Sunday, October 28, 2007


“If we picture a company as a living organism, say a tree, then half of the mass or more of that tree is underground in the root system. And whereas the flavour of the fruit and the colour of the leaves provides evidence of how healthy that tree is right now, understanding what is going on in the roots is a far more effective way to learn how healthy that tree will be in years to come.”

……….Leif Edvinsson and Michael S. Malone; Intellectual Capital

Corporate image can be created, but corporate reputation must be earned. Sustaining a competitive brand now relies more on reputation than it did a decade ago: reputation is one of the key sustaining factors. Corporate value can no longer be determined by short-term profit and sales. Long-term, sustainability is the key.


Public relations and reputation are intricately linked: PR – more specific issues: media relations, public affairs, crisis management, event management and branding. Reputation management is more holistic in its approach and involves all employees.


What is the difference between brand and reputation – are they the same?

Brand = promise; Reputation = delivery on the promise.

Since 1980s Three big ideas

n Reengineering
n Intellectual Capital (KM)

It is not the strategy itself sometimes, just the way it is executed.


Quality of products and services, Passion for brand, Customer relationship marketing, Strong corporate governance and compliance, Integrated risk and issue management, Crisis planning, Corporate responsibility (CR), Strong brand values, experience and communications, Organisational culture and structure, Contract fulfilment, Business presentation and conferences and Customer facing staff.

Innovation, Vision and leadership by CEO, Investor relations and public affairs, Intelligence gathering, Developing media profile, Adaptive and ability to reinvent
Community relations, CEO’s reputation, Core competencies, Establishing networks and alliances, Understand the market, Develop brand experience: “moments of truth.”

Clear strategies and resources, Learning from other’s mistakes, Listening to customers’ opinions, Audit and assurance, Measuring and evaluation, IP protection, Stakeholder analysis, mapping and engagement, Deliver on customer promise, Think global, act local

Organisational Structure, Who talks to who? Final “gatekeeper” responsibilities, Question of internal communications, Vertical to global matrix to e-business network structures.


Internal – Management Survey - Employee Survey, External – Stakeholders Survey, Assessment – Gap Analysis – Structural Equation Modelling - Sensitivity Analysis - Competitor Analysis, Strategic Communication Planning, Communication Programme Implementation, Evaluation, Measuring And Monitoring.


Reputation management must be strategic in nature, but must incorporate emergent properties and reporting: involve everyone, not just managers.
Getting organisational structure right and managing structural capital is critical.
Corporations must be innovative, passionate, and adaptive.
Reputation must be viewed as a strategic weapon, emergent and monitored.
Stakeholders’ views must be measured and evaluated.
Reputation management should not stop at senior management and customer facing staff: all employees should be involved.

Brands are the glue of reputation
Develop brand equity internally and externally
Ensure your employees understand your intangible assets
Be proactive with the media

Ensure your brand is not too easily copied or imitable: differentiate by behaviour.
View CSR as a way forward, not a defence mechanism.
Develop first rate corporate governance.
Ask the right questions, then integrate, integrate, and integrate.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


To my mind, Communication is not a process or a system; It is not a mere tool to achieve change management, the hot buzz word; It is not just another entry marked 2 (i) into the Best Practices Manuals; It is not a channel where oratory or writing skills are to be experimented with; It is none of that. ‘To communicate’ is a critical life skill. ‘To communicate’ is a critical competence in personal and professional life .

When juxtaposed to a company, it becomes a Corporate Value / a Competence. The way a company listens or talks to its employees or in other words communicates makes it Internal Communications. It cannot be viewed as a line function. It cannot be handed out for administration to any one department as it is quite possible that the department head or individuals manning the department attach no value, personal or professional, to communications! Ignoring this and doing so would be a mistake. If such a mistake is committed, then this department will take Internal Communications as a task; break it up into further sub-tasks to be periodically tick marked as done.

For instance : Newsletters - 3 Printed, Intranet - updated five times a day, five days a week, for fifty weeks in 06-07 ; Posters - 20 made on 5 employee engagement topics and reached to 40 branches ; Annual Picnics arranged ; etcetera. This, they will do, because every job is translated into a KRA (key result area) and a KRA ought to be SMART (M stands for Measurable) and therefore quantifiable work needs to be shown.

Instead, the corporate strategy should be to believe and practice Communications as a value and aspire to build capacity at all managerial levels in this competency. To achieve this, a trained CEO can drive it as a business competence in his senior management, from where it needs to be force cascaded down to middle management, a total of about 100 or maybe 400 executives, who in turn can be given corrective training, if required, to enable them to pass it on to junior management, a total of 1000 which will then make the connect with the teeming employee base of 10,000 or more. While this is being done, a company must watch out for delinquents who refuse to learn and can often be found hiding in senior management ranks, factory shop floors or corporate office cadres.

Two reality check routes can be employed to assess communication health of a company. For both, an initial stock-taking is required. Route number1: Ask two questions a) how do I talk to my people? b) How do I listen to my people? Then list out the existing tools to do both of these. If there are no existing tools then the Communication job is clearly cut out in creating these, and if there are some available then the result of their to-date effectiveness is in the attrition rates, employee happiness levels and company culture. Based on these parameters, new ones can be created and old ones adapted to a new style for more effectiveness and these run by people trained in driving Communications as a corporate value.

Route number 2 : Ask another set of two questions a) what is it that is doing the worst damage to my company culture; b) what is it that will automatically do the worst damage to my company culture. Some answers will relate to the communication lapses and these can be mapped into the future tools to be used in the belief that Communications is a competence that will help overcome either of these or both.

Charlie Munger, a close associate of Warren Buffett in a recent speech told law students of USC “the safest way to get what you want is to deserve what you want”. I find it relevant to mention here. If a corporate wants effective communication, it has to be ‘SEEN’ as deserving. This translates into many different things - the top management and head of departments have to be seen as worthy of being communicated with ; all communication lapses by individuals in team lead positions should get a swift and sharp rap on the wrist ; the communicators job should be seen as deserving of management backing and full support.

To put it in a nutshell, employees must show a competency that irrespective of their positions in the hierarchy, they talk and listen well. All delinquents should be put in training. That is too difficult a task, says a friend, the managing director of a private enterprise. Ask the elephant who was brought down by an ant! It took one bad chicken to spread SARS. Companies have to admit that it takes one bad manager to destroy a team's morale. "What, I personally found very apt in your column was the need to monitor the leading abilities of the head of department (HOD). The leadership of a team in a manner that is "long term" beneficial to the company is a major part of HOD’s responsibility. Its just not enough to get new business and strike good deals, " a colleague from Mumbai wrote in her feedback.

When communications is driven down as a value, then, when there is a corporate vision message sent down, the employee ranks or bad news about low increments, the ground is already fertile enough to soak it in. Despite competition there will be less attrition. If as a company, you are not yet a target of no holds barred poaching, then either you soon will be or you have deadwood whom nobody else wants. Before my friends in top managements fly off the handle at this statement, take a moment to reflect why a Human resource is against job hopping - salary, job satisfaction and career progression avenues, job location, comfort level with the immediate boss, or lack of adequate qualifications/ experience for the next level.

These reasons are my understanding, I may have missed many, you may have yours and some others may be staying in their companies for totally different reasons. But, what remains true is that there is no single factor that contributes to the employee staying back and therefore every company needs to rally their people around their brand. “A well planned lesson on internal branding & employee engagement is a must for all HR people who juggle the carriers of so many people across, not realizing compensation is just a part of one's happiness package.” says a colleague in Delhi. Another one from Mumbai points out in her feedback, "since HR has now become more of a development activity, it must work actively to become the official 'grapevine. "

Both are right. In a company where communications capacity is being built steadily, the grapevine is actually helpful despite its negative connotations. For instance, you will agree that from a job, one wants professional and financial fulfillment with some personal time thrown in. There is a wish list one has but it is not what the employer can or should provide since running a company is not a non-profit initiative!

But, for a corporate to know that wish list is important! That way, efforts can be targeted towards persuasive communication appealing to interest not to reason. This always works! One of my friends was sent by his employer to see the World Cup semis and finals to Barbados. For days he behaved like my diabetic granny did when given the prohibited sweetmeat. I felt like shaking the hand of his immediate boss/ HR for thinking it up. What do you think? Will he resign for a few lacks more? I don’t think so, not at least in 2007.

Once Communications is a corporate value/competence, internal Communications function can be broken down into tasks. The vibrancy of the corporate commitment to this value will reach the employee base in not only what they read in known communication tools (newsletters, Intranet, posters, pod casting, videoconferencing, etcetra) but also what they see and feel during intra-personal interactions (one on ones, team / HOD / off site meetings, CEO get togethers, away days, etcetra)

Once capacity has been built within the organization, then valuing employee / colleague / team-mates inputs will be a shared responsibility! The evidence of success of this strategy will be visible on the very first day a new recruit joins the company and in each interaction he has with the Brand and its people. Therefore, finding the barriers and enablers to communications within your management ranks makes sense. Driving internal communications as a business value makes sense. Concentrating on uprooting what is not working no matter how traditionally embedded it is makes sense. Giving valuable management time to think through what will work best makes sense.

Now that universe of Internal Communications makes sense - Go ahead and give it a high heading - Best Practices, put it in HR Manuals and hand it over to one Department to administer. At least, you will be sure you started at the best place to start - the beginning, Nurturing Communication as a corporate value / competency.

By Renu Kakkar

Wednesday, October 10, 2007









Preparing fully for any media interview is indispensable – the sine qua non of an effective performance. Even if the interview covers ground on which you are an ‘expert’, you should still take time to consider how to engage with the journalist (or programme) you are due to speak to.
Your press contact should support this process, giving you background and briefing you on how to approach the interview.

In normal circumstances, you should have sufficient time to cover the following checklist:

1. What story is the journalist seeking?
2. What angle are they likely to take?
3. What is the attitude of the journalist or news organisation on the subject in question?
4. What are your key messages?
5. If it’s radio/TV, will you be live or taped?
6. Will you be interviewed alone, or will others take part?
7. Can you extract some of the questions from the journalist or producer in advance?
8. What is the very worst question you could be asked? Can you answer it?

To ensure a good interview, it is essential to establish two things:

· your key messages, and
· how you will answer the obvious (and the not so obvious) questions.

If you don’t feel confident about either, do not do the interview. Feel free to ‘rehearse’ the interview with a colleague.

There is a journalistic technique known as ‘doorstepping’ in which the journalist tries to get you to do the interview on the spot. Some reporters do it to lure you off guard, hoping you will be indiscreet or contradict either yourself or someone else. Others do it because they are disorganised. Don’t be tempted to launch into an interview ill prepared. You will quickly find yourself out of your depth or making up answers without appropriate consideration.


“What’s the secret of our success? Four words that every child knows: Tell me a story.” Producer, ‘60 Minutes’

This quote from the top-rated US TV news show captures the essence of a good media interview. That is, ‘tell a story’. The analogy with a child is also helpful, as we should be sure to ‘keep it simple’. In practice, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

The following guidance may help. General rules of the road

· An interview is an opportunity, not a threat.
· Prepare yourself thoroughly
· Identify your three key messages and concentrate on getting them across in your interview.
· Keep your answers precise, factual and brief, without being monosyllabic. It is the interviewer’s job to keep the interview going, not yours.
· Don’t use jargon and be simple. Pitch your story at the ‘general public’.
· If you don’t know an answer, say so. If you can’t answer, say so and briefly explain why (eg. client affairs).
· Never lie, guess or speculate.
· Don’t provide forecasts, particularly of a financial nature.
· Whatever the provocation, never allow yourself to become emotional. A raised voice is a lost argument so, if necessary, let the interviewer look foolish, not you.
· Don’t answer hypothetical questions. They are dangerous, especially when ‘edited’.
· Avoid comment on politics or socially sensitive issues.
· Don’t speak for other organisations. You are representing your organization only and any view you offer will be taken as the word or policy of your company.
· Beware ‘last’ questions. Some journalists will thank you for the interview and pack up to leave. By changing the formal atmosphere, they hope to catch you
off guard.


In addition to the general ‘rules of the road’ , bear the following in mind when Conducting interviews face-to-face or on the telephone with Newspaper journalists:

· If a journalist visits your office, make sure colleagues nearby know you have a media guest – careless talk. Some reporters like to tape their interviews. You should not resist this.
· In most instances, make sure your company press contact is with you. They should take brief notes.
· Avoid going ‘off-the-record’ . If you need to, make sure you agree this in advance and exactly what it means to the journalist concerned – you can’t take back what you’ve already said.
· Don’t expect, or ask, journalists to show you a draft of their article. Unless there are translation issues, this smacks of ‘censorship’ and will offend some titles. Wait to be asked.
· If you think it is absolutely necessary, ask your press contact if you can ask to see any quotes likely to be attributed to you – but use this technique sparingly.
· Agree to research any questions you can’t answer and make sure you call the reporter back.


You may occasionally find yourself dealing with a number of journalists together, at a press conference or an event for example. Make sure this isn’t a case of being ‘doorstepped’, in which case you should politely decline to answer questions.

Otherwise, bear the following in mind:

· Stand up, don’t step back or you will find yourself backed into a corner, literally.
· Ignore any lights, cameras, microphones or flashlights.
· Concentrate on each questioner in turn. Look at him/her as if you were in conversation.
· Keep your answers precise and brief, without being abrupt.
· If you are asked the same question repeatedly, answer it repeatedly. Never lose patience.
· Whatever the question, remember your key messages and get them across.
· After answering a reasonable number of questions, politely explain you have to leave and calmly make your departure.

Do not rush or push your way out, even journalists will allow you through once you stop answering questions.

Being photographed by the media If you are asked to attend a photoshoot, or you are at an event with newspaper photographers, observe the following rules:

· Remember the camera will follow you into the room, while you’re there and as you leave. Never allow your guard to drop.
· Allow more time for photographers than you think is necessary. They like to take every angle and if you ‘clockwatch’ they will be less inclined to be flattering with their shots.
· Try to ignore flashlights.
· Photographers are looking for unusual shots, so avoid too many hand gestures or exaggerated body movement.
· At photoshoots, do not allow yourself to be directed by photographers. A COMPANY press contact should manage the shots and confirm which poses, or props, are appropriate.

Photographers can be very determined. Stay calm, be polite, don’t lose your patience.


The following rules are particularly relevant for a television interview:

· On TV you are what you look like. You must look the part, and appropriate for the occasion.
· Dress simply. Avoid white, stripes or very bold colours which ‘strobe’ on TV. In most cases, wear your jacket unless the producer suggests otherwise. If you wear jewellery make sure it doesn’t distract the viewer (eg. long necklaces or earrings).
· Ask someone to check your clothes, tie and your hair.
· Arrive in good time, but prepare yourself for occasionally long delays. This is the nature of television.
· Don’t drink alcohol before the programme/show.
· Sit up straight, but comfortably (i.e. without being too stiff).
· Don’t fidget – take particular care with ‘swivel’ chairs and avoid having anything in your hands which you might inadvertently play with.
· Even highly experienced people forget they are being recorded when producers ask to check your voice for ‘sound levels’ – be careful you are not one of them.
· Look at the interviewer as if you are having a normal conversation. Break eye contact downward, not upward or to the side.
· Ignore cameras, lights, microphones and other studio equipment (unless directed by a producer for technical reasons – and if so, ask why].
· Avoid referring to notes, unless you intend to emphasise or quote directly to make a point.
· Do not look directly into the camera lens – this is very uncomfortable for viewers. The exception is when you’re in a remote studio or on a down-the-line link.
· Talk at a measured pace. Command the time, pause, think, and don’t rush. If the interview gets tough, slow down.
· If it is a ‘down-the-line’ or remote TV interview imagine the person you are talking to – picture him/her sitting with you, and talk to the image.
· Never display negative emotions or reactions (e.g. hostility, impatience, arrogance, boredom).
· A TV camera exaggerates your emotions. Keep a level manner throughout – a well-placed smile on television is worth a thousand words.
· Don’t be over-familiar with your interviewer (eg. “well John… yes,
John… no, John… absolutely, John…”). It makes for poor television (and
· Avoid jargon. Tell your story and make your points as if you were explaining yourself to a friend.
· Remember the camera may still be on you even if you’re not talking.
· And finally… do not assume the interview is over until you are out of the studio. The camera, certainly the microphone, can follow you as long as you’re in the same room.
· Finally, be yourself and demonstrate an interest in your story. If you don’t, nobody will.

Two thousand years ago, Aristotle observed that the character of a speaker
was his most effective means of persuasion. He’s still right.


When the going gets tough, the tough gets going, says an old Adage.

Electronics Corporation of India Limited (ECIL) widely acknowledged as the torch-bearer of Electronics & IT revolution in India, a company which never heard of a loss went into red post the globalization scenario due to competition from the MNCs and the private sector. The problems got accentuated post the Pokhran Nuclear Tests, when ECIL was included in the Entities List by the US Department of Commerce implying total clamping of export embargoes to ECIL on all items of US origin.

ECIL, which was a profit making body in 1992-97, incurred a loss of Rs. 60 crore in 1998-99 and the net worth of the company got very badly eroded. The company was on the brink of sickness and had to be reported to BIFR (Board of Industrial and Financial Rehabilitation).

However, timely strategic initiatives by the company resulted in an incredible turnaround and this how it has happened.

Employee Communication & Transparency:

ECIL established clear channels of communication with the employees and collectives to drive home the point that the only way to survive is by performing. It was made clear to all that no external help should be expected and that the intrinsic strengths of the company should be fully brought to play in tiding over the crisis. The same was conveyed to head of trade unions and the senior managers across the organization.

The transparency in the decision making process and openness in communicating important information on issues like Voluntary Retirement Scheme and cessation of subsidies helped a great deal in facing the challenges of the company.

Empowering the Performers and Performing Divisions:

Conscious efforts were made to spot performers. Performance and competence were spelt out as the sole criteria in assigning responsibilities and elevating people.


Due to the technological changes that have been witnessed over the preceding decades, several people recruited by ECIL in the initial phase of the company to carryout various shop operations have been rendered redundant and surplus. ECIL succeeded in separating as many as 1049 employees in the period 1998-2002 mainly due to the mature understanding of the company situation by all cadres of employees brought about by the effective communication channels established between the management and the employees.

Customer Focus:

As an organization, which had its roots and strengths in the R&D domain, it is a cultural shift that had to be worked for in a very focused manner. ECIL has taken up this task in all earnestness.
Chairman & Managing Director and Directors of ECIL have taken upon themselves, as the most important and regular activity, the task of establishing direct contacts with the customers at senior levels to obtain direct feedback. The Heads of Divisions have been meeting the Heads of Customer Organizations and the actual users at the operational level. Rationality and pragmatism have been given importance over bureaucracy and adherence to procedures. These measures have given a boost to the business generation prospects through offering acceptable delivery times.

MoU and the performance of ECIL:

When the company was in deep crisis, the instrument was MoU was very effectively used to formulating its revival plan. While seeking some conditional help from the Department of Atomic Energy, the company committed minimum guaranteed performance over a period of time, which became the base line for formulating the MoUs. This proved to be a vehicle for turnaround and in the process, the company registered ‘Excellent’ rating for four consecutive years with a perfect score of ‘1’ during 2002-03.

Good Corporate Governance:

The company believed that good governance and business performance are not contradictory and if preventive and proactive approach is taken, it may facilitate business excellence.


The threats to the company are many. How they are into opportunities is a matter of challenge to the management as well as to the entire workforce. The quality of common purpose and unity of command demonstrated by the company especially in times of crisis is adequate to validate the company’s capability to combat competition and scale new peaks in performance.Due to the mandate given and the expectations of all stakeholders, the survival and success of ECIL is not a matter of concern to the management and employees of ECIL alone, but to the entire Public Sector.