, or the lack of one, are universally cited among the primary reasons for downfall of modern day corporate warriors – the CEOs and their teams. A big part of the problem lies in a lack of understanding what strategy is, and what it is not.

Internalizing the concept of strategy is made difficult because of the inherent indefiniteness of the term – countless definitions of strategy exist that may all be true, and yet have enough minute differences among them to confuse the learner.

The purpose of this post is not to add yet another definition to the lexicon. Rather, it is to bring to fore the various dimensions of strategy as a concept, with the hope that the reader by the end of this post will have a sharpened skill to identify a strategy, from what purports to be one.

To begin with, strategy is nearly always about winning against an adversary – an enemy, a competitor, or when we speak of communications, distractions and contradicting persuasions in the minds of targeted recipient. Strategy helps you win the war and take the spoils home – whether the battleground is physical, in business, or in a person’s mind. Continue reading

Working at Evoc

For an accomplished and ambitious professional like you, joining Evoc may turn out be your best career decision yet.

Evoc aims to be the best place to work in the communications industry, undisputed. We know what it takes. And we are more than happy changing some rules and challenging all conventions to hit our aim.

At a fundamental level, Evoc is raising the bar significantly on what a modern workplace should mean for its people. It starts with the depth and breadth of opportunities we offer – both in types of work and for your personal growth – and goes all the way to providing an industry-leading supporting environment and employee benefits. Allow us to explain the above in detail.

At Evoc, you will have opportunities to solve an unprecedented range of communications problems of our clients. Our unique model makes it possible for our people to come together to solve a problem using the right tools and platforms – including advertising, PR, digital and traditional. Our processes will further ensure that you will witness first hand the true impact of your work on the client’s goals. After all, it’s never just about what you do; it’s also about creating meaningful impact with your work.  Continue reading

Introducing Evoc

The sweeping and ongoing changes in the way people gather, process and internalize information have escaped only a few. The emergence of diverse demographic groups in a country like India is equally astounding. The average urban individual, once determined and armed with an Internet-connected device, can find and decode within hours almost everything she wishes to know about a product, service or a public entity. Simultaneously there exist large populations subscribing to a newspaper or buying a TV for the first time.

On the other side of the arena, individuals and organizations have many of their fundamental beliefs about communications reshuffled, turned upside down and inside out. The notion of a source as something one can control is constantly challenged – a disgruntled employee or customer can be a more powerful source today than the CEO.

In the middle space that mass media has historically occupied, centuries old business models are collapsing with no prescriptive and dominant business model of the future yet in sight. The online media is the wild west of today with little regard for the conventional rulebooks.

Evoc, like every start-up, is the product of its environment. Start-ups also have a rare window to alter and reshape their environment. Continue reading