The second day of Article 19, the media fest of Manipal Institute of Communication, witnessed a talk by Karthik Srinivasan, winner of gold at Socialathon India 2015 and Emvie 2015 (Best media innovation – social media) and bronze at DMA Asia Echo Award 2015 (Interactive – Creative use of data). A communication consultant by profession, he has had the experience of working with some of the top companies of the corporate communication sector, including Ogilvy & Mather.
While talking to MTTN, he discussed some of the issues of his field and provided valuable tips for corporate communication enthusiasts.
Q: How do you see your journey to date? Did you always want to come to the corporate communication sector or was it a sudden motivation that worked in your favour?
A: I cannot call it a sudden motivation. It was more like a counter-intuitive motivation. All through my school and college life, I had the problem of stammering. I could never go and speak in front of the class. After several trials of medical treatment by my parents, the problem still persisted. I realised that stammering is more of a mental condition and medicine would not be of much help here. As a result, I decided to take up a career that would force me to communicate with people for a living. Generally, people take Public Relations (PR) first and later move to the corporate communication part but I chose vice-versa. That is how I overcame my stammering problem and in the process entered the industry as well.
Q: What is your perception of the impact of surrogate advertisements on the people’s mind? Is it similar to the normal ads or is it lesser in any sense?
A: I feel the impact is no less in the case of surrogate ads. Basically, there is a loophole in the Advertising Standard Council in India (ASCI) code that is prevalent in India and these brands are taking advantage of this loophole. You are not allowed to advertise cigarettes or alcohol in our country and as a result, these brands want people to remember their brand name and not the product. For instance, someone like Ajay Devgn going to a bar, pretending to be a macho man and then drinking club soda does not make sense. All this is just to make people remember their brand and not the soda. In the end, it is just that loophole being exploited and if that is closed, I feel the concept of surrogate ads wouldn’t be anymore.
Q: When we talk about PR, don’t you feel the PR professionals today have lost their ethics?
A: As a profession, PR has not lost ethics I would say. The primary function of PR is to convince the media people that their client is worth talking about, but unfortunately, the ecosystem has become such that even the journalists or influencers have started to look at the whole engagement as a source of making money. Everyone these days has a rate card for every small thing and everything has been commercialised, including opinions. So PR professionals have started to feel they are lagging behind since PR is an earned media and these professionals need to earn the attention of their audience. The only thing they are left to do with favours the person wanting to speak, saying – I have an empty mind space to fit anything into.
Q: Brands currently are doing a lot of things for publicity. Do you feel negative publicity also somewhere works in favour of a brand?
A: Anything negative is a quicker way of getting attention and I feel that is the reason brands these days are using negative publicity. There has always been a saying that “Bad news travels faster than good news” and that is true too because human psychology works in a way where most people go to check what and where bad news is. It is unfortunate that brands are using this to cut the clutter these days.
Q: What are the most important qualities a student should possess if he/she is aspiring to enter the corporate communication industry?
A: The most essential quality is to develop a habit of writing every single day. When I say writing, I do not mean pen and paper writing since I myself have lost the habit of writing on a paper. We hardly write anything on pen-paper these days. Everything is typed, be it on the phone or laptop. What actually is important is the habit of thinking something regularly and jotting that down somewhere. It could be about anything – a bottle, the gift-wrapping paper or even your thoughts and opinions about a certain something. The previous generation had the habit of writing everything in their private diary which helped them to articulate their thoughts in a cohesive manner. This articulation is very important for a communication student since it is the gap between what you want to say and what is being said. Writing at least 5 to 10 lines a day is what even the senior-most people in the industry would suggest. The most dangerous thing ever is losing the ability to think.
Interviewed by Pallavi Dutta for MTTN
Pictures by Ritwika for MTTN