Friday, 4 April 2008

Breaking Media Gridlocks When Perception Lags Performance - PR Mind Games

Every once in a while, there comes the case of a company that is unable to throughput communication in stark contrast to its otherwise brilliant performance indices. I have sought to understand this malady now and again but a chance conversation yesterday with a known genius in the Indian Financial Services space triggered this post. If you are the guardian angel of the Aspirational; the evangelist with passion, fire and a head full of mindgames, the PR kind, then read on…

Perception lags performance, due to many reasons. The causes manifest themselves in three primary reasons. For a Public Relations, Communications or Brand consultant, it is important to understand the terrain before they pick up on a project that seeks to break logjams in the media and perception circuits for a customer.

Breaking gridlocks and logjams for late entrants to the perception game requires special skills, the tricks and tactics have been there forever, question is have you ever thought about it, enough to elevate it to strategy?

Changing share of voice in the media and lecture circuit from a inane buzz to the screaming roar of a Ferrari or shepherding your customer (internal or external depends which side of the table you are sat) from the mind-numbing terrors and traps in the media, triggering a turbo boost for your spokesperson in terms of messaging uptake and effectiveness, is what this post is about.

Firstly, an inability or fear of dealing with the media due to a past bad experience can make efforts hard or non-starters. Media Relations is an art that requires constant practice, the ride comes with bumps and smooth stretches, sporadic crises thrown in for spice. You give, you get, but you always talk! There is media out there that is out to trick you out, will they hesitate to rubbish your carefully build reputation for an exclusive? Absolutely not for a second! Can PR change the game for your business? Absolutely yes! Good comes with the bad, package deal like with most things in life. If you are going to get anywhere, you need to get started! Tell them like it is, chances are that they take risks in business everyday and will grow into the act with a little hand holding from you, the specialist!

Secondly, there is a clique out there as in most other domains, these ‘usual suspects’ then pretty much control the share of voice in the media, and this maybe specific to a beat. The media is most times too lazy to do any hard digging when mapping a business space and again relies on the ‘usual suspects’, who maybe be convenient darling MDs, CEOs and other assorted rabble rousers. Awards: every publication and their mother has an award stacked with their favourites, breaking into this game needs perseverance, a nose for ‘distress sales’, finally being able to work the apex bodies like CII, FICCI, NASSCOM, etc, for advocacy and influencer relations.

Third and last here, is clearly a lack of process internally at the client organisation be it in terms of communication superstructure, even if one does exist, its ability to deliver strategic advice to management may be suspect in hierarchy driven situations or where communicators are too junior to be taken seriously. Some people use external consultants to tell them what is known already as it brings a credibility they lack.

Anyone can tell you that game changing maneuvers are few and far in between as stereotypes and ’safe’ options abound but if you as a PR professional were ever able to affect changes that made a company’s perception congruent with its performance as benchmarked against its peers, then you indeed deserve to be in the hall of fame. If commitment is your destiny and you can help tell a story that is true and ethical but inconvenient, then you are indeed one lucky person!

We need our heroes just like we need our war stories to feel good about the tribe and what it does, so come on give!

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