Logo Design & Packaging : GLO CFLs & LEDs

GLO is a manufacturer of CFL and LED lighting fixtures and they got in touch with me for the design of their logo and primary packaging.

The brief

The client had finalized the brand name and had some ideas for the logo itself. Those ideas needed to be fleshed out and the following images will give a clear picture of the progression of the branding assignment.

Following are some of the logos the client liked and shared as references.

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands

While it is easy to ask the client to complete a creative brief questionnaire – answer a list of questions to understand where the branding assignment needs to start – it is not a simple task to quite know what they are thinking. To aid that process, I ask clients to share visual references of other identity systems they have seen and logos they have liked. I also ask them to tell me why they made those choices – what appealed to them, what were they thinking etc. While this is still a “vague” method of capturing their thoughts, it is a great way to immediately know a mental framework of where my clients are coming from.

Following are some of the logos the client disliked and shared as references.

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands

[ Just for the sake of written clarification : none of the logos seen in the above two images have been designed at asidebrands. ]

Sketches

The first round of sketches is always an eye-opener for the sketcher as well as the client.

Both parties learn more about what the other is thinking. Hence, this stage equips both parties to handle each other better so that the final outcome benefits the brand better.

This is what the first round of sketches looked like on this branding assignment.

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands

All notes written by hand have been written by me to give more clarity to the client about what I was thinking when I sketched those shapes. Feedback after the sketches leads to either another round of sketches or the first round of more final-looking versions of the sketches that the client was more inclined toward.

First Draft of Logo Designs

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands

At this point in the branding assignment, the client is leaning toward a particular visual identity solution but would like to see some variations of maybe one additional option that they like. Iterations in design and sketching are part of a typical visual identity assignment and you can see the same process in the many previous case studies that have been published on aside.

Second Draft of Logo Designs

Further designs and ideas are always based on client feedback but there are times when an idea might strike me that has not been discussed previously. As a branding specialist, my goal is to always recommend and suggest solutions that I believe will be ideal for the brand and the human brain does not stop thinking just because the work day is over. No 9-5 restrictions on creativity!

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands

Third Draft of Logo Designs

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands

From the above iterations, you can tell that both the designer and the client are leaning toward a particular shape / visual. Usually this means that the next iteration will be the final iteration before a final shape is approved for the logo. The original design as suggested by the client was, in this case, the visual that both the designer and the client ended up using. And the next iteration was to determine colors and possible final tweaks to the chosen visual.

Fourth Draft of Logo Designs

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands

You’ll notice there’s a slight tweak in the original shape that was liked. That tweak added the missing characteristic that makes the logo unique even though it stemmed from a cliched use of “light” rays.

The following is one iteration to show what the logo would look like when applied to various backgrounds.

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands

The primary packaging design as shown to the client was as follows – with a visual look at the iterations from how it started to how it closed. The client will be developing their packaging based on this.

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands Packaging

The Final Logo

GLO CFL LED Lighting Fixtures India Branding Visual Identity Logo Design Naina.co aside asidebrands

[ All red and blue borders are to denote the aside branding and are not part of the branding design assignment for GLO. ]

The Free Culture

“We needed a small favor… we need some high resolution shots for a photo-wall for our event.
Please do let us know if you can spare some photographs for us.”

“We want you to attend our conference and photograph it because it will be great for your portfolio.”

“I don’t understand why you charge so much?! The other photographers have quoted only X amount.”

A response to my price estimate for an assignment : “Does it also include air travel to Venice?

This is a small selection of emails – and other modes of communication — I see often and in large numbers. Since I work with a lot of non-Indian clients too, it is worth pointing out that every single one of these emails comes from my own fellow Indians, whether resident in India or abroad.

They point to an uncomfortable truth about the “Free Culture” that many of us suffer but few speak up about or against.

 

Let’s deal with these one by one.

The “We needed a small favor…” excuse.

If an organisation is holding an event, they have a budget for it. The budget pays for the venue, the fabricators, the caterers, and other related expenses for a successful event. And then as an after thought comes archiving. They then scurry around looking for a professional photographer – I have had calls to cover spectacular launch events for well-established brands by PR agencies scrambling the day before the event – and ask for images for free. Would they get very far if they had approached the venue seeking a similar “favor”? It is doubtful. “Oh but Naina, they’re just asking for digital files! They’re not asking for you to even make prints!” To which I want to say, “You must mistake me for Rumpelstiltskin for I cannot weave pictures out of thin air.” The truth remains that PR agencies, like other service providers, rarely or never push back when a client gives them an improbably small budget. Why don’t they push back? Because they themselves aren’t mindfully present in their roles as advisors nor have the confidence in themselves to disagree with the client politely. They are scared to lose the business, because the client might see disagreement as an affront.

 

The “good for your portfolio” excuse next.

Yes, I care about my portfolio and I want it to include pieces that I am proud to showcase. I put in hard work and time to create those pieces. Mostly with the help of fantastic clients, and sometimes on my own doing personal projects. But if you like my work enough to come to me to cover your grand wedding or a client event, it goes without saying my approach to building my portfolio has paid off. It would be good if you could show some concern about my not being driven out of business. You can show this concern by paying me. That would also demonstrate your concern about and interest in my portfolio.

 

The “other photographer / designer / branding person” excuse.
To this, I have nothing much to say. Except to suggest gently that you please hire them since you like their pricing and since in your judgment, the quality of work is similar to mine. Really. I won’t be offended. There is enough work for everyone.

 

Then there is this: “Does it also include air travel to Venice?

I believe sarcasm is unnecessary. Did you see me invoke unicorns up there when discussing “digital images not prints”? The professional way to deal with a disagreement would be to inform a professional service provider that your budget cannot accommodate their prices. This can be said in plain English. After all we hardly snigger at your lack of research about pricing various components of your events and your not advising your client better, do we? Over time, clients who did not have the budget for me on one occasion have come back to me for a different project and we have since gone on to do more work together. Remaining professional and polite costs nothing but everyone remembers incompetence layered with uncalled-for sarcasm.

 

Assume for a moment, the same prospects who wrote to me above also wrote the same to a lawyer. Laughable, yes? Or asked a surgeon to conduct a life-saving surgery for free, because the patient would then be a walking-talking advertisement for the surgeon’s skill? No? You won’t ask? What about using the same excuses with your house-keeper and your driver who get to spend their day in the air-conditioned comfort of your home or your car? Never going to happen? Ok I hear you.

 

If you believe that my work adds no value to your or your brand, why reach out?

The answer to that is, “Dekho toh sahi, shaayad haan bol de.” [ Translation : No harm in asking. ]. But there is harm. Just that you do not know about it. I lose all respect for you and your brand. While you might think that I don’t matter in the large scheme of things, I do talk about my experiences – with my peers, juniors and seniors. We all discuss. We all draw our own conclusions. [ There’s also this : whopaysindeed.in ]

In a rapidly growing country, we need to consider not just the short term gain but also the long term benefit of creating a market – that has both clients AND service providers. Both need to exist for the sake of the other. Both need to treat each other well for the respect they deserve for doing their own jobs well.

 

Professionalism is a two-way street. If prospects treat vendors professionally, by offering not to disrespect their trade by asking them to give away their work for free, vendors are inclined to respect their clients too.

I’ve heard this many times, “But can’t you make it a little cheaper? You could do a little less work in return – or maybe not do ‘such’ a good job as with clients who pay you top dollar.” And no. I can’t. It’s not that I don’t want to – I simply can not. It is not possible for me to tell my brain to think slower and not-so-creatively because a prospective client doesn’t have the budget. I still deliver exceptional work and I refuse to be unprofessional.

My business principles are clear : I do not work for free. I know I am good at what I do and I deserve to flourish.

How to be a blogger : Clarity

Since we’re at it with emails, here’s another one I received. Not as bad as this one but still in the realms of not knowing where to start. I sympathise with the email-sender and will proceed to answer to the best of my abilities and to also rip the email apart.

- – - Start of Email – - -
Hi Naina,
Since I am a beginner in the field of blogging, I need to ask you a few tip and queries for the same.
How does one spread the word of the blog?How to increase your foot-fall? How much does a freelance blogger charge for blog managing? What makes a good blogpost a hit?

Some clarity would be of much help.
Regards,
xxx
- – - End of Email – - -

A link to the blog would have helped. I could have visited and mentioned something about the design, about the focus / goal etc. But of course, I would charge for a consultation session. [ No joke. Why in the world would I just give away hard-earned expertise that no one ever helped me with? If you're good at it, never do it for free - especially when doing it for someone who intends to use the information / skill for further money-making. ]

#1 “How does one spread the word of the blog?”

You want to spread the word of the Lord, I can understand, but of the blog? Tch tch. There’s your first problem – learn better English and Grammar. Nothing repulses readers more than bad language. So many of my friends [ my blog readers are all friends when they aren't trying to tell me how much my blog posts suck ] point out spelling errors as soon as I’ve hit “Publish” on any of my blog posts. People see and people know and people talk about it. Get your basics right.

What’s the content on your blog? Does anyone want to read it? Does anyone care? What value are you adding in their lives? Are you reviewing products and hence helping people make informed buying decisions or are you writing about and showing pretty things to add beauty and serenity to readers’ lives? What’s the goal?

Without a goal, your blog will tank. You will lose interest because no one will engage with it. And people will engage if they enjoy it. They will tweet it, share it on Facebook, email it, talk about it and leave comments and have discussions.

#2 “How to increase your foot-fall?”

A blog doesn’t have “foot-fall”. [ Unless you really were asking how to increase "your" foot-fall, in which case, you will have to clarify further. If not, then go back to #1 above. ]

To get more visitors, write / create / share better content. Be genuine. Be personal. Be persistent. Blog blog blog. Your blog, in all likelihood, is NOT going to get thousands of new subscribers overnight. Unless you’ve been plugging away at it for a few months / years consistently.

Give people a reason to visit your blog – even if you don’t promote it on Twitter / Facebook. If you ask me about keywords & meta tags & SEO, I will slap you. Those are AFTER you’ve created good content. Get your basics right.

#3 “How much does a freelance blogger charge for blog managing?”

Er. You’re asking the wrong person. Assuming you mean you would like to manage a blog for a company / organization / another person. Because I’ve never done it – between this hardly updated blog on design and branding and blogging, my other two blogs on my photographic pursuits and wedding photography, take up all my time. If I did manage a blog for someone else, I’d charge based on the frequency of blogging, the content I’d have to create, whether I’d be involved in the design and deployment of the blog or whether I’d simply be uploading content that they provide to me, what the client’s short term and long term expectations are for the blog etc. I can’t give you a number because I don’t know for what you need the numbers and I don’t know your background.

I could charge more than the market average [ I don't know the market average ] because I have proven my blogging abilities with many of my own personal blogs. It’s a kind of “blogging portfolio”. This helps with negotiating a higher rate.

I also have been on social media for a while and use it to leverage everything else I do – which will be an added bonus, should a client decide to hire me for their blogging needs.

#4 “What makes a good blog post a hit?”

Isn’t that a rhetorical question? A good blog post is a hit by virtue of being good. [ Also, I really don't know what a "hit" blog post is. Mine mostly just languish with no comments or RT's or shares on Facebook. ] If you’re talking about blog posts that get the maximum traffic, I can give you can example – this blog on branding and design gets most of its hits on my blog posts where I provide Diwali Wallpapers for download. If that tells you something, please share.

I apologize if I have not been able to provide clarity but this really is the best I can do.
Most people assume it’s all glamorous – being a photographer, being a blogger – maybe they think I have a six figure income and have minions doing my bidding. Neither of these is true. I enjoy what I do – photography, blogging, editing, being on Twitter, Facebooking – and I’ve been doing some of it consistently over a period of time. Hence, it’s been noticed.

Remember, no one gives a fuck. You are valued for the value you provide. If you / your blog provides no value, it will receive no attention. [ I know it sounds harsh but you wanted some clarity. ]

Status of Copyright in India

I received this email today:

- – - Start of Email – - -

Dear Naina,

We are a startup in Real estate by the name of “xxx Properties” in Chandigarh.

Co-incidentally I came across the logo designed by you of “xxx”. As we are in the process of promoting through facebook and other media I would like to have your permission to use the said logo/ its variant on our “facebook” page with due credits.

I have just uploaded the said logo only for you to see at the moment. In case you don’t agree the same will be removed at the earliest.

You can visit the page at the following link:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/xxx-Properties/222167351252137

Awaiting your response.

Thanks & Regards,

Mr. Owner of xxx

- – - End of Email – - -

I wasn’t sure if this was a joke so I clicked on the link and they have used the logo on their Facebook page. I’m not sure what the hell just happened.
I did respond to their email but I’m likely to be seen as someone “holier than thou” because of it. But maybe, just MAYBE, next time the person is thinking of anything similar, they will at least THINK about what it might entail? Or am I dreaming?

- – - Start of Response – - -

Hi Mr. Owner of xxx,

I hope you are joking.

The logo is a registered trademark for an American client of mine.

It isn’t about “agreement”, it’s someone else’s intellectual property. I would recommend you to please speak with your lawyers before sending such emails directly to the brand designer or the company whose logo it is. Might save you legal trouble.

Is your company willing to give me a house for free? I will live in the house and give you due credit. [ I hope you understand how absurd that sounds! ]

Very much in shock,
Regards,
Naina

- – - End of Response – - -

The gentleman responded saying, “I did not knew that this design is a registered trademark of your client. I was looking for a “xxx” design and came across your’s. we shall not be using the same.”

I don’t know what that means – so if it wasn’t a registered trademark, anyone can use anything as they please? A digital graphic design is just a piece of design to be found on “Google” and used however deemed fit?

I’ve faced this with large organizations, smaller companies, individuals launching freelance practices and a range of regular blokes who meant no harm but did it anyway. So many say “But I found it on Google!” And I want to tear my hair out. They pick up my images and my designs and I’m expected to send legal notices out to everyone? Don’t I have work to do? But if I don’t respond with legal notices, does that mean that their belief of “We will get away with it!” is proved true?

My friend & lawyer @dkmahant is currently helping me with one such case but it’s only been a back and forth of legal notices where even their lawyers are claiming “It was nothing.” Do I take it to litigation? Or do I give up and focus on creating more intellectual property that can be copied blatantly?

When the hell is this fucktardiness going to stop in India? When in doubt, ASK. At least the gentleman above ASKED. And he has also removed the logo from the Facebook page and told me they won’t be using it. But how many others are there who are using and I have no clue? I find it horrifyingly bleak that I am elated with what should be considered “normal”. Normal should be common, not uncommon.

PR & Photography Tales

I have written about this earlier but from a different point of view and different motivation:
Brands and Photo bloggers
Relevance : Brands, Events, Social Media
Investment : Brands, Events, Social Media
Needs : Brands, Events, Social Media
Branding : Brands, Events, Social Media

First let me define what I do.

I am a professional photographer [ which means clients hire me - pay me money - to make images for them, of them, of their children, of their factories, of their events, of their food, etc. ] I am also a blogger [ which means I blog about the clients I have photographed - I have a fairly popular blog and I also get paid for blogging ]. I also work on brand naming and logo design engagements [ after my B-School education, and one year of working as an Innovation Consultant, I started off on my own as a graphic designer and over the course of a decade ended up specializing in brand design ].

Here’s a short stroyline of two interactions I recently had with PR and Brand managers.

Story One

Them: ‘Hello Naina, we saw your work, we saw this particular event you had covered earlier and we loved the photos you have taken. There is this event that is happening where so-and-so important people are attending as guests. Are you free on so-and-so date?’

Me: ‘Thank you for the compliment, yes I am free on that date.’

Them: ‘Oh great. So you can come and shoot for us – lots of great photo opportunities, it will look fantastic in your portfolio.’

Me: ‘Sure, sounds like a colorful and important event, how much are you paying?’

Them: ‘Oh. We don’t pay. We do PR for the client so you will be going through us. So we are doing PR for the client and so we don’t pay.’

Me: ‘So I am supposed to do your work for you for free, for which the client is paying you but you will not pay me?’

Them: ‘But we get paid for PR, not photography.’

Me: ‘But you will be using this photography to show to your client that you have done PR?’

Them: ‘Oh it’s ok. Just think about it and let me know if you’d like to cover the event.’

Me: ‘I don’t want to think about it and I’m sorry but unless I am paid for my work, I will not be able to cover your event.’

Them: ‘Ok, so how much do you think you will charge for covering this?’

Me: ‘X amount.’

Them: ‘And how many blog posts will I get?’

[ At this point I just want to stab and punch something. ] Me: ‘You get one blog post, which will be also linked to from my Twitter profile and there will be a Facebook album as well.’

Them: ‘Ok, I will talk to my boss and let you know although I can tell you now that it won’t work out.’

Me: ‘Yes, I know.’

————————————————— End of conversation —————————————————

Story Two

Them: ‘Hello Naina, we saw your work, we saw this particular event you had covered earlier and we loved the photos you have taken. There is this event that is happening where so-and-so important people are attending as guests. Are you free on so-and-so date?’

Me: ‘Thank you for the compliment, yes I am free on that date.’

Them: ‘Well we know we probably will not be able to afford you but we loved your work so much that we thought we should at least find out. How much would you charge?’

Me: ‘X amount.’

Them: ‘Oh wow. Ok, let me speak to my CFO and I will get back to you.’
[ This usually means that it is not going to work out. ]

Me: ‘Ok sure, thanks!’

[ After two days. ] Them: ‘So it won’t work out but we would love if you could come to our event anyway!’

Me: ‘Oh that’s nice of you, I would love to.’
[ If it's a brand that interests me and I would further like to build a relationship with them and this is the first time they are getting in touch with me. ]

[ I go to the event, with my camera, take some pictures, come back, edit and do a blog story. ]

Them: ‘Thank you so much for the blog story! We love the photos! All the C-Level people are so happy!’

Me: ‘My pleasure, thank you for having me there!’

Them: ‘We were wondering, can we give your photos to our PR so they can use them in press releases? We will give you credit and link back to your website.’
[ I go to the mirror and check my forehead to see if it says "chutiya" there. Can't find it. ]

Me: ‘Oh sure, I’m open to paid licensing.

Them: ‘Oh ok, we will get back to you.’
[ Which is code for, "Ain't gonna happen!" ]

————————————————— End of conversation —————————————————

I have SO MANY more to tell. Next time I receive a call or email, I am going to promptly blog it and will post more as and when I can recall from memory. The industry is changing and not all interactions are similar to the above. What appalls me is that these are usually young people who can take up the mantle for bringing in change to the industry and yet they prefer to stay in the rut and stick to the old and disparaging ways of doing things. The PR industry could use some professionalism and young blood.

Graphics at the CSSG Gastronomy Summit, 2012

The CSSG Gastronomy Summit in New Delhi, India that I recently photographed had wonderful graphics designed by Pavitr Rastogi Design.

Naina.co was also one of the sponsors / supporters of the summit.

Graphic design by Pavitr Rastogi Designs. Photography by supporting sponsor photographer Naina Redhu of Naina.co

Graphic design by Pavitr Rastogi Designs. Photography by supporting sponsor photographer Naina Redhu of Naina.co

Graphic design by Pavitr Rastogi Designs. Photography by supporting sponsor photographer Naina Redhu of Naina.co

Graphic design by Pavitr Rastogi Designs. Photography by supporting sponsor photographer Naina Redhu of Naina.co

Graphic design by Pavitr Rastogi Designs. Photography by supporting sponsor photographer Naina Redhu of Naina.co

Graphic design by Pavitr Rastogi Designs. Photography by supporting sponsor photographer Naina Redhu of Naina.co

The detailed menu-design can be seen on a previous blog post on the Naina.co photography blog.

Brands & Photo Bloggers

[ This was originally written for the Naina.co blog here. Re-produced as-is. ]

Background : I’ve done this before.

As a photographer and photo blogger, I have covered several brand / product launches / events. Some of the brands that I have done this for in the past include Adobe, Nikon, Levi’s, Tarun Tahiliani, Nokia, Myntra, Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2012, Hewlett Packard, MANGO & Marie Claire, Miller, Micromax, Samsung, Armani, Dewarists, Pantene, etc.

How I do it : The process.

I receive an invite, attend the event, photograph the event in my personal style, come back to my desk, edit those images in my personal style, write about the event and share those images in a blog post on this blog. Sometimes I go without an invite to events that are open to the public. I introduce the brand if it’s new or a shot introduction of the event / launch. The number of images is unlike a typical press-release. I use at least 20 to 50 images showing an overview of the entire event.

Once blogged, I share the links on Twitter @naina and Facebook [ personal page & business page ] and sometimes even LinkedIn [ when relevant ]. I also create an album on my Facebook business page with the images from the launch / event.

Why I do it : my agenda

Usually it is for a brand whose products I actually use in daily life. There is an existing personal connection and I like furthering that relationship with the brand. But increasingly, I am receiving more and more invites for such events and launches. I have had to evaluate how covering these events is advantageous to me apart from a vague sense of having a better relationship with the brand and the people who represent it.

Image & Reputation : if the brand I am engaging with has a good reputation, and I cover their launch / event on my blog, my peers will have higher regard for me and my work.

Networking : if I attend an event, I might meet someone who might be a prospective client for me. Sometimes from the brand team itself.

Monetary : some of the events I have covered in the past have been paid because the brand specifically asked me to come and photograph the event and then blog about it. Wherever that has happened, I had disclosed the same. But mostly, these are unpaid where no monetary compensation is available.

Promoting Change : I also cover such events to help change the industry and introduce the idea that bloggers aren’t like traditional media. We don’t just want a blurb. We don’t publish mass market newspapers and magazines. I might be delusional but I do thing I bring about change in thought when I discuss this with the brand teams.

What do I get : numbers / psychical objects / money

I ask for a cab pick up and drop that the brand pays for. If they are inviting me to a launch without explicitly asking me to photograph / blog about it, I do not ask them to pay me but neither do I commit to photographing / blogging. The cab is a minimum must though.

At the reception where I sign up / register at the venue, sometimes they might have a “goodie bag”. I usually hate those. But sometimes when they contents are thoughtful, I even take photographs of those and include on the blog.

Food & drinks : Most launches have this covered but for me personally, this is not why I attend. I have heard and experienced multiple times from people who work in traditional media “Hum toh bas daaru peeney aur khaana khaaney aaye hain. Akhbaar mein story toh press release sey hee likhni hai waise bhi.” [ We're here only to drink alcohol and eat. The newspaper story will be written from the press release anyway ]. How very professional. I don’t care how terrible a traditional media job is but this is unacceptable behaviour. But that’s a whole different discussion. I digress.

Sometimes after the blog post has been published and the brand has measured the conversation my individual blog post has generated, they have gotten back in touch with me and have either hired me for a professional photography assignment or have compensated me in kind [ for example Adobe - they gave me the entire Master Collection of CS6 and also asked for a review of the same. That software suit retails of Rs. 1,50,000. ]

What does the brand get : why do they want me?

Measurable eyeballs.

This blog has monthly pageviews of ~13,500 each month. And growing, in case it isn’t obvious. Click below for larger view.

On Twitter, there are currently ~11,000 people who follow my updates.

On Facebook [ personal and business page ], there are currently ~3,600 + ~4,400 people who follow my updates.

That is a total population of ~32,500 people with some overlap. And this is a discerning audience. This blog is not a newspaper or a magazine that is sent out to thousands of people who might not even see the tiny story that traditional press has covered for you. The people who I interact with on online platforms are people who hold brands accountable and want to create relationships with those brands.

The brand also gets professional quality photographs. Unmatched when compared with what they receive from traditional media. [ And before I'm told that traditional media has it's place, sure. I am not denying that. But relevance? Relevance matters more and more with each passing day. Also, we are not talking about ads and sales here - we are talking about engagement. Brand / product launches and events do not have sales goals - the people invited to those events are not expected to make a direct purchase. Such events and launches seek engagement, awareness and interest. ] If we are not sure what advantages professional grade photographs offer to a brand’s image and reputation, we have other problems.

All this is measurable. There is a proliferation of tools available online – some even for free. And yet, I have covered SO many events that didn’t even have a Twitter #hashtag. It’s a lost opportunity. If you have a #hashtag, you can also @storify tweets related to your event and find out who said what. See what @myntra did here http://storify.com/myntra/kalki-star-n-style.

And this is just ONE blog.

Further discussion

I don’t understand the confusion that is generated about “paid media” here – with respect to blogging and features covered by bloggers. Yes, I want to be paid for my time and when I am, I give full disclosure. Same for events where I am not paid. I believe the online audience can tell, even without disclosure, what stories were paid for and what were not. And we might snicker and bitch about those bloggers behind their backs, but we always know. Even when I am being paid to tweet, I include a #ad or #spon hashtag in my tweets.

Offline, we buy a newspaper or a magazine and pay to read those stories. We pay for television subscriptions and watch advertisements. With blogging, there’s nothing being forced down the audience’s throat. Readers and viewers visit my blog because they want to find out more. This is such a HUGE opportunity for a brand. Sorry for stating the obvious.

There is still some confusion about being paid to blog. The blogger is being paid to carry the story and to cover it, not to form a favorable opinion. Find out who those bloggers are who are trusted by their audience. Unless you have a brand / product that is hosting an event / launch that everyone will make a beeline for, why should bloggers cover your events? I respect a brand more when it deals with me as a professional instead of making me feel like I’m someone wasting my time online. If a blogger is offering value to your brand, what value are you offering to them in return? It’s an ecosystem.

Example / Real life case

I have covered an event for this brand / organization previously. For free. Of my own volition because I love what the brand is associated with and want to do more such work professionally for my portfolio.

They have events all the year round and after my first coverage of their event, the person who manages the brand and the organization told me and I quote, “Naina this is the best coverage my organization has ever received from any media. I loved how you captured the entire experience.” I was naturally encouraged to ask them to appoint me as their paid official photographer for the next event. I offered to send a proposal of what all I would deliver : photographs that they could use, coverage on blog, Twitter updates, Facebook updates, etc. I asked for what magazines usually pay their photographers to cover such events, for cab pick up and drop and for announcement on their organization’s official blog that I would be the official photographer for the event.

Their reply to my email was essentially “Ok” to everything I offered and “Not possible” to everything that I asked for. And I was told, “I told the boss you would be happy to do this for free. It will look good in your portfolio.”

While I am not a fan of generating hate, I am professional. Unfortunately, at least in India, the majority perceives “being professional” as “being an asshole”. I don’t know what this person’s motivations or constraints are but it is publicly known that this organization generates revenues. I was sitting in my chair when I read the email and I couldn’t fathom why anyone would even suggest what they were explicitly asking for.

Another event where I signed up as a blogger – to cover for free because I wanted to capture the event like it has never been captured / displayed earlier in India. If I did this for one brand, maybe another would see it and would want to hire me professionally. I was told, “Yes, you can go, but you will need to seek permission for photography at the venue.” If you want me, at least make it easy for me to do what you want me to do.

In closing

That this is a new industry space is now a lame excuse. What innovation are we talking about when we don’t even look at what benefits our own profits and brand reputation?

If you are a brand / PR person reading this, and have questions, please ask. Let’s discuss. I could be wrong but if we don’t even talk about how to make this a win-win for all parties, how is it going to happen? We might hate bloggers for the noise they create and the new media space that blogging has created but we must also understand that this new space / industry is not going to disappear unless the World Wide Web does. How are you planning to make it work for your brand / product / company?

Branding : Brands, Events, Social Media

It is foolish to assume that everyone knows about your brand – unless you’re an international conglomerate in the media space – like Nikon & Adobe. Spend some time telling me about your brand – not in a dirty cyclo-styled paper press-release but in person / a personal note on email.

If it is the first time that a brand is getting in touch with me, I might take a chance and visit. But usually, there are no second times. THAT is how badly most events are managed.

From a branding perspective, it is a disaster to assume that all you need to “represent” your brand with is the logo applied to a standee at the entrance of the venue and maybe a few indoors. Every experience that an attendee has at your event is going to affect how they perceive your brand. While not everything can be controlled, it at least needs to be thought out in advance!

[ I am planning to write more about brands and social media and the online space. If you manage a brand or handle their PR and and have a question, leave a comment or email me on naina@asidebrands.com ]

Needs : Brands, Events, Social Media

When you have successfully identified the relevant people you would like to invite and would like to invest time in – assuming you’re doing this some months / weeks in advance – then engage with those people. When someone from a PR agency calls me up “just like that”, asking me to “please come for our event” when I don’t know who that person on the phone is, who the PR agency is and if I don’t know anyone employed at the brand, then I am likely to say “Sorry, not available.” I like engaging with brands and prefer to meet people I might have interacted with earlier. I also like to be recognized / remembered / recalled. Not just “Oh! Our client needs some publicity, we know you have a photo blog, so we won’t explicitly ask you to bring your camera but please come.”

Why?

I have covered events in the past where I didn’t ask to be paid – I write, shoot, edit and blog and it’s a considerable time-investment for me. I always disclose whether a blog post is sponsored / paid for or otherwise. Transparency is important for my readers and for me. It’s a long term strategy. These events were for brands I’ve been associated with in the past – for example Nikon & Adobe. I don’t care if I know someone who works at these companies [ I do know many now and I prefer it ] and whether they have made efforts to engage with me, their user, earlier. I’m already a fan and more often than not, I already follow their Twitter accounts, Like them on Facebook and even comment on their blogs.

But for most other brands, my attending their event and covering it is something the brands needs. I don’t need that blog post on my blog to drive traffic. And considering how badly managed most events are, attending such events brings no value to me. And please don’t say “But we provided a pick up and drop, we gave free drinks and free dinner and you got to stare at so-and-so Bollywood celebrity! Oh and we gave you a moisturizer and a deodorant.”

If your brand / PR company is using that excuse to not create stronger engagement models, then you’re wasting your time, your money and hurting your reputation instead of enhancing it.

Brands need to do more – and not for the collective good of the bloggers but for the good of the brand. How do you throw a party where when someone who wasn’t at the party hears about it, they WANT to be there? Now apply that to your events. It doesn’t have to be a party but it has to be engaging. When I go to an event and I see other people attending the event and I know these other people are relevant to the brand, I feel good to be there.

But when I see old ladies in animal print boob tubes with dyed hair, with young daughters in tow and old gentlemen who don’t follow the “No Smoking” sign, then I know that the brand has money to burn & has not done its research. And that the PR company for that brand has taken the easiest way out : inviting people who want to be there. Not the ones who the brands needs to be there.

[ More observations in subsequent posts coming up. If you manage a brand or handle their PR and and have a question, leave a comment or email me on naina@asidebrands.com ]

Investment : Brands, Events, Social Media

Once your research points out someone to you as RELEVANT, for your event / brand, then find out whether their activities are regular and consistent. Someone might have been a fantastic blogger 5 years ago but now only updates their blog once in six months and that too with a miscellaneous story about their lawn and birds. Does their blog receive any traffic? Most bloggers / active online users are happy to share their website statistics – ask for those details. It’s like wanting to place an advertisement on a website – don’t you need to know how many pageviews to expect?

While a blog post might be paid / unpaid depending on the deal with the blogger, it is still always better to know what you’re investing in. And spending time is an investment for both your brand as well as the blogger / social media enthusiast.

[ More observations in subsequent posts coming up. If you manage a brand or handle their PR and and have a question, leave a comment or email me on naina@asidebrands.com ]