Siddhartha Mukherjee: Brand Reputation Management = ORM + ORM

13 Aug,2015

By Siddhartha Mukherjee

 

Social, Digital, Online, Web, Internet…Wow! Many jargons. Special conferences, seminars, workshops… so many industry gatherings on this subject…Nice to know! Agencies setting up digital/social teams for their clients and naming themselves as Online Reputation Managers… Good start!

 

This is a great development, no doubt. However, I do hope that Brand Custodians – clients and their agencies – collectively, do not lose out on the larger plot. Brand Management had shifted from buy me to why me; from I said to they said.. Which is why the fad for online/ digital communication should not make one oblivious to the reality and effectiveness of offline or conventional communication via print, TV, radio and other primary touchpoints.

 

India, known for its heterogeneity, emotions and its demand and supply story across a diverse range of product categories is still more offline than online. Which is why, a Brand’s PR reputation management has to be an intelligent mix of Online + Offline Reputation Management…every time, right through the communication calendar. For the larger part of India’s economy and the product categories, offline will continue to rule the roost, at least for the next decade.

 

Tackling brand reputation in India needs much more than Online Reputation Management machinery. It needs primary support from offline – TV, print, radio as well as primary touchpoints like experiences at the points of transaction – for example, pre-sales queries, during sales and post/ after sales. Which is why, whenever we discuss online/ digital/ social, we should do that amidst the surround sound of offline! In fact, this should lead to the dependency of a single point agency/ desk that will plan and manage everything end to end… rather than depending on multiple communications agencies.

 

Some quick pointers to keep in mind:

:: Tackling Heterogeneity: India is known for its heterogeneity. It is known the types of crisis it creates and solves for itself, languages and dictions, accessibility of mediums -and media titles, socio-economic classification, time spent across print/TV/online, Ad Vs news avoidance, relevance of  online and offline mediums for the hundreds of product categories our economy is known for and many more.

:: Impact of Offline on Online: Online/ digital/ social is still reactionary! The trigger for which comes from offline – print, TV, radio and other primary/ experiential touchpoints. In fact, as per a study done by Eikona, close to 70% of all brand conversations online are triggered through offline – Print & TV.

:: Uniqueness of Online – To position itself as brand launcher or a brand maker, online/ digital media still needs a lot of time. It can certainly play the role of brand sustainers, but mind you, as one of the many IMC initiatives, not standalone. For some more time to come, it will continue to be good for MarCom not as much for Corp Comm. For certain product categories and customer profile, it is a good CRM tool. Nowadays, increasing evidences of it acting as a sales channel is also emerging for many product categories like BFSI, Fashion, FMCG etc.

:: Brands and Consumers are all about (Multiple) Touchpoints: Media plans to create brand touchpoints across ATL, BTL and primary experiences will get a new meaning if we understand the definition of brand reputation and its management. How a reputation is made and sustained is actually a net/ average of multiple brand exposures and experiences (sentiments) across online and offline. This principle is applicable for every single product category across every single industry vertical. Online/ digital media is one of the components or wheels which make the Brand wagon run smoothly.

:: ORM Team: Based on the above, why should a brand create a separate and isolated Online Reputation Management (ORM) team? Irrespective of whether it is internal or outsourced, why shouldn’t there be a single point reputation management team that takes stock of and manages all forms of online and offline brand exposures and experiences.

:: Single Agency, Master of All: I see no reason why digital PR should be done by Desk/ Agency A, CRM by Aesk/ Agency B and digital ad by Desk/ Agency C. What if one single agency showcases specialisation for all. Given that communication is all about story telling and perception management of a brand, a single point agency doing proactive and reactive activities makes life much simpler for the client.

:: PR Agency’s Role: Sky is the limit! The PR agency has enough opportunity to extend its services beyond just the creation of FB pages, Twitter handles and inserting some conversations for activations. The PR agency can take up the central and holistic role of the Brand’s story telling. Which means listening, planning the IMC mix along with print and TV, and usage of tools across Ad, PR, CRM et al! Yes, but this will require patience.

 

Currently, we are at stage where the definition of mediums is taking a new shape and meaning. Marketers and their agencies’ perception about mediums are also changing. Perception-wise, Online is chic, dynamic and quite a lifestyle statement for a marketing and communications professional. All good! But let us not get carried away from the Big Picture reality of offline.

 

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a senior PR industry professional and currently Senior Vice President, Eikona – Earned Media Planning, Audit and Advisory. The views expressed here are his own.

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