Interesting lesson in copywriting for digital media

July 31, 2016

I am among those people who still like to read the newspaper, I mean the actual newspaper.. ummm.. still haven’t got it? Ok let me put it this way, I prefer the actual paper based edition of the newspaper than reading thru the same newspaper app. I just love the feel of the newspaper. But living out of India doesn’t give me an opportunity to get access to the paper version of the Indian newspapers and I have to do with the apps. On my mobile, I have tons of news and newspaper apps from Singapore, UK, US and Indian publications.

This week as I touched down in India and decided to spend the Sunday at Goa with my family, I was more delighted to put my hands on all the actual newspapers. I read the Times of India, Economic Times and was feeling quite happy. But my habit of looking at other apps led me to still check my mobile. I clicked on the Economic Times app, even though I had read the newspaper. Cursory look at the headlines made me think that there is a difference between app version and the actual newspaper one. So I looked at the paper again, specially the ET Magazine section.

When I looked into details, I realized that the news is same – only the headlines are different. Here are some comparisons. I have captured the mobile version headline and its respective headline in the actual newspaper. You can see the difference. In my view,  this is an interesting lesson in copywriting. ET is always known for writing catchy headlines. ET has given a new dimension to the headlines. This is a lesson for all the copywriters to understand how to treat Digital media differently than paper. I think, this is a good thinking on the part of ET. Headlines in App are simple, straight forward and in just a few words tell you what the news is all about. ET knows that the mobile user is always in a hurry, her/ his span of attention is very very short. The headline needs to tell everything in one go. On the other hand, the newspaper reader gives little more time to read the headlines and blurb together. There is more space available to create attention. Hence actual newspaper headlines are treated differently.

I think this is a good lesson in copywriting, specially in digital and social media age.

Not many companies give this kind of attention to treating the media and channles differently, specially those who are creating content for offline, websites and social media channels. They simply publish same contents (with same headlines) over different channels and hope to get reader’s attention. More often than not they fail. Even within Digital media, you need to treat various channels differently. The reader on website has different attention span than the reader of the Tweet or FB post. ET, has very well shown how to address this aspect.

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Example 1)

 

 

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Example 2)

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Example 3)

 

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Example 4)


Report of Report Cards on Modi Government – corporate style

May 26, 2015

Yesterday one of my school friends sent me an article for my comments that gave one year report card of BJP government. And this is what I wrote to him.

Dear Vivek, Yes, I have read this article.
Like the author and as she herself has mentioned, hundreds have written a report card on Narendra Modiji’s government. In a democracy everyone has the rights to comment and it is a sign of healthy democracy that everyone’s views are heard and criticism is taken into its stride. ( isn’t that also speaks well for the govt?)

I think, democratic process is not like a school system, where we enter for 5 years and every year we are evaluated whether we have passed or failed. There are many decisions that are taken for long term impact and strategic direction – specially foreign policy, defence preparedness, education policy and infrastructure. Impact of some decisions are felt after 5 years, some after 10 years and some after one generation.

You and me work in corporate sector, we have annual review against our annual targets and plans. We are evaluated on set parameters on how much have we achieved.

But as we go up in the hierarchy we realise that many of these parameters are lagging indicators. We find people’s performance after they have achieved or have failed to achieve. If they have failed to achieve we give them feedback, we might put them on some ‘plan’ – euphemism for putting them ‘under watch’ – or some jobs are made redundant (again an euphemism for retrenching non performers). However the damage was done in terms of non achievement. We have to work extra hard to repair it and achieve next year’s ( or quarter’s) targets. At that stage we learn to focus on leading indicators – focussing on actions that would give desired results. Because we now know that if right actions are not taken at the right time we won’t get the results and in the end we would be only doing postmortem.

Also we are given responsibility to make a 3 years plan, 5 years plan, a strategic plan and an operational plan. As we start executing it, we focus on key decisions keeping an eye on long term impact. Many times a lower level manager doesn’t realise the importance of certain decisions or recruitment of certain skills, as he or she is not aware of the strategic plan. But we know that to achieve these long term goals we need to prepare in advance – need to get right systems in place, right people in place and start working towards it.

I feel that in the nation’s planning and progress, there is a much more complexity than corporate planning.  Though there is no harm in taking stock of the situation annually and evaluate the progress, I feel we should use the leading indicators to understand the government’s progress. Because we should be concerned about long term impact as much as we should be about short term decisions.

My leading indicators for a government’s performance are :

Intent : It is obvious that if the intent is not right all the decisions would lead to downhill path as we saw under UPA. If the intent is to serve the country well, then automatically corruption and corrupt practices vanishes at the top and then it slowly percolates down. We all have seen a corruption free India in last 1 year.

Vision and Plan : Intent drives the vision. What do you want to make a country as eg. Swaccha Bharat, Make in India, Digital India, Financial inclusion etc are part of the the vision. And putting together a plan for it. Constructing toilets, cleaning of Ganga, connecting roads, opening of bank accounts for hundreds of thousands of people,  etc are part of the plan behind the vision

Policy framework : Putting policy framework in line with the vision e.g.. putting together Digital policy, putting together policy of water ways, ‘Act East’ policy etc are the examples.

Team : Having a competent and capable team that would work together is important. Along with the competence what is needed is clarity and cohesiveness of intent among the team. If that is in place then even if there are differences of opinion they can be managed ( Actually healthy amount of dissent is needed for robustness of decisions making) “Matbhed hona galat nahi hai, Manbhed nahi hone chahiye” ( मतभेद होना गलत नही है, मनभेद नही होने चाहिए ।)

Leadership : Strong leadership is most important. We all are experiencing how a good leader can channelise the energy of the nation.

Connectedness with the masses : It is important to check how well the ministers and policymakers are in touch with the people of the country. Very often power and aura of Delhi makes the ministers lose touch with the reality and decisions are taken for the benefits of the creamy layer of the society. It is great to see many ministers are regularly going back to their constituencies and are appraised on their connectedness.

Engagement with all stakeholders : It is important for the government to connects well with all the pillars of the democracy and establish very good relationship with them for the smooth functioning – judiciary, bureaucracy, financial institutions such as RBI etc. Also being the federal structure not just having good relationship with the state government but also working to strengthen them is most important. We have have seen how Modiji’s government has acted on finance commission report and increased the fund allocation to the states and how the funds generated through coal auction have gone to the states- mostly to the non BJP states and how states are being made stakeholder in the growth of the country.

If you would like to create your report card, please go ahead and do so. Make sure that you are focussing on the leading indicator to get a true picture of the progress.


3 Key areas to address : Countering the Land Acquisition Bill disinformation

April 4, 2015

Further to my article on the need for BJP to take it message to the farmers through BJP’s organisational mechanism than just the government mechanism, it was great to see BJP’s national executive meet in Bengaluru decided to take the disinformation campaign head-on and mobilise its cadre to spread right message. (I am in no way suggesting that BJP people read or took note of my article)

“All party members would be going out to explain the public on the contents of the land bill. The intention of the government is to help farmers,” Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporter.

There is need to articulate this campaign by addressing three key areas :

Reinforce the positive intentions : I think with the past experience of land acquisition attempts and land not being put to proper use or corruption involved, there is a large scale apprehensions. And PM Modi ji talked about he ‘Niyat’ in his public meeting in Bengaluru, it needs to be reinforced with positive message such as : राष्ट्रनिर्माण के लिए धरती मॉ को सिंचना है, इस धरती की रक्षा करते हुए उसका सदुपयोग करने के लिए नए कानून को लाना है। आजतकके राज्यकर्ताओने इस जमिन को, जिसे हम धरती मॉ कहते है, जिसकी हम पुजा करते है, उस जमिन को केवल एक टुकडे के रूप मे देखा, उसे जैसे मन चाहा वैसे अपने सगे संबंधियोमें, परिवारवाले मे बांट दिया। हम इस जमिनकी रक्षा करना चाहते है, हम आपके हककी, आपके जीवनकी, आनेवाली generation की रक्षा करना चाहते है।

You can not ally the fears, but can only create hope : One of the important things in communication is that the more you talk about ‘removing the fear’ more it gets reinforced. Only way you can overcome the fear is by offering something positive. I think it would be important to talk about what the farmers would be getting than by what they would be losing. It would be important to talk about not just the one time compensation, but more importantly, how they and their next generation would be taken care of ( though I have not read all the provisions of the bill and farmers compensation, I am sure there must be enough financial compensation – such as insurance policies, re-employability, etc  that need to highlighted ). The fear in farmer’s mind is questions  about honourable livelihood for next generation and about the status in the society without a land ownership. These needs to be addressed through the provisions of the act. Give them a hope of better life without taking away the status.

Set a positive example as early as possible :  Nothing succeeds like success. A successful example of a large project coming up on a land acquired by the government.  And the project that would have all the elements such as non irrigation land being acquired, farmers getting much more than market valuation, farmers getting honourable livelihood and next generation is assured of good lifestyle, would change the whole atmosphere. It would take away opposition’s claims and it would also restore confidence in farmers and in people of India in general.


BJP needs a new Abhiyaan – ‘Maati Se Moti’ (माटी से मोती)

March 23, 2015

In view of the hue and cry being made by the opposition parties on land bill reforms, I feel it is important that BJP should take the fight head on and not depend only on PM Modi ji to reach out to the farmers. Let me explain why I say so.

I think the Indian politics has changed for better and changed forever from the days when government could take it for granted that only time they have to face the people is only after 5 years. Governments of the day are not even getting one full year as its honeymoon period, people are in a hurry to demand the changes (that they waited for 60 years). The modes of communication in the 24×7 TV reporting, social media etc have set the governments on its toes and hence if there is any (real or perceived) disquiet in the country about Government’s decision, it should immediately reach out to the people.

But I think that to reach out to the people only government mechanism is not good enough. Number one, government mechanism is busy implementing policies and it takes time to show results. Number two, government mechanism (bureaucracy ), largely, is not geared up to communicate. And lastly, bureaucracy itself needs to be educated about Government’s message.

In the face of it, the mantle falls  on the political arm of the government to communicate and be in touch with the people all the time. There are other benefits of doing this :

What was the biggest strength of BJP when it won 2014 elections? It was the support of aam aadmi, it was the support from BJP’s non traditional vote bank i.e. the rural India, it was the votes of the financially weaker section of the society. Today, opposition along with some media is creating a perception that farmers and aam aadmi is unhappy with the Government. If BJP (not government machinery and ministers only) reaches out to these people and communicate directly, opposition which is sitting only in Delhi would have nothing to talk about.

Secondly, with the last 10 years of corruption and 60 years of Congress party rule, people have become weary of governments in general and they embrace the ‘Andolan’ more readily than the government’s narrative. Though, in case of land reforms bill, opposition has not been able to mobilise any protests, it has been successful in creating a perception that people (aam aadmi / farmers) are not happy with the bill.

Modiji’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on 22nd March was an excellent talk and it tried to dispel many myths, it tried to give positive side of the bill and it also communicated government’s resolve and sincerity to work in the interest of farmers. But now, I feel, people would view his talk more as a government’s position, still doubting its intentions and may not embrace it fully.

Instead of waiting for something (protests) to happen (opposition it likely to manufacture some form of protests and amplify it) and then go out explaining government’s stand, I think it would be better for the BJP to create its own Abhiyaan and I am suggesting a name – “Maati Se Moti” ( माटी से मोती). The narrative could be to establish connects with the farmer and discuss how to make most out of the farming land, how we can make better India through agriculture produce, what all government is doing for farmers etc. This way the discussion is more positive, it is about their welfare and BJP / Govt is not defending its position.


Go Socially… Confidently

July 22, 2010

Lately I have been involved in helping companies leverage social networking tools for business development. It has been a nice experience of sharing what you learnt and what you practice to help others.

Straddling across so many tools – FB, Twitter, Orkut, Linkedin, Buzz etc –  becomes a daunting task. To update the status across each network and reply to people. When you are doing it for a business organisation, the challenges are even more. You have to be alert to look for mentions, references and respond accordingly. Today’s social media has a power to create positive or negative impact about your product and services within very short span of time.

Though there are some tools like (bit.ly, tinyurl etc) available that help you post your status across some of the networks simulteneously, those provide limited functionality. For a business it is important to monitor the response and get a sense of effectiveness of its efforts. You need more features such as :

1. Monitor number of responses to your news from each network – number of fans/ followers clicking from FB / Twitter / Buzz/ Linkedin etc This helps you to understand the effectiveness of the network. You can take corrective action or tweak your contents accordingly.

2. If your audience is spread across multiple timezones you need a tool to schedule your post at particular time intervals. For example on Twitter, when you tweet at a particular time, your followers may not be in a active mode in other timezone. When they get active after some time frame, your post might not appear on their timeline. You need to reach out to them in their timezone. That is why you need ability to schedule your post.

3. Auto Welcome message. If your business has more than 20 followers joining you everyday you, you need auto response to them else it becomes very time consuming activity

4. Many companies want to encourage their fans to discuss or post comments on its FB page or want them to re-tweet their posts. You would want to know most active fans/ followers per week or per day or per month.

5. You would want to see geographical spread of your fans / follower and number of visitors etc.

I have gone through few of such tools (there are many with some variations), but I found that what matters most is some one who can help you customise to your needs apart from offering the standard features. On that count I found this tool Go Socially to be best in its class. It is developed using open source components – PHP, MySql and hosted on Linux server. This company is promoted by very enthusiastic professionals who have returned to India after 8-10 years of working in USA. I am noticing this trend of professionals coming back to India after good experience and setting up own businesses. It is very encouraging. The team of Go Socially brings professional approach, global experience and understand the local needs – making their offering very competitive.

I liked their positioning of the tool – “You go where the consumers are, instead of waiting for them to come to you”

They have a one month trial subscription as well if you want to try it out first.

So now you can embrace the social networking tools for your business more confidently and can feel its effectiveness.


Beyound “Oracle buying Sun” … Into the “Open Source Governement”

April 21, 2009

Oracle to buy Sun Microsystems is the news getting lot of attention tonight. This is a big news in the industry as once upon a time both were poster boys of the internet boom. A lot is being written and speculated about the impact of this development. A real picture would emerge only after the dust is settled and more is known as to how Oracle deals with hardware, MySQL, middleware and Solaris. This deal has a potential to bring fundamental change in the IT industry landscape depending upon how Oracle approaches it.

While this is happening, I found the article ” An Open Source Government” even more interesting. This article is written by Jim Whitehurst of Red Hat Inc. where I work. The most interesting part that I liked is :

When information is open and individuals have the means to contribute, everyone shares in the responsibility for improvement. Informed citizens become engaged citizens. Engaged citizens contribute opinions, ideas and effort.

and

We must build the structure and culture for participation, from the highest levels of government to municipal town halls. We need to unlock the doors that stand between citizens and information. Both infrastructure and information must be open and easily accessible to all.

I found it to be very important attempt to connect the Governance, Government and Citizen through the principles of open source.

The participation by the citizens is so important to shape the nation that we want. As I am following the elections in the largest democracy of the world – India, I keep wondering how and why would more than 60% of eligible people would come out for voting.

Making people interested in participation, making it easy for them to participate and then making it affordable for the government to reach out to the citizen is a tremendous task.

Use of open source can help governments to find a way to address the last part at least, which will be a big leap. This would need a good leadership at the highest level. Hope the elections in India would bring a change for betterment.


Opensource – IT Policy – Impact on the society

March 22, 2009

I am very happy to note that one of the key political parties in India- BJP – has unveiled a comprehensive IT policy. Reference to the use of open source software is even more noteworthy.

It is very nice to see that a political party acknowledges the role of open source software in innovation. (as it mentions on page 23 of the IT vision document). I am just hoping that BJP’s IT policy making team has much more in mind about the use of open source. I am listing how open source software can be leveraged for building good society and  good governance :

Use of open source software and open standards create the level playing field and helps to bridge the gap between haves and haves not. It also helps to bridge the gap between developed and developing nation by making the knowledge available without boundaries. Today’s era is all about access to knowledge, leading to faster innovation. The era of developing knowledge in a the closed door and then try to use it as an edge over the other part of the society or other nations is gone. It is a matter of faster innovation and access to all.

Use of open source software creates empowerment. Today government can not be seen as the only force that offers jobs. Youths and businesses have to come forward and create employment. Through the use of and encouragement of open source software governments can empower youths and students that would make them ready for the jobs. The empowerment is possible because tools needed in today’s knowledge era are affordable and accessible through open source software.

Use of open source software creates open and proud minds. It is like in the poem of Rabindranath Tagore “Where the mind is without fear and head is held high…”. The use of open source software helps to create “made in my country ” feeling in the globalised economy. By developing more software and more applications in the country, making those applications world class the proud feeling of “made in my country” get bolstered.

Local services industry : The use of open source software leads to creation of local service industry. Open source software commoditises the products and thrives on excellence in services, which is a boon to creating more jobs and more opportunities.

Impact on the education segment : When governments want to make the education and knowledge available to the poorest of poor children through the use of laptops, only the use of open source software can make it affordable. Besides that it is not just giving the laptops or software through the government scheme, but it is also about using the legal software on your home computer. Think of the very real issue. Governments make PCs /Laptops along with  the proprietary software available at the subsidized rates.  When the children want to use the PC at the home, they can not afford to buy the costly proprietary software for it. They end up using pirated software. Is this what we want our children to have the feeling? By encouraging the use of open source software we can give them the feeling of use of legal software. That is the way of developing “Free minds”.

Also one important aspect of digital education is availability of contents in local languages : It is very important to have these contents based on open standards and open source technologies. For the proliferation of contents and lowering of their costs, this is a crucial factor. If these vital contents are based on proprietary and costly software, their use gets restricted or becomes unaffordable.

Going further the impact of open source can be harnessed in developing the right mindset in the society. The open source software is based on the principles of “Collaboration”, “Sharing” and “Community Building”. These are vital ingredients of a good and progressive society.

There is more to write about each of these issues. We all can collaborate to turn them into concrete actions and build stong communities.


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