Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy – Pakistan’s most effective PR tool…!

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is a Pakistani documentarian who is the first Pakistani to win an Oscar. Sharmeen brought home the Oscar for her short documentary film, Saving Face. Previously to this, Sharmeen also won an Emmy for her documentary, Pakistan: Children of the Taliban in 2010.

After a very long time, Pakistan is in the limelight world over for something positive, and something Pakistanis all over the world can be proud of. As a PR person, the first thing that started brewing in my head after the emotional win was, how can Sharmeen, the pride and joy of Pakistan help in the positive profiling of Pakistan?

Keeping in mind the fastest mode of communication and awareness available today, i.e.; social media – (which is already burning like wild fire with the news), it is most important to control the pessimists who are raining on her parade with their negative comments. What must be highlighted is the fact that this accomplishment reflects on our growth as a nation accepting our shortcomings and trying to tackle the internal issues faced by the people of Pakistan through innovative means such as Sharmeen’s documentaries.

Pakistan is on the international radar right now and what the international media reports is very important to the country’s image. How we manage our image and change the perception of Pakistan to the rest of the world is of crucial importance right now.

Perception Management through PR:

One of the key functions of PR is to educate and change perceptions. This Oscar win for Pakistan has been dedicated to the women of Pakistan working to bring about a change for Pakistan. This heartfelt dedication by the Academy Award winner leaves a large playing field for PR to work its charm and educate the world about the positive aspects of Pakistan.  It is time to drive the change we want to bring to Pakistan and showcase it to the world as well.

Some ways to influence your audience:

Define your goal. Once you know what you want your audience to decode from your messaging, apply the strategies below to manage perceptions.

–          Clarity:

It is important to clarify your position and communicate a comprehensible, precise message about yourself and your brand i.e. – Pakistan.

–          Understanding:

Build an understanding of Pakistani society and represent a literate and aware society which is willing to help the masses and bring them up to par with the 21st century.

–          Consistency:

Repeat your messaging to make it top of mind recall.

–          Credibility:

Make sure all of your information is consistent and always backed by the truth. Endorsements are a great way to bring credibility.

–          Crisis Management:

Crisis communication should always be factored in. A crisis should be managed by relaying the truth, accepting responsibility and having a solution to propose.

In the case of Pakistan’s PR it is important to showcase the positive aspects of Pakistan clear strong messaging – repeatedly! Lastly, another round of applause for Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy for bringing pride and joy to Pakistan.

Befriending the Media.

PR people are usually a source of nuisance to the media. They hound them to put in a good word for their client, try and stop negative news and are always asking for more coverage for the client. But as PR folk, we must strike a balance and make sure this relationship between our main stakeholders, i.e. – the media folk is of give and take. Let’s see what we can offer them!

Information:
First and foremost, the job of PR folks is to have the information and provide that information according to need. We know what makes good news and we can channel it through to the right audience! Information is also what sets apart a great PR person from the PR folks.

Contacts:
Our highest privilege is our contacts in all spheres of life, especially our clients – we are able to provide access to extraordinary personalities who may otherwise not give the time of day to the media.

Reliability:
The crucial thing about news is, it is time sensitive – PR folk are extremely reliable sources when a reporter has a deadline to meet and input from a client is needed. A PR consultant can badger the client into catering to the reporter then and there in order to achieve two goal;

1. Most important, PR mileage for the client
2. Obliging the media when they need it the most

Corporate Favours:
Quite often you will come across a situation where one of your clients is in a position to favour a certain media person in need of something, example; a discount on airfare, expediting delivery of a product and if you are really lucky – with an exclusive story that the reporter needs. These are small things for the respective client but come across as you have gone over and above and favoured the journalist. Never underestimate the small favours you can do for a media person, they can go a long way and help build stronger relations as well as indebt them to help you out when you are having a dry spell with a client’s PR mileage.

Entertainment:
Albeit being a very small part, PR people need to keep interacting with the media as they are the main stakeholders of the PR industry. It is always good to invite a journalist from time to time to an event of his/her interest apart from work (one company expense of course!) to make them feel special.

Insider Info:
This tool can be used in following scenarios;

1. Crisis management – Imagine your client being in a fix, you are the first person the media will call and you can give them the right scoop while safeguarding your client’s interests.

2. Industry FYI – As PR professionals it is our job to have an insight into the business community. This enables us to keep abreast the latest happenings and serves very well as a conversation starter with just about anybody. The trick is to share your insider knowledge by gauging the journalists’ area of interest and then give them the information as a thoughtful gesture of your close personal relationship with them, especially if the information is not related to any of your clients. It shows that you are well informed and the best source of information for the journalist.

3. The other side of the story – With your contacts, you can help a journalist out in getting the ‘other side of the story’ from time to time. This usually works in the case of policy matters involving large corporations.

Know Your Media!

They key to any successful PR campaign is knowing your media and their various social segments.
1. The Head Honchos:

These are the owners/publishers and their extended families and friends who basically feel like they own everything they touch as they are the people with the contacts! They are the glitterati of the media, usually spotted in the Sunday editions of magazines as part of every social event of the week.

How to handle:

They are easy enough to approach at a social gathering if you are dressed right and have a host of renowned clients to flaunt. Name dropping is an easy tactic to attract their attention.

2. The Serious Journalist:

You can spot this type of journalist by their appearance. They tend to be scruffy, always carry a notepad, wearing the press card like a badge of honour (usually stained and battered as though it was created in 1900) and dressed in clothes that were never in style. This breed almost always works in print—important to remember because the bad business situation of that medium really angers this folk and they are determined not to accept that newspapers will ever go out of style. References to it should be avoided at all costs! They HATE the PR people, firstly because they earn a lot less and always believe the latter to be lying to serve a client’s agenda.

How to handle:

Handle this group with care, and prepare for brusque behavior—and the distinct scent of stale cigarettes.
3. The Cub:

These are the fresh out of J-school lot who come with a vigor for the truth and nothing but the truth! They’ll be demanding, pushy, and generally unpleasant if they don’t get what they want. They have the power of knowledge and usually no respect for anyone other than themselves.

How to handle:

Don’t worry too much this breed; the Cub is not sent to cover stories of major consequence and is easily handled. However, they may go around sniffing for negative stories which may lead to a byline for them!
4. The I-am-the-media People:

They believe themselves to be the most IT-thing in media. Mostly the face of the show on the television or the local RJ who never intended to be journalists but are fulfilling their failed dreams of becoming a model/actor through the world of news. These are also the entertainment journalism folks who live under the delusion that their news sells more than actual news. They spend considerably more time on their looks than on learning the facts of a story.

How to handle:

Be careful – they may look impressive what with their designer clothes and almost always perfect hair but to get your message through REPEAT!
5. The Social Media Guru:

This mafia has come into force in the recent decade with the influx of social media. They call themselves Bloggers. These are the folks who perceive themselves to be the influencers of the masses today. They are usually the ones creating havoc on the internet and talking about controversial topics just to build a following.

How to handle:

This cult requires plenty of information and they want it now! The best way to handle them is proactively. Lobbying is a strategy applied best with this media.

Knowing the media will enable you to handle them such that your campaign gets an all rounded applause!

PR 101

Growing up to the awesome-ness of Samantha Jones of Sex in the City, PR fascinates many. It looks like easy money – but the truth is it’s not!

To me, PR is living and breathing! It is a career built above all industries, politics and people. It is a lifelong learning which almost always pays off. Here are the basics of what a PR guy MUST know:

 1. Research:

Knowing how to design and execute research is a crucial part of the job. A core PR guy always knows the client’s business better than the client!

2. Writing skills:

A PR guy has the flair of writing. From basic letters to the drafting of a legal contract – a PR guy must know it all!
3. Media relations:
A good PR guy will never rely on allies such as media coordinators etc. They will know reporters, desk staff as well as the editor. Where delegating is an important part of managing the PR strategies, it is always best to be in control of your key stakeholders – the media. Clients will come and go, but good media relations will a long way.

4. Dealing with the media:

A good PR guy will always know how to handle what type and level of media. Where trial and error is part of every work sphere, dealing with the media is not something a PR professional can afford to just wing it!

5. Shaping the debate:

Everybody knows what goes on in mainstream industries. The job of a PR guy is to bring shape to that debate in people’s lives using PR tools to the advantage of their clients.

6. Planning an event:

From press conferences to hosting benefits, to lunches and dinners and so much more, a PR guy must know who to call for what and have the contacts to pull off an event which will be memorable.

7. Crisis management:

The bane of PR is managing the crisis! Identifying the issue at the right time and giving out a statement with sufficient facts to reduce the rumors. Key factor is, the media is the last to know your news, so always give them enough material so they don’t snoop around more, but not too much that they don’t come back for more if needed!

8. Using PR to create advocates for your client:

A good PR campaign will influence the masses. The key to influencing the masses is to convince the messenger to advocate your key messages with conviction. This will ensure good word of mouth and top of mind recall in the target audience.

9. Always tell the truth:

Always keep your ethical obligations in check – never compromise on the truth! Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, it’s tempting to skip steps, make assumptions, and push the button before the facts are checked. Sometimes the client is asking you to do things that push the boundary of the truth. Sometimes it’s your boss. Don’t be tempted to take shortcuts that will undermine your credibility with your team, client, or employers.

10. Constant Learning:

PR professionals should be among the smartest people on the team. They’re articulate, well read, and care deeply about the subject matter they represent. They keep up on current events, read the newspaper, and know about what’s going on in the world. They must keep abreast the knowledge of everything and aspire not to learn their way about new PR/media tools but in fact want to be the one to invent new avenues of PR.