The first rule of Entrepreneurship- Cultivate meaningful friendships!

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So much has been said and written about the legacy Mr. V G Siddhartha, Founder, and CMD, Cafe Coffee Day has left behind. His entrepreneurial skills are eulogized. The odd interviews of this extremely shy and reticent man are being shared by news channel lucky enough to get him to speak then.

The man might have thought that this is the end, but his story has just begun.

Things are entirely different and much easier to manage when you are just a nobody with eyes full of dreams. There are more than 250000 coffee growers in India. No one thought of packaging it as a beverage and serve it in style before a maverick Siddhartha asked his father to play the gamble on him. Little did he know that he would be making cafes a cult, and drinking coffee an ultimate style statement! Young or old, everyone felt that a lot could happen over coffee. And for a young Siddhartha, a lot did happen.

When you follow your dreams so passionately, you are bound to climb the ladder of success. But while you are racing ahead and reaching to the top, it does get lonelier and lonelier. There is no sane voice except yours to guide you. No wonder that VGS found himself surrounded with people who were ready to invest in his dreams, but no one to share his nightmares.

It does get lonely at the top. But is this the way a genuine, hard-working man deals with the allegations, blames and censure coming his way?

Thousands of coffee growers, who pledged to sell their crop only to VGS, are now stunned. They pledged allegiance because they had faith in the man, his stature, and his integrity. In the last 16 years of my career as a PR professional, I have never come across a CEO who would defend his honor with his life.

It also makes me think of the futility of it all. We all have heard- “Winners never quit, quitters never win.” Isn’t jumping off a bridge, leaving a confounded 5000+  employees, a bereaved family and old parents too numb to react, quitting?

What could make a man, who remained undeterred with so many lives’ challenges, the threat from global competitors, literally jump off the cliff? Wasn’t there a better way?

As the head of a 23-year-old company, having more than 5000 employees and a revenue of Rs 4,331 crores (US$630 million) in 17-18, you have a public image to live by. People looked up to VGS as a beacon of hope, possibilities, and immense desire to succeed. Scores of entrepreneurial dreams were seen, drafted, and executed in the coffee shops he set up. A lot did happen over coffee for several generations, which found common ground to come together and share a cup of Joe.

It’s hard not to see the stark irony – There was another Siddhartha who relinquished his thrown, his riches, and his newborn- in search of greater knowledge. His restlessness to achieve oneness with the Supreme being fuelled his quest for wisdom, earning him the title of Buddha the enlightened one. He did come back to impart whatever he learned- selflessly giving back to the very same society that waited patiently for him, looked up to him.

 And then there is the Siddhartha of today, who took the extreme step, never to return — leaving a huge question mark over his legacy.

Could he hear the same voice in his head that had always guided him till now?

Was it so lonely at the top that he didn’t have a single friend who had no interest in his business and his success? Someone who wasn’t looking for a partnership, but just a genuine, innocent friendship- someone he could open up his heart to?

 Before we say that the system failed him, we must remember that we, as a society, failed him. In the whole world, there wasn’t a single person who could understand what the man was going through, someone he could trust to reach out to, who could tell him not to take the extreme step and that there is always a way out.

With my extensive experience and long term relationships with pivotal clients, I can vouch for the fact that you will not have a greater friendship than a fearless PR manager by your side. In more ways than one, PR people tell you what you NEED to hear, rather than just beating your drum to create enough noise. Because we are the ones, who need to deal with crises for you, help in image enhancement, and creation of long-term relationships.

Even before I realized PR was my calling, I had always been big on cultivating lifetime friendships. I am still in touch with my childhood friends, my high school and college batchmates,ex-colleagues, employees and have always been there long before we all moved to social media.

I have realized that the work I do in PR is a lot like what it takes to cultivate good friendships. To me, relationships come first, and profit comes later. And there are quite a few PR principles that rely entirely on developing deep and lasting relationships.

A famous phrase goes- “Familiarity breeds contempt”. VGS was a friend to many, but no one was a friend to him, in the end, it seems. Going away in disgrace, leaving unanswered questions and not fighting back wasn’t something he would have wanted for himself if he had that one sane voice of a single friend, telling him to stop, breathe, and listen- There is always a better way!

VGS didn’t just rewrite entrepreneurship code in the country. He left a stark reminder for all the entrepreneurs- when you reach the top, make sure you have someone who has your back. Invest as much in your life and friends as you would in your business.

Entrepreneurship needs Friendships that rise above vested interests.

About the author:

Shiv Shankar – He is the Executive Director & Founder of K2 Communications. Under his astute leadership, K2 Communications has developed into a frontrunner among PR agencies that incessantly delivers excellent regional and national PR support to clients belonging to various sectors including government, IT, education, consumer, and healthcare.

Consumer PR- No, it’s not Marketing!

How Consumer PR is different from marketing. By K2 Communications.
Public Relations is the missing piece of the puzzle to marketing efforts in reaching out to consumers.

Public relations revolve around the use of news and content to put forth a message about a product, a business, an organization or an endeavour using an effective medium to reach out to consumers. Over the years, PR has taken a lot of faces depending on the effectiveness of the communication channels. Public relations are all about storytelling and shaping a company’s image. But with technological advancements interfering and reshaping every aspect of communications and interaction, it is only fair to ask whether PR is really storytelling, non-advertising, image-shaping tool that we have known it to be?

For consumers, as well as for companies, the influence of effective public relations has been able to withstand the test of time. As companies aim for more ambitious depths in reaching out to the customers, more and more focus is shifting towards building and gaining an audience.

Public relations provide a fascinating and opportunistic landscape for building a brand. 

A consumer relations program is not a marketing initiative. Consumer relations program aims at developing positive relationships with consumers rather than selling a certain number of products. The loyalty won may help in higher sales; consumer relations is more of a public relations job than that of marketing.

The line between Marketing and Public Relations often gets blurred. Public relations and marketing do share some basic concepts like research methodology, finding the right target audiences, communication, and action plans as well as evaluation of various outcomes. Despite these similarities, the two have a fundamental difference, and that is while marketing is all about the product and is highly field-specific, PR is much broader.

PR takes into account aspects overlooked by marketing, like internal relations, surrounding environment and non-consumers in it, and overall consumer behaviour. Public relations require a deep understanding of the role each of these aspects plays within an organization. Public relations and marketing need to realign themselves and attempt to create a whole new field – “relationship marketing.” 

Relationship Marketing:

Relationship marketing is all about understanding that consumers make buying decisions based on their habit. The underlying principle is that customers want to be served, not sold. Usually, while making a purchase decision, consumers look for the following things:

  • Quality
  • Handling customer complaints
  • Crisis management
  • Safety of the product
  • Trading and business practices

Relationship marketing must work in the direction of delighting customers, so they become regular, repeat and loyal consumers. If you promise a consumer some benefits, they must meet consumer’s expectations and also maintain the customer base and handle service requests.

In today’s competitive environment, a company’s success depends on understanding your customers and exceeding their demands for service. With the internet, the world is shrinking, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate products. Profitability of a business depends on its ability to find, expand and retain valuable customers.

Everyone knows that it is far more cost-effective to build loyalty than to keep replacing existing customers. Valuing customers and making consumer relations a vital part of an organization’s PR strategy is extremely important as it helps tackle consumer issues effectively and create positive company perceptions.

Public relations involve communicating with the public, and your business will be subjected to a range of ethical and legal considerations. Every message released influences consumers’ opinions about you. Therefore, the public statements should be consistent with your brand and key messages.

If your PR efforts are focussed on crisis communications, you will be required to managing your reputation because of the situation or the issue. Effective consumer relations will help you tide over even the trickiest of the situations with ease.

How to launch an effective consumer PR campaign?

Staying true to your ethics and yet reasonably satisfy all consumers sounds like a tightrope walk. Maintaining one’s credibility while reducing the risks for potential damages to your reputation is very critical. Here are some tips:

  • Staying honest and consistent with your messages. Consumers today can easily make out double standards, distorted facts, and hypocritical statements.
  • Steer clear from paid media coverage. Effective consumer PR thrives on independent, third-party reports, stories and information. If you have to pay for good press, which means something is wrong at the very fundamental level with your product or service.
  • Maintain graceful composure with your competitors. Keeping your criticisms and disagreements with your competitors out of the spotlight is a great PR tactic.
  • Create platforms to interact with consumers. Consumers today want companies to be more proactive and keep up with their demands, or be left behind. As customers are turning to social media to communicate, it is imperative the companies reach out to them there.
  • Prepare a detailed digital PR plan- Today’s consumer engages with companies to give feedback, ask questions and discuss features, affecting their buying decisions. You can use this information that you gain during interactions and build relationships rather than just talking online. Growing relationships and attracting customers should be a part of the digital strategy of any PR effort.
  • Get influencers on board. Reliable third parties, backing the brand is a valuable function of consumer PR. It could be through a paid or unpaid agreement. Getting a brand an honourable mention or good reviews is the hallmark of effective digital PR.

Consumer PR is all about translating what the company wants to say and relay it in a manner that it becomes what consumers want to hear. Consumer PR is a company’s most valuable asset in today’s market. It helps a company position itself for success and weather the storms in the future.

Background photo created by mindandi – www.freepik.com<a href=”http://Designed by mindandi / Freepik“>http://<a href=”http://www.freepik.com”>Designed by mindandi / Freepik</a>

About the author:

Prashanth – He brings on-board his enriched journalistic perspective to K2 communications. Armed with a Degree in Sociology and a Masters in Philosophy Research from the University of Hyderabad, where his thesis was on Human Rights, his vast experience in the field of writing, reporting and editing in print media is highly valued and appreciated by our clients.

My language, My rules: Integrating Vernacular Languages in Public Relations in India

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.’

Nelson Mandela

With 23 major languages in India, written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects, linguistic diversity has never been a bigger challenge for public relations professionals anywhere in the world.

There are sound reasons for the existence of such diverse languages, yet most public relations companies appear to be intimidated by the complexity of the socio-demographic landscape.

Public relations executives swear by taking the safe route and cater for majority understanding, creating all campaigns and communications in English, only to realise that perhaps they should also be valuing the vernacular, creating content in mother-tongue and cashing in on the ensuing return-on-investment (ROI).

Value of vernacular communications

Whether it is writing a press release or a pitch note, authored articles or trend stories, use of effective vernacular communication in public relations helps inculcate cultural insight, nuance, and context. It helps a PR manager show that their client and the brand understand and resonate with their consumers.

Vernacular public relations can help build long-lasting and profitable relationships of trust with their market. Vernacular communication has the potential to add huge value to a brand. Global brands can successfully localise, and local brands can become more relevant to their target market if they talk in the language their customers can relate to.

Using local language helps in ensuring a high level of engagement, respect, and understanding of the targeted customer. The emotional connect that vernacular comments, quotes bring has a positive impact on the overall brand equity.

Readers place extra value on native advertising and place trust in it in a way that they may not necessarily feel about an English campaign, as most people in the country still converse and often think, in their mother-tongue. Talking in their mother tongue instils a sense of pride and ownership which far outweighs the initial investment of creating a vernacular campaign.

Innovation in Public Relations in the era of globalisation

Vernacular public relations offers an opportunity to view a PR campaign from a new angle and provides a lot of scope for true innovations in the way communications are handled.

The world is becoming a global market for companies who have a common goal- to sell their products or services to as many consumers as possible. Globalisation also means that companies are now addressing an incredibly diverse target, with many different languages, and more importantly- cultures. International Public relations in the new millennium is about understanding, accommodating and harnessing the cultural differences for global brand building.

Telecommunication (Telcos) , consumer durable companies as well as FMCG companies today engage with the consumer speaking a language of the masses.

K2 communications recently achieved noteworthy success for a healthcare client by refocusing the PR strategy with a focus on vernacular media. By retargeting the release with regional translated press releases, the client witnessed astounding ROI on their PR efforts in a short period of time.

Vernacular Public Relations- a must have across all mediums

Native public relations is significant because the target audience is given eh content they want to consume. The challenge on content creation for vernacular language is on the written side, especially for native quotes, comments, and press releases. From the cost perspective as well, it is easier and cheaper to create vernacular language content. Your target audience no longer wants just to read, they want to watch contextual, real-time, user-generated content.

In a country where only 10% of total population interacts in English, and only 74% are literate, the message from a PR desk needs to jump through several hoops of communication distortion- illiteracy, lack of connecting, contextual misunderstanding or pure ignorance. The challenge is to remain impactful, relevant and cross the language barrier to reach the target audience without distorting the core values of a brand.

Vernacular content is also becoming a big mantra for successful digital marketing. Traditional PR methods neither expect nor ask the audience to think. However, they do want the public to respond- a feeling, an impression, a desire, and finally a commitment to take some action but ironically, unless all the fodder conveyed in a language the target understands, it does not result in any thought.

To effectively influence attitudes,  and outcomes in the public domain, including the crucial public opinion and reputation management, PR executives must keep a tab on the local pulse.

According to a 2017 report by KPMG and Google, “Indian Languages — Defining India’s Internet,” there were 234 million Indian-language internet users and 175 million English users in 2016. By 2021, the gap between the two groups is expected to widen. Users of Indian languages are expected to more than double to 536 million, while English users will increase to only 199 million. Nine out of 10 new internet users between 2016 and 2021 will use local languages, said the report. (Source)

As the Indian technology industry builds the internet for the next 1 billion non-English users friendlier public relations communication strategies are the only way forward for the brands looking to reach out.

It, therefore, makes business sense for Public relations companies to encourage their clients to become pan-Indian, linguistically.

  • Additional Resource: Ordinary People Can Reason: A Rhetorical Case for including Vernacular Voices in Ethical Public Relations Practice, Calvin L. Troup Journal of Business Ethics Vol. 87, No. 4 (Jul. 2009), pp. 441-453

  • Image source: Mashable India

    About the Author:

    Bulbul Satsangi – She is a Digital Strategy Consultant at K2 Communications Pvt. Ltd. A Finance professional in her previous avatar, Bulbul, entered the arena of content writing to soothe her creative energy. In the past 5 years, she has worked on all the aspects of the internet and helped many businesses establish their online identity.

Who is writing the new code for Public Relations?

Public Relations professionals are tasked with a paradoxical feat- “How to create brands that are “human” and relatable to their customers, yet, employ the latest technological advancements like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning into their strategies and services?”

We live in a fast-paced technology-enabled world where both- business and personal life is trying to thrive in a socially charged atmosphere. My truism could be another person’s “fake news.” Confrontation on social media is the latest game we all play, and any public comment could be misrepresented or misinterpreted, leading to serious tarnishing of a business’s reputation and brand.

A negative digital footprint which is the result of a single misstep on social media platforms used to spread messages far and wide may follow the company, the brand, and the leaders forever.

Companies and businesses are being extra cautious of what they do or say, but at the same time, they are vying for their customer’s attention. And while they struggle to gain mindshare as well as market share, they look for newer, creative ways to cut the noise and make their story an interesting value proposition for their customers. All this while the competitors are waiting with bated breath to pounce at a small error or copy their every move.

Who is a Communications Officer?

A CO/ CCO is a company’s eyes, ears, and mouthpiece to the outside world. They are actively engaged with employees, customers, partners, investors, media and other stakeholders and are in the best position to effectively manage a brand’s reputation.

By monitoring the pulse of the market, CO’s predict future trends or issues that might impact the business.

How the present scenario affects a CCO’s job ?

The role of the CO is not just restricted to generate attention and positive press coverage for the company anymore. The person at the help has to promote, protect and preserve the brand’s reputation.

In today’s high-tech, aggressive environment, protection needs to take precedence over promotion.

Apart from traditional media management, CO today has to broaden the scope of responsibilities to include non-traditional media engagement like establishing a strong social media presence and having more direct interactions with customers.

Today’s customers make choices about a brand based on criteria that go way beyond product features and price. Therefore, the communications with this audience, as well as internal communications within the company have to be expertly engineered by the communications officer.

Today, public relations for companies and businesses is all about creating a culture and vision that exists within as well as outside the organisation. A brand success story that everyone loves to be a part of and contribute.

6 Steps that CCO’s can take for an effective PR strategy

  1. Convey the vision & values of the company- Knowing what makes a company stand apart is important for today’s customers and is a part of a purchase decision. The CO has to share the company’s vision, purpose, values, belief, and strategy in a story that resonates with its customers.
  2. Engaging and empowering employees- Employees are the living breathing advertisements of a company’s corporate values.CO has to ensure that employees speak with one voice on the company’s vision and goals and has to collaborate with human resources and other functions to instil pride in the company they represent.
  3. Modernising the approach towards traditional media- The CO has to ensure that traditional media, especially the outlets that regularly cover industry news have a solid relationship. To make sure the company stays true to its character and values while shaping public opinion, the CO has to maintain a positive relationship with traditional media.
  4. Take the lead on owned media- Strong Co’s don’t wait on the sidelines for someone else to engage with their business, they take the lead with compelling digital content and attract new customers while maintaining a relationship with existing ones. Leading the pack to develop and deploy thought leadership to influence perception and behaviours.
  5. Double up as the communications coach– Not every one of the top brass in the company is an expert communicator. The CO may have to guide the senior management on how they can manage their own personal brand, and how to engage with various stakeholders to maintain consistency
  6. Take risks-The only risk to fear is the risk you didn’t take.” Nothing great can happen without risk. The CO challenges conventional wisdom, seek out opportunities that competitors might find too risky to attempt and ask uncomfortable questions. Leading by example, and providing support and counsel to the CEO and leadership team without fear is one of the most essential traits today.

Now more than ever, strong communications counsel and assessment of opportunities and threats for the company from the CCO is of chief importance to establish an impactful PR strategy.

With 15 years of experience in managing top-class PR for its clients, K2 has established itself as a one-stop solution provider for all PR related services. Contact us today!

About the Author:

Bulbul Satsangi – She is a Digital Strategy Consultant at K2 Communications Pvt. Ltd. A Finance professional in her previous avatar, Bulbul, entered the arena of content writing to soothe her creative energy. In the past 5 years, she has worked on all the aspects of the internet and helped many businesses establish their online identity.

New Year resolutions for the Indian PR Professional

“Resolutions are meant to be broken,” you say? How about these that can not only be kept but fulfilled? A PR professional’s checklist for the New Year.
  •  Spend more time with your digital followers:

A post here, a like there, won’t really work anymore. Be more involved; social media is only getting bigger and more sophisticated in the New Year, people can see through your networking sham. Remember-

Your Network = Your Net Worth

  • Lose weight of dead practices and processes

AI is your next best friend. Make yourself AI ready. You will thank me for this one in the future. Your embracing the new technology will unburden you of the dead weight of mundane, no-brainer tasks that can be taken care of by machines. Explore and fix black holes in your processes that sap away your creative energy and time.

  • Work harder on the brand image

Even the PR needs the right PR to flourish. Bring the smart strategies closer to home, practice what you preach. Create a brand image for your company that is instantly relatable with the services you offer. More importantly, live up to your brand’s ethos and maintain your brand identity all around the year.

  • Have a more productive relationship with the clients

Another year of servicing clients and helping them achieve their business goals with effective PR. Connecting with clients at all levels across all platforms is super challenging, but it is most rewarding too. Making inroads with their in-house comms team and having an open channel of communication will ensure all are on the same page, working towards the same goal. Always think long-term, and earn loyalty points from your clientele!

  • Take diversity seriously

PR thrives on making sense from the

chaos. Bring the chaos into your office. Welcome people from diverse backgrounds into your team. Build a team that truly reflects the values your PR firm stands for. Gender, experience, backgrounds all help in bringing a unique perspective to every assignment. Diverse is the way forward.

  • Be real, don’t fake- while pitching to media

A pet peeve of most journalists is that PR professionals are least enthusiastic about their client’s news, but try and fake it as if it is the top headline for the next day!  Pitch it in the right light, and journalists will be more than happy to take it forward! Keep it real, and don’t fake what you don’t believe in. Personalise (aka frame) journalist’s pitches to get the best results, for example.

  • Nurture your alumni relations

“Once a PR professional, always a PR professional.” Touch base with all your alumni, you need them to be your ex-insiders now looking from outside. They could be your best critics, helping you in course correction because they have seen and lived inside your world. To broaden horizons, get your alumni back in your active contacts book. Interact, meet, network, discuss, there is a lot they can still do for you!

  • Create a healthy work-life balance

Go out, have fun, grab life with both hands, and live it to your fullest. That is the only way to bring the best of you at your work, day-after-day for the next full year. Better time management, focussing, and prioritizing will help you keep your clients, as well as your family, happy!

  • Keep your  word for everything you do

Whether it is your professional or personal matter, your word is your reputation. If you make a commitment, fulfill it. You should contribute towards the growth and the major objective and responsibility on your shoulders is to increase business, or in other words- concentrate on the growth trajectory.

In his bestselling book Psycho-Cybernetics, author Dr. Maxwell Maltz says the “human mind takes almost exactly 21 days to adjust to a major life change.” Even though his research was originally on traumatic life events, he claims the principle applies “universally” and works just as well on positive changes.

If you can stick with it for only 21 days, you will have an excellent chance to succeed in achieving your goal because you changed just one habit. Commitment is key!

What is your new year resolution? Do you have an action plan for it? Leave us a comment!

Shiv Shankar – He is the Executive Director & Founder of K2 Communications. Under his astute leadership, K2 Communications has developed into a frontrunner among PR agencies that incessantly delivers excellent regional and national PR support to clients belonging to various sectors including government, IT, education, consumer, and healthcare.

©K2Communications Pvt Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction of excerpts or parts of this article without expressed permission from and due credit to the author is strictly prohibited.

Framing- a double-edged sword in PR content strategizing?

A study by Pratt, Ha, and Pratt (2002) of the representation of diseases in the media in Africa showed that the media often used negative and derogatory descriptions when reporting on diseases such as HIV/AIDS. In contrast, they used no negative terms or examples and no derogatory language in reporting on diseases such as tuberculosis. As a consequence of the way in which the media framed the topic in a negative light, it is likely that people with HIV/AIDS were seen in a negative way by people who heard or read the reports. Tuberculosis patients were more likely to have received sympathy from those same people.

We have all seen examples of how framing works – most recently, the killing of a man-eating tigress which hurtled the government-appointed father-son hunter duo in an unwarranted media frenzy. The animal rescue groups applied framing, and the two reputed rescuers and experts unknowingly slid down in public perception as villains.

Or how certain advertisements almost always end up showing a woman as a doctor wearing a white coat and talking about how a product is safe for her own children, is a classic example of how framing works as people can relate to these images and their perception changes to suit the marketer’s goal. (No doctor would lie when it comes to her own children!)

The power of language as a tool in effective communication has long been prized in effective PR. Whether it is rhetoric, argument, or persuasion, words have always helped shape mindsets. When it comes to communicating the value of a brand or a company’s image, an excellent copy helps create the right picture.

OR so we thought.

New developments in cognitive science show that the human brain may not be as receptive to information as we have always thought. In his noted book ” Don’t Think of an Elephant,” noted neuroscientist George Lakoff, explains that human brains create embedded neural structures, which he calls “frames” which are nothing but neurons that trigger our thoughts as responses to stimuli. These “frames” are mainly a person’s worldview, their perception of reality.

The implication of all this is that “IDEAS are of primary importance, and humans often respond to language that lines up with their preconceived principles.”

As per Lakoff, communication is not necessarily about trying to sway someone over to “your side” of viewpoint or coerce them to get convinced of your message. The key, as per Lakoff, to effective communication is to identify the framed perspective of whomever your target customer is, what kinds of values that frame leads those people to use when they process the information.

How does PR applies framing?

Framing manifests in thought or interpersonal communication. Depending on the audience and what kind of information is being presented, framing in communication can be positive as well as negative.

Press-releases- In mass-media, a frame defines the packaging of an element of rhetoric in such a way as to encourage certain interpretations and to discourage others. Sometimes framing is used in the form of presenting facts in such a way that implicates a problem that is in need of a solution. In communications, framing defines how news media coverage shapes mass opinion.

Events- While sharing information about an event, for example, the understanding often depends on the frame referred to. But you cannot just apply a “frame” to an event. Every individual would try to project to the world the interpretive frames that allowed them to make sense of the event. Therefore, to show an event in the “light” that you wish the target audience to see or ignore and move on, you may need to work on their frames and try and align it so they can look at your perspective.

Framing Techniques in PR-An Example

PR agencies are often seen encouraging some stories and interpretations while discouraging the others.  This is not to say that most PR is about lying or consciously distorting the truth. More so, that by highlighting particular stories, using specific sources from a particular news angle, public relations agencies are constructing reality through a selective process. What is presented is often influenced by work practices, resource constraints, and sensitivity of the matter to shareholders as well as management.

When an event is explained and understood by the comparison of the frame with other frames, gradually a frameshift happens. Framing is like a mental shortcut and is often the exact opposite to the rational choice theory in psychology.

 

A classic example of framing is the pollution- look at how this issue has been framed:

Pollution as a law and order frame- Most vehicle owners are callous about going for regular PUC (pollution under control) checks. The present infrastructure does not support so many vehicles during peak hours leading to traffic snarls. The need for public transport has not been answered efficiently. The journalist on this beat could involve social, political and government and even police representatives for opinions, sound bites, and more.

Pollution as a health issue- The keyframing is how the increasing pollution is affecting the health of commuters or causing health concerns in broader society. A pulmonologist may be interviewed to discuss the health issues and courses of treatment; health minister might be asked to comment on the subject and ways and measures by the government to tackle them.

Pollution as a social problem- Here, pollution may be framed as a social issue connected with class, and dysfunctional society. How households now have 3 or more cars, sometimes one vehicle per family member – pointing towards the substantial rich-poor divide. How the low diesel prices have affected the sale of diesel cars in the past and how these have contributed more to the pollution. Car manufacturers, customers, and even economists and town planners could be brought in to influence public perception and create the right framing.

 

Pollution in a positive light- this is a less common frame, but an unconventional way to project something that is perceived as extremely dangerous and harmful by the public in a different frame. How the pollution motivated people to burst fewer firecrackers on Deepavali, or how the car rental aggregators came up with ideas like car-pooling or sharing the cabs. The ‘harm reduction’ efforts by the corporate could be emphasized here.

 

 

Key lessons for the PR industry:

Framing is strongly impacted by the language that is used to describe given events or critical features of a given story. Language serves as the cognitive framework through which we understand and make sense of the world around us, and apply the same to make sense of the news about a given event or a story.

Using the correct language is the key- a headline, in a reputed national daily about how a plane, flown by an Indian pilot crashed soon after takeoff raised a considerable furor in social media as well as other platforms. Every word could have huge implications in shaping public perceptions, inciting stereotypes, and validating or marginalizing a particular character of the story.

Corporate media has to be more vigilant- In a corporate media environment; consumers of news cannot rely solely on the packaging of news stories. Considering the state of the media landscape today, PR firms should be prepared to ask probing questions such as what are the reasons behind how a story is being packaged or presented and rule out hidden or disguised biases and even stereotypes.

Staying away from negative framing- Putting a negative spin on the news because otherwise, it wouldn’t be newsworthy is a dangerous way of applying PR principles. If PR agencies resort to “If it bleeds, it reads” public perception may be influenced at initial stages, but sooner than later, people would see through the negative frame and would shun the news and beliefs altogether.

Typology of Seven Models of Framing Applicable to Public Relations*

 

What is framed    Description
Situations Relationships between individuals in situations found in everyday living and literature. Framing of situations provides a structure for examining communication. Applies to discourse analysis, negotiation, and other interactions.
Attributes Characteristics of objects and people are accentuated, whereas others are ignored, thus biasing the processing of information in terms of focal attributes.
Choices Posing alternative decisions in either negative (loss) or positive (gain) terms can bias choices in situations involving uncertainty. Prospect theory suggests people will take greater risks to avoid losses than to obtain

gains.

Actions In persuasive contexts, the probability that a person will act to attain the desired goal is influenced by whether alternatives are stated in positive or negative terms.
Issues Social problems and disputes can be explained in alternative terms by different parties who vie for their preferred definition a problem or situation to prevail
Responsibility Individuals tend to attribute the cause of events to either internal or external factors, based on levels of stability and control. People portray their role in events consistent with their self-image in ways that maximize benefits and minimize culpability. People attribute causes to personal actions rather than systemic problems in society.
News Media reports use familiar, culturally resonating themes to relay information about events. Sources vie for their preferred framing to be featured through frame enterprise and frame sponsorship.

Adapted from Seven Models of Framing: Implications for Public Relations by Kirk Hallahan, Department of Journalism and Technical Communication, Colorado State University  JOURNAL OF PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH, 11(3), 205–242 Copyright © 1999, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Framing is an effective strategy that helps public relations agencies determine where the audience puts its attention. The key to reaching others is not a great press copy or an amazing advertisement- but knowing the language that speaks to their frame, and using those exact same words to activate their frame and then allow them to see the issue from your perspective.

About the author:

Shiv Shankar – He is the Executive Director & Founder of K2 Communications. Under his astute leadership, K2 Communications has developed into a frontrunner among PR agencies that incessantly delivers excellent regional and national PR support to clients belonging to various sectors including government, IT, education, consumer, and healthcare.