Sunday, February 22, 2015

PR, management lessons from acclaimed 9-year-old entrepreneur

At the age of nine, Alina Morse of Wolverine Lake, Michigan, is already an acclaimed entrepreneur in the US, winning success and admiration with her innovation. She has invented a line of lollipops promoting healthy teeth for children. Helping her in the invention is her father, Tom Morse, a former consultant to Deloitte for its Consumer Packaged Goods clients.
Her brand, Zollipops, a sugar-free lollipop containing sugar alternatives erythritol, xylitol and stevia, “helps strengthen the enamel”, reports Lauren Abdel-Razzaq in The Detroit News. With a $7,500 investment, Alina sold $70,000 in Zollipops last year.  
Also, there is a lot that business leaders can learn from her. The Chief Executive magazine lists eight basic business lessons from Alina for CEOs and business chiefs. The lessons are: 1. be enthusiastic about your product or company; 2. have a strategy for wowing the media -- especially in this era of viral and digital marketing, it’s crucial for a new company to get a foothold in the news and entertainment media; 3. start the nurture process early; 4. write down or verbally record every idea, no matter how small for potential customers, new products and new businesses; 5. solve a problem or create a need; 6. question the norm; 7. plan your expansion opportunities; 8. think globally. 
That Alina pursues ‘Performance with Purpose’ very seriously has been reinforced by the fact that she has earmarked 10 per cent of her profits for CSR in an area which is relevant to her business: organizing oral hygiene programmes in the neighbourhood schools. 

Beware, Board of Directors! Activist investors’ clout is growing

Activist investors have been storming the Boards of top US listed companies, and bringing about sparkling changes. The developments have phenomenal significance for India – more of that a little later. But first about the developments pertaining to activist investors in the US.
report in The Economist praises the efforts of activist hedge funds in improving governance among listed companies in the US. Such entities acquire “small stakes in firms and act like political campaigners, trying to win other shareholders’ support for their demands: representation on companies’ boards, cost-cutting, spin-offs and returning cash to shareholders”.
“Activists run funds with at least $100 billion of capital, and in 2014 attracted a fifth of all flows into hedge funds,” according to the report. “Last year they launched 344 campaigns against public companies, large and small. In the past five years one company in two in the S&P 500 index of America’s most valuable listed firms has had a big activist fund on its share register, and one in seven has been on the receiving end of an activist attack.”
Among the achievements of activist investors listed by the report are:
·       Trian Fund Management, led by activist Nelson Peltz, secured a Board seat at Bank of New York Mellon in December 2014.
·       The Economist’s analysis of the 50 largest activist positions in America since 2009 has shown rise in profits, capital investment and R&D in many cases.
Ram Charan, Michael Useem and Dennis Carey  list out the following achievements of such activist investors in their article, Your Board Should Be Full of Activists in Harvard Business Review (February 2015):
·       Backed by institutional investors, Starboard Capital ensured the exit of the entire Board of Directors at Darden Restaurants over a spin-off issue in 2014.
·       In 2012, a similar development took place at Canadian Pacific Railway.
Ram Charan is a business advisor to CEOs and corporate Boards, and co-author of the book, Boards That Lead, with Dennis Carey and Michael Useem. Useem is Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, while Carey is Vice Chairman of Korn/ Ferry International and specializes in the recruitment of CEOs and corporate directors.
In their report, Preparing for Bigger, Bolder Shareholder Activists, Joseph Cyriac, Ruth De Backer and Justin Sanders of McKinsey, write, “Activist investors are getting ever more adventurous. Last year, according to our analysis, the US listed companies that activists targeted had an average market capitalization of $10 billion -- up from $8 billion just a year earlier and less than $2 billion at the end of the last decade. They’ve also been busier, launching an average of 240 campaigns in each of the past three years -- more than double the number a decade ago.” 
The support of traditional investors has been increasing the clout of activist investors. “The backing of the traditionalists like Vanguard Group is often giving activists like Trian — the latter with just 2.7% of DuPont’s shares — the extra clout they need,” write Charan, Useem and Carey. “Vanguard holds more than $3 trillion in assets, making it the equivalent of the world’s fifth largest country in GDP, ahead of France. Along with its heavyweight brethren like Fidelity and Blackrock, it packs enormous punch. Vanguard owns some 5% of most publicly traded companies in the US.”
In their article, How to Outsmart Activist Investors (May 2014),  Bill George, Professor, Management Practice, Harvard Business School and Jay W Lorsh, Professor, Human Relations, Harvard Business School, write, “We remain unconvinced, however, that hedge fund activism is a positive trend for US corporations and the economy; in fact, we find that it reinforces short-termism and excessive attention to financial metrics. But because activists -- and the institutional investors who often follow their lead -- are generating positive returns, there is likely to be more rather than less of it in the future. In the interest of their corporations, CEOs and Boards should be preparing for activist interventions rather than complaining about them.”
They cite examples such as that of Indra Nooyi, Chairperson and CEO, PepsiCo, who managed such activist onslaughts well. With her ‘Performance with Purpose’ strategy, Nooyi had, among other things, introduced a couple ‘good for you’ products in the PepsiCo range.
Before proceeding further on activist investors, it is pertinent to say a few words about a book which delves into the concept of ‘Performance with Purpose’. The book is Jim Stengel’s book, Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit. Maximum growth and high ideals are not incompatible,” says Stengel. “They’re inseparable.”
As for tackling activist investors, George and Jay present several options, which could be considered by managements and Boards.
Joseph, Ruth and Justin of McKinsey identify the weak spots which could trigger an activist attack. 1. under-performance relative to industry peers, rather than absolute declines in performance; 2. large cash balances and recurring restructuring charges; 3. executive compensation; and 4. a gap in consensus earnings. 
Charan, Useem and Carey urge companies to “renew their Boards before an activist changes it”.
The three experts quote Raj Gupta, former CEO, Rohm and Haas, as saying that the Board and top management “should think like an activist”. With an “outside in” view of the company -- rather than an “inside out” view -- directors should pose the same questions that an activist investor would ask, according to Gupta. “Is the company’s portfolio too complex? Is management top-notch? Is the cost structure too high? Has the firm missed an inflection point?” Gupta was also on the Boards of Delphi Automotive, Hewlett-Packard, Tyco and Vanguard. 
The advice is more relevant for India, where 77 of the 155 BSE-200 companies (excluding banking and financial ones) have either reported a decline in their market value since March 2008 or the rise  in market capitalisation has lagged the increase in capital employed in the business, according to a report in Business Standard (February 2014).

“In all, since 2007-08, the 155 BSE-200 companies in the sample have together destroyed over Rs 22 lakh crore of shareholder wealth, or nearly 46 per cent of their combined market value in January 2014. The figure would shoot up by half, to nearly Rs 35 lakh crore, if the figures for IT, pharma and FMCG companies were excluded.”

India’s top banks gain 61 per cent in brand value; TCS is fastest growing IT brand

India's top banks have regained their earlier glory in the past year by adding 61 per cent to their brand value, reports Business Standard, quoting the Brand Finance Banking 500 study of Brand Finance, a brand valuation company. Indian bank brands are the second-fastest-growing ones worldwide.

Brand Finance also states that TCS is the fastest growing IT brand with a growth of 271 per cent for the last five years. The brand value of the IT company, which has retained the industry's highest brand strength rating of 'AA+', has increased from $2.3 bllion to $8.7 billion.

As for Indian banking brands, which now rank 13th globally (17th last year), the total value exceeds those from Russia, Italy, Sweden and South Korea, according to the study.

"Technological advances are opening up exciting new opportunities for India's banks as swathes of the population begin to bank more formally," says David Haigh, Chief Executive, Brand Finance. “Their brand managers may need to forge new brand strategies to reach these customers most effectively while maintaining the trust and loyalty of existing ones."

State Bank of India’s (global rank of 40th in 2015, 54th in 2014) brand value has increased by 62 per cent to $6.56 billion in 2015 on account its “pioneering approach to mobile banking”, according to the study. Among the top five banks are: ICICI Bank (80th globally in 2015 as compared to 107th in 2014), HDFC Bank (104th in 2015, 133th in 2014), Axis Bank (131th in 2015, 178th in 2014) and Bank of Baroda (187th in 2015, 208th in 2014).

Globally, Wells Fargo holds its position as the most valuable banking brand, with a total value of $34.92 billion.

N S Rajan’s PR success mantras

N S Rajan, Global Partner and Managing Director, Ketchum Sampark, has been serving global and Indian corporate giants during his two and a half decade public relations career. Among the clients served by him are DSP Merrill Lynch, ICICI Prudential, Fitch Ratings, ICICI Venture, Bajaj Auto, Tech Mahindra, Hutch Vodafone, ABB, Exide, Lafarge, AXIS Bank, Nomura Financials and National Stock Exchange. 

His profile sums up his approach succinctly, “Sacrificing quantity over quality, money over respect and short cut over hard work, NSR in his illustrious career, spanning over two decades, has through his consultative and advisory approach, at a time when the industry didn’t have these words in its dictionary, developed and executed distinctive, high-impact global communications campaigns for several global and Indian brands.”
Business Standard  reports on the success mantras of NSR, as he is fondly called.

"Most progressive CEOs are paying attention to the importance of PR, and they tend to listen when they know that the advice they're getting is honest and logical," says NSR in Business Standard. "Half the battle is won once the top management is willing to listen… When business leaders begin to trust your opinions, they come to respect you for your contrarian views too, especially when they know and understand that you mean well and the suggested course is in the best interests of the organisation.”

Transparency and aligning PR counsel with business situations and goals are of paramount importance, according to him. “Our relationship with the company or its CEO is fairly complex and each solution we suggest needs to be in sync with their business philosophy and culture, besides being relevant at that point of time."

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Movie PR case study part of IIM-B curriculum

A case study on entertainment marketing communications will be part of the media and entertainment curriculum at IIM-B. The case study looks at the work done by on entertainment marketing communications agency, Spice for films such as PK, Dhoom 3, 3 Idiots, Ek Tha Tiger, Ghajini and Bodyguard, reports Meenakshi Verma Ambwani in The Hindu Business Line. 

Besides films, Spice manages communications and image management work for Bollywood’s leading actors. 

“Entertainment products are not just marketing oriented; they are now market-driven,” Professor S Raghunath, Professor, Corporate Strategy and Policy, IIM-B, is quoted as saying in the report. “Internet and mobile technology is changing the way consumers make their entertainment decisions and, therefore, it is having an impact on the way movie-makers market their products to consumers.”  

“Bollywood or entertainment marketing has emerged as a specialized domain, and it is increasingly getting structured,” according to Prabhat Choudhary, Head, Spice. “Even celebrity branding is becoming more and more specialized and skill driven."

PRmoment India ‘30 Under 30’ list unveiled

The first-ever PRmoment India ‘30 Under 30’ list for communication professionals was unveiled in the second week of February 2015.
In all, 98 entries had been received, from cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Patna and Bhopal. The entries had been evaluated by an eminent jury comprising leading names from the PR business in India, reports Paarul Chand, Editor, PRmoment India.
The winners include consultancy professionals, in-house communicators and independent consultants. For details, please read PRmoment’s report.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Giant leap for PR with HR remit at HSBC… Is PR ready for more opportunities?

A recent global corporate appointment indicates the growing importance of corporate communications, and the far-reaching management structural changes the said development could perhaps herald across the world. 
According to a report by Arun Sudhaman of The Holmes Report, HSBC's Pierre Goad has taken on leadership of the bank's human resources function, in a new role that retains oversight of communications.
Goad has made a transition to corporation communications in 2001 post his long journalism career with media houses like The Asian Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  
"It demonstrates how far communications has come at HSBC specifically, but more widely as well," said Goad. "The skills and experience you gain managing an integrated communications function are applicable and relevant in other functions. Communications has moved past the press office era…. This is an unusual move but I don't think it will be the last — it's the new modern, integrated version of communications... Employees are our most important resource and our most important ambassadors."

Juxtaposed with the assessment and recommendations of global experts, one begins to feel the HSBC appointment would not perhaps remain an isolated corporate development.
Ram Charan, other experts’ prescription 
Consider the views of Ram Charan, eminent business advisor to CEOs and corporate boards, on the Chief Human Resource Officer’s function, for instance.
In his article, It’s Time to Split HR in Harvard Business Review (July 2014), Ram Charan focuses on why global CEOs are disappointed with their Chief Human Resources Officers. “What they (the Chief Human Resources Officers) can’t do very well is relate HR to real-world business needs,” said Ram Charan. “They don’t know how key decisions are made, and they have great difficulty analysing why people -- or whole parts of the organization -- aren’t meeting the business’ performance goals.” 
However, there are rare exceptions including Santrupt Misra, CEO, Carbon Black Business and Director, Group Human Resources, Aditya Birla Group. Misra “became a close partner of the Chairman, Kumar Mangalam Birla, working on organization and restructuring and developing profit and loss managers”.
HR heads like Misra (the other two exceptions named by Ram Charan being GE’s Bill Conaty and Marsh’s Mary Anne Elliott – working in line operations is the distinguishing quality of such rare HR heads) have inspired Ram Charan’s prescription of splitting the Chief Human Resource Officer function into two strands: 1. HR-A (for administration) would primarily manage compensation and benefits; 2. HR-LO (for leadership and organization) would focus on improving the people capabilities of the business.
Ram Charan is the author or co-author of 18 books, including the best-seller Execution. He is the co-author of the new book Boards That Lead with Dennis Carey and Michael Useem.  
In his article, Why HR Still Isn’t a Strategic Partner, in Harvard Business Review (July 5, 2012), J. Craig Mundy, Vice President, Human Resources and Communications, Climate Solutions Sector, Ingersoll Rand (his present designation is Vice President, Enterprise Learning and Talent Management, Ingersoll Rand), wrote, “For two decades we have been hearing that HR must become a strategic partner to the business. And the fact that we’re still hearing it suggests that in many organizations it hasn’t happened. The need to align HR with the business has become more urgent than ever…. Yet, all too often, business leaders still wonder aloud why their organizations even have HR departments. For their part, many HR leaders are willing to partner with the business, but given the unique situation of each individual company, they have little in the way of concrete guidance about how to fulfil that role.”
Mundy continues, “To truly be partners to the business we must identify those critical points of the business where the strategy succeeds or fails, and provide relevant talent solutions. In other words, we must think in terms of what Brian E. Becker, Mark A. Huselid, and Richard W. Beatty call ‘the differentiated workforce, in their book of the same name.”
The Differentiated Workforce states that “many companies fall into the trap of spending too much time and money on low performers in non-strategic roles, while high performers in strategic roles aren't getting the necessary resources, development opportunities, or rewards”. The book recommends that the workforce should be managed like a portfolio – with disproportionate investments in the jobs that create the most wealth.
Marketing opportunities
An analysis of global experts’ assessment and recommendations on the marketing function too reveals that the corporate communication function could perhaps look forward to playing a much larger role in marketing, provided corporate communications professionals are willing to rise to the challenge and retool themselves.
Stressing the importance of marketing function overhaul is the article, The Ultimate Marketing Machine by Marc de Swaan Arons, Frank van den Driest and Keith Weed in Harvard Business Review (July 2014).
Marc de Swaan Arons and Frank van den Driest are the founders of the global marketing strategy consultancy EffectiveBrands (now Millward Brown Vermeer) and the authors of The Global Brand CEO (Airstream New York, 2010). Keith Weed is the Chief Marketing and Communication Officer of Unilever and the Chairman of the Marketing2020 Advisory Board.
“Marketers understand that their organizations need an overhaul, and many chief marketing officers are tearing up their org charts,” the three experts write in their HBR article. “But in our research and our work with hundreds of global marketing organizations, we’ve found that those CMOs are struggling with how to draw the new chart. What does the ideal structure look like? Our answer is that this is the wrong question. A simple blueprint does not exist.”
Echoing similar views on the marketing function is Bill Lee, President of the Customer Reference Forum, Executive Director of the Summit on Customer Engagement, and author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset (HBR Press, June 2012). In his article, Marketing Is Dead in Harvard Business Review (August 9, 2012), Lee writes, “Traditional marketing -- including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications -- is dead. Many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are.” 
The way forward is clear. In their article, The Ultimate Marketing Machine, the three experts recommend, “Marketing organizations traditionally have been populated by generalists, but particularly with the rise of social and digital marketing, a profusion of new specialist roles -- such as digital privacy analysts and native-content editors -- are emerging. We have found it useful to categorize marketing roles not by title (as the variety seems infinite) but as belonging to one of three broad types: ‘think’ marketers, who apply analytic capabilities to tasks like data mining, media-mix modelling, and ROI optimization; ‘do’ marketers, who develop content and design and lead production; and ‘feel’ marketers, who focus on consumer interaction and engagement in roles from customer service to social media and online communities.”
Lee’s prescription focuses on the “new model of marketing: that is already in place in a number of organizations”. The key elements of the new model are: community marketing; cultivating customer influencers; rethinking the customer value proposition of the Most Valuable Professional (MVP) customers; and involving customer advocates in the solution provided by the company. 
PR and corporate communications professionals, does all this ring a bell?

Anand Mahindra on importance of marketing and communication

“Is marketing important? I would say, it is supremely important after a period when India had vanished from the radar screen of the world. People had given up on India. They said India always flatters to deceive. They said India was shining and then suddenly, for almost a decade, it lost its way.”
That’s Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director, Mahindra Group, in an interview with Mint’s Amrit Raj.
“In my opinion, we have always undervalued marketing and communication in India,” said Mahindra. “To the Prime Minister’s credit, he understands the value of both these things. Yes, of course, marketing has to be followed by delivery. Delivery takes longer, but I believe that he (Modi) is working (on that) in parallel.”
Reading Mahindra’s statement between the lines, one can decipher the branding strategy of the Mahindra Group. The same has been further amplified by S P Shukla, President, Group Strategy and Chief Brand Officer, Mahindra Group.
Speaking to Arun Sudhaman of The Holmes Report at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, Shukla said the Group would like to focus on ‘admiration’ rather than brand building or growth. "Admiration has to be earned through a combination of approach, actions, attitude and achievements… Gaining admiration is a far more complex and difficult goal for a brand than earning either loyalty or liking or even respect."

Increase sales through story-telling

Michael D. Harris, CEO, Insight Demand and author of Insight Selling, writes in his  article, When to Sell with Facts and Figures, and When to Appeal to Emotions in Harvard Business Review (January 26, 2015)  that, in recent years, psychologists and behavioural economists have shown that  emotional decisions are neither irrational nor irresponsible. Such decisions are based on a deeply empirical mental processing system that is capable of effortlessly processing millions of bits of data without getting overwhelmed, according to him.
“Harvard Business School Professor Gerald Zaltman says that 95% of our purchase decisions take place unconsciously – but why, then, are we not able to look back through our decision history, and find countless examples of emotional decisions?” he said. “Because our conscious mind will always make up reasons to justify our unconscious decisions.”
Harris recommends that providing an experience that creates the desired emotion among the customer is the ideal way to influence him/ her. “One of the best ways for a customer to experience your complex product is by sharing a vivid customer story. Research has shown that stories can activate the region of the brain that processes sights, sounds, tastes, and movement.”

Missteps, best practices in content marketing strategy

Linda Pophal, CEO, Strategic Communications, LLC, cautions companies against key missteps in shaping their content marketing strategy. She also outlines some of the best practices. Below are her suggestions:  
Missteps: 1. Not tying activities to the organization’s strategic plan; 2. failing to use, or repurpose, existing content; 3. focusing on quantity over quality; 3. considering online communication separate from other communications; 4. failing to leverage opportunities for referrals and backlinks; 5. not monitoring and learning from analytics. 
Best practices: 1. create a content calendar, but don’t be completely tied to it; 2. if there is more than one audience one is attempting to connect with, create multiple profiles; 3. listen to, and learn from, your audiences. 

India among top three trusted countries

The United Arab Emirates, India, and Indonesia are the top three countries on this year’s Edelman’s Trust Barometer, while the three bottom countries are Turkey, Ireland and Japan.
Globally, however, the public’s trust in businesses, NGOs, media, and government decreased slightly in 2014 compared with the previous year, according to the Barometer. Trust in NGOs declined 3% globally to 63%, trust in media dropped 2% to 51%, and trust in business fell 2% to 57%, compared with last year’s findings, reports Diana Bradley in PR Week.
According to Bradley, an academic or expert remains the most trusted spokesperson (70%) while a company technical expert is the second-most trusted (67%). A "person like yourself" came in third (63%). CEOs and government officials or regulators are the least trusted, coming in at 43% and 38%, respectively.

77% of FTSE 100s hire Communications Directors

Seventy-seven percent (same as in 2013, 73% in 2012) of the FTSE 100s employed Group Corporate Communications/ Affairs Director in the year 2014 while 22% (20% in 2013, 27% in 2012) employed professionals in lower levels with the tiles varying (7% SVPs, 9% Heads and one officer), according to a survey done by  Watson Helsby, a trusted executive search firm. No information was available in the case of 1% of the FTSE 100s in the year 2014 (3% in 2013).
Watson Helsby collected data on 99 of the FTSE 100s, making this “the most comprehensive survey currently available”.
The key team members of the Company include Nick Helsby, its Managing Director, and Dee Cayhill, its Director.
The other key findings of the survey are:
·     Of those companies with a Group Director of Corporate Affairs/ Communications (or other comparable title), 43% (same as in 2013) regard it as an Executive Committee level post
·     The CEO reporting line predominates with 75% (up from 70% in 2013) reporting to their CEO
·       56% of Corporate Communications/ Affairs Directors were male and 44% female

Terri-Helen Gaynor takes over as Burson-Marsteller APAC CEO

Burson-Marsteller, a leading global public relations and communications firm, has announced that Terri-Helen Gaynor has joined the company as President and Chief Executive Officer, Asia-Pacific.
According to a press release, Gaynor succeeds Patrick Ford, who had been Chair of the Asia-Pacific region since October 2012. Ford will continue as Worldwide Vice Chair and Chief Client Officer and as Chair of the Asia-Pacific region through the leadership transition, serving as a senior advisor to Gaynor.
Both Gaynor and Ford will report to Donald A Baer, Worldwide Chair and Chief Executive Officer, Burson-Marsteller.
Gaynor’s 30-year career spans the full spectrum of corporate communications, according to the press release. She has led numerous teams on initial public offerings, mergers & acquisitions and takeover bids. She also has deep knowledge of the global health industry and offers vast experience counseling government officials.
 “Terri-Helen is widely respected across Asia-Pacific and the global communications sector as an expert strategist with broad expertise managing complex issues in partnership with CEOs, boards of directors, financial authorities and government ministers,” Baer was quoted as saying in the press release.
“All of us are very grateful to Pat Ford for leading the region during these past two years,” Baer continued. “Under his strong guidance, we have grown our business, added exceptional talent and produced award-winning work, all while leading the region in ideas-driven, evidence-based communications…. We are very fortunate to have his continued service as a leader and colleague in his ongoing role as our Worldwide Vice Chair and Chief Client Officer.”
Speaking about her new role, Gaynor said, “The firm has built an outstanding business in its more than 40 years in the region and boasts an enviable roster of talent and clients. I am eager to build on this most impressive foundation.” 

Top three skills needed in PR

Emma Dale, a veteran PR recruiter with a good network across APAC, talks about the top three emerging skill sets a PR professional needs in these changing times, in addition to the traditional skills. The three skills are: 1. keeping your cool in a crisis; 2. formulating a digital strategy; and 3. understanding big data.