Covid 19 and need for factual news|K2 Communications

COVID-19-the virus that brought back the era of factual news

The audiences across the country and demographics have tuned out due to sheer exhaustion. Here’s how a journalist turned PR pro looks at the journey for media coverage and how Covid-19 has brought the need for factual news in India to the forefront.

This is my 3rd year as a media and public relations strategist, offering my expertise to several brands including healthcare brands. Neither in my present nor in my previous journalist Avatar, I was testimony to a world that’s been turned over on its axis. The abnormality has only generated a revived appetite – a ravenous urge to feed on facts.

 

When I started as a journalist in 1997, we barely had internet, and smartphones were a distant dream. News and fact-based reporting were deeply valued across the country, and Twitterati didn’t even exist. Our world expanded beyond the mandatory 280 characters, and we were able to fit in our thoughts and opinions in a more elaborate, expressive manner.

 

My Views on News

It gave me immense pride to work in the news business. I was chasing real stories that mattered. It was when I decided to shift my career from news to public relations, the lines of journalism and marketing began to blur. I couldn’t ignore the mushrooming media platforms popping up around me, each having a different way of communicating to its audience. The content suddenly became king, but also a pauper since it had to be stretched, pulled, hashed, and hashtagged to make its presence felt in the feeding frenzy.

 

To add to my confoundment, the digital age and the “clickbait” side of business suddenly started taking priority over authentic, factual information. Graphics and videos started replacing words and editorialized programming took precedence over hard news. In the era of extensive graphic consumption, people can now see what they want to see, customized, and packaged to align with their individual personal values and beliefs.

 

Fast forward to 2020, and Covid-19 suddenly revamped the media landscape.

 

People sat up and started looking for the most relevant, accurate, and current information to protect themselves and their families. Be it the fear factor or fatigue, audiences no longer want the noise, they have again begun to prefer science over sensationalism, facts over fiction.

From the healthcare segment perspective, never before has healthcare communications and PR been so important. The humane sides of stories of real people, from corona warriors, frontline workers to the average Indian, the stories have made a comeback.

 

Also see: Corporate Communications Guidebook for navigating Coronavirus Crisis

The recent episode of Ayurveda major, Patanjali is a case in point where we are truly experiencing not just an unprecedented awareness and hunger for truth, the government has also been extremely quick in responding and allaying any kind of fears related to misinformation. The brand had to backtrack not just its claims, but it will also need to rethink on building its reputation and authenticity for its future product launches and campaigns.

 

The revitalized need for creating a conducive news environment has been augmented by the deluge and speed of information about the virus. It was overwhelming and confusing to the extent that newsrooms have an added burden of getting it right the first time, to avoid classic foot-in-mouth situations later.

 

So, how do I see it all unfolding for healthcare public relations? In my opinion, it means that if healthcare organizations are looking to continue being a trusted resource, our responsibility is to help them get it right to disseminate information to the press. We should stick with medical expertise, authentic and corroborated data, and patient stories. The bottom line is to maintain the honesty and integrity of all the information going out of our desks while ensuring that we can meet the basic tenets of “old school” journalism. Healthcare pitches need to be humble, gentle with as little propaganda as possible, and should resonate with the public emotions.

 

As a journalist turned PR professional, the past three months have been our moment to rise to the occasion and to help the real healthcare heroes shine. Never before have I seen such a wonderful synergy between newsrooms and newsmakers. The theme – to provide correct information at all possible costs has been valued and respected across the stakeholders. The partnership between healthcare organizations, PR teams, and news and media channels has been heartening and satisfying.

 

This being said, I feel that we may have reached the peak of the coronavirus coverage curve. Unlocking has ensured that COVID-19 fatigue is blatantly visible in news coverage. The time has come for all of us to respond to the call of returning to normal life as we knew it in 2019. The demand for entertaining, lighter, feel-good stories is rising, giving a break from the data induced dark and gloomy news.

 

Limited Attention Spans and the New Normal

If I could take one silver lining from the past few months it would be the return of my first love – “journalism”. This phase has also shaken me and reminded several of my peers to stick to our mission as a healthcare PR content strategists. We cannot deviate from the larger picture and must give the “normal” a fair chance to return in the era of limited attention spans. Across the channel of communication, from the organizations to PR companies and news and media companies, we have all happily agreed to slow down, cut through the noise, seek the truth, and stick to stories that truly matter!

 

This hunger for authentic and factual news is a good sign as it enables PR professionals and journalists to stick to accuracy in the context of fake news that has gripped the vast social media including the WhatsApp messaging service. Though fake news is rampant, there are also quick rebuttals of erroneous data and information. This is absolutely essential in the context of a blurred distinction between real news and fake news. There are journalists who have taken the responsibility upon themselves as ‘fact-checkers’ and built agencies and organizations to curb fake news on the social media and web. In print, unlike social media, as there is limited space to carry news and information, there is a natural tendency to carry only news that matters and news that is truthful. While web and social media have taken over news disengagement, it would be prudent to still believe in the old values of Print Media, which is seen as the source of trust on public matters, while the fact-checking on social media goes on. This combination of trust of the old world and the fact-checking of the new world will go a long way in building a new service that is authentic.

 

 

E-Commerce: Evolution and Future 

Ecommerce shopping cart with logo of K2 communications

Few Insights

Worldwide e-commerce sales topped $3.5 trillion USD, an increase of approximately 18% from the year before. Ecommerce is expected to nearly double by 2023 to more than $6.5 billion. – Shopify 

Their combined market share was 90% in terms of merchandise volume, with Flipkart leading at 60-62% and Amazon India coming in at 28-30%. – Business insider 

As you are reading this thousands of orders are being placed on various online e-commerce platforms. A few clicks and almost 2 billion searchers of products and services around the world are set to receive their orders in a couple of days. 

Coronavirus situation has slackened the growth of almost all sectors, except for online retail. More and more buyers are hoping to save time in going out and handling cash/cards for making a purchase. 

Over the years, the eCommerce industry has grown huge with great innovations and development. Recently Reliance Jio led by Anil Ambani has launched “Jio Mart” which has revolutionized eCommerce space. It brings all the small Kirana stores under one digital roof. Small companies like Flipkart and Myntra have achieved success and have become towering giants in a booming market, ready to lock horns with their global competitors like Amazon and eBay. 

Amidst success stories, there are also some striking failures that can be attributed to the inability to move in step with innovation and variety in product offerings. The best example is Snapdeal which failed in 2017 due to poor service quality, marketing missteps, and inability to innovate in tandem with the industry growth. 

End of e-Commerce mushrooms?

Ecommerce has come a long way since its inception. There are numerous factors that affect business growth. The Indian government has been supporting small businesses to go digital and increase their customer reach. The number of internet users is growing rapidly. The smartphones are now available at throwaway prices, internet plans are really cheap. But, due to the industry competition with the market whales like Amazon, these eCommerce mushrooms which pop out overnight have to face a lot of competition. 

Moreover, because of the pandemic and limited movements, managing various aspects like invoicing, shipping, delivery, and returns is difficult and is riddled with several unseen and contingent factors. E-Commerce companies will have to go out of their way to provide their customers with the best services, despite the hurdles. Apart from the pandemic issues, advertisement, and marketing have become expensive, especially in these hard times. 

Check out our similar blog on the Education sector future: pre and post-COVID analysis.

Future of E-Commerce 

The Indian government is trying hard with digital India campaigns to provide the best online infrastructure and investments. The results are showing up as we see a lot of small internet-based startups coming up but its a long way towards glory, and capital funding, for these mushrooming startups. Below are the 3 most essential trends that you might observe in the future eCommerce industry. Any eCommerce startup with these doing might give a hit in the market with precise executions: 

  1. Innovation: Its the key to surviving in such a competitive market. Users need the best and simple UI with ad-free content. Of-course Ads are one of the ways to earn but the whole advertisement thing needs to be changed and the content should be worth watching. 
  2. Investment: Being a mushroom in the forest won’t work. They need to amplify the business and reach. Investment is a powerful factor to increase marketing, advertisement, and operations. And if it’s coming from a foreign investor then your product really does have the potential to fight with a market giant. 
  3. AI, Big Data, and Machine Learning: Data is of high importance in every industry. Your customers, suppliers, and competitors behave differently. And this data helps in planning your operations. Amazon in the west and Alibaba in the east are based on data-driven sales. Whereas, machine learning or AI, can help grow your Ad-system. It shows customers what they actually want to see. “Getting hooked-up” is what it does. 

This may seem like a perfect time to start an e-Commerce startup as more and more people have started accepting the new normal of shopping in the comfort of their homes. However, any fledgling company should be aware of the uncertainties and lack of innovative capabilities that could hamper their growth. 

Social Distancing? Or Shaking Hands? Which way the PR industry look forward?

Consolidation in PR- What the industry needs today?

Social Distancing? Or Shaking Hands? Which way the PR industry look forward?

As a leader of a Public Relations company, you are certainly playing the role of a fire-fighter, dealing with pressing emergencies for your clients. As you spend most of your productive hours situating your team in the new remote working arrangements, interacting with clients, and still trying to shore up your situation, what could be the way forward, the new normal post lockdown?

In the past, many PR agency groups have increasingly consolidated and brought together synergistic offers. Sometimes they are led by the needs of clients, who prefer dealing with a single agency partner, the other times, like the situation we are in right now, it makes complete sense to join hands and collaborate on our strengths, which could be as diverse as vernacular superiority and location advantage or as strategic as local media relations.

Here’s how you can prepare yourself for an evolving and unpredictable future:

Accept reality :

It is tempting to use data points to convince that all is well with your world and things will be back to normal. Gear up to adapt by being focused on the crisis we are in. Gather information and prepare scenarios- a base case, a bad case, and a worse case. Stay as honest and fact-based as possible.

Scenario Planning: Ask What-if questions:

As you will start coming to terms with the macro environment- huddle with your core team and ask what-if questions- for your present as well as future clients. What if you require to improve scale, integrate compatible capabilities to maintain a healthy revenue baseline, and give the best PR support to your clients?

Scale-up and be open to look out for synergies:

Remote working has been like an eye-opener for many in the PR industry where traditions still demand face to face, in-person interactions. By collaborating with an agency that is in the same geographic location as your clients, you can ensure that you provide the client with a first-hand, value-added relationship without compromising safety and health concerns.

Finding the right fit with an agency which has same values as yours and has considerable experience and proven expertise in the verticals that you wish to focus on will be the right strategy for scaling up of your operations rather than setting up a one or two people office far away from your area of operations.

As the world is moving towards a new normal, embracing change, being agile and yet maintain the PR spirit at the core of your business is paramount and a win-win strategy for both clients as well as public relations.

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.