In a conversation with afaqs!, Meenakshi Madhvani, co-founder and chairperson, Spatial Access Solutions, spoke about the company stepping into the space of public relations (PR) and below-the-line (BTL) audits. Till now, it has essentially operated in the space of auditing, with services such as media audits, production audits, film audits, marketing analytics and creative and media pitch management.
Going by a survey conducted by ASSOCHAM in March 2008, India's PR industry stands at Rs 1,300 crore and is poised to double itself to Rs 2,500 crore by 2010.
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It becomes important for a marketer to find out which part of the PR effort works for the brand and how one can actually make the PR efforts work harder. Also, the traditional assessment of PR is only the number of stories multiplied by column centimetres. PR coverage is much more than that - it is about where it appears and who it is reaching.
"If a story appears on the front page of a newspaper, there are 50 per cent chances that the story would be read. If the same story appears on Page 22, chances of the story being read would come down to 10 per cent. How can I put the same value to the same story that appears on Page 1 or Page 3 to that appearing on Page 22? It's not about column centimetres - it's about how many people I have been able to touch with the PR communication," explains Madhvani.
Why PR and BTL auditing? She explains that with production budgets on a rise and other areas beginning to gain significance, the auditing business, too, has evolved significantly. Be it digital, OOH (out of home), PR or BTL, everything is coming under the measurement ambit.
"The logic is simple - if it is meant to deliver return, that return should be measured. Whether it is adequate or not, whether good or bad," she brings out.
Mass media is important. However, increasingly, non mass media aspects are also becoming more important. Whether it's PR, events or BTL, one tends to the size of the above-the-line (ATL) industry (Rs 20,000 crore). Figures suggest that another Rs 20,000 crore is going into BTL.
"The way ATL expenditure is growing is dramatically different from the way BTL expenditure is growing. We talk about ATL growing at about 9 per cent. BTL growth will be at about 15-18 per cent, which is significantly higher as compared to ATL," says Madhvani.
The PR Audit service is offered as a two-step process of analysing coverage, partners and process through PR evaluation and PR validation. The approach is a qualitative cum quantitative one.
The quantitative analysis includes SOV Analysis (extent of evaluated coverage across TV, print and online), measuring performance (leading players in that media), reach (of selected media across the target group), imagery, space value and impact value (factoring in headline, visuals and logos).
Qualitative analysis would measure tone of coverage, quality of exposure, editorial bias, language bias and duplication and differences in reporting across media.
Analysing current trends, Madhvani focuses on the fact that brand-led PR has suddenly become more crucial. In the past, it was about corporate-led PR, which was more important - one used to talk about companies and not brands. "Today, brands are becoming more important," she adds.
BTL is growing significantly because it allows a marketer to change consumer behaviour. Advertising takes a little longer to get response - moreover, the efficacy of BTL can be measured. The immediacy of response is encouraging marketers to move some of their monies to BTL, particularly because the environment is tough. When the situation is such, marketers are looking at what could give them short term or mid-term gains.
Claiming a good understanding of the BTL field in India, Spatial Access seeks some answers for its clients: does the BTL partner have implementation capabilities across markets? Does it have an understanding of communication strategy? On what basis will the performance be measured? Are the outlined deliverables quantifiable? What do their clients think about them?
With about five new clients in BTL and four in PR, Spatial Access boasts of a client base of 120 clients in its mainstay - media and production audits.
As a field to be explored, the potential of auditing is immense and there is a need for more players to step into the space to stimulate growth and expansion for the market. Spatial Access audited for about Rs 4,000 crore last year. It is looking at closing with a figure of Rs 5,000 crore this year.
On a closing note, she offers the view that at Spatial Access, they see themselves as co-creators. "The very formation of Spatial Access is an example of co-creation - of creating something based on the clients' needs."