Saturday, April 26, 2008

Stumble on (yet more) information

Are you being drowned by emails? Bludgeoned by blogs? Choked by the information overload of websites? Hounded by people following up on their emails? Quizzed by yet another game show (Panchvi strikes this weekend).

We're going the way of the Ancient Romans.

They didn't have electronic communication. But they had poetry. And direct marketing. And publishing houses churning out copies. They held recitationes in all kinds of public places, homes and parties. They had competitions - the famous one in Naples ran for 13 hours and the audience was not allowed to leave. Even their emperors competed (just like Amitabh Bacchhan entering the fray with his blog!!) Perhaps their empire collapsed in sheer fatigue and frustration!

Now, if we don't want our internet empire of information to implode, we've got to have smarter ways to find relevant information in the sea of mediocrity. Or succumb completely to randomness. That's where www.stumbleupon.com steps in. It's a crowdsourcing or friendsourcing way to identify what's good on the web. You select your topics and then it takes you to sites which are heavily rated by other members. When you do a google search it has an icon to point you to the sites which have the best ratings from other stumblers. Thanks to siddharth nair for pointing me to this useful site. The difference betwen stumble and searches like google is that it brings the power of social networking to deciding the most USEFUL content as opposed to bots deciding what words are most relevant to a larger audience. And folks pls do stumble my blog too :)


To know that we are facing a crisis, you only have to read this desperate plea I received as an out of office response last week "Due to immense high workload there will be a delay in replying to your emails. Please refrain from telephone calls if you have already sent an email. I apologize for any inconvenience."

To know more about the poetry craze among the Romans, visit http://www.believermag.com/issues/200309/?read=article_perrottet

I stumbled upon it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Perform or I'll shoot you

I'm all for predictability of service. Say what you'll do, do it, then tell me it's done is the mantra for success. After some unhappy episodes with local dial-a-cab services I really do believe that there is no hope for those who cannot manage to achieve this. I am in exalted, if rather extreme, company. Jack Welch the legendary CEO of GE has threatened to "get a gun out and shoot" his successor Jeff Immelt if GE did not meet the promised earnings numbers. http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2008-04-16-ge-welch_N.htm Now there's an incentive for performance excellence!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cash for Headlines

In today's Mint, there is a story on DNA's ad campaign which has headlines like "Make the Headlines tomorrow. By paying for it." http://www.livemint.com/2008/04/17003124/DNA8217s-take-on-paid-821.html DNA itself has a private treaty firm which trades adspace for equity. Mint - adhering to good journalistic practice - has made it clear that its own parent company too has an ads-for-equity division. Until this article I hadn't realized that this was such a pervasive practice.

In advertising a decade ago, during a downturn clients paid in cellphone minutes, mangoes and even land. There are some obvious merits to this barter economy, but the transparency to the reader varies. An option is to allow these firms a certain number of regular ads and also a guaranteed amount of access to the editorial teams where they can pitch their merits. The decision of whether the pitch justifies an editorial mention would be solely with the journalists. And the publication could make available a list of firms in which it has a stake - much as stockbroking firms do when making a recommendation.

The online world isnt free from paid editorial either - there are sites which offer money for giving their products coverage in your blog. Advertiser driven programs on TV and product placements in movies are mainstream and don't attract the flak that the print media does. Interesting that print is being held to a higher standard of disclosure than the new media.

PS: Nobody paid me to write this piece and I don't own shares in any of the publications mentioned here!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

teach me how to dial

I'm too old for new media. I stumble around SL like a zombie. I now know that it isn't my fault. It's just my lack of education. In the 1930s they TAUGHT people how to use the phone using a giant sized model..take a look at this cool pic and post at http://www.boingboing.net/2008/04/09/fourfoot-phone-dial.html So maybe what I need is a giant-sized second life avatar that will teach me how to be a cool networker. All those video tutorials that take hours to download just don't do the trick. I need a honest-to-goodness, certificate-giving, fee-charging Secretary of New Media School.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Personality or Persona?

Indira Gandhi, Dalai Lama, Vijay Mallya, Benazir Bhutto are exceptions in many ways, including their branding approach. They built solid personas for themselves in a way which is far more American than Asian. In Asia it is usually politicians and movie stars who make the leap, but very few business people. (Also why filmstars are able to become politicians).
European and American executives are used to working on their public profile with the full support of their organizations.
But in India, and in most Asian cultures, modesty is a highly regarded virtue. If you do well you say “Oh, it wasn’t me – it was my parents/teachers/colleague/team/organization”. And of course, inwardly hope like crazy that people won’t take you too seriously and ignore you when that next promotion is due (or worse, give it to that colleague you just thanked!). Well, in the flat world modesty is a handicap to your brand. How will that niche firm in Canada locate you or your organization if you don't show up on google?!
So, if you aim to be a leader in your field start working on your visibility as soon as you can. If you are 6 feet tall, athletic, photogenic and have a charming smile, congratulations, you have a head start in this game. If you’re not, you’re going to have work harder to achieve cult status.
Here are some tips for “personal” persona building:
1. To be an expert, you need expertise. Bright young MBAs (“Bymbas”) are usually the first off the block in identifying their need for public appreciation. Unfortunately, you need to achieve something before you can be an industry expert. The way around this is to pick a small niche which you can claim for your own and then expand as your career and knowledge broadens.

2. PR people are powerful. Most companies have guidelines of what employees can and cannot do in the PR realm. Please check with your PR team if what you are doing is ok. Speaking from experience, most of them are starved for content and will fall on your shoulder and shed tears of joy if you produce genuinely original content. On the other hand – again speaking from experience – incurring their displeasure with unauthorized views and publications is the surest way to oblivion.

3. Little drops of water make the mighty ocean. It isn’t essential that you be the keynote at a major industry conference to start with. (Though a lot of wannabe rock-stars do want that!) Build your profile by speaking at educational institutions and smaller roundtables or panels. Just let local colleges and your alma mater know that you like to speak and be willing to do it at short notice.

4. Blood, sweat, tears. Some people make the mistake of working on their persona at the cost of focusing on their real job. Bad idea. Unless you are self-employed, beware of becoming a dial-a-quote. You’ve got to keep the persona closely integrated with your job and do the extra work like publishing in your spare time. And for PR that is purely personal without any benefits for your employer avoid using company resources.

5. Trademark Appearance. It helps to have a feature which is easily recognizable. Indira had her unique hairstyle, Mahatma Gandhi had his shaven head and round glasses, Kiran Majumdar Shaw has her scarf, Govinda has his white shoes...