Journalists and editors have interesting relationships with PR people. Sometimes we reach out to the PR people, as furious searches through our rolodex for the numbers of people we need to reach out to turn out to be an exercise in futility. At other times, they call us, asking if we would be interested in certain products or about the launch or about a person they represent. Some would call this relationship strange, because it’s largely self-serving but over time, we do make some enduring friendships. Of course, now with digital media, these relationships have also evolved. So conversations veer from mentions in print to shoutouts on social media handles, often interspersed with snippets of our daily lives. Even as I write this, a PR person is talking to me and we are laughing over the year end madness that has been ensuing.
In this ever changing landscape, it takes a lot to develop a PR strategy that gives client’s great footage, stuff that actually works for the brand. Srimoyi Bhattacharya is the founder of Peepul, a brand relations agency. Srimoyi has penned Pitch Perfect, a book that she describes as ‘the ‘new age’ way for PR and brand building for luxury and lifestyle brands who wish to convey their story to the world.’
We caught up with her to understand how she keeps tabs on the latest trends, what PR in today’s world means and a lot more. We also asked her about a weird request and that was a riot to read!
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ELLE: What is the role of PR in an increasingly digitally-led world?
Srimoyi Bhattacharya: When I started working in PR, it was all fairly straightforward and standard – you wrote press releases, you built relationships with the right journalists who could help spread the word about your client, and you waited for your targeted press to mention the product or service in order to make the customer aware of it. Now, it’s a completely diverse and exciting universe in which an audience does not just mean the customer who buys the product or service but also the ones who might follow you on social media and support you in other ways. A decade ago, we relied on mainstream media and celebrities to create buzz. Today, we look at traditional media, social media, influencers, micro-influencers, celebrities across all strata, and our own offline and online communities for information and endorsement. The journalist’s role has changed completely, editorial formats are no longer what they were. The media works 24/7, and there is the parallel universe of social media and influencers; brands, too, have become their own publishers, with access to platforms that allow them to tell their own stories. I tried to coin a new term, several years ago, as we saw our role changing, we have now from being a PR firm to overall brand relations. To me, this is a very interesting and relevant change. The best publicists have always played a role in brand-building, but now that mandate is open to everyone, and it’s grown bigger.
ELLE: That’s so true. Maybe don’t spill all the secrets but tell us 5 things to keep in mind when crafting a PR strategy for a luxury brand
SB: Whether you own an established business, or are an entrepreneur with a shiny new bright idea, ask yourself –What are the beliefs I am rooting this brand in? What is the unique value they provide to their customers? How are they meaningfully relevant without using buzz words? Working out the very purpose of the brand – an existential question to answer – and the value proposition are the first things to be done. The value you provide is what will attract customers in the first place and also keep them in your fold. What if your brand was a person? What would they sound like? What’s their personality like?
What is the story I am telling? Build resonance for your brand story by narrating the making of, by talking about its origin and its ethos. It’s all about creating an authentic emotion that will prime your consumer to look out for a new launch. We are in a segment that focuses more on desire than need, and your story should strike a chord.
What is the visual cue I want my customers to identify with me? Or what do you want people to visualise when they think of your brand – Brands become iconic for their logos, packaging, colours, certain products, or their design aesthetic.
Is there anyone else who is doing something similar? If yes, what can I learn from them? Or is this a white space? If I have no competition to learn from in this market, can I research other markets?
How do I share my brand culture beyond a product? This thought process will give you an edge, as you build a community of like-minded consumers. Build a universe for your brand, and have fun crossing over to other fields and areas, be it art, design or travel.
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ELLE: We are taking notes. Could you give us 3 tips to creating a story around your brand?
SB: Don’t be afraid to take a stand and do something unique. I am a big fan of new ideas and bold approaches, so don’t play safe to fit in or walk the line. The best brands stand for something distinct. They manifest this meaning of the brand in the entire experience of the brand across all touch points.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, just like you took time to create a product, take time to launch. We actually prefer having three to six months pre-launch to make sure everything is as it should be. I like to call this the seed period because that’s what you’re doing – conversing with potential customers, scoping out the market to make sure you have all your ducks in place and start with a teaser campaign to build excitement for a launch. To us this lead up is as important as the launch itself.
Do your homework – Don’t treat media or any endorsing vehicle as commodity and work with a set of platforms that truly resonate your brand’s voice; your consumer can read through it all. Build and nurture relationships for the long run. The relationships you build determine your professional value, and you have to be able to look beyond the transactional aspect. As much as you can, build relationships that are more rooted, and meaningful.
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ELLE: We must ask you this?What are the weirdest requests you’ve gotten as a publicist?
SB: Over a decade ago, as I was getting comfortable with doing PR for fashion labels in India, I had client who I agreed to work with even though I didn’t quite connect with her designs. When her show was panned roundly by reviewers, she blamed me for the bad press and she wanted me to have the reviews deleted and edited. This is where there is a dissonance in understanding where a publicist’s role stops and where the freedom of a review begins. I flat out refused to do so, and just refunded her fees so we could both walk away at peace. It taught me, perhaps, the most valuable lesson of my entrepreneurial life – never work with someone whose brand and offering you cannot get behind personally. Since then, before signing on a client, I always ask myself if I can see myself defending him or her no matter what, be it the person or the brand’s product. As a publicist, you have to be able to market, promote and support your clients’ products and services unequivocally.