Indian media: With a heart, or with a head?

By , agencyfaqs!, New Delhi | In Media | December 20, 2007
Are the generous acts by the media companies purely a non-commercial, benevolent act or are there some intangible gains behind activities done under CSR mask. agencyfaqs! digs deep to figure out if media has a heart of gold or a mind that seeks gold?

On August & #BANNER1 & # 15 last year, TOI (The Times of India) embarked on an ambitious journey, a unique talent search which has the potential to make a huge difference to India. The English daily began a hunt to identify new leaders for a new India, men and women with the vision and ability to empower India with the kind of political leadership that is so conspicuous by its absence.

It is one of the many incidences seen in the media space in the country in the past few months where media organisations have gone out of the way to actually give something back to the society. Are the generous acts by the media companies purely a non-commercial, benevolent act or are there some intangible gains behind activities done under CSR mask. agencyfaqs! digs deep to figure out if media has a heart of gold or a mind that seeks gold? Or a mix of the two?

Rahul Kansal
"I don't understand why some sections of media are calling it a CSR activity. CSR is something that a company does beyond its core activities. When we started off with the Lead India campaign we were doing something within our business. It's like an industrial goods producing company using non-polluting ways to produce the goods or a company earning carbon credits by capping total annual emissions. The Lead India campaign stemmed from our belief, and overwhelming reader feedback. It was more like part of our business rather than a CSR," says Rahul Kansal, brand director, Times group.

According to Kansal, the newspaper received an overwhelming response as applications flooded in as did messages of support and encouragement from readers. "We were left with over 34,000 valid applications from all over India. As a newspaper it's our job to highlight people who have risen above everyone else to do some good for the society. We are merely doing our job, that's why it was so well-received," he adds.

But, Kansal accepts directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally such activities do create goodwill about a brand and create a long-term relationship between brands and consumers. "Readers will value a brand more that has a social conscious vis--vis a brand that is solely driven by bottom lines," Kansal asserts.

Anita Nayyar
Media observers believe that for media companies CSR are of utmost importance even more than other industries as media companies are believed to be truthful, and one with a heart and judgment. "Consumers trust media a lot as every word they say is the word of the gospel, and CSR activities do help building that trust," says Anita Nayyar, CEO, MPG.

She also believes there's a very thin line between social activities and activities done with a hidden PR agenda. "There are organisations which indulge in such activities with a PR agenda but I believe consumers are intelligent enough to differentiate real from the reel. That's where TOI's Lead India Campaign did so well as it managed to put across an honest attempt to do something constructive for the society," adds Nayyar.

TOI's Lead India Campaign is just a tip of the iceberg according to media planners as more and more media companies are realising how important this tool is to break away from the clutter. "Off late, there has been a lot of instances where media shown a big heart for the society. Especially, in this age of duplication, such measures do help organisations break the clutter," says Basabdutta Chowdhary, Madison.

Anil Srivatsa
India Today's radio venture Radio Meow did something similar to the TOI's Lead India Campaign. A few months back the radio station organised a walkathon to create awareness about the breast cancer, which again was well received by the listeners of the station as thousands of women flocked to India Gate to make the event a huge success. "I think we don't have a clutter to fight as we are the only radio station for women in the country. So, it wasn't an activity done for goodwill as there was no commercial element in it," says Meow FM's COO Anil Srivatsa.

But, experts believe though the primary objective of such activities is to create awareness or to highlight leaders but secondary objective still remains to build a brand. "If a brand says it's doing it merely as a social service without any anticipation then it isn't an honest statement," says Nayyar.

Accepts Kansal of TOI, "We are here to make profit and surely we can't do it unless we build our brands. Through such activities one hopes to take brand to a higher level where consumers start respecting the brand."

Though Indian media has had seen a plethora of give-and-take initiatives but experts believe it's foreign collaboration and extensive coverage that has brought such activities in the limelight.

"Such things have had been there not just in media but across the sector and today it gets more coverage than ever before as media companies are the news as well as the disseminators in this case. For example, Lead India Campaign was given full-length front page coverage by TOI which lead to all the hype and hoopla. Recently on the World Aids day, almost every media house carried a public service message which again is part of CSR. It has been there from Doordarshan days, that's it's called as public service broadcaster," says Anita Nayyar.

Although, Basab credits the surge in social favours to international collaborations. "CSR is a new concept in India but in the west it's past its prime. Indian media is waking up to it thanks to various tie-ups with international media houses."

Surely, Indian media houses have realised the power of the tool through which it's not merely returning favours to society but also building its own brand by telling the consumers that they do care.

Nayyar concludes it aptly by saying, "Every media organisation is a public service broadcaster, if you don't serve them you will lose them."

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