Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Twitter Delivery

So, Deepak Chopra and I were trying to figure out how the tweets are delivered. What is the logic?
  1. I follow you: Your tweets comes on my timeline.
  2. I follow you, you follow me: Your tweets come on my timeline and mine comes on your timeline.
That's simple. But it is not just the two of us in Twitter.

So here's another try.
  1. I follow you, you follow me, but you don't follow my follower or those following me: Your tweets comes on my timeline. Mine comes on yours. But my tweet to my follower/following whom you don't follow doesn't come on your timeline.
  2. I follow you, you follow me and also my follower/following: Your tweets come on my timeline, mine comes on yours. Additionally, my replies to my follower also comes on your timeline.
  3. I follow you, you follow me, but I don't follow your follower/following: Your tweets come on my timeline, mine comes on yours. But your reply replies to your follower whom I don't follow doesn't comes on my timeline but will come on your public timeline.
  4. I don't follow one, you also don't follow one: When I tweet to that one, it comes on your timeline. (I don't know how that works)
  5. But wait. If I follow one and you don't but I put that person's Twitter id  behind my tweet it comes. But if I reply to the person, it doesn't. Can't figure out why?
Please note many experiments were conducted by Deepak Chopra and myself using TweetDeck to figure out how the logic behind Tweet Delivery. Must say we still haven't figured out.

Blimey, I tried to review what I wrote and I felt that I have done a better job than Cho Ramaswamy.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Chennai, What Is Your Identity?

So there was this Reliance Communications ad on the occasion of the company acquiring 100 mn customers. It was a Mario Miranda style cartoon of a crowded India with representation of various cities.

There was Qutub Minar, Gateway of India, Charminar...I looked for a sign of Chennai. And to my disappointment, there wasn't any sign of the city.
From a time when Chennai/Tamil Nadu represented the South, it is fast fading into oblivion. Bangalore is considered more cosmopolitan, and for housing IT companies, Hyderabad is also known for IT industry despite the fact that it lags behind Chennai and, of course, Kerala is "God's Own Country". In fact, I think Kerala has become the face of the South. At least the ad agency of SBI thinks so.

In terms of economy and culture, Tamil Nadu is far ahead than any other Southern state. But that it is the Detroit of India with Ford, Hyundai, BMW, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Ashok Leyland, Hindustan Motors, TVS, Caterpillar and many auto ancillary units are here doesn't seem to help. That Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and Foxconn are here doesn't count. That its Chola dynasty was a large empire dating much before the times of Mughal dynasty is forgotten. That some of the temples and architectures date back to BC is erased from the memory. Well, that is another story.
But then I pondered. If there was a face to Chennai, what was it? Every city has an identity. Paris - Eifel Tower, London - Big Ben/London Eye, Jaipur - Hawa Mahal, Kolkata - Howrah Bridge, Cochin-Jew Town...


Marina Beach? India has a large coastline. There won't be any differentiation. And let's admit, despite being the second largest beach in the world, Marine Drive in Mumbai has a better recall than Marina in Chennai.

Central Station? Maybe, but it is just a station. Rippon Building? Maybe, but I doubt if anybody outside Chennai knows about it.

St Thomas Mount or Santhome Church. There are so many churches in India, as old!

Factories - Ford, Hyundai, Nokia, Motorola...Nah!

Probably the answer lies in culture, history and religion. Hindu Temples? Which one? Kapaleeswarar, Parthasarathy? Probably. But do people outside Chennai know about them. Tanjore Big Temple! But that is about 300 km south. Mahabalipuram is also not exactly in Chennai.

Napier Bridge? But though it is distinct, it's a small structure.

Wish we could have done something while designing the new assembly complex. It is more contemporary and I don't think it is a structure that will get etched in the memory of Tamilians, themselves.

Now, I am confused more than ever. Or should I be happy that there are so many facets to this city?

PS: Did You Know (courtesy Deepak Chopra): What is the ABC of Chennai? Adyar, Buckingham and Cooum, the three rivers/canals in Chennai.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Role of Tracking and Clips in PR

I hadn't heard of public relations (PR) till the final year of MBA. It was only after Manoj, my classmate from school who then went on to become my senior at MBA had joined Genesis PR in Bangalore, when I first heard about Public Relations.

In 2000, after completing my MBA, I went on to join an ad agency. Couple of months later, Manoj changed his job and joined Integral PR in Chennai. Being a close friend, he didn't look beyond me, when it came to expanding his team. Since then I have spent little more than 7 years in the industry.

Besides faxing and following up with media for a press release or conference, if there was one thing which I really liked about PR was reading and tracking newspapers. I had been told since childhood that reading newspapers was a good habit and that it improves one's language and knowledge. Reading newspapers gave me loads of information which at times translated to knowledge, at times a tool for interactions and other times positioned me as someone knowledgeable. But most often newspapers give you information. It depends how one translates it into experience and knowledge.

Ok now my objective was not to propagate the habit of reading newspapers.

Manoj laid down two commandments:

1. To track every client clip
2. Ensure the clip is not misplaced and it goes on to become part of the docket

As a PR executive, the first duty as soon as I used to arrive into office was to track newspapers. The first hour of the working day was always invested on reading the newspapers. In my case, it would probably take two. No, not because I was slow. Instead of tracking, I would start reading.

Whenever there was a press conference or releases, I would get excited to see the coverage, the fruit of labor. And after all the tracking, we would make a brief report on the coverage with a covering note with highlights of the coverage. It was like a ceremony.

But then as I grew up the ladder and became an Account Manager, the need for tracking wasn’t there though I never left the habit of reading the papers. But then I also noticed that the activity which I devoured wasn't that popular with the new generation of PR executives.

Then I left the PR industry. And now after three years, I have reconnected with the industry.

To CK Prahlad's happiness, his core competency principle seems to be finding a place in PR industry. PR agencies seem to have taken a serious look at their business. Upon a review of the activities performed by a PR agency, the following seem to be the primary tasks performed:

1. Providing consultancy
2. Maintaining relationship with media and identifying opportunities for the clients
3. Create information packs and disseminate it to the media
4. Track and report the coverage in media

And I guess PR agencies have identified tracking and reporting as the activity that provides the least competitive advantage. Many know that PR industry is a knowledge industry and the biggest cost is the manpower. And since agencies don’t want expensive manpower to do petty tracking, it is being rightfully outsourced. This has also resulted in opportunities for specialist agencies that make a living from tracking and reporting services. I find mature agencies that offer tracking and reporting services. The online repository of clips does help retrieval and sharing. Also, reports have now been automated, making life easier for both agencies and clients. I work with Impact Measurement and find their services really good.

But then PR executive played a very composite role, very unlike ad agencies where the roles and responsibilities are quite specialized. Reading newspapers therefore I thought was very important as it helps tracking stories and journalists. Without the need to track paper, I guess executives now find different methods to do that activity.

Initially I was perturbed, but I have come to believe, now, that tracking is not a priority item for a PR executive. Breaking from the shackles of tracking paper does free up valuable time for the executives to focus on client interfacing activities.

Naru at 20:20 MEDIA had once commented that the hardcopy dockets remind client of the work a PR agency has done (or not done) and wasn't in favor of CDs of coverage being sent instead. CDs were not in their face, he felt. But, of course, he later went on the set up a separate tracking agency for the company!

So along with tracking of newspapers, the duty of preparing dockets might also see demise. Or on a positive note, it creates a revenue opportunity for agencies. So with that goes the practice of key message analysis, ABC categorization, Geographical exposure, competition analysis...

I remember spending an enormous amount of time with subordinates training them on the science of docket making, ‘in those days’.

Now, let's face it the basic unit a PR campaigns success is the clip. It is the result of the hard work and toil of an executive. It is the proof of the pudding (plan). It is the umbilical cord between the client and agency. What PR executive's detachment from the clip means is not clear to me? Maybe I am unduly bothered or have remained in the olden days.

I also wonder what is the next activity that agencies might outsource?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Blackberry's Beachhead Strategy

Close your eyes. Take deep breaths. Let your mind relax.

Oh sorry, no, I wasn't trying to teach you yoga or meditation. Far from it. I am thinking Blackberry. A piece of device which keeps you strangled to your workplace. The Email Phone.

But yes, do close your eyes and think about Blackberry and tell me if you see what I see. A phone that comes only in Black color. Think about people who use it. You will visualize corporate executives fiddling with it, running their thumb quite stylishly on the side of the phone. Like Aladdin would do to the magic lamp. Voila, like the Genie, comes your official emails. Think about the ads. It was functional. No, I mean the ads were good but the message was focused on functionality. Oh I also see a slightly beautiful Curve. But yes, again in black. Oh, I can also see Lewis Hamilton. Was that iPHONE? No, that was Blackberry trying to do iPHONE. That was black, too.

If you have used it, you will notice that the UI is hardly any great. It is not bad, though. I am not sure how many owners use it to browse the internet. My guess is hardly anyone.

As my colleague, Deepak Chopra rightly puts it - Blackberry is an office phone! It is not a phone one buys. It is often pushed down your throat by your employer so that they can keep you tied to work even when you are not in office through the end of your thumb.

This Research In Motion's technology marvel was also in a true sense a real convergent device. It allowed Voice and Data to work seamlessly on one single piece. Though data here largely meant - official mails.

So the recent ad campaign of Blackberry took me by little surprise. Black wasn’t missing but there was Whiteberry, sorry white Blackberry. And it wasn't about email, the ad featured youngsters accessing social networking sites. Then I heard a radio jingle which mentioned many features that would entice the social networking addicted youth.

Yes, these are all signs that Blackberry now wants to go mainstream! And I must say that it was inevitable. There were only two options for RIM - be a chimp by becoming better email phone or aim to be a guerilla. And it chose wisely to be a guerilla. Or at least, attempt to be one. But before I try to predict whether it would be successful or not, it would be good to analyze this situation from theoretical point of view. And where else to turn, but to Geoffrey A Moore!

Crossing the ChasmMy obsession with Geoff Moore seems never ending. Someone who has followed his work will be able to see that RIM was intelligent in adopting a beachhead strategy in the mobile industry. For non-starters, this strategy evolved from the Allied Forces' attack on the Normandy Beach in the final attempt to over throw Hitler's regime during the Second World War. Allied Forces instead of spreading its attack thin chose Normandy in France as their entry point to Europe that was virtually controlled by the German Forces. And the rest is history.

RIM segmented its market pretty well; it chose a market whose requirements were unique and unmet. As its technology enabled access to emails much faster than the rest, it chose to serve the Corporate World. And not just anybody in the Corporate World. It became the preferred device of the top executives who traveled a lot and whose lifeline was emails.

Over a period of time, despite coming in one single color like Ford's T-model, Blackberry has built a reputation of its own and definitely become an object of desire. It has come to denote power and position one holds in an organization. However one may rant about Blackberry eating into one’s personal life, it definitely beats Nokia's Vertu in terms of being an aspirational product. This despite the fact that Vertu has precious stones and metals embedded.

But in the technology world things change at a much faster pace than one would imagine. Apple that was riding on its iPOD's success, decided to enter the mobile market through iPHONE. And through iPHONE, it gave jitters to Nokia, the largest mobile phone company in the world. While tumbling the pins in the mobile phone market, it has started eating into Blackberry's protected market. If you are a lowly mortal, like me, mailing to your boss from laptop or PC, you would have noticed that he promptly replies to you and there would be a small line after his signature stating that 'this mail has been sent from Blackberry'. But oft late, you must have seen some sprinkles of 'this mail has been sent using iPHONE'.

Apple is certainly giving jitters to everyone. And that is why I said that Blackberry had only two choices - protect its existing turf, which would have become more and more difficult, or fight a war and expand its territory.

So, Blackberry decides to follow its own bowling pin strategy. Blackberry's association with email is very strong. Email means internet. And internet is going strong. Adoption of mobile phone is happening much faster and it surely is going to displace the PC/laptop market. That is the technology trend. The other trend is consumers’ behavior. Today, Social Networking is a way of life. Twitter, Facebook and the likes are our communication tools. Mobile phones being the device of the generation, Blackberry naturally is positioning itself as the device for youngsters. Proof? Look at the ads and the message.

But in my opinion, mobile phones may also not be the future. To me the iPAD and Kindle seem more like it. But I wouldn't be surprised that the real convergence happens somewhere in the middle. Yes, and that will be the most convenient to users.

So, can we expect an iBERRY? My guess is a big YES!