Contrary to popular perception (and current brand behaviour all around) you don’t pussy-foot around communication when you’re in the middle of hard times.

In Hindi there’s a phrase ‘bolti-bandh’ which is quite like the English one ‘the cat got your tongue’. Which leads me to say brands that lie low in tough times, stand the risk of behind seen as a ‘scaredy cat’.

Don’t get me wrong and think I am saying that we should indulge in the loud-mouth, open-wallet communication like a lot of brands have done in the past 4-5 years.

I think we need to find the right balance between verbal diorhhea and communication constipation.

These tough times are forcing us to do what we should have been doing all along – going through a rigorous process of finding the right thing to say, and the right way to say it. They are forcing us to define a more focussed and definitive position for ourselves, and work the media planning machine like it has never been worked before.

“To whomsoever it may concern” type of communication has to give way, and the “to you, to whom it concerns” approach has to step in. And “media reach” has to give way for “media relevance”.

I know folk representing or selling mass media channels will either laugh at this perspective, or throw some ppt slides at you talking about how their mass media channel actually reaches your audience!  Sure it does, like buckshot.

Which brings me to new media and the power of narrowcast communication.

And the beauty of it is new media and narrowcast communication works whether you have loads of money, or very little of it!

New Media, New Focus.

Admittedly most new media conferences do nothing to build a case for new media. The usual suspects gather to make the usual presentations on the usual case studies which they’ve been talking about for the past 3 years!

I believe no one in this industry really talks of the complexity of new media and the dynamic roles it can play in influencing and persuading audiences.  Perhaps no one really knows.

Perhaps peope are all selling the wrong case studies as I mentioned above. I for one would like to talk of something more basic – how approximately 30lakhs spent on print advertising in one month, got a client of mine approximately 300 enquiries. At the same time, 30thousand spent on Google AdWords in the same month got the same client almost a 1000 enquiries. And the conversion rate was higher among the AdWords call-ins!

The point is, if we can focus on getting new media right, we can get a lot of focus on our brands.

New Dogs, Old Tricks.

The trick lies in layering time tested marketing techniques, with new media technology. The trick lies in using traditional best practices of advertising and public relations, and applying them to the internet and mobile communication.

New media strategy is not about building websites online, but about building a web of insights online. New media campaigns are not about fancy virals, but about creating a fever pitch of focussed communication. New media is not about clicks, but about clicking with consumers.

That’s the basic simple truth of the matter.

PR kiya to darna kya?

Another great tool in tough times is public relations. I believe if done right, public relations has far greater and longer term value than most people (including its practitioners) give it.

Public relations can helps you make the right point to the right people, who in turn can put out the right message. You use it to educate and influence the influencers.

PR is the only media which actually allows you to even put across a 10,000 word sales pitch to an audience should you so require. How’s that for talking tough and straight?!

Getting it right

I believe recession is one of the final nails in the coffin of euphoria over mass media advertising. The recession is telling you stop wasting money on buckshot, and find new ways of getting your audiences in the bag.

Lesser budgets literally mean “focus your communication, and keep is simple and effective”.

Which brings me to digital media, activation, and public relations. The perfect tools for getting it right.

But in order to use the above effectively, you have to talk tough with yourself and change decades of conventional media conditioning.

Then you will have to talk tough with your ‘Clients’ who will still demand ‘cover-my-ass TRPs and Reach’, since that’s the only RoI most Marketing Managers know…

Communicating for “closure”, not “ask me for a brochure”.

Communication in digital media, activation and public relations is different and works differently from print and television ads. When used correctly, they can put your brand in the right place at the right time like no other.

Communication in these new media/methods put more pressure on you, because they place your brand right up in the face of your audiences in a relevant context. Which means your message better be right and to the point.

And when you’re up so close to your audiences, they will be more demanding and less forgiving. Which means when you get your one shot at the audience, it better be the right one.

Which essentially means, when you talk tough, you must also be ready to walk the talk. If not, then tough luck.

1 COMMENT

  1. Not just for brands, I think this is also applicable to individuals. In tough times, if you have to sustain the firing squad, all this is required.Tough times call for change in strategy and that too a focussed shift.

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