Learnings from PRAXIS 2017

Twitter- the boon and the bane of our generation. It belongs to all- the armchair activists, the revolutionaries and the doers. However, what it has done for the PR Industry in India is unparalleled. We got #PRAXIS, the brainchild of Amith Prabhu, out of a solitary tweet that he did in 2011. The event, today, is the largest gathering of PR professionals in the world.

Last month, I was cruising down the highway to reach the sixth edition of PRAXIS, at Jaipur.  My second year at this magnanimous conference, which stumped me with its enormity last year! Just like last time, I was prepped up to meet the fellow PR pros and take home some learnings and discoveries.

Mingling among a set of 600+ eclectic professionals from India and overseas, known for immaculate dressing, with a worldview on practically everything, and passion for brands that sometimes outlives the brand itself, this year I had lots of learning. Here, I’m sharing my three takeaways from the event that not only changed me professionally but also personally.

(Team BoringBrands at Praxis6)
(Team BoringBrands at Praxis6)

PR is not marketing’s stepchild

As PR pros we tend to believe that nobody could ever doubt the power of what we’re doing. The fact is, though, public relations is still seen as the red-headed stepchild of marketing. For every great PR campaign, you have a marketing campaign that everyone’s talking about. You can work 1,000 hours on a PR campaign, gain enormous talkability, and then see your work overlooked because a commercial did well. But at PRAXIS, I got an opportunity to restore my faith in what we do (It’s not that I had forgotten, but it’s always good to get the reassurance, right?). How many of you remember the Reese’s (the Hershey company) product launch fiasco?

A photo on Facebook of Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cups – Reese’s cup filled with crunchy mini Reese’s Pieces – was leaked in April 2016, three months before the product was set to launch. As per reports, the image picked up 40,000 shares and led to a social media frenzy and widespread speculation online about the possible new product. The company’s social channels were also inundated with questions from consumers. That’s when the brand’s internal communications team and external PR partners, including Ketchum (who were present at PRAXIS), Havas, and UM, stepped in and turned the incident into a timely and fruitful campaign.

The company took ownership of the product conversation and drove traffic to branded channels by purposefully confusing consumers. With an implementation of a successful PR marketing strategy, Reese’s was able to make their product launch go viral. Proving that this industry will never be marketing’s stepchild. Rather, it has a vast pool of smart and driven people who have contributed in large part to make this thriving industry what it is today.  

The relevance of popularity

When we think of a new campaign, one of the first thoughts to follow should be ‘what would make it a popular campaign?’ It should be something so interesting that it impacts your audience in a way that they can’t help but share. Which brings us to the question, what social media should be relevant to achieve this scale of popularity? With obvious answers pointing towards Facebook, Whatsapp emerged as a winner.

During their talks at PRAXIS, at least three of the global CEO’s pointed out that it’s (Whatsapp) the only medium where a brand can’t pay to become famous. While one must not confuse it as a sure-shot measure, it can be considered as an indicator that the audience is listening to what the brand is trying to say. Relevance here is subjected to how popular your brand is with your audience and how relevant the brand is to them.

Go beyond a vanilla research

Of course, we all know and have implemented that. But I realised at PRAXIS that in a quest to build an amazing, well-researched and thorough PR pitch, we sometimes miss tightening the loose ends. While we make efforts to know the brand, what it does and what should/could be their goals, we at times forget to go beyond the obvious.

Go beyond a vanilla research
(In conversation with Fred Cook, Global CEO-Golin)

When Fred Cook, Global CEO, Golin shared findings of Golin’s extensive survey on the ‘trust deficit’, I was stunned. Not only with the findings, but with the enormity of the task undertaken by Golin and the entire team. With a sample size of 13 countries and over 13 thousand people, the research was an exhaustive one. Investing in proper research brings out the science into their work. The idea behind this research was to help find the relevance of brands and what makes a particular brand work. The survey made me realise that as an effective communicator our job goes beyond just understanding the problem statement. We must understand the business goals and find ways to bridge the gap between the client and customers thoroughly. While research is important, it’s essential to walk a mile extra and come up with solutions that address the pain point.

(Team BoringBrands with the legendary Fred Cook)
(Team BoringBrands with the legendary Fred Cook)

Golin ended his conversation with five questions (Which I’m going to talk about in my next blog) that left everyone in the room thinking and uncovered some essential PR behaviours, which we, even after working with clients day in and out fail to notice.

On that note, I’m going to leave you with some of the amazing tweets (READ Takeaways) I shared from and during the PRAXIS. After all, we got a chance to witness the event because of one tweet.