Zoom, Teams and other online meetings are now part of our lives. In many of these meetings, you are called upon to introduce yourself. Maybe everyone is introducing themselves.
It can get the pulse raising and the mind in overdrive. What will I say? Where should I focus? Will they like me? Meanwhile, we are missing out on all the other interesting introductions happening.
The stress can be negative – or positive. Through practice, we can come to recognise stress when it arises and use it for good – ah, now, better concentration, sharper reflexes, and so on. In contrast, if we have a negative reaction to stress it can mess up our introduction – nervous, shaky voice, tongue-tied, rambling on….
So, what is the easiest way to introduce yourself?
Like all public communication, the secret is to keep it simple.
The simplest way to introduce yourself is in three parts (and this might mean just three sentences) – present, past and future. People love this approach – they recognise the structure, simplicity and like a note about the future.
A present-tense statement to introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m Stephen, and I’m a communication consultant and author. My current focus is mentoring and writing.”
Past tense might be just two or three points about your background and gives you credentials and credibility. An example: “My background is in corporate communication, and I have previously advised top 100 corporates and big four professional services firms.”
Future tense is all about projecting optimism and enthusiasm – two very likeable characteristics. In a meeting this should relate to the topic. “In the next 12 months I plan to do more writing towards a new book and meetings like this give me not only content, but the motivation to keep exploring”.
Simple? Present, past and future. Each can be as long or short as the occasion requires – but always err on the side of shorter. Trust me – you will gradually enjoy (and smile) while introducing yourself.
Some of the best “corporate storytelling” is coming out of India
The most valuable companies in India include Tata Sons, Aditya Birla and Godrej. The most valuable in the world are Apple, Alphabet (Google), Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft (with the order changing every now and then). These companies cover a wide range of sectors but there is one common element. A consistent and strategic content narrative.
That’s an area well understood by Mumbai-based The Information Company (TIC) which is positioned as a “content, creative and digital agency preferred by India’s leading corporates”.
Corporate Storytellers. That’s how they like to be known.
The Information Company – Storytellers to India Inc
TIC started in 1999 and I have known them since 2004, when I connected with Founder Kiron Kasbekar, formerly Editor of The Economic Times (Bombay), Business Editor of The Times of India, and Managing Editor of Business India.
TIC has been ‘living and breathing’ content for more than 20 years, with its foundations built by top-notch journalists who brought their expertise in impactful storytelling to the game. Since then, TIC has added technologists, graphic designers, writers, videographers, and SEO specialists to the mix to execute great communication projects.
Their storytelling services are being used by the some of India’s largest, most influential, and best brands – Tata Sons, Aditya Birla Group, Godrej, Mahindra Group, Ambuja Cement, Hindalco, Fino, Cipla, Arcelor Mittal Nippon Steel, Capgemini, Weber Shandwick, and many more.
Storytelling for a purpose
TIC doesn’t just tell stories – the focus on storytelling towards a purpose, whether that is building digital brand identity, promoting business interests, creating perceptions, or reaching out to stakeholders.
One of the most unleveraged areas of communication is ‘thought leadership’, with much of it being overt promotion or semi-advertising. Here, TIC has been able to carve out a niche – crafting the voices of corporate brand and corporate leaders, and delivering good thought leadership content that is credible, engaging, accurate and consistent.
One of their unique skills is to write authored articles on behalf clients across industries such as automotive, aviation, chemical, consumer products, energy, engineering, IT, insurance, oil & gas, pharma, mining, manufacturing and infrastructure.
Blogs for Interaction
Blogs is another area where, for many organisations, things go wrong. The most common mistake is to come across as self-promoting. Or the organisation starts a blog but tires of it – so their latest blog is two or three years ago. Not a good look.
But the blog can be immensely valuable – it is the one platform for any company to connect with all its stakeholders, interact with them, connect like-minded enthusiasts and so on – through focused storytelling. No wonder then that TIC creates over 30 blogs every month.
Websites that just don’t sit there
Owned communication assets such as websites should not be static – they need to be information rich, and continually updated. They are the first stop for information that is used by investors, clients, media, prospective customers, prospective employees, regulatory bodies. The website is a critical and strategic asset to broadcast the corporate narrative.
Tata Chemicals, Tata Trusts, Rallis, Lupin, Hindalco, Ambuja Cement Foundation, and Suzlon are just some of TIC’s website clients. And this does not include the list of intranet clients!
Sometimes, a visual story tells more than a thousand words. Infographics are mostly data driven – the magic lies in crafting a coherent story around data.
By writing compelling text and presenting it in an efficient and visually pleasing manner, TIC ensures that an engaging story emerges from each Infographic. This form of content is its way, both art and science.
Campaigns – traction and reaction
Engaging with employees – especially in an age of WFH – has taken on a new significance. Companies often rely on emailer campaigns to connect. But how do we gain traction and reaction?
Whether the campaign is to showcase business achievements, announce a product launch or an event, highlight business achievement, connect with employees or other stakeholders, TIC partners several big corporates to put in the right words to their thoughts.
Social media campaigns take the need for creativity to another level. Here too TIC builds award-winning strategic campaigns for clients such as Godrej and Hindalco.
Video now “most effective”
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth 1.8 million – that is the view of TIC, and they see video as “the most effective way to narrate a story”. Be it explainer, animated, VFX, event, HR videos or corporate films, TIC creates videos for Aditya Birla Group, Sterling & Wilson, Asian Paints, and Hindalco.
Beware of stepping into ‘content overload’, a sign of our times. How do you ensure ‘thumb-stopping’, shareworthy content for your brand? One easy hack is to make sure the content is dynamic, visually rich and – most important – interactive! Adding a layer of interactivity to your content – blogs, posts, videos, graphics, podcasts, whatever – will add to brand recall and engagement. Even a simple quiz, for instance, becomes interactive content and can be a game changer for your brand. And that is what TIC delivers.
Awards tell the story
Recognition is the best sequel to creativity. TIC has won a slew of awards for its work – here is just a tiny fraction of the recent accolades won:
Double Platinum at the ‘AVA Digital Awards 2022’ for Tata Sons e-magazine and a video for Sterling & Wilson Renewable Energy Ltd
‘Mint Marketing Award 2021’ for Hindalco’s #WomenAtHindalco social media campaign
Gold for Hindalco’s internal newsletter at the ‘Afaqs! Digies 2021’
Bronze for Aditya Birla Group’s #HaathUthanaZarooriHai video at the ‘Velocity Awards’
Best Content agency at ‘The Great Indian Content Marketing Awards 2021’
For more on how TIC can support your communication objectives, just drop a message on email@example.com. Or better still, call at +91 842 581 4016 / 17.
Madan Bahal, Managing Director, Adfactors PR, (pictured above) has said that both startups and mature companies have to navigate the post-COVID-19 world through effective communication and reputation management.
I would agree, and add that when you join climate change, Industry 4.0 and the generation gap into this equation you have uncharted territory that demands immediate action to protect and enhance reputations.
His view: “The COVID-19 pandemic has created an environment where customers may not blindly trust a new product, service, or business. As a result, reputation management and effective communication strategies for businesses have become increasingly important.”
So, how do you start?
Madan Bahal advises that with new market realities emerging in the post-pandemic world, a strong line of communication between a business and its customers can instil positivity and reliability around the brand.
“The post-pandemic business environment will be one represented by growing geopolitical complexity, a more polarised society, and the chance for backlash if the popular sentiment is hurt.”
His advice works for startups and mature companies alike, saying they have to navigate these challenges through effective communication and reputation management.
Despite the rising popularity of public relations (PR) services for business communications and crisis management, some fledgeling companies are still reluctant to give PR a serious thought.
According to Madan, there is often temperamental incompatibility between young startup founders and PR firms due to a mismatch in expectations. However, founders eventually realise the importance of public communication for attracting talent, announcing fundraises, and dealing with crises, he added.
Madan has been an entrepreneur since 1981, co-founded Adfactors PR in 1997. Adfactors PR is India’s largest PR firm, serving over 300 retained clients across 40 cities in the country.
Madan compares startups to fragile organisms vulnerable to risks in a complex environment.
“For these startups, public relations and reputation management add a ring of protection, trust, and credibility. This gives them a competitive advantage across the board,” he said.
Madan highlighted the positive and negative perceptions the media held about the young startup founders. “Startups were perceived to be transformational and big contributors to economic growth, however, they suffered from insensitive hire-and-fire policies or toxic work culture,” he said.
Now, getting down to what you do when facing all these challenges – here is his list of seven actions which can protect and build reputations:
startups should view every action from the lens of public interest
invest time in maintaining healthy media relations
establish listening posts to guide and alert potential reputation risks
place CXOs, CFOs, or CHROs as reputation leads
build crisis protocols to enable rapid responses
make the purpose of sustainability, diversity, and inclusion the guiding principles for actions and communications
realise a sincere apology goes a long way in reputation management
It is hard to imagine any organisation which would not greatly benefit from his advice.
(Thanks to YourStory India and “TechSparks 2020” for much of the above content)
COVID-19 makes everything happen faster – and using “owned media” is on the rise. Of course, with Covid-19 dominating all traditional media, opportunities for “earned media” have declined. On top of that, major media is shrinking the numbers of journalists.
Add technology to this mix and you have a big change for PR.
India is leading this change in the PR mix.
Kunal Kishore, founder director -Value 360 Communications makes a prediction – “Previously earned media made up the majority of external communications. In the future there will be a good balance on earned and owned media for brands. This balance could be 70-30 or even 60 -40 (Majority going to earned media).”
PR firms in India have been alert to this shift and many are hiring aggressively from journalism for this shift to “owned content”.
One of the leading innovators in this PR shift is Sujit Patil, vice president and head of corporate communications, Godrej Industries Limited, who says: “Consumers today prefer to have a direct channel of dialogue with brands, there is also sadly a shrinking trust in media channels due to the fake and paid news. The issue of authenticity and the blurring lines between earned content and paid content has resulted in activating a sense of ‘ad-blocking’ in the minds of consumers.”
Patil describes “owned media” as a slow burn process.
“The key aspect of any communication strategy is to generate awareness and engagement amongst the existing and potential audience of the brand. While earned, paid and social media are mediums to do this, essentially, they offer lesser control on the narrative.
”Owned media gives brands the opportunity to share stories creatively with their customers, and vice-versa albeit with more control…it builds a bridge between customers and brands to engage with each other more experientially, authentically and effectively.”
Kunal Kishore makes the point that “owned media” was always important. Brands were using it reach their end stakeholders even before.
”For example, Lufthansa worked with TiE to create a start-up symposium to communicate with entrepreneurs. After COVID-19, this has become multifold. Discovery of content by brands has become very important, and they have discovered that a digital footprint travels”.
Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat, chief executive officer, Ideosphere says, “In today’s post-COVID digital world, established brands as well as emerging businesses are finding the first opportunity in owned media to not only reach out to the external world, but also bring their internal teams together, spark engagement, and fuel collaborative innovation in remote, omni-present work environments.”
Partha Ghosh, vice president and head, corporate communications, Samsung India & South West Asia commented that, “The pandemic has transformed the way people are consuming media, with a definitive shift towards digital. During this period, brands have developed great appreciation for owned media as a platform to tell unique and authentic stories to consumers and other external stakeholders.”
Examples of Owned Media PR driven properties
Sujit Patil explains the thinking and impact of the PR led property Godrej L’Affaire, In the last four years it has grown as a strong community and platform that brings together brands, influencers and customers. The platform provides experiences in all things’ lifestyle – food, fashion, travel, music and wellness.
“We launched it as over 7 our businesses and many brands at Godrej are in the lifestyle space. Making the platform brand agnostic (meaning external non-competing brands in the lifestyle space also made a part of the platform) has actually helped create a positive rub-off on smaller brands,” according to Patil.
Nandita Lakshmanan, CEO, The PRactice says, “We believe we will see more clients who will recognize the value of owned assets like resource portals, blogs, newsletters, magazines, podcasts, video channels, documentaries, short films. For example, for a real estate client, we decided to focus on LinkedIn and blogs as well as launched a podcast series, while focusing on the work they did with their foundation.”
Getting Owned Media Right
Patil says the theory of gate-keepers of journalism is offset in owned media with the theory of RECCE (Relevance, Engagement, Content, Community, Experience). Since the customer experience and brand ethos are the core of owned media platforms, it pushes brands to create Relevancy among its target consumers to drive Engagement using interesting Content which eventually leads to Community building through Experience (RECCE).
Kishore suggests organisations should be alert to the quality of content, the credibility and authority of the person sharing the content, transparency, interactivity, listening and curating content.