Burson-Marsteller resigns Pakistan’s Public Relations Contract

December 29, 2008

Burson-Marsteller is a global Public Relations firm that had signed Government of Pakistan’s lobbying contract in March 2008 after the Pakistan People’s Party won the elections and came to power.

CEO Mark Penn of Burson-Marsteller recently resigned account of lobbying and managing Pakistan’s country and political image amongst the American politicians, media people and the affluent. The contract terms also included research contribution from Mark Penn’s market research firm called Penn, Schoen, Berland & Associates of which Penn is also the President.

Burson-Marsteller says that since March the PR agency had not undertaken any assignment for the Pakistani Government and that the PR agency was in the process of documenting the resignation process.

It is also noteworthy that Penn was ousted as the head strategist of the Hillary Clinton election campaign team and says that the Clinton owes him campaign fee (over USD. 5 million) that has been mutually agreed for clearance.

Secretary of State-elect Hillary Clinton would have to manage relationships with Pakistan and India and with the following resignation of the Pakistan account after Penn’s ouster from the Hillary camp new questions have emerged on the dynamics of the relationship and most of all who shall pick up the Pakistani account and what relationship would the new company enjoy with the new Secretary of State.

The full story may be read at POLITICO.COM (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1208/16827.html)


Million, Billion, Trillion – Lakh, Crore, Arab: Made Easy

November 10, 2008

You are welcome!

I know you’ll thank me for putting up this conversion table online for reference of all you desi-hood always confused over how much is a billion in crores and whether a million is Das Lakh or Ek lakh!

Numeral Conversion Table - Western and Pakistani/Indian

Numeral Conversion Table - Western and Pakistani/Indian

I can relate to it myself and colleagues of mine in the office sometime I see grappling with a coversion issue in their language translation from Urdu to English or in reverse. It’s a fun sight you know. They go all around the office asking this person and reconfirming from another one. Actually there is seldom any re-confirmation if ever. Most of the times I see people frantically searching the net for an “authentic” source in order to officially report a conversion to a client or the media. I wonder if there is a website that compares numeral systems of various origins especially that of the West and South Asia i.e. India and Pakistan.

Here is a start and I’ll try posting more relevant information and links when found. Meanwhile all the best with your conversions.

Oh yeah with the authenticity of the table shared here; he he he he he…well I have used it in my official communications and has been correct all the time. See guys I have taken risks so that you desi-buds don’t have to bear no trouble no more..atleast not under a Trillion 😀 haar haar haar haar…no seriously go ahead and use the table with confidence!

INSTA-TERMINATION: PTA terminates license of Instaphone

January 7, 2008

INSTA-TERMINATIONPakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has, with immediate effect, terminated the license of M/S Pakcom (Instaphone) on account of Company’s failure to pay its outstanding dues. The payable amount would be recovered under Section 30 of the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act. The Authority has issued a detailed determination in this regard. See full official notice at PTA site by clicking here.

Instaphone had been loosing since ever. PTA figures for Nov. 2007 show Instaphone at 329,743 subscribers or just 0.44 percent of the current cellular subscriber base of 74+ million!!!Instaphone further had defaults on its license fee of S291 million that were being relaxed by PTA to let Instaphone acquire some investment support. With lingering humungous license fee pending, virtually no brand equity, i doubt if the existing user base was generating any decent ARPU and sunk capital in AMPS network certainly did not have a case for a sell off. I think the investors just “used” the political skirmishes as a quick excuse out of the negotiations so that they could walk out without any moral/relationship related burden -)

The Ethical Gap: Getting Caught in between the Corporate and the Brand

November 22, 2007

Key Excerpt: The ever increasing gap between corporate ethics and brand practice is increasingly involving societies in moral, cultural and economic crunch. With no distinct corporate reputation, raising advertising budgets, promoting blind consumerism, fabricating profit-centered values are all only to cover the family feud between the brand and the corporate.

Looking around one observes a large variety of brand identities. Where they are important in providing the commercial differentiation in competition they have another obligation to fulfill; uphold family values! Of this I speak from both the organizational and social perspectives. Any brand in any of the commercial messages where penetrates consumer for differentiation and preference also injects a set of its ethics into the psyche. This translates into liking of a brand to respecting its company. We can relate this with the personal liking for a tobacco brand like Marlboro but not having the moral attributes for a public defense. Or relate to PEPSI commercials that represent our cricket stars like Shoaib as party animals and women pleasers. This negative perception directly travels to the corporate reputation. Relate the standard query, “which company’s brand is this?!” with this scenario. Here starts the feud!

This ethical gap is increasingly becoming the focus of most of the corporate reputation debates. Is it a product brand that determines the corporate reputation or is it the other way round? In the state it is right now, most of the corporations in Pakistan including popular MNCs and big national companies have no unique and even stable corporate identity in actual practice. The blind profit-run has where damaged the company reputation even greater are the marks on our social fabric. The induced “foreign look and feel” has only left our society in a self-identity crisis. Such strength and influence has the corporate ethics practices on social economies. The effect of these amplified in societies in the USA and the Indians. “Search for roots” is the social grievance in the former and “Whom do I belong to” is the manifestation in the later. We are still undecided even what to think of?

A lot of public relations representatives that I meet suffer in this “gap crunch”. With top management only accessible at crisis moments and routinely subjected to brand marketing’s “lavish ignorance to corporate ethics”; these PR custodians are only left with minimizing damages and avoiding media calls. The brand profits blind-folded management has increasingly become easy with the approach of “need based priorities” where the top priority is the ridiculously high profit margins. This holds especially true for the Tobacco, Telecom, Satellite Broadcast, Mobile phones and Carbonated Drinks industries in Pakistan. Most of the brands in these categories have jumped on the band wagon to catch the younger market with perceptions of phenomenal sex, success and spotlight.

Even the line adopted by these industry competitors are without class and creativity. Telecom service providers have a very run of the mill girl-boy friendship story line (Telenor), Tobacco tries to cough life into a manly image (Marlboro), Satellite entertainment channels pose to lead liberty of mindless expression (AAG), mobile handset companies flash phone against the naked skin of the fairer sex (LG KG series phones) and carbonated drinks pop the bubbles on some failed celebrity’s unpopular life (PEPSI with Shoaib)World's Most Ethical Companies 2007

An interesting list of “World’s Most Ethical Companies 2007” is shared here. This research is done by ETHISPHERE Magazine that isWorld's Most Ethical Companies 2007 an influential publication of the CR and brand ethics field. The list indicates companies in respective industrial categories placed in order of their rank top-bottom. The country of origin for each company is also indicated with each.

The list reveals that many of the international MNCs operating in Pakistan especially in Food and Beverage (Nestle, Cadbury, Coke) , Consumer Electronics (LG), Computers (Intel), Oil & Gas (Caltex, British Petroleum) and Software (Microsoft) industries have not even made to the final ranking list. Does this reflect on our soft and designed for tax collection policies, our industry’s weak moral values or us consumers own moral standards. This remains to be seen.

Concluding I would say that it is high time for corporations to decide on their reputation focus inline with their business deliverables. A core system of corporate ethics and brand practice integration has to be incorporated as part of the management group that lays down the interpretations of the ethical standards into brand practices. This integral component right now does not exist either in a matrix or dedicated format. Societies on the other hand have to decide if they are going to derive the brands or be remote controlled into a fantasy land that has no practical meaning whatsoever!

Once there was Word of Mouth Marketing…

October 13, 2007

WOMMA LOGOWow. I didn’t know there was a Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) as well. How much more specialized is communication gonna get. What could be more micro/basic than that.

Of one of Micro-Marketing concepts, WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing) is considered to be the most influential, result promising and targetted practices for marketing of products or promotion of public opinion (Public Relations). The P2P marketing model draws its strength from the “friendly & trusty” relationship that we have with our peers as in family, friends, colleagues and society.

Public Relations especially can make use of this channel for targetted, behaviorally influencing and meaurable communications.

However thinking of marketing practices at such a micro level makes one think of other possibilities. This has to do directly with the capacity of the medium, in this case humans, for delivering messages through different means or in another manifestation. Thinking on these lines I have come up with the following P2P micro-marketing titles with their brief descriptions:

1. Facial Expressions based Experience Transfer (FEET)Marketing:

Retail store will try to control facial expressions on their customers so that other customers, new customers, passersby (in many cases of the glass cases) will only pick positive message of the facial expressions and encouraged to feel the same experience as the ones inside the retail shop.

2. Tone of Voice Marketing:

Okay how does one carry the tone of voice of a peer. Perhaps the delivery aspect if not much of the tone. Like there is this friend of mind that greets everyone in a very jolly/hearty/generous fashion. I have, for one, picked that from him and try to practice the same style in my greetings.

So a firm can perhaps introduce/re-explore/amplify a certain aspect of social pleasantries, give it a distinct touch and circulate/popularize it through its communication over the media. For retails it could be a certain style in which the waiters interact with the customers.

3. Body Language Marketing:

This is about the difference you feel in carrying your body in all its glory when you wear a designer label brand. No designed labels are not about being expensive, they are about enabling your body to feel comfortable and more confident. People who wear labels have an almost natural tendency to act more like themselves, feel happy and show confidence.

This is communication enough to influence their peers and social circles to think about the lifestyles of these icons. With that comes inquiries into what label one wears, where one usually goes to shop and how frequently is the wardrobe updated.

Examples of this are usually in the fashion magazines in which certain suiting brands have a very distinct style of model posing, facial expressions and attitude. Or look at TV commercials of beverages, fashion labels, music labels that promote certain body movements that become associated with their brand identity.

Rexona FUNK MERexona First Day HighRexonaFirstDayHigh

Rexona’s “First Day Funk” in Phillipines was a brand activation focused at school going kids to use Rexona deodorants. To deliver the key attributes of confidence, free body movement and group mingling/dancing without fear of bad odor, Rexona actually developed a dance sequence that eventually became enormously popular and even won the best dance sequence award at the MTV Phillipines awards!!! The dance sequence was hugely popular amongst the teens and could be seen at night clubs, parties, school grounds, dance competitions etc.

Such is the power of each communication medium that the human body can emulate.

Idopia (beta) – Adding value to the Networked World

October 13, 2007

Idopia Process

Another of the latest interactive sites – Idopia is different in a way that it actaully provides an environment to focus on creating, sharing, developing and implementing ideas that are WORKABLE.

Most of the social online communities gather around only to share general interests. It is seldom that if ever some enhtusiasts belonging to a community acutually collaborate to make something happen. Reasons ranging from positioning of the comunity to the format and facilities to actually share, build upon and conclude ideas.

Well Idopia intends to provide all that facilitating environment to share and implement ideas. Membership is free and currently no exciting activity goes on there.  I see a few obvious reasons for that:

1. New, in BETA and largely unknown
2. Lack of pass-on thrust: too dry, lacks a lot of inspiration for new joiners
3. No social brainstroming, idea invoking, incentivising facilitation
4. No socializing opportunities except around ideas that people don’t tend to stick around for long
5. Staying down for noticeable periods

Well all I can say for now is lets see what new does Idopia has in sleeves. Its a great idea but not so greatly executed, so far. Any user comments?

G.ho.st – The New Web on the Web

September 24, 2007

This application is quite futuristic in the way that it will make sharing a totally new phenomenon, napster etc, would sound like pre-historic as soon as the G.ho.st gains popular usage.G.ho.st Logo

Imagine countless users connected to a singular O.S with personalized interfaces but similar/shared resources. Being shared, on similar platform the users will seamlessly engage with each other. My God! Facebook, Orkut, Youtube, google etc etc would become dependent on G.ho.st to access their market.

World Wide Web, as we know it today, will become just a supporting platform for the hi-level “virtual web world” where everyone can come play, learn, exchange, live, work without any boundaries.

G.ho.st must surely be haunting a lot of heavy weights around the web globe. Anyone know if Microsoft, Google or any other giant is vying to buy out G.ho.st or even just buy & bury so that their distributed, sgregated, each item for a price business model can sustain a little longer?!