Tag Archive for public relations

Zumbo – The Social Media & PR Pup!

Zumbo, the adorable social media and digital communications and public relations pup!

Zumbo - The PR & Social Media Pup!


Hi there! I am Zumbo. I am 3 months old and already there so much to share. Such is life in the 21st Century, fast, quick, short and simple. Oh bow! That’s exactly how you can describe me too!

So let’s get the obvious out of the way. How did I end up in PR? How did I become fascinated with media? How did I get acquainted to social media and digital media communications? And what could a 3 month old PR pup possibly contribute to the working of public relations and communications? Well, am gonna try and answer some of that here, but most of it will be clear if you read my posts here regularly.

Wait a minute, I gotta scratch… (Scratches with hind leg vigorously…)

I was born out of an idea. Some old guy called Hunter Thompson (Yea the same guy who Johnny Depp plays in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary) created this whole art-form in journalism called Gonzo. It’s gonna be a bit intense, but I promise to keep it light and entertaining. Then again I am such a cute little pup, who wouldn’t want to listen to my stories!

Haan, toh where were we. I was telling you how I got into all this and what makes me the authority to blog about all this high-funda business of communications. Well to start with I am a product of digital media. That doesn’t mean that iPhone and Samsung tablet got together for a night and made me, but the world saw me first on Blackberry Messenger and Facebook. That’s how I got adopted, by the way. After that it has been a whirlwind romance with social media. I got a home and I am grateful!

I am born in this new world of democratized digital media and opinion sharing on the fly! Things like the Egypt revolution, WikiLeaks, iTunes and Flipkart don’t amaze me. These are things that my forefathers had predicted when the internet (ARPA Net) was thought of 40 odd years back. What’s the fuss, I don’t understand.

The first three months in public relations and social media were interesting. They keep complaining that I crap a lot, but whoddathunk it that being full of shit is a good thing!

So I go about my business everyday by surfing the net, watching Facebook pages reading internet usage reports and advising clients on their communication strategy. Well, at least I hope I did half of those things. I start my day with a big ole dump (trust me, it releases the tension) and then waiting for people to tell me what to do next. It sucks that I have to wait for instructions, but they say that I am just a kid with a lot to understand about the complexities of communications. Fair enough, but when you don’t know how to tweet, man that’s seriously messed up! Don’t you think?

I don’t know why people who work with me keep saying “It’s a dog’s life!” Well, firstly I take that as a compliment, it’s not such a bad thing and secondly if you can lick your own privates, what more do you need! But people in communications constantly seem to struggle and stress with what’s coming next. I don’t know what’s the big deal, but I guess am about to find out soon.

More time I spend in this industry, more I am convinced that I have just hit the tip of the iceberg. Water scares me by the way, and I hate my baths! 😉

So keep your eyeballs glued to this space, to know more about “The Adventures of Zumbo!” Your friendly, neighborhood social media and PR pup!

Woof! Back to scratching eggs, I say!


Catharsis: Zumbo’s first day!

The following is written in the early style of Gonzo which means at the very least, a half-assed attempt was made to channelize the ghost of HST. The below documented account is fictitious. Resemblance to any person living, dead or right wing is purely coincidental…well…maybe not…

And if you are wondering what Gonzo is or who HST is, don’t bother

Zumbo, the adorable social media and digital communications and public relations pup!

Zumbo - The PR & Social Media Pup!

I sat there clutching my mouse with all the force that I could muster in my current miserable state. It turns out that original thought can be a tricky proposition especially when the client is hell bent on twisting your arm. It can be quite a strain on the sleeves!

I was frantically typing a press release on how the guy’s daughter lost her bicycle and it was miraculously found in the same place that it was left in the first place, which in his mind was a significant contribution to the nation’s GDP. Besides the irony of the fact that the above mentioned daughter couldn’t ride a bike or didn’t own one, the release had to be done in the next 10 minutes.

My mind started sweating precociously. “Hell…what do I do now?” I yelled across the room. I looked around for some solutions as my mind was in a jimmy state. I saw my colleagues face buried in the ethereal white screen.

He reminded me of the early tribes which sat around the fire hoping the light would never go out, but unfortunately, it always does. Also, his sheep skin cloak and grizzly claws were quite quaint. In spite of myself, I refused to judge. His cologne a repugnant truth that failed to subside, I ventured towards the beast with a stick in hand.

I had to tread cautiously. This animal was not to be messed with. Besides, his mating habits were not well documented as yet. I poked him with the stick to gauge the nature of his alacrity and rate of evasive reflex action. Both were non existent.

This was a safe territory. I identified him as per the standard ‘Do it yourself PR 101’ manual as the blinkered degenerate who would know what to do next as per procedure. My guide to all questions which posed a moral, ethical and professional dilemma was right there…or so I thought.

”Umm…its simple draft the release…” said he of the finger which drips with fresh nose cheese.

“But the daughter doesn’t even own the bike…” I retorted much violently. My cape fluttering in the wind as I stood on
MoronMountain with the vast expanse of derelict facades of grim conformity spread in front of me.

In my infinite wisdom I pronounced “Fuck you man …. Screw the Guy… I don’t think this is worth it…!”

I felt a tug on my super moron resistant cape and I heard Dog Wonder barking away in the distance. My sixth sense was tingling! I turned around precociously, with one hand firmly on my machete. There stood the biggest man I have seen like a shadow of a mountain. My heart started pounding…my pulse racing…I caught a glimpse of the lurking menace.

Phew…it was just Olga, the cleaning lady. I exhaled a sigh of relief.

“Oh bloody hell…!” I heard a scream. It was my fuckin’ boss with the fuckin’ Guy! And that was my fuckin’ scream!

“Hey what were you yelling boy” asked Q, The Boss.

It so transpired that Olga ‘the hairy cleaning lady with a heart of gold’, had managed to block my view with her broad brooding board body. My super hearing failed me again, may be I was just out of batteries.

As I contemplated the merits of Sony over Eveready, my face was smattered with a spray of spit. It was my boss looking at me gingerly and demanding an answer.

“Nothing Sire” I said, he insisted that we call him ‘Sire’.

”Boy, meet the Guy whose daughter has lost and found the bicycle and it has a huge impact on the nation’s GDP…” Said he of the big head and bouncing arms.

“But Sire…” I whimpered in unyielding defiance.

“Hey… if the guy says so it must be true…” thundered Q.

“Ok Sire.” I caved.

And as I turned around to do his bidding, it happened.

The Guy stepped on Olga’s unforgiving mop and slipped on the drenched floor. The sound of his back bone crunching in utter angst spread a chill through my spine. In that brief moment the Guy had broken his back. He lay there insipid and innocuous to the passing frantic blinkered degenerates.

There was the ray of sunshine which I hoped for, in that cluttered, claustrophobic room chilled with the AC’s unrelenting icy blast which put a smile on my face.

“Guy in Coma, Situation may worsen nation’s GDP”

I typed smiling a satisfied smile as the news blared over my station “Reliable Industries Limited Chief to launch Nation’s first thought trading stock exchange…And this is just in…On the eve of this momentous event his daughter seems to have misplaced her bicycle…”

Bernays’ rhetoric: Origins of modern PR industry

Propaganda (1928)
Edward Bernays
86 pages

New York
Horace Liveright

Bernays’ rhetoric: Origins of modern PR industry

“…to know where you are going, you’ve got to know where you’re coming from…”
– Will Smith, in American sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel Air

Public relations as a system of regimented dissemination of ideas to the masses may have been practiced as far as the early Roman Empire, Egyptian pharaohs and the Indus valley emperors to inform its “subjects” of new developments with a view to achieve better governance.

The modern public relations industry is shaped by the philosophies and practices of noted American propagandists Ivy Lee, Chester Burger and Edward Bernays. Its roots can be traced to the “Committee on Public Information” or better known as the “Creel commission” set up by American President Woodrow Wilson to influence public opinion in order to garner their support for World War I. The learning’s from this largely successful campaign prompted Edward Bernays to apply the tools thus devised in aiding American corporates to communicate with their environment.

The book Propaganda (1928) followed Bernays’ seminal work Crystallizing public opinion and is largely considered to be the ‘bible’ of Public relations industry. Although the term ‘propaganda’ may have a negative connotation to it today, largely due to its association with the Nazi’s communication machinery during World War II, it was largely accepted as a term which best defined the concerted and deliberate act of regimenting mass opinion. By his own admission, Bernays’, a Jew himself, resented the fact that Goebbels used his books as a reference guide to engineer the murderous assault on Jews during the heyday of Nazi regime.

Its illustrious author was the nephew of the renowned psychoanalyst, Sigmund Freud, and was deeply influenced by his theories. Also, he was said to be highly influenced by the work of French philosopher Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology. He perceived himself as a psychoanalyst to modern corporates who were bemused as to how they should interact with the public and its various stakeholders.

Bernays defined the profession of “counsel on public relations” as a “practicing social scientist” whose “competence is like that of the industrial engineer, the management engineer, or the investment counselor in their respective fields.

In this book, Bernays argues that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy.

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

His writings delve in what could be called as the initial steps towards the pillars of modern PR practice, namely media relations, identifying influencers, mapping the relevant media and utilizing the same for pre-determined results. He had a knack for what was later termed as ‘ballyhoo’ and implementing big ideas for his clients.

Bernays identified a vacuum in communication from big corporations to the masses and the need to “resolve conflict” inherent to the system due to the diverging interests and opinions in a society. His communication strategies were often a product of a deeper understanding of mass psychology and sociology which were successful due to the immediate ‘connect’ with issues that mattered to the publics.

His most successful, probably the most controversial campaign, was devised for the American Tobacco Company in the 1920s wherein he engineered a ‘March of the liberty brigade’ parade in Times Square, New York City which was meant to promote smoking amongst women who were projected as being liberated and free ‘Torches of freedom’. It is a notion which still prevails in certain societies. His attempts to undo his own work in the early 1960s earned him praise later on. He writes, “…had I known in 1928 what I know today I would have refused Hill’s offer.” referring to his client, American Tobacco Company.

Bernays’ detractors have often criticized him and the public relations industry thereafter, for abusing the knowledge he grasped for “ill doings” which harm rather than help the society. But, from the onset he perceived a need to protect the masses from their own limitations and the ‘manipulations of the masses’ as a prerequisite for a functional democracy.

It is evident from his great caveat which is reiterated by his pronouncement that a public relations counsel “must never accept a retainer or assume a position which puts his duty to the groups he represents above his duty to society.”

The initial quote in this piece represents the far reaching effects of American media on the psyche of a Mumbai lad exposed to satellite television. An export of an entire culture which enjoys a significant mindshare in modern urban
India, a feat achieved with the deeper understanding of human needs and values as understood, influenced by Bernays.

A study of history of modern mass communication and practices can not be complete without understanding Edward Bernays or his influence on modern PR techniques. The tools of PR may have evolved over the years along with the rapidly changing media landscape, but Bernays provides the elusive meaning, a rationalization in terms of philosophy and larger social perspective, which is the modern PR industry’s legacy inherited from him.

Blink and a miss: Instinctively thinking

Book review

Blink: The power of thinking without thinking
Malcolm Galdwell
277 pages
Little brown

Instinctively thinking!

An industry which thrives on split-second decisions Public Relations can be nerve wracking, especially when there is not enough information to make an informed choice and the time on hand is slipping by.

Blink: The power of thinking without thinking
proposes a radical solution which is mind bobbling in its simplicity. Trust your instinct, is the message Malcolm Galdwell has for the reader who at the end of the last page is left grappling with the conundrum of how to start listening to his or her inner voice.

There is in all of our brains, Galdwell argues, a mighty backstage process, which works its will subconsciously. Through this process we have the capacity to sift huge amounts of information, blend data, isolate telling details and come to astonishingly rapid conclusions, even in the first two seconds of seeing something. ” ‘Blink’ is a book about those first two seconds,” Galdwell writes.

Littered with anecdotes Blink takes you on a whirl-wind journey through a cross section of disciplines and human experiences that range from speed dating to evolved methodical study of human facial expressions.

There is the story of the psychologist John Gottman, who since the 1980’s has worked with more than 3,000 married couples in a small room, his ”love lab,” near the
University of Washington. He videotapes them having a conversation. Reviewing just an hour’s worth of each tape, Gottman has been able to predict with 95 percent accuracy whether that couple will be married 15 years later. If he watches only 15 minutes of tape, his success rate is about 90 percent. Scientists in his lab have determined they can usually predict whether a marriage will work after watching just three minutes of newlywed conversation.

Gottman believes that each relationship has a DNA, or an essential nature. It’s possible to take a very thin slice of that relationship, grasp its fundamental pattern and make a decent prediction of its destiny.

”We are innately suspicious of this kind of rapid cognition,” Galdwell observes. We assume that long, methodical investigation yields more reliable conclusions than a snap judgment. But in fact, ”decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”

Being academically inclined in the understanding the myriad mysteries of the brain, the book proposes a simple solution to a perceived complex problem. But, the author seems to be conflicted in his discourse on the subject as he chooses to err on the side of caution while suggesting that we implement the same in everyday life.

The radical positioning of rapid cognition as the ultimate answer to everyday decisions can be influenced by innate prejudices which grow with an individual functioning in a society, influenced by the prevalent perceptions. Racial or ethnic stereotypes and the manner with which most of us react to these perceptions illustrate the above.

We are constantly being ‘primed’ by education, media and other socio-cultural influencing to think and react in a particular way to people and situations. This can be unlearnt, is Galdwell’s contention, with purposeful effort so as to protect one’s instinct from being conned into habitual reactions.

In a dynamic field like public relations cultivating the art of recognizing and trusting the ‘gut instinct’ instead of getting caught up in the “Einstein” of a situation could cull the trauma of endlessly groping in the dark. But, the caveat lies in the practice of strict adherence of hierarchical structures and due process followed by an organization.

Therein lays the proverbial dilemma of contemporary organizational practices. Would a person empowered with Galdwell’s argument truly be able to unleash the potential of thin-slicing? Can a person who is expected to conform to the modalities of ‘internal process’ give in to the temptation of making choices on their own?

The book provides with a rare insight, which encourages one to what could be considered as one of the primary traits of survival. Also, tomes of literature exist on the counter theory of following the tried and tested path of research and statistical data to back a decision. Blink through its many illustrations cajoles us to step into mysteries of rapid cognition and synaptic urges that define the very crux of human existence. After all, if gut instinct is good enough for evolution, its might as well work in the modern corporate jungle.

Galdwell’s acclaimed earlier work Tipping point is considered amongst the purists to be far better, than his current effort. I have not read it. I had not heard about the ‘insightful’ Malcolm Galdwell before reading this book. Neither did any of my self-confessed “self-help” book addicts pursue me to go through this “life changing experience” as they would have described it.

I picked up Blink on the whim of an instinct. May be that’s a start!