Have Cash? Get Media Coverage…

During my graduation years I read one of the world’s largest selling daily newspaper to get my dosage of news on latest business trends, current affairs and things happening around town. I felt enriched by my level of awareness and would often take part in discussions and debates. Years passed and I joined a PR agency where I learnt that most of the executives avoided the newspaper I read as they believed or it was a known fact that it carried paid news.

What exactly is Paid News?

Paid News is broadly:

  • Publishing or broadcasting advertisements masquerading as news
  • Paying the press money for publishing or broadcasting news in favour of a particular individual, organization or brand
  • Individuals, organization or brands  advertising in newspapers/ news channels in return for free articles/ airtime

Being in the profession I regularly hear rumours about political candidates, organizations, celebs etc paying money to a newspaper or news channel to elicit favourable news coverage. Browsing through newspapers I usually see a full-page advertisement of a brand, on turning the page I see an article of the same brand. Sometimes the article may appear in a day or two, or even after a week, but it does appear.

It feels like a waste of time reading an article that was actually an advertisement. It feels worse if you actually voted for a political candidate, bought shares of a company, applied to a university after reading and believing the positive article that was actually paid for.

Is the journalist to be blamed? Well, the journalist can say that he had succumbed to pressures from his seniors or from the people who play a major role in generating income for the media house, i.e., the marketing department and get out of the mucky situation.

On the other hand, many newspapers while publishing a favourable article that is paid for usually place a visible header that reads – Advertisement, Advertorial, or Media Marketing Initiative, which is the legitimate way of selling space.

There is no way one could distinguish which newspaper or news channel is carrying paid news and which isn’t. No one knows the extent to which this is happening; even the smartest in the industry cannot spot and claim that this channel or publication carries paid news.

It’s sad and critical for the dozens of media houses that don’t sell their editorial space as they get dragged along with the rest when such a topic arises. The best brains in the industry need to congregate to think this through carefully.

Kenneth Peter — kennethpeter.com

Daydreaming at Work

Have you ever been caught daydreaming at work? Ever woke up with a blank expression… “huh!” in a soporific meeting when someone asked you a question? Walked into your boss’s cabin and forget why you entered? Listened to an entire conversation and then asked “who in the what now?” This can be embarrassing, but it is very normal.

Stress or boredom can be the culprit, as they somehow let your mind wander away. In my previous  job, I called Monday the ‘Stress-Day,’ as there was tons of work waiting for me on my table. The Big Boss man would walk in with a huge frown as if I was the one that caused Monday to happen upon everyone. Then I would notice the list of pending emails, documents and notes that I had ignored on TGIF!

With neck-deep in work and totally stressed out my mind would automatically deviate towards randomness. Next thing you would notice is that I’m either lost staring at the computer screen or lost in my own world while someone was giving me a brief. Sadly, I was lost daydreaming regular stuff and not something imaginative and sci-fi like Calvin in Calvin & Hobbes. Remember how Calvin kept transforming his teacher Miss Wormwood into an alien while daydreaming in his classroom, wish I could imagine something similar, transforming my boss into an alien emperor who had abducted me and was forcing me to work in kryptonite* and energon* fields.

Boredom, the other reason is equally bad. It usually allows the mind to imagine extreme things in-depth as there are no wake up calls by anyone reminding you of pending work. To stay away from boredom, take a break, read or do puzzles. These days’ social networking sites come in handy when you have nothing to do and can keep you entertained while you keep on learning new stuff. Lastly, were you actually reading this post or daydreaming?

Kenneth Peter — kennethpeter.com

*Kryptonite – fictional element in Superman
*Energon – primary source of power for Transformers
Comic strips taken from Google

Are you Pitching or Spamming?

Brand launches, quarterly results, joint-venture, tie-ups, promotions etc, there is always something or the other happening in your organization that requires immediate media attention. For the same you have your Pitch Note ready, drafted a fancy email with an appealing subject line, attached all the relevant documents, copied all the email id’s of journalists and bloggers on the bcc list and are ready to hit the send tab. (More like: In your face! like it or not)

Many Public Relations Professionals often forget that the people they are pitching the news item to, might be working on something more important. Whether they are journalists, bloggers or someone at the news desk we need to respect them and their precious time. While pitching to the media you need to establish who will welcome your pitches and also understand your target audience in order to have the best results.

Sending repeated mails or ‘spamming’ journalists is not the best way to get your news published. The trick is to understand what the journalist or blogger usually writes about so that you may have a better chance of sending them something that would grab their attention. Here are a few steps that might help:

  • Read as much as you can: Pick up all the papers and try reading all the news related to your industry, while browsing through the rest. Maintain an excel sheet to note down the names of the journalist who cover your particular sector.

  • Do some research online: Make a list of blogs and bloggers covering your sector. Also subscribe to their blog to receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Pick-up the phone to get answers: Try calling media houses directly and ask for the journalist who covers your topic as this will make the pitching process simpler for both the parties. This can save you a lot of time.

  • Go meet them: While on the phone, try to set up an appointment and go meet them personally to build a connection.

Several journalist I have met usually point out that PR professionals keep on pitching like there’s no tomorrow. They refer to our pitch notes as ‘spam mails’ and say the pitch usually ends up in the recycle bin. The point here is many PR professionals blindly select journalists to pitch without knowing the beat they cover, thus their pitches are treated as unwanted emails.

Think before you pitch and don’t end up being referred to as a PR spammer by journalists.

Kenneth Peter — kennethpeter.com

10 Comments you always wanted to leave on Facebook

The homepage of facebook always welcomes us with updates of the recent activities of our friends, colleagues or of people we don’t even know but have added them for some reason or the other. Some are funny, some are interesting and some are apt for whatever is trending at that moment. But many are just plain stupid… dumb status messages that are there for no rhyme or reason.

What irritates me is to see some dimwit acting as an industry expert or critic and giving out his or her opinion; half left status messages left by people, asking for follow-up comments from friends before they complete their message; minute by minute commentary of an ongoing game and so on…

I have stopped myself several times and that too at the very last moment from commenting on such status updates. Here are some comments that were created but never got posted:

  1. Who’s gives the ****!

  2. Your status message really sucks!

  3. Why do you even need to think? Or Nobody cares of what you think!

  4. Will you stop leaving your status message incomplete just to gain attention of curious losers asking: Why? Where? How? What happened?

  5. Just shut-up and go weep elsewhere

  6. You think your status is funny? Get your head examined!

  7. I’d visit a news website if I wanted news updates

  8. You look really ugly; please stop torturing us by uploading more pictures of yourself partying

  9. Has ESPN signed you as their official commentator on Facebook?

  10. Get a life!

Felt really good to get those comments out.

Kenneth Peter — kennethpeter.com

STOP! Don’t eat…until I take a picture

Trending these days is clicking pictures of elegantly garnished dishes before taking a bite. Almost everyday, I see pictures of delectable food uploaded by people connected to me on social networking sites like twitter, facebook, and linkedin. In fact, one of my friends has a photo album on Flickr dedicated to exotic dishes he has had over years.

Clicking food pictures, keeping photo albums or having a food blog is a growing phenomenon.  Aware of the trend camera manufacturers like Sony, Nikon, Panasonic have already released cameras with special macro focusing, close-up mode or simply ‘food mode’ features.

These pictures or photo albums are also a quick source of information. Pictures are usually accompanied by a status message and follow-up comments that give information on the food item along with the name and location of the restaurant. So if you like what you see and the restaurant happens to be in your neighborhood, you don’t need to do a Google search for the restaurant or read the reviews.

Lastly, if you are maintaining an online food diary, they will help you calculate the amount you spent on eating out and also keep a tab on your calorie intake. Later, you can point out to your son or daughter how you gained those extra lbs.

Kenneth Peter — kennethpeter.com

How To Train Your Dragon – My Review

How To Train Your Dragon was unexpectedly a delightful film to watch. At first I wasn’t interested, after reading the synopsis I felt it would be a good watch, but after watching it, it was much better than I thought it was going to be. It’s fresh, magical, beautifully animated and a touching family film. It proves that DreamWorks can give some serious competition to Pixar.

DreamWorks? Pixar? If you are a fan of animation, you may want to note down the names of two of the biggest animation studios. In 1995, Pixar gave us the first computer animated film – Toy Story, a groundbreaking film that totally changed animation. Both of them have gone head to head for over a decade. Below are names of some of their biggest films:

Wow! Till 2009, I have a copy of all the titles (sniff!) Now you can pick the animation film you liked and then decide which animation studio is your favorite.

Coming back to – How To Train Your Dragon, the movie is about a young Viking boy Hiccup, who aspires to hunt dragons like his brut father Stoick and someday slay the most dangerous dragon ‘Night Fury’ which has never been hunted before by any of the Vikings.

During the opening battle with the dragons, Hiccup tries to help his village and shoots down the ultra-destructive dragon – Night Fury. Hiccup excitedly runs to tell everyone, however no one believes him. Next day, to get the proof of his hunt, Hiccup goes to the woods and finds the downed dragon, which is unable to fly due to a broken tail. Hiccup forces himself to kill the beast but instead he frees it allowing it to escape.

From there, Hiccup and the dragon, he calls Toothless become friends and Hiccup helps the dragon re-learn how to fly by attaching an artificial tail fin. Hiccup learns all about dragons, what they like, hate and are afraid of and uses this information to rise to the top of his class in a dragon fighting school. Above all, he learns that dragons are not at all brutal and finds out the secret as to why the dragons keep attacking their village for food. However things change when Hiccups father finds out about his son’s pet dragon.

If you have ever kept a pet you will definitely love Toothless. DreamWorks fabulously showed the dependent and caring friendship between Hiccup and Toothless. The animation looks outstanding, especially the landscapes shown during the flying sequences which may remind you of James Cameron’s  ‘Avatar’ – remember the mighty dragon Toruk, that only five Na’vi had ever tamed and then our hero Jake goes on to tame the dragon.

How To Train Your Dragon stands tall, however I’m restlessly waiting for Pixar’s Toy Story 3 to be out in June.

My Rating: 4/5

Kenneth Peter — kennethpeter.com

Addicted to Social Media???

Basketball court was the place you would find me when Yahoo Messenger became popular. I was busy playing my PS2 and then PS3 when most of my friends were creating their profiles on Myspace, Orkut and Facebook. Just to be socially available online, I did my part and created my profile on some of these sites…little did I know that social networking would soon takeover my life.

Being a PR and Marketing Professional, staying away from social media would not be a wise thing to do. Now, apart from managing my online presence (which comes secondary), I also manage profiles of some reputed brands. That’s not all; there are several other things involved when you are managing the profile of a brand, these include –

  • Listening
  • Identifying influencers/issues
  • Engaging
  • Measuring the output

Managing brands, monitoring competitors, customer engagement, updating my profiles, oh well, hope you get the idea, that I spend a lot of my time trading information online. Its fun, rewarding and a part of my profession, but the question is – am I addicted to social media?

Addicted or not, let’s together answer the question below to find out:

  • While on our way to work or home, we get stuck in traffic or see a kid in the car next to us making faces – do you feel like taking a picture, share it online accompanied with a status message (Yes/No)
  • You go to a flashy restaurant or you pick up accessories of a high-end fashion brand and you just can’t wait to share it with the www (Yes/No)
  • You have to tell the world that you are listening to music, going to the loo or taking your dog out for a walk (Yes/No)
  • You keep your answers crisp and make sure that they don’t exceed 140 characters (Yes/No)
  • After a tweet or updating your facebook status you keep hitting the refresh/reload tab for follow-up comments or RT (Yes/No)
  • Whatever you have done over the weekend is all up on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc and you feel like kicking your colleague if they ask: “So, what did you do over the weekend?” (Yes/No)
  • You keep flaunting your number of followers and friends to people (Yes/No)
  • At a gathering you keep asking the people you meet if they are on facebook/ twitter/linkedin and instantly add them the moment you reach home (Yes/No)
  • You have to be present on every social networking site and you don’t delete any of your accounts as someone might ask if you have an account there (Yes/No)
  • You also get up in the middle of the night to check for any new updates (Yes/No)

What’s your score?

Kenneth Peter — kennethpeter.com