"Since the time we learnt to speak and to communicate, there have been publicity and public relations. The whole story is about dissemination of information to the right people with a strategic objective. The whole mechanism of publicity or PR can broadly be divided into two phases: Pre-social media and Post-Social Media."

Social media has changed the game of publicity. Earlier it was limited to newspapers and a handful of editors as to what can possibly be communicated to readers at large. So if we want to talk about a success story of a brand, we need to convince the editor of the same and only then, we will be able to reach our audience.

Gone are those days. Every citizen with a smartphone is a journalist, an editor today. With the advent of the social media platforms you have a new set of influencers. Today, bloggers and social commentators on Twitter have become more powerful and impactful than the high and mighty newspapers. So the conventional route of PR in cajoling a journalist or an editor on the impact of story has become passé.

While conventional media still plays an important role, unconventional media has started playing a very critical role in PR.

For a PR custodian it is critical to respect this change, and adapt and formulate the best strategy with the right mix for maximum impact.

B2B versus B2C PR

The role of PR in a Business2Business environment is always a challenging proposition. While in B2C businesses it is very evident how publicity, especially through media, can give the business more awareness and attention, with B2B businesses it is not very obvious.

While in B2C a 360 degree approach to publicity works, the so-called carpet bombing, in B2B it is a very different ballgame altogether.

In B2B it is all about targeted media relations. So the tools that are most effective in B2C fail to show desired results in B2B. You need to identify the targeted readership and then work backwards in identifying the most potent media for reaching that target effectively. It is only then you look at your story and package it to marry it with the right medium.

Let me elaborate with an example. While a new delivery mechanism or addition of a new category of Flipkart will be of interest for a majority of readers, a deal with a state government on e-procurement of a company like mjunction will not get much attention. So you will have to identify who you want to communicate the news to, and which medium you will want to select. Maybe a trade journal on e-procurement or a journal on e-governance elaborating best practices followed by states. On social media, there may be LinkedIn groups on e-procurement which will be interested in the story.

So, while in B2C the fight is to get the maximum attention, in B2B the challenge is to get the attention from the right audience.

Managing Media – editors and influencers

For any PR professional or custodian, the biggest challenge is to marry the objective of the story with the need of the media. So, packaging of the news plays a critical role as far as news dissemination is concerned.

Never try to persuade media with anything except their need and how their target readers or audience will take interest in a certain piece of news.

It is important to earn the respect of the media. That will only come if you are brutally honest and have complete trust in the story you are selling to them. If the story suggests that a brand keeps its promises, you need to first believe that it does, much before you go out to sell it to media.

Remember, the media – editors and influencers -- will only take your news if it is news-worthy and not because your client or boss will be unhappy. So, be very sure on the reasons why you want a certain editor or influencer or blogger to carry your story.

So for handling media you need to know the story and you need to know the right audience.

Reputation Management – role of PR

With the birth of a brand, its reputation is born. Just like the brand itself, the reputation needs to be nurtured and, more importantly, protected. Reputation cannot be built on what you are promising to deliver or achieve. Rather, it is solely dependent on the promises that you keep, and whether you walk the talk.

The role of PR is to communicate the virtues of the brand to the target audience, to communicate that the brand has kept its promises.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.” It takes years, even decades, to build the reputation of a brand and just moments to ruin it as the Oracle of Omaha rightly said. So PR’s role is to help build the brand and protect its reputation.

With brands, as these are not personality-dependent, the reputation management is primarily managing the reputation of the product or service in the eyes of the customers. The role of PR is to ensure that the right communication reaches the customers.

With social media becoming powerful, this is a medium that needs to be kept under strict observation. Social media has become a very potent medium of communication for PR. So, the first lesson is to know that honesty is the best policy in media relations. A brand is basically the sum of its virtues and its reputation is a sum of how much it is living up to those virtues. So if the brand is living up to its brand promise then it is able to not only protect but also build its reputation.

A brand has promises to keep. And customer satisfaction is the biggest promise. Ensuring that a customer is satisfied with the promises made by the brand is the biggest responsibility of the brand custodian, besides building the brand. And to ensure that the stories of these promises kept are shared with the stakeholders in the responsibility of the PR custodian. As every touch point of the brand is responsible for making the brand, they can also ruin the reputation in no time. Just one rude behaviour by a boutique assistant can generate an apathy in the mind of the customers and social media can add momentum, mass and voices to this grievance. So, it is literally a tightrope walk. Every element of the brand has to ensure that only the best is delivered to the customers as they are the kings.

Reputation management for a brand comprises three aspects: living up to the brand promises, living up to the brand virtues and keeping the customer at the centre of its universe. And thus for the PR custodian it is imperative to communicate the right stories to the target stakeholders using the most effective media.