Siddhartha Mukherjee: FMCG can lead the change in PR Industry

12 Jan,2017

By Siddhartha Mukherjee


The FMCG sector hasbeen a key trendsetter for our economy. So much so that given its muscle power, the jugaad normsof media management – paid, earned and owned – has, to a great extent, also been shaped by this Industry vertical.


There are many examples around us of FMCG bred marketing and brand professionals who, after migrating to new industry vertical or sector, such as Automobiles, TV Broadcast, Telecom, etc., have ensured that the FMCG mantra of media management gets imbibed by their new employer.


No wonder, our Public Relations Industry, over decades, has also been shaped by this very proactively aggressive behemoth. Which is why, I believe, that this industry vertical, in the coming times, does have the potential to change the future dynamics and growth pattern of PR industry for the better.


Below is a quick take on what FMCG sectorhas established so effectively Vs what they can change goingforward:

1. Over emphasis on Paid route and belittling the importance of Earned:Moolah power is synonymous with FMCG sector. Buy everything (buyable) that can influence Communication Techniques and Brand Recall has been mainstay of this sector. No wonder, rather than patiently studying the dynamics and value of Earned media, they have been known to carpet bomb through the paid route – advertising, sponsorships, etc.


On what they can do, well, is first evaluate is why they need or do PR? What is the objective of appointing a Corporate Communications Head and why appoint a PR Agency? If they want to use it only for the a mix of the following, well, then they might as well use someone or an outfit from the paid part of the marketing/advertising world:

– Kill negative stories

– Accrue & Self Gratify on Advertising Value Equivalent (AVEs) for every product launch news

– Use It for Activation/BTL push


2. PR is equated through Advertising value:EAVs or AVEs forms the cynosure of this Industry. CEO, CMOs, Brand Heads believe in this genetically and therefore the serving Corporate Communication Head has no other option but to believe and fall under the same mould. For some, it can be very depressing!

While on one hand, this industry is credited with establishing the showcasing of the basic science of Advertising Communications through the scientific blocks of Exposure, Engagement and Conversion, however, when it comes to PR or Earned Media Communications, myopia sets in. Obsession with baseless targets of EAV or AVE values are chased making the internal Communications Team and its external PR Agency lose the basic communications planning &brand building focus.

Going forward, to set an example by this industry, will be to force the PR Marketing machinery to ask a basic question of “Why are we doing PR?”. The first thing this will ensure is that it will throw the cancerous EAV/AVE out of the window. CorpComm and PR Agency will work scientifically and more importantly, speak the language of a marketer.


3. High Emphasis on Marcomm and not Holistic Corporate Brand Reputation: If you look at an FMCG data on the monthly PR initiatives, if not more, almost 90% of the monthly effort only talks about product news. The concept of Corporate Brand building seems to be still relegated to the B-school books. No wonder, even the 90% PR effort, if given a free hand, would have been looked under the paid lens.

Ideally, what could change or reshape this could be cut advertising (paid media) budgets and push the brand custodians to create same consumer pull by using the Earned Media/PR. This change can be mandated only by the CEO and CMO. Or else, brand custodians will keep using the old, expensive and relatively easy, paid route.

If FMCG really wants to break the cliché, it can well reconsider the value that PR can bring to its brand and P&L. It is the best sector to set a trend and rest will fall under a domino effect. What they have set as a trend can be reset for the benefit of the Indian marketing and communications Industry at large.


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