How traditional media is losing relevance?

Traditionally, media has considered itself to be the Fourth Estate, wielding a lot of power to inform and influence.

It commands a lot of clout in forming and informing views. With their formidable influence, they could shape and change opinions. They could herald revolutions. They could topple governments. They could finish careers. They could tilt electoral outcomes. But not any more.

Why? Many media houses have assumed much more power than they legitimately should have. Any papdi patrakar does not mind writing any insulting or irresponsible piece about anybody, just to be more popular and controversial.

In India, particularly regional language media has been more irresponsible in its content, focus and presentation. Many publications only can look at the negative side of any story. For example,  28th October 2013 issue of Chitralekha magazine has a cover story about
Sachin’s announcement of retirement. It means to say “Sachin (un)willingly announces retirement.”

The only thing such publications write positive is about some powerful or rich business person when they go out of the way to praise their life journey. Of course, many of such features are ‘inspired’ by some other motives, some of them financial. Indian media is not known to be averse to be purchased. Many PR agencies thrive on planting ‘success’ stories touting some wannabes as ‘the most successful’ in such opportunistic and greedy publications. They call it ‘win-win’ deals. ‘Win’ for the publication, and ‘win’ for the wannabe. But ‘lose’ for the reader.

In-authenticity and irrelevance of such cheap gimmicky media houses was exposed rather openly, when the social media took charge of Sachin’s retirement day. All the negativity generated by irresponsible media surrounding his announcement of retirement was eclipsed by the sheer enthusiasm, loyalty and love showered on Sachin by Indians of all ages to their icon. Opportunistic and negativity-focused regional media looked irrelevant and clueless. The irresponsible media publications like¬†Chitralekha had simply failed at their attempt to tarnish the image of this humble but great personality. They also could not fathom the power and magnitude of the respect Sachin had gathered in India’s minds and hearts. Reluctantly, they started covering Sachin mania because they had completely missed the pulse of the populace they are supposed to represent and educate.

Today, the clout of such irresponsible and opportunistic regional media is reducing thanks to the emergence of social media. The traditional, easily ‘saleable’ and adulterated media has only itself to blame for this sorry state. They made a mistake of assuming more power than they actually had. They sold their reputation by giving charge to brokers (who call themselves journalists), who wrote fiction to be passed on as informative journalism. The new highly connected generation can’t be influenced by paid content. It has its own voice and its own language.

Words can be bought, because such wordsmiths can be bought. But the emptiness of such ‘bought’ words gets exposed. In-authenticity has to die. Sooner or later.

Social media is a tight slap on the irresponsible media. And the slap was long overdue. Let’s hope it brings the senses of this media who looks like a drunkard back to normalcy.

Poor execution can waste big money spent on PR

Last Sunday, a doctor friend of mine was invited to an Exclusive Seminar by an equity investment broking firm, to educate them about their premium products for HNI (High Networth Individual) clients. It was a privileged invitation and only a selected number of successful doctors were invited to the seminar, she was told. The selected venue also was a posh new banquet hall which had great interiors and equally great food. They had arranged for a great musical evening following the seminar. The firm took extra care to make her feel special and confirm her participation.

Her experience was far from special. Here is what spoiled her evening and her opinion for the firm that invited her :

1) On Sunday she reached the venue, sharp at appointed 4 pm, only to discover that the main hall on the first floor was jam packed, the event had already started and there were no seats available. Finally, she was taken to the second floor where they had arranged a screen display through live camera coverage of the event from the first floor.

2) The sound on this floor was too loud and the AC was too chilling. She requested some attendants there to correct the volume and the cooling, but they refused to act saying “If somebody from hosts tell us, then only we can do it.” And, all the hosts were busy on the first floor…!

3) The great “musical evening” turned out to be a solo performer crooning some old songs while playing audio tracks on his laptop. After 1-2 songs, it became unbearably boring. She got up to leave. On her way down, some executives spotted her and requested her to stay till dinner was served.

4) She waited till 8.00 pm and finally went to the dinner counters. From there she was sent back and told to come at 8.30, because ‘hosts’ had not yet given green signal to start serving dinner.

5) Finally, when the flood gates were opened at 8.30, she saw a long queue at the dish counters, going down from second floor to all the way on the ground floor…! She could see the hard struggle by the guests for getting food items. There was no space for 650 ‘special’ guests to eat simultaneously at this ‘exclusive’ event…! She could not understand what was exclusive in this event ?

6) Annoyed and angry, she returned from the event without eating and decided not to entertain any offers from this broking firm.

We may spend lakhs of rupees to woo HNI clients by holding exclusive events. And then also invite all-and-sundry, because we could not say ‘no’ to anybody. Then we subject them to tortures of various types and make them stand in queues and struggle for food. Which HNI client would come to us?

If we want ‘exclusive’ clients on our list, we should learn to execute better. Grand strategies on paper fail, when execution on ground is weak. It is not rocket science, it is pure common sense.