Kala Krishnan, a Girl From India

Kala Krishnan, of Mumbai, was 17 when she was told by the Narsee Monjee College of Commerce and Economics that she secured the first rank in Commerce in Mumbai city. Suddenly, she was a star who was being interviewed by local newspapers.

Krishnan was a girl who knew exactly what she wanted at a very young age. She once told a reporter from the prestigious website dnaindia.com: “I want to follow in my father’s footsteps as a legal advisor and a corporate communication executive. ”

But Krishnan’s plan for her life is bigger than that.

“I want to have my own book,” she says, “a mix of fiction, self-help and philosophy. I want to open a publishing house to support young writers. I chose to study Commerce for my undergraduate degree because my country has too many talented writers. Commerce would give me a unique competitiveness in the job market.”

Kala Krishnan was born on Sept. 13, 1990, in Mumbai city, and her family originally came from southwestern India near the border of two states, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. She grew up with her parents, L.N. Krishnan, a Chartered Accountant in Mumbai and Latha Krishnan, a yoga teacher.

Krishnan says her parents are often more like encouraging friends, and her family shaped her character, giving her confidence, self-motivation, ability to be reflective and her maturity.

While she was studying at the Narsee Monjee College, which has a reputation worldwide for being demanding academically and strict when it comes to discipline, she never lost the desire to write. Krishnan was a deputy editor of the school’s magazine and also wrote for financial websites.

She also insisted on taking a course at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA Exam). The exam is grueling with more than half of those taking it – including finance professionals – failing it, according to the AICPA (The American Institute of CPAs). Krishnan was just 21 when she passed the exam and started working at Ernst & Young as an associate in the firm’s transaction advisory department.

After working as a financial professional for almost two years, she decided it was time to take the journey to a strange country. She talked with her father and uncle about making a big change in her career, studying abroad, pursuing her life-long love of writing. They showed nothing but support, giving her the strength and courage to explore and adventure.

Now a 24-year-old graduate student, Krishnan is studying public relations at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, the top PR program in the United States. She has taken the first big step toward completing her plan.

Alone in Syracuse, she began to feel overmatched.

“When I got my place in Syracuse, I was frightened. “Krishnan says. “I wouldn’t go out of my house by myself, or at night. It is so quiet here. I worried that some dangerous things would happen.”

Over the summer, Krishnan made this entry in her blog: “Suddenly I had to manage my own home, cook, purchase kitchenware, clean rooms, take the trash out (something we never have to do in India). I thought, ‘I had come here to study and pursue my ambition. What I did not know was everything else would be as overwhelming as my graduate program and school life.’ ”

She also began missing her family, especially her grandfather who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. He is hospitalized now, and Krishnan is sad and worried that, when she returns home to Mumbai, her grandfather might forget who she is.

As she spoke her face was flushed with sorrow. But she quickly smiled and reminded herself that she comes from a family that has always given her the strength, courage and direction she needs to face down her fears. She has always believed she would not just survive but excel despite the odds. She can channel the faith of her family and her character is replenished.

She refuses to compromise her interests because of a demanding study load. “I loved writing and communications from the beginning and I want to make sure I end up in a job that lets me do what I enjoy the most,” she says.

And now she is writing blogs for the Newhouse Insider Blog and joined a writing workshop and other interest groups, including the Toast Masters club, dance class, sports club, choir group, cultural group and spirituality class. She also looked for internship opportunities and headed out for movie nights.

And like any college student, she continues with her personal journey.

She is talkative and loves to share personal feelings. She says she has a tendency to “clean inner voices out. Once I feel something, I have to take it out so I can say exactly what I mean.” Krishnan admits to being sensitive, maybe too sensitive, at times. The actions of others get to her. It’s not surprising, then, that she can be quick-tempered.

So, in a room in her home is a large sheet of paper taped to a wall. On it is the cautionary words her father once spoke to her, “Always Respond; Don’t React.”

“I should deal with people in a slower pace,” she says. “I should be more patient.” No matter what Krishnan tried to do in her life, her family has always given her the direction she needs to face down her fears.

Like Krishnan, it has always been the way of international students to get out of their comfort zones, come to the United States and pursue their dreams and ambitions. They believe if they don’t at least try they will forever regret the decision. Life is a drama without a script. It is filled with surprises we don’t see coming.

But as Krishnan will tell you: isn’t that the point of life?

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Generate Business Insights by Data Analytics

On the second day of the Social Commerce days, students who are interested in data analysis were invited to join an interactive workshop to learn how to leverage data analytics for building successful campaigns. Mr. Colin Foster, managing director of Twist Mktg, a W2O Group company used a famous crisis communications case study – the Susan G. Komen-Planned Parenthood Debacle to illustrate the methodology of developing a campaign plan and solving a problem by utilizing real data. He showcased what his team did on the data analytics platform from situation analysis; strategic communications plan development to campaign measurement. He addressed to us that, “always remember the main purpose and the business goal of the organization throughout the whole process. We can turn data into insights that drive commerce and shape behavior online on the premise that we consider communications strategy in business or organization cause perspective.”

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(Picture credit: http://blog.weblinkinternational.com/blog/drive-member-intelligence-with-your-association-management-software)

Before attending this workshop, I have already been interested in data analytics and taking an online course of data analysis. However, I was having a hard time to figure out how to decode data and capitalize on data information in planning a communications campaign and driving measurable business and organizational results. In the workshop, I learned the importance of PESO (paid media, earned media, social media, owned media) analytics. Given today’s companies have been hyper-focusing on social media, a majority of traditional media’s expansion has come from a handful of the social networks. To resolve a crisis, we need to pull social media data, media data and paid media activities together and make an integrated and deeper analysis. Thus, we can create agile and time-efficient content and make sure insights can be articulated to target audience in real-time. As a result, we can take advantage of the trends that might be popular at a given moment in time.

During the discussion of the Komen’s case study, Mr. Colin Foster reminded us to keep three things in mind: remind people what the organization’s mission is and what it’s already accomplished; create emotional appeals by communicating how the organization have played a role in the particular social cause; embrace the community by creating interactive communications opportunities for people who generate social content online. These three things can guide organizations to utilize correctly people’s concerns and passions on relevant business goal and retain competitive advantage. It leads to sharp insights that can generate business value.

Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal

“Our business is all about change, so if you are not changing you are not moving a service firm of any kind forward. I think a good service firm develops a percentage of their services as new services every year.” Rob Flaherty, a senior partner and CEO of Ketchum, said those words. This is his philosophy on how to manage a PR agency. When he presented his “Think Big About Your Career In Communications” speech to the students of the S. I. Newhouse School of Communications, to me, creativity was the one word that was the best interpretation of his “change.”

His presentation is the most creative one I have attended at Newhouse. It was just like a successful media briefing or press conference, and he is a good spokesperson. No doubt, most of the PR practitioners will conduct or manage such activities for different companies thousands of times in their future professional life.  And Flaherty has given us an excellent example of how to create a well-prepared, engaging and meaningful event for its target audience and how to present his main idea straight to the point and impressively.  As he said, “create content towards genuine human truths, stay relevant. Don’t make it about you, make it about them.” When I recall his speech and all the feedback from the student audience on social media, it was quite clear that he did what he believed.

Though the communications trends and case studies of Gillette, ConAgra Food, Cheetos and Ecovidrio Flaherty showed us were arresting and refreshing – particularly the “KISS: Keep It Smooth Shave” campaign for Gillette – I found he, as a head of a large PR agency and a leader in this highly competitive industry, is still a PR practitioner worthy to be praised. It would have been valuable if he told us more about his development experience in the PR field, and shared any challenges he has faced and overcome in different stages of his career. From a perspective of a PR professional, I know he is also an expert on issue management and knows very well about client management.  If I had a chance to ask him, I would be eager to solve something I have been confused about: as a client counselor at a PR agency, when your client has a crisis you don’t have the ownership to control the client’s final decision, which sometimes you don’t think is right, and it may lead to an ineffective result. How do you settle this problem with yourself and your client?

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(Picture credit: https://sparkylaurie.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/nugget-75-life-is-not-a-dress-rehearsal/)

Same as the name of this speech, I believe thinking big is a prominent professional character to a PR practitioner. However, he also used his time to tell us we cannot forget what’s behind the big scene and those can prepare us to turn “big idea” into reality. What I learned from Rob Flaherty is being prudent, well prepared and always put your feet in your audiences’ shoes. As he believes, “life is not a dress rehearsal.” Every time we do our jobs, we should always be prepared to present the company’s brand and client’s brand but also your brand. We are brands ourselves, and we should always be on top of our game.

Build Your Own CSR Strategy In An Integrated Way: Four Things Learned From IBM Smarter Planet Campaign

In recent years, many companies have spent million dollars every year on CSR communication programs, in hoping of making a significant impact on their companies to society and their business. However, it is very critical for companies to think carefully about how they communicate the stories to their stakeholders and build up strategies which are the most appropriate to their business.

IBM’s Smarter Planet is a campaign that has united the company’s mission, world view and technologies for the last ten years. This campaign offers marketers and PR practitioners some lessons in the areas of positioning, advertising, content creation, social behavior and more.

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Smarter Planet is a great example to show us that a big business idea also could facilitate a social responsibility program combined with lots of small ideas and big social causes. Meanwhile, it ensures the high level of engagement with its stakeholder groups. It got me thinking that Smarter Planet was a perfect case study for any of us working on a comprehensive corporate branding program, even though the campaign’s scale was greater than most companies could ever afford to realize their ambitions.
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According to IBM agency Ogilvy in its 2010 Gold Effie winner submission, “IBM wanted the world to understand it could solve some of the world’s most challenging problems.” It is true that Smarter Planet was designed to build global business for IBM. But it needed an approach commensurate with the moment.  “We were looking for a way to share knowledge that would be useful,” explained John Kennedy, IBM’s chief of corporate communications. “We needed something to say and share more than something to sell. And we had to do it in a respectful way.”
Here are my takeaways from  IBM Smarter  Planet campaign in a perspective of a PR practitioner:
  1. Avoid over-emphasizing corporate language. The communications with the company’s stakeholders on its campaign should address the issue and stakeholders’ needs itself focusing on rather than keeping convincing people that your company is a social responsible company and good at its expertise that is obvious to target audiences.
  2. Utilizing inspired factors and representative In the communications will be helpful if people or significant examples could be addressed in the message as a strategic approach to reach each market segment. For instance, IBM highlighted thought leaders in the different industries to inspire other market players.
  3. Setting CSR strategy for integrated communications instead of being The company should try not to set communication strategy based on one project in a short term no matter the scale of its campaign, and it is not an opportunistic promotion. Cause-related corporate communications should be seen as a long-term and integrated promotion that involving all-sided stakeholder groups.
  4. Engaging with right target audiences with the right message. External and internal communications should use different languages to deliver messages for one common goal. Before crafting the messages for various audiences, the company should figure out the purpose and DNA of what it is doing for its audiences and why it should engage with them. Even though sometimes the message will be vague regarding the umbrella purpose of the campaign, the company should improve that the dream it talks about would be realized by real solutions.

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According to Ian Stephens of Saffron Brand Consulting in Contagious Magazine: 

Successful branding is quite straightforward: find a brand idea with the right mix of rational and emotional messages and build it into absolutely everything you say and do in the marketplace. By identifying the integrated brand idea of ‘progress,’ which connects tightly to the substance of their business strategy, the IBM team gave themselves a head start. The bright and optimistic visual identity also helps tell the story.”

Reach an Audience in a Digital Age

In this week’s class of advanced public relations writing for a digital world at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Maren Guse, assistant director of digital and social media at Syracuse University spoke to PR graduate students on social media and the role of PR practitioners in a digital age.

Social Media Belongs to Everyone

“Social media touches not just marketing communications and public relations. No matter where you go in an organization, most likely, you may have some interaction with social media. Its implementation is beyond just communications,” said Guse.

As a PR practitioner in an organization, social media integration changes your work responsibilities. Though the world generates overloaded information every day, social media will help you disseminate information to selected focus groups directly. For example, customer service departments receive more customer complaints from social media than call centers, product managers improve their products based on suggestions from tweets or blog posts, and HR departments recruit employees on company social media pages.

Content is king, make every word count

However, social media is simply a tool for communications. As Guse addressed during her introduction, content is still king when delivering messages. From my experience of managing the Twitter account for a non-profit organization, I’m always struggling with writing 140 characters including a link and hashtag to create an engaging tweet. While this can be hard, social media users should always remember what William Strunk advised writers in “The Elements of Style.” “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words” (Strunk, 1918).

Stylize personality of your organization

“An important thing to consider is how your online actions are a reflection of your personal branding”(Scott, 2013, p260). Once you write a tweet in a style, your audience will see you as what you wrote. When I was writing tweets for the non-profit organization’s Twitter, I kept reminding myself of the organization’s brand personality.

Choosing the right communication channel

In a constantly connected world, social media has been seen as an effective communication channel for companies handling crises.

I totally agree with what Scott discussed: “The right approach is, to be honest, and forthright. Communicate the facts quickly and don’t hide. Assign a visible spokesperson. Silence and ‘no comment’ are the enemy” (Scott, 2013, p273).

More and more brands are using social media to release official company statements and monitor customer opinions regarding a crisis. Despite all the advantages of social media, a warm, firm handshake, a sincere facial expression, and an engaging conversation face-to-face are important roles in building trust and empathy between an organization and the public. Undeniably, those are also crucial components in minimizing harm on a company’s reputation in a crisis. More importantly, face-to-face communication is more precise than non-verbal communication.

The different features of face-to-face and online communication led me to wonder the following: is face-to-face communication more accurate than social media when companies want to explain an intangible issue to their customers? Is social media a more effective way to articulate an appropriate response to a serious crisis even though it is the quickest and more engaging way? Is a 140-character tweet enough to handle an issue?

In short, choosing a right communication channel will depend on many internal and external factors. Sometimes, using mainstream methods are not the most efficient way to handle a crisis. Communicating your message effectively should always be a priority whether those mainstream methods are used or not.

What The Eyes See and The Ears Hear, The Mind Believes

Raynard Jackson, president and CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC, talked about the essence of marketing and PRduring his speech on Sept. 8, 2015, at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Jackson used the words of Harry Houdini to describe PR and marketing: “What the eyes see, and the ears hear, the mind believes.”

There is also a more particular version of this perspective: “Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you,” said Douglas Adams, an English author, comic radio dramatist, and musician.

It tells us marketers and PR practitioners that, in a diversified world, everyone has a unique perception of a company and its products, and their perceptions primarily determined the success or failure of the company. David Meerman Scott said in his book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”: “The most important thing to remember as you develop a marketing and PR plan is to put your products and services to the side for just a little while and focus your complete attention on the buyers of your products.”

Both quotes address the same concern when marketers and PR people are discussing customer perception of an organization. Knowing your audience and getting familiar with them before developing any plan will ensure every step you placed afterward precisely and efficiently.

As a marketer or PR practitioner, we have to see every customer as a human first and understand that people tend to expose themselves to various messages or stimuli that are by their already existing interests and opinions, which is one of the hardest parts of public relations. We need to know our target audience’s perception of our organization, and we need to use that information to adjust our communication strategy and the message from their perspectives so as to shape their perceptions. However, it’s even more difficult for us to realize this goal in today’s media environment. Today, everyone is a reporter. Except hundreds of print media outlets and TV programs supplying news, people are using more channels than ever to publish their opinions and first-hand news. Keeping up with this outflow of opinions is crucial for the sake of an organization’s brand image and customer satisfaction of a product or service.

This week, in Professor Britt’s writing class, I learned to use Storify, which allows users to search through multiple social networks from one platform and re-order content or posts to create a context for organizations or clients, which is a way to discover people’s perception of an organization. I used it to collect public perceptions of Oracle’s new unlimited database license, PULA. The experience of using it was very simple but also very enlightening. The result hit me between the eyes and made me aware that social media truly catalyzed so many kinds of customer perceptions. Organizations such as Oracle should pay more attention to these platforms moving forward.

(Picture credit: http://www.brainlesstales.com/2012-05-29/keep-an-eye-out-for-danger)

It is evident that if Oracle had used Storify, the company will have a better handle on issues spreading would have transpired. Take Oracle’s new offering PULA as an example; I believe Oracle’s marketing or PR team had never thought of getting this result from their very technical and professional service, which is all because of its name, a crucial element of a new service. Someone found that “PULA” had a very embarrassing meaning related to sexuality in Romanian, and this finding spread all over the social network in a very short period. This was a very weird but very possible perception generated among Internet users. This perception was not only drawing people’s attention away from the real benefits the service can bring to customers but also gave customers an incorrect perception of Oracle and its new service. Relating to what I previously quoted, the public believes what they hear and what they see; particularly on certain topics they already have an interest in. The public discussed this accidental perception for a while, which created an unwanted “rememberable selling point” of PULA to its customers.

As a well-known leading company in the business-to-business technology field, Oracle never expected this accident, but it still happened. This is the power of social media. Traditional media will probably focus on the effects to company’s business, its competitors or something related to product/service itself, but there is always a leak in social media. Using tools to monitor customer perceptions will help manage unwanted problems before they become uncontrolled.

Do What Makes You Feel Alive

“How much money can we make in entry level, manager level or vice president level positions?” “What is the average increasing rate of salary in three or five years?” “How can we prepare our resumes to be more ‘sexy’?” “What kind of titles can we get in PR agencies or corporations?” “Do local companies want to hire international employees?” Last night, Professor Jasso offered us a chance of answering any questions, such as facing choices in upcoming academic tracks, future career development in PR and more.

Professor Jasso asked us, “ Regardless of the expectations of others, the mainstream sense, or the things you thought you SHOULD do, what do you WANT?” It is a sort of “chicken soup for the mind” life advice that we can always hear from others, and we don’t even keep it in mind anymore. This tacky question is quite important at each stage of our life, and we may need to take several years of our life to figure it out. I started to think about myself.

I got to know the communications field and wanted to be a journalist before I went to university. After I had entered college, I found that as a journalist in my country, I would face restricted circumstances and unspoken rules all over the industry. I became confused about what I should do in the future for a long while. However, I met my PR professor, who gave me a lot of inspiration and made me realize that PR was something I could try. After short years of exploration in PR, I kept asking if this is what I want to do. I started to narrow down my options, and technology PR feels more like “me” than other fields.

john_lennon_02_6(Picture credit: http://www.yourbuzzing.com/john-lennons-happiness-is-the-key-to-life/)

Just like what Professor Jasso said, “If you love PR, but you don’t like people, you can be a research analyst.” Maybe it’s just a joke, but it still cheered me up as I have had same thought before. I talked to myself that “You don’t like empty and meaningless social interaction, but you do like PR, and you believe that every innovative technology that can change people’s life and bring meaning to our life is vital. You probably could be a good PR practitioner in this field because of this motivation and your passion.”