Ag Talk | 2015 will be a year of learning for us, says Torque's Gupta

Public Relations(PR) has evolved a lot over the years. Each year it comes out as a shining star as it helps various organizations to build their reputations. Over the last decade PR has seen a lot of ups and downs across various categories. One such category which is adopting to PR is ecommerce.  With cut-throat competition and high customer expectations, these companies are thriving and PR is helping them do that.

Seeing the need for this Torque Communications has launched a PR Start-Up Kit for e-commerce firms seeking to build brand recall to reach out to customers, create networks and build valuation. Building on its experience of building brands, engaging communities and creating reputation, Torque Communications has launched a range of products that will help ecommerce companies of various sizes to attain scale quickly.The Kit ranges from an off-the-shelf ‘Do it Yourself’ pack that equips entrepreneurs to create their own strategies and execute them based on their domain to short duration PR booster programs that help ecommerce firms quickly establish a reputation. The products for the space also includes Media Engagement training, Crisis Communication and Investor engagement programme. E-commerce companies can also opt for a PR program to build their own business network.

Adgully caught up with Supriyo Gupta, CEO, Torque Communications to get more insights on the same.

Adgully (AD): What were the reasons behind launching this PR kit?

Supriyo Gupta (SG): Most ecommerce companies – big and small – are high on reach, focussed on building customer base and wafer thin on reputation.  Online “Shops” are getting set up without too much attention to key facets of customer behaviour – trust, confidence and credibility – despite very large amounts being spent. E-commerce firms also tend to focus too much on ‘owned’ media over ‘earned’ media – digital, mobile and offline. The most likely consequence will be a domino effect which squashes everyone when a category takes a hit. This was quite evident during the wipe out of app based cab services where the government and customers saw no distinction between different service providers despite the high decibel advertising and huge digital engagement. The Torque Start-Up kit will help companies calibrate their brand reputation in tune with their brand reach.

AD: Give us some insights on the research the agency did before starting work with this kit.

SG: Over the past three years, we have been doing each year an extensive survey across the country on the state of the media. We combine the findings of the survey with lessons learnt from media and clients to create a State Of The Media report that gets shared with select groups. We found that most media outlets had low appreciation of ecommerce firms unless they had attracted large investments or had a highly differentiated idea. Ecommerce companies could either afford to spend large amounts in advertising or had to depend on word of mouth – neither of which was helping them build new relationships between the customer and the way in which they related to the category. The decider in most instances had become price and Media was treating most ecommerce firms as people with a website and a lower price than the on-ground retail store.

Many ecommerce firms have been launched on the basis of a great business idea and are now spending times trying to put the management and marketing machinery in place. Any start-up has three challenges to deal with: How to build networks that help their business; how to build customer base and how to sustain and grow themselves well beyond their ability to spend in marketing.

All of these insights came together and we decided to put together kits that would enable ecommerce companies to learn quickly, choose their tools and, if need be, implement it themselves.

AD: What kind of expertise does this PR Kit give the brands?

SG: The PR Start-Up Kit for e-commerce firms helps them build brand recall and engagement with customers, create networks and build valuation. The Start-Up kits range from an off-the-shelf ‘Do it Yourself’ pack that equips entrepreneurs to create their own strategies and execute them based on their domain to short duration PR booster programs that help ecommerce firms quickly establish a reputation. Torque’s products for the space also includes Media Engagement training, Crisis Communication and Investor engagement programme. E-commerce companies can also opt for a PR program to build their own business network. All the products have been designed to suit different budgets and formats and will be curated by dedicated resources.

At a very basic level, a kit helps them define their story and reach the right set of media persons. It empowers them with tools of engagement and shows them how to plan a PR campaign. At a higher level, it enables them to work upon an investor acquisition program by building reputation, profiling their business and connecting with the right set of stakeholders.

AD: What brand proposition are you giving the start ups?

SG: Simply, the PR Start-Up kit for ecommerce firms helps build trust, credibility, reputation and equity.

High decibel marketing, a large need gap and an effective distribution platform builds a customer base that then demands a chain of values in the relationship: honesty, integrity, fidelity, customer care, security, among others.

PR is the fast track to creating that reputational brand value and the Start-Up kit helps companies leapfrog into becoming brands that are trusted.

AD: What are your strategies to promote the PR kit for ecommerce brands?

SG: Apart from direct engagement with the ecommerce world, we will be holding workshops for ecommerce firms, bringing people who have led and created brands and business entities. We are also launching a platform where ecommerce companies can buy and launch their own campaign. We will also be sharing our ecommerce reputational index with companies based on a three month survey.

AD: Tell us some USP's about the PR kit.

SG: The PR kit shows ecommerce firms simple ways to build their campaign.

For example, any campaign needs to define its business imperative and how communication should or can address that imperative. The kit then enables companies to define the themes, messages and proof points that would be the mainstay of their communication. Having done that comes the more difficult part of finding continuously how to hang the story on elements that would be of interest to a larger audience. For example, as ecommerce sites go from one mega sale to the next, the clutter would drown out differentiation. Worse, in a world of price comparisons, how do you pick one over the other? That’s where the definition of the news page, the storyline and the delivery comes into the picture.

The PR kit helps companies simplify, focus and build their stories. Thereupon, it arms them with the required databases, the templates of communication that they can work upon and finally create a product. The idea is to be able to help ecommerce firms go all the way from defining the specs of their communication to execution. Similarly, ecommerce companies with investments need to manage their investors or acquire new ones. While merchant bankers and their networks offer them the first leads, how independent the business becomes is dependent upon how they manage to create independent relationships. The Major Investor Acquisition program helps firms build a program based on their particular situation. 

AD: Can any other category of brand benefit from this?

SG: The PR Kit has been largely designed keeping ecommerce firms and, broadly, start-up firms in mind as they are trying to build a brand and have low legacy issues. The concepts and approach tends to change with brands and categories that have been around. This particular product works ideally with Start-ups and ecommerce firms.

AD: In 2015 how do think will the PR industry equip them with to cater to the ever demanding needs of the clients?

SG: The PR industry first has to battle the reputational humbug that is taking place in the digital world where a combination of poor practices and fraudulent measures are being received as the health of the brand. We see a big disconnect where clients are adopting technical practices to multiply word of mouth and reputation. The outcome is a slow build-up of brand distrust and a push back that is not getting noticed because of the gerrymandering of digital constituencies. Brands and the PR industry need to come together to frame true vehicles of reputation; else we will have a morphed monster. To that end, the PR industry needs to get more technically savvy and certainly needs to invest more in understanding the analytics of both print and online data.

AD: What is your distribution strategy?

SG: We will be focusing on distributing in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi and building a constituency for the products through seeding rather than just earning revenues. We intend to provide the Start Up kit free to about 30 ecommerce and start up enterprises, particularly those that are trying to build rural linkages, seeking to create a new category or leapfrogging customer experiences.

AD: What are your plans for 2015?

SG: 2015 will be a year of learning for us. We believe that over the next two to three years, the shape of future PR practices, skills and processes will change. We will possibly have to jettison a lot of the old ways of thinking and move to new ways of building reputations. We need to be both ahead and behind the game as the world moves to digital because we need to be learning and teaching at the same time. So, the plans for 2015 is to introduce more and more products and keep testing them in the market. By Archit Ambekar | Twitter: @aambarchit

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