Blog

Aug 04
An Open Letter to PR folks for a better Brand-PR-Media Ecosystem

Disclaimer: This post is based on my experience with corporate communications team of organizations and PR and social media agencies in the technology as well as, to use the broad term, lifestyle space. Different industry sectors might have different stories to tell, and individual mileage may vary. Also, I attempt a collective media representation for bloggers, online editors, print journalists, columnists, television panellists, et al.

PR.jpg 

Be Better Organized

Most of us in the media would attest to this, and most PR agencies, barring individuals, on the whole would be guilty of being a mess in communication and at events.

  • Invites: The invites to events and press conferences are sometimes last minute. There are typos, AMs and PMs are reversed, venue details are scratchy, and almost always, there's no agenda. Also, I've cried myself hoarse to have a calendar invite as part of the invite making life easy for us.
  • Emails: As a PR-fearing, good person, I usually respond to invites with a confirmation or if I was skipping it. In most cases, that is not registered, and I still get a call for confirming the invitation, and if the event is a week or so away, more than one call. Also, please don't call to check if we've received an email that you've sent!
  • Time: Please start press-conferences on time! I hate the meandering wait that happens at media events, and longer the wait, more pissed off are the attendees which isn't great for the brand anyway. Most of my colleagues hate celebrities at the events because they tend to delay the proceedings, but I guess, it's simply an execution failure.
  • Media Kits: Almost a majority of folks do not use the printed press-releases. I guess the agencies can do away with those, make sure the release is mailed immediately or is handed over in pen-drives at event, and save a lot of paper on the way. Also, package the photos, the press note, the specifications, and other details systematically.
  • Travel: Why do most agencies goof up on travel arrangements when it's the simplest thing to organize? Email flight options, once selected, email flight tickets and hotel reservation (in one mail!), and if there are cab arrangements, inform of the same. But usually it takes few phone calls and more than a couple of emails to have everything sorted.

 

Not Just a Cell in Your Spreadsheet

Each individual has his own preference, body of work, style, and ethics. I don't know why most PR folks treat every one of us as a uniform cell in their database spreadsheet.

  • Stay updated: I still get pitches for ZDNet where I stopped writing last year. My homepage and Twitter bio are always updated, but I still get calls asking me where I'm writing these days.
  • Listen: I get calls about un-replied emails which are sent to wrong addresses. I've corrected a lot of folks multiple times, but continue to 'not get' emails. Funnily, I've never had a change of email address or anything. The wrong ones have just been figments of imagination.
  • Preferences: I prefer emails over phone calls, no paid posts offers, no push for reviews, and so on and so forth. A PR person who's in regular touch with me should know that. This isn't entitlement, but an industry etiquette.  

 

Don't Make us Talk to the Hand

PR is all about circumventing the mishits of the brand and flaws of the product, and spin positive communication. The last part is essential, existential, and ironically, the missing apart from in press releases.

  • Review Units: I understand that there are only a few review units of a product, and a priority order that the agency/brand has decided. My problem is that in most cases, the timeline shared is 'very soon'. A better response with a definite timeline helps both parties. Also, my non-Delhi friends keep cribbing about how getting review units is frustrating.  
  • Respond: Most PR folks, and some of whom I've had a great working relation as well, would skip requests for a product, interaction, or seeking information. Like a wave, they are all friendly and would like to help around a product launch or an event, but nonchalant otherwise.

 

Editorial Preference

If you are catering to the sell-out crowd, it's your prerogative, but I'm entitled to my editorial as well as personal preferences.

  • Review Units: No I will not review a product in three days. Period. I may not mention the highlights that you want to be marketed. Please don't mistake my editorial skill or the lack of it for arrogance.
  • Mandate Content: While pitches from PR folks are great and sometimes helps us, an acceptance of pitch doesn't mandate a post. Similarly, an event invite or a product sent for review does not necessarily merit a post. Also, please don't force timelines on us because you've set expectations with your client, the brand. Our editorial calendar is our prerogative.
  • Twitter Spamming: Some polite requests for hashtag tweets was okay, but 'you'll have to tweet' or a 'maximum tweets' contests in press conferences is plain wrong.

 

Most of the points here are generalized, but not exaggerated. Most of us have horror tales of dealing with a PR guy, but also have some good friends from the agencies. If holding a mirror to one is an offence, maybe I'm guilty, but I think a better PR connect makes our job easier and translates to better brand perception.

Also, there's a lot of things we could do better. Reach events on time, RSVP to event invites, not be a sell-out, not have an air of arrogance, so on and so forth. But that's for another post, maybe.

Thoughts from friends in media welcome, and so are retorts from PR friends. See y-ou at the next presser! :-)

May 14
Mobile Learning: The Ubiquitous Learning

I was invited to speak at the HCL Social Learning conference, a maiden initiative of the L&D team at HCL. The event at Chennai saw a keynote from Naveen Naryanan, Global Head - Talent Management at HCL and four other experienced speakers with interesting speakers.

HCL.jpg 

I spoke on mobile learning, and how mobile devices, social applications, and gamification is impacting and evolving social learning. I'm no authority on learning and development, but shared perspectives on crowdsourcing, mobility, and social.

My session borrowed some thoughts from an old Jeremiah Owyang's session on social learning framework.

Feb 20
Five Core Pillars of the Indian IT-BPM Industry

If there's one important, and heartening, takeaway from NASSCOM's Strategic Review 2013 of the IT-BPM Sector in India, it is the fact that the Indian service providers are evolving from 'technology service providers' to playing a comprehensive role as 'strategic partners'.

The Indian IT-BPM industry has expanded in vertical and geographic markets, attracted new customers, and offered a wider spectrum of services over the years – staying put as the premier global sourcing landscape.

 The IT- BPM industry in India clearly stands on five core pillars that have been evolving since past couple of years, and largely responsible for the change in the industry outlook.

  • Optimal cost-efficiency: Leading players in the Indian market continued to maintain optimum levels of cost-efficiency through various internal processes and productivity improvement initiatives.

 

  • Human capital: India has the world's largest employable talent pool which makes it the most favored destination in the global sourcing market. 

 

  • Customer centricity:  The unique customer centric approach of Indian service providers is best demonstrated by re-engineering businesses/organizational structures, strategic advisory relationships, and focus on product/service delivery innovation.

 

  • Scalable and secure environment: The sheer size of the Indian market provides a high level of stability in terms of managing concentricity risk as compared to other sourcing markets. 

 

  • Ecosystem: India's infrastructure development landscape is expected to transform to the next level in the coming years. Besides, with large-scale investments in eGovernance projects and focus on establishing the national cyber security policy, the IT-BPM industry is well poised to maintain its growth trajectory in the domestic market.
Feb 19
Adam Gilchrist on Leadership: Belief, Hope, and Trust

​At the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2014 in Mumbai last week, Adam Gilchrist delivered a great keynote with some good humor and interesting anecdotes from the dressing room. He drew a lot of inspiration from his teammates and skippers in framing the lessons on leadership.

adam_gilchrist.jpg 

Belief

Attitudes are contagious – is yours worth catching?

At the first team meeting of the 2001 Aussie tour to India, Steve Waugh wrote this on the whiteboard.

Hope

A human being can survive:

  • 40 days without food
  • 3 days without water
  • 8 minutes without air

But not a second without hope.

Trust

In the first season of IPL, Deccan Chargers has a great team on paper. However, they finished last in the league and the underdogs Rajasthan Royals won.

Gilchrist said that while the idea of the league was people playing with players from across the world with different cultures and routines, the team merely did lip service on the promise.

For the next season, Darren Lehmann joined the team as coach and declared the principle - Create an environment everyone wants to be a part of. The silos were amended, and Deccan Chargers won the season!

Focus

Wherever you are, be there.

"The way Sachin handled fame, fortune and expectations is awesome. He's the only person who carried all that fame, fortune, and excellence together."

Being Lonely

"We arrived in India in 2001; 31 years without a series win and my first one here. I score an 80-ball hundred in the first Test which we won. I'm like, this is very easy. What the hell have the guys in last three decades been doing?

The next Test match, the best Test I've played in my career, Laxman and Dravid spoil our party. I score ducks off first ball in both the innings. A king pair! As I walked to the pavilion, fans in the stands were lighting flares and cheering, and in the packed Eden Gardens, I felt very, very lonely."

"Whether you walk or not, when you have nicked, is an individual choice. Ponting has always respected that. But when I reached dressing room after walking after the umpire judged me not-out in the World Cup semi-finals, I had to hear a lot of things!"

Team

Forge a relationship with team members beyond business.

It is very important to know your team… not just in their role in the organization, but as individuals.


Disclosure: I attended the event on an invite from NTT DATA, one of the top 10 IT services provider globally. My expenses were taken care by the company and their agency. However, none of my posts on the blog or on my social channels were influenced or moderated by them.

Feb 16
Digital Strategy thoughts from NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2014

At the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2014, I met Jeff Womack, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at NTT DATA. The company was one of the sponsors at the event, and Jeff was part of an interesting panel discussion on digital strategy and marketing to engage the customers.

ILF2014.jpg 

In the discussion, Ipsita Dasgupta, Chief Marketing Officer at GE, had an interesting claim: "At GE, we are domain experts, not just machine builders. The impact of automating things like medication reminders results in human engagement."

Also, I think I agree with Jeff when he stated that the difficulty in measuring ROI can be lowered by looking at its business value. He asserted that digital is more of a cultural shift than a technology shift.

While NTT DATA has the obvious indulgence on social media as well as the presence at industry conferences, some of their partnerships earn them some brownie points in digital marketing. NTT DATA is one of the partners of the IndyCar Series, the premier level of American open wheel racing. Also, the company publishes PULSE, a newsletter for insights and intelligence for smart and flexible business.


Disclosure: I attended the event on an invite from NTT DATA, one of the top 10 IT services provider globally. My expenses were taken care by the company and their agency. However, none of my posts on the blog or on my social channels were influenced or moderated by them.

 

Jan 13
A Polio-free India, and a Personal Milestone

polio.jpg

Congratulations to all fellow Indians as India hits the landmark three-year milestone of being a polio-free country. A great win for the health department, the agencies, and all stakeholders.

It has been a proud effort from a lot of people... from Amitabh Bachchan to the door-to-door health worker. In between the two, there was my dad. A relentless health administrator, he campaigned and worked actively and passionately for two initiatives – polio eradication and saving the girl child. Both very close to his heart, he saw them as personal endeavours rather than a task on the job.

He left before he could see this day. But he would've been very, very happy. I am. And proud. Thank you, papa.

Nov 14
An Update about my Writing Gigs

So, lot of changes at the start of this month, and I thought, I'll do a short post for my editors and PR friends so they know what to expect from me.

author.jpg 

  • Windows Phone Central: I'm happy to join the WPCentral.com team, the largest Windows Phone site, and one of the most popular online destination for Microsoft news and discussions.
  • Gizmodo: Another international publication that started an Indian edition recently is Gizmodo. I'm writing consumer technology and gadget reviews for Gizmodo India now.
  • Mint: Infrequently, I write for Mint/livemint.com, HT Media's business daily. That would continue, and I'll hope to increase the frequency. I really like to see my name in print.
  • ZDNet: ZDNet was my first opportunity to write for an international publication, and I quite enjoyed the ride. I have though, discontinued my column – SMB India – starting this month.
  • HindustanTimes.com: I've written consumer technology and gadget reviews for a while at HT. I've though discontinued that since few months, and won't be getting back to it.
  • Techie Buzz: ​I've now taken over the responsibility of the Editor at Techie Buzz. The popular blog has had a rough patch recently with not much posts, and we're working on getting the groove back.

 

What next?

I'm pretty much of a floater and always happy to contribute to publications where I have a free hand on things I'd like to write and a quicker editorial process. I tend to slack when that's not the case.

I'm always looking at opportunities that can offer me the same. Also, after my column at ZDNet, there's a void in my portfolio as far as business of technology go. Drop me a line at ab@baxiabhishek.info if you have an offer that satiates my need.

Sep 15
Wallets for the Urban Men

Wallets are a tricky pick for most urban men. There's too much plastic – few credit cards and a zillion loyalty cards – that adds to the weight, and the awkward bulge comes across as a lump in your ass when you keep it in the back pocket of your jeans or trousers. No wonder, I see many of my friends pull it out when they sit at a restaurant table or in the car.

wallets.jpg While the traditional one-fold wallets have been the most popular, they are an awkward accessory for young men these days. The United Colors of Benetton one I have is very chic, but I haven't used it in a long while. A two-fold one, the Timberland one that I've got, is even more awkward, and doesn't fit even the regular cards.

For a long while, I've been using long wallets from Hidesign and Da Milano. These offer distinct advantage. Most have a dedicated sleeve for all the plastic, and you can keep your currency notes flat without the need for a fold. They are also very handy in travel since they accommodate your passport, boarding passes, and even maps. The only issue with them is, obviously the size. When you are out shopping, it's a hassle to hold the long wallet, phone, and the shopping bags.

Few months back, I started using a money clip. I bought a cheap metal one from eBay to get used to one before I could buy a nice one I spotted at William Penn. It's a good utility, especially for quick access to notes and cards. A big disadvantage is that you can't carry a zillion cards so I'd have to be limited to the credit and debit cards I have, and my Starbucks card.

After almost deciding that I'd stick with a handy wallet like money clip, I discovered Dosh, the designer accessory brand from Australia that offers some fine wallets – a tad expensive though.

dosh.jpg

Review: Rooja

My sister ordered the Dosh Magic Wallet from Rooja after we discovered this lesser known online fashion shopping store in India. While the delivery took two weeks (as was stated upfront), the shipped experience was unpleasant. While this was a gift, it included the product's invoice, and the gift message was printed on the invoice in small font next to the 'Thank you for shopping with us' text. Ironically, it included a handwritten note of thanks for my sister while it was shipped as gift to me!

Review: Dosh Magic Wallet

 
It's chic, utility, and perfect size. I think, I'd enjoy this longer than most experiments. Check out the video for a quick review and a run through of using the wallet.
Aug 06
Two Years On: From Job to Jobless to Business

Well, say hello to baxiabhishek & partners, a business entity (self-proprietorship) with which I'll do business – offering digital consulting to clients – starting August 2013.

baxiabhishek.jpg 

The Process

I'm as geeky in anything finance as Internet Explorer 6 users are in technology. Okay, maybe I'm a little better.  But I was all worried and getting things started in order to have registration et al. When I finally did it, I found it surprisingly easy for a proprietorship.

Just head to the Automation of Central Excise and Service Tax portal, fill the ST1 form for registration, head to the Central Excise and Customs Commisionerate of your region to submit your identity documents and proofs, and it's done. You'll get the ST2 form, which is essentially the registration certificate.

Opening a business (current) account, while I assumed would be simpler, was otherwise. Every bank would have different requirements. SBI had nine in total which included IT returns, business registration certificate from Municipal Commissioner of Gurgaon, and few other things. HDFC Bank asked for the minimum documents (although the highest minimum balance requirement), and so I chose it. I gave my PAN, Passport, and the ST2 registration. Sorted.

My primary savings account is Citibank, so I did not consider it for the business account. I know it would've been best though. The processes and 'please visit the branch' mandates of ICICIs and HDFCs are annoying!

The Journey

After leaving my fine job at Microsoft in June 2011, I've been treading the parallel road of being an independent digital consultant and technology columnist for a while now. Two years actually. While the former was the intended play when I decided to quit the 'job', the latter was always an indulgence which started to take more of my time. When the ZDNet offer came up, I knew this was a parallel profession rather than a laidback interest.

Anyway, I was lucky in the initial months of being 'jobless', picking up clients like SAB Miller, American Express, and Microsoft, and bagging more like PVR Cinemas, HP, and others on the way. Sometime I thought I was 'getting there' quicker than I hoped for, but knew that I had to work on consistency rather than flash-in-the-pan projects and campaigns.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It's been good. I've got an exciting portfolio, have engaged with several brands, and travelled to several tech events with media credentials. I miss the water cooler conversations and the table tennis matches at Microsoft, and the ego boost of working at one of the best, and my favourite, technology brands, but being your own boss and working from home never killed anybody. Sometimes, I maybe broke, but I sleep contended. Or stay up in excitement.

The Next Step

I've already got my eyes on a proposition of renting an office space. Since I'm restricted in the need by size, I'll go for the new-age shared/virtual office spaces and have, I guess, zeroed down on one. Soon.

Jun 13
[Webinar] Protecting Users & Data in the Mobile Enterprise

After being a random contributing author at ZDNet, it was great to start a personal blog - SMB India - on ZDNet, the global technology publication, in February this year. Now, I'm looking forward to this new gig with the fine folks at CBS Interactive. I'll be a speaker in a webinar hosted by ZDNet, and brought to you by Intel and McAfee.

Honestly though, I would just be a support to bring India's perspective. This is totally Ed and Perry's show. :)

Protecting Users & Data in the Mobile Enterprise
 ► REGISTER NOW
The traditional approach to IT security is being challenged by employees wanting to use their own mobile devices and the increasing use of cloud-based technologies. Add the massive spike in sophisticated malware and the security outlook for corporations can appear bleak.

On Tuesday 18th of June, at 11am IST, join popular ZDNet contributor Phil Dobbie and Abhishek Baxi as they talk to:
Ed Metcalfe, Director of Product Marketing at McAfee
&
Perry Olson, Senior Director, Strategic Response and Global Activities at Intel

They will participate in a highly informative webinar that tackles the issues IT professionals need to know about Security BYOD. This webinar will discuss:
• The strategic approach you need to adopt
• Demonstrate the four cornerstones of an effective security strategy
• Discuss BYO scenarios we face today
• Introduce McAfee products for endpoint, network and data security

So join us for a lively discussion and an opportunity to ask both guests questions about what is realistically possible.

Interested but can’t attend? Register anyway and we'll send you the recording. 

1 - 10Next