26 November 2015 11:52:46 IST

How to stay in the news

Why do certain business leaders make more news than the others? Here’s the formula

“How is it that ‘he’ is so prominent in media?” — I am often asked this question about prominent business leaders who seem to make news and headlines with unbelievable ease.

The first point I wish to make is that many of the views about the clout of PR agencies with publications are exaggerated. Relationships will carry you only so far in today’s largely professional world. The key determinant of visibility will continue to be “strategy” in building the media image of your brand. Having said that and having been associated with clients for as long as I can remember, I have observed that some people like NR Naryana Murthy and Kishore Biyani seem to be doing this better than several others. What can we learn from these prominent, newsworthy leaders?

Make news

Unique news makes banner headlines. I think we first need to understand the importance of ‘making news’ rather than trying to create it. My mind goes back to Infosys and its PR heydays. It was the first Indian company to be listed on the Nasdaq. If my memory serves me right, it made global headlines. Remember that India-centric news makes headlines in the Indian press.

Unfortunately, many clients who have “me too” offerings and consequently “me too” announcements, expect similar coverage. This is not possible. The desire to be on the front pages of the business press though understood by PR companies, does not necessarily result in similar coverage. You need to ‘make’ news, rather than be a “me too”. Sadly, it is easy to attribute it to a “lack of clout” of the PR company, when the actual problem lies elsewhere.

Have a point of view

Economists have their uses, but not to the media thanks to their only too-familiar “on the one hand…, on the other” statements. Journalists want a point of view, and want a view that is clearly expressed without sitting on the fence.

Owners of businesses are generally less diplomatic than professionals who have to worry about the board and the Chairman, and hence, give honest points of view.In this interview of Kishore Biyani, he clearly articulates his point, unafraid of pulling his punches. He stands for something and doesn’t hesitate to express it and this invariably makes news.

People who challenge the status quo make headlines and that is the truth.

Respond faster

Just like you and I have deadlines, journalists too need to keep time, and sometimes, their deadlines are almost impossible to meet. Whatever happens, the newspaper must be at your doorstep at 6 am. This means if the story has to be filed by 6 pm, it must be filed at 6 pm with the views of those who responded on time.

So if the spokesperson can speak on the phone rather than send responses over mail (as some companies do), you have a better chance of being in print and having your point of view shared. Here too, no one likes diplomatic answers or “no comments” replies, though they have a place in the media world.

All about timing

I have always admired the ability of people like VVS Laxman and the now forgotten Mohd Azharuddin. They had fantastic timing and silken wrists that enabled them to caress the ball to the boundary. The media world too is built around timing. Let me give you an example.

Recently the media was abuzz with the rape of a poor, unsuspecting passenger in a taxi and sadly you remember it too. A story on security timed around this would make first page news when it comes on its heels. Leaders like Kishore Biyani are brilliant at understanding the mood and timing of the media, and know what the flavour of the month is. They can talk about it with conviction, like this interview on online grocer’s ability to survive.

Have relationships with media

But don’t be used by them. Media likes people who are readily available to comment on issues, and these are the people who make numbers. I realised I too had been guilty of this, as the advertising trade media kept quoting me on stories and I was happy till I realised the value of being choosy. Remember, the media too needs some people to fill an industry story, so don’t fall for the visibility trap. The smarter people decide whether they want to participate and usually, what they say leads the story.

Building image is a process

It isn’t a destination. It isn’t about one front page story. It is a process and a journey with a clear, strategic road map. This means that once in a while, you will be misquoted and that is okay; today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s wrapping paper. Over a period of time, people will remember the good things they read. Build professional relationships with media based on mutual respect and one day, it is you who will be written about!

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