Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How a PR manipulates (A tip)

I remember an instance, when long ago I had messaged the editor of Mid-Day's film supplement Hit-List for a story on one of my PR clients, Pakistani actress Meera. When I followed up, the Ed curtly messaged back, "Mid-Day won't carry the story." I was irked by that statement, as the editor was only the editor of Hit-List... and not all of Mid-Day. To me, the statement also smacked of typical media arrogance, which once used to be a part-and-parcel of the attitude of old-school media persons. There and then I decided, this had to change, or at least, I had to be an exception.

That evening, I contacted an on-the-ball News Desk journo friend from Mid-Day and offered two separate scandalous scoops with exclusive pictures to support. These two scoops were an offer in return for pitching and pushing the Meera story for nothing less than 'Page 1' of Mid-Day. I had added a current affairs angle to it to suit the main paper and did not mention that I had pitched the same story to the Hit-List editor earlier in the day.

The journo loved the story and the carrot of two huge scoops. He asked me to be patient — as two days later, his senior had a weekly off — and on that day, maybe he could push the story. I was repeatedly assertive about it with the journo and then waited the wait. The story finally appeared on Page 1 with an elaborate continuation on an inside page.

That morning, I messaged the Hit-List editor about it, with a rejoinder: "Sher ke mooh mein haath daloge, toh sher kaatega toh sahi." (with a wink emoticon in the end). Though later, I felt a bit bad about that message (though not about the manipulation). Aisa laga, ke thoda zyaada ho gaya.

BTW: As a bonus, instead of the promised two scoops, I gave my journo friend three controversies to cover for the next fortnight. He was thrilled.

Moral of the story: Only media-fearing PRs can be put in place, not the ones who understand spin. After all, PRs aren't called 'spin doctors' for nothing.

Takeaway for PRs, budding PRs and BMM students: A publicist has a whole world of print, television, radio, internet media and even citizen journalism via social media in his/her scheme of things. If the PR really decides to play the game, there is no way any media person can stop a spin doctor from doing what he/she wants to do. Just decide to be unstoppable and the possibilities are endless.

Note of caution: PRs can create upheavals like nobody's business as they can plot, plug and plant stories or rumours in trade or any media. So they must always remember, that with great influence comes great responsibility. Stay nice. Be ethical.

About the Author:
Dale Bhagwagar is a PR specialist with branding, image consultancy, strategizing, media manipulation, crisis management and mentorship for media students. He has handled the publicity for more than 150 Bollywood actors and 30 movies, apart from being a spokesperson and publicist to 20 Bigg Boss contestants.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thor going the James Bond way?

First, Hollywood screwed up with James Bond's characterization and made him brooding, serious and a punchy muscular fighter (traits he never had for decades).

Now it's screwing up Thor's characterization by making him caricaturish, taking away his famed hammer, giving him additional Superman-like superpowers and making major changes in his looks.

Bond movies lost the repeat-viewing value... which is still there with the old Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan flicks. And I have a feeling, the same might happen with the Thor franchise.

About the Author:
Dale Bhagwagar is a PR specialist with branding, image consultancy, strategizing, media manipulation, crisis management and mentorship for media students. He has handled the publicity for more than 150 Bollywood actors and 30 movies, apart from being a spokesperson and publicist to 20 Bigg Boss contestants.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Why Mobile Space is more powerful than Print and Television Media

As in other parts of the world, media consumption in India has shifted decisively online, with 375,000,000 Internet users in 2015, or 30% of the population. Meanwhile, more than 50% of the population owns a mobile phone and around a third of these own a smartphone. Newspaper and magazine print circulation has been declining steadily for over the last six years.

Image courtesy: Google

In the next 5-7 years, when mobiles will fully overtake laptops and desktops in the access of the internet, there will be a great shuffle in the media order. Mobile Space will be the No.1 media. Internet on desktops, tablets and laptops will come at No.2. Television will come at No.3. Print and Radio will compete with each other for Nos. 4 and 5.

Image courtesy: Google

This order with Mobile Space as No.1 may come as a surprise to many. But please understand that Print Media can converge on to the Net with their Online websites and E-papers. Television can converge on the Net with live broadcasts and YouTube video capsules. Radio can converge on the Net with broadband and podcast capsules. And finally the Net converges onto your Mobile phone, which makes the Mobile Space the most powerful media... even more powerful than Television, Print, Radio and regular Online media.

About the Author:
Dale Bhagwagar is a PR specialist with branding, image consultancy, strategizing, media manipulation, crisis management and mentorship for media students. He has handled the publicity for more than 150 Bollywood actors and 30 movies, apart from being a spokesperson and publicist to 20 Bigg Boss contestants.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Remembering naughty Freud and spin doctor Bernays

Last week was the birth anniversary of Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), the father of psychoanalysis. And Google rightly devoted a doodle to him.

Freud had a lot of controversial accomplishments, some of which are highly debated even today. But what people sometimes fail to acknowledge, is the indirect impact Freud has had on almost everything we as a people witness in today's times.

Now now! Doesn't that make him an extremely interesting man to study! And you may ask how he has influenced us so much. So let me take you back in history a bit and explain the phenomenon in the crispiest way possible.

Sigmund Freud's nephew Edward Bernays combined the ideas of 'crowd psychology' along with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, to invent 'propaganda'. In contemporary times, we know 'propaganda' as 'Public Relations' (PR).

 Sigmund Freud (left) and Edward Bernays

As a publicist, I often say, we are living in a world where perception is reality. Think about it. Don't we all blindly believe in what we read and are told. Who has the time to research and investigate facts!

Earlier journalists used to do that as the torch-bearers of society. But in times of paid media, combined with research via the phone and Google (and less of field work), contemporary journalists are fast losing those traits. So let me take the liberty to repeat my favourite line: We are living in a world where perception is reality. A world driven by PR.

And who started the fire? Naughty Freud and spin doctor Bernays. ;-) #FoodForThought

About the Author:
Dale Bhagwagar is a PR specialist with branding, image consultancy, strategizing, media manipulation, crisis management and mentorship for media students. He has handled the publicity for more than 150 Bollywood actors and 30 movies, apart from being a spokesperson and publicist to 20 Bigg Boss contestants.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Raaj Kumar was something else only! ;-)

Jab main naya naya Mumbai mein aaya tha... being a journalist then, ek baar ek party mein I approached Raaj Kumar for a quote on something... he had one piercing look at me and said, "Jaani, tum abhi bachche ho. Jaao."
When I tried to rephrase my question, he again said, "Kaha na, tum bachche ho, side mein ho jaao." I felt intimidated and decided to move on. I could even make Amitabh Bachchan relent to persuasion, but not Raaj Kumar. ;-)

Kam se kam, I could pester and convince Big B into THIS.

Later in my career as a PR, I got to meet Mr Kumar's son Puru Raaj Kumar a couple of times. Must say, both father and son have been unique in their own ways. Charming and impressionable.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

RIP: My tribute to Gunjan Kapur

Tears are rolling down my cheeks, as I begin to write this as a tribute to the wonderful person Gunjan Kapur, who lost her life this evening, battling for it in the ICU for almost a week.

A degree from London...

I first interacted with Gunjan over the phone in 2009, when she was studying in London. She did her dissertation for her M.A. Degree in Public Relations at the University of Westminster, London, with me as her guide for it.

The topic she chose for her thesis was, ‘How Shilpa Shetty became an iconic brand’ during and after the Celebrity Big Brother show in UK, which catapulted the Bollywood actress to international fame. The purpose of this study was to explore how the blend of strategic PR and branding, contributed in creating Brand Shilpa Shetty... and I have to say, Gunjan covered the subject exceptionally well.

Making me proud...

Returning to India after her graduation, Gunjan worked at a PR agency in Delhi, and quit that job and joined PROP (PR Orientation Programme), a 20-day workshop, which I conducted with around 10 students at my office in Mumbai in 2010.

When I had asked her, why she quit a full-fledged PR job, to join the workshop, she'd said, she wanted to learn more about PR. After the 20-day workshop of 3 hours a day, Gunjan gave me a great compliment. She told me, "I learnt more at PROP than what I learnt working at the PR agency in Delhi." I felt so proud hearing that.

At PROP, Gunjan was always a sparkling and smiling student and would listen to the lectures and talks of all the speakers including me, with unwavering concentration. She would also ask some very intelligent and thought-provoking questions in the Q&A sessions and had good team spirit.

After the workshop, I didn't get to interact with her, except on Facebook where she would like or comment on pics and status messages at times.

Meanwhile, Gunjan changed a few jobs and cities, and one day messaged me that she was starting her own PR agency in Mumbai. She had given me another reason to feel proud. The girl who did her thesis with me as the guide and learnt more from a workshop conducted by me, was now going to have a PR agency of her own. Sometime later, I learnt that Gunjan stopped working as an independent publicist, to work for the reputed Zee group's music division.

Around two weeks ago, Facebook intimated me about her birthday and I sent her birthday wishes on WhatsApp. Next day, I spoke to her and helped with an issue regarding her past phone number. In her brief chat, she told me she was happy working with Zee Music and that she had a great time celebrating her birthday a day ago. I was happy for her. The newbie I'd guided in whatever little way in PR, was now on her own feet and growing amazingly.

And then... suddenly...

And then... suddenly... after a few days, I got a call from one of my PR friends Pritam Sharma (who was a speaker at PROP) saying, he read a newspaper report stating Gunjan had an accident. My friend Akshaye Rathi too (who was also a speaker at PROP) got to know about this and we were so shocked and pained to hear about it. I managed to speak to Gunjan Kapur's friend and namesake, Gunjan Wathodkar, who gave me more details.

Apparently, she had fallen from the 4th floor of her apartment, which did not have a protecting grill, and landed on a car parked below. It sounded horrific and disturbing to think of... kind of stuff we only see in the movies.

Raw deal...

I googled and read the news in the Mumbai Mirror tabloid, though later, her family informed me of discrepancies in the report. Also, I found no mention of the incident in any other media. The very media she catered to on a day-to-day basis as a PR, seemed to have given her a raw deal in her time of suffering.

Surprisingly, (and as per statements to Police) none of her friends present at her residence while this happened, saw her falling.

I visited her family at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital & Medical Research Institute, where they were going through a tough time. Felt great pain and helplessness to see them going through the trauma of their daughter's state.

She was in the ICU... was declared brain dead by the doctors... but was breathing on ventilator. I was also told about some delays and indifference of some hospital staff which made matters worse for the family in agony.

For her friends, Friendship Day will never be the same again...

Gunjan's mom, father, brother, her colleague Neha Titus and some friends were there. I sat with them for a while, sometimes discussing, sometimes in silence, and sometimes thinking about how smart and intelligent Gunjan always was.

Today (Friendship Day) evening, I got to know that Gunjan is no more. Life is strange to some nice people. One moment its showering blessings. Next moment, it takes them all away.

A life of learning and achievement...

As the days and years pass by, life will go on for her family and friends... but the pain of life being cruel to a wonderful 27-year-old person will stay forever.

Gunjan lived a short life, but from whatever I knew of her, I can say that she lived a life of constant learning; a life of achievement.

She took off like a bird, flew high in her profession and has now flown speedily to God. May His company give her peace now and forever.

-Dale Bhagwagar

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Trial by Media on Hema Malini?

Dear Media, did you 'see' WHICH car was "speeding" or "overspeeding"?

Do any of the cars have a mechanism to check the last-driven speed?

Are you pointing fingers at Hema Malini's driver just because he was driving a celebrity?

Just because her car was a Merc, does it make it more responsible than an Alto?

If the Alto driver files an FIR first, does it make him innocent?

All this is not to underestimate the sad loss of an innocent life. An accident is always saddening.

But isn't the way our media handles such issues related to celebrities, questionable? Doesn't it try to behave like private detectives, Police, moral Police and even a Judge? Doesn't it do a 'trial by media' and pass TRP-centric verdicts even before Police can investigate or a Court can sit to judge?

Is this behaviour of our Media, fair on the delicate image and easily dentable brand of a celebrity? #HemaMaliniCarAccident

Images Courtesy: Internet

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Celebrity PR clients need even better hand-holding and guiding

The PR spectrum is continually changing and expanding, but some entertainment publicists are not changing with the times. They seem to be ignoring the dictum: Evolve or perish.

Traditional PR tactics are phasing out, and making way for professional handling of crisis management on web and mobile space, even if it requires guerilla tactics.

Bollywood celebrity clients need even better hand-holding and guiding in this changing world of public relations.

Contemporary PRs need to understand this, adapt and adjust... and real quickly. It's a new mindset taking over the industry; demanding a paradigm shift from publicity professionals.

Monday, January 20, 2014

When Bollywood publicist Dale Bhagwagar applied the power of persuasion on Amitabh Bachchan

Whistling Woods International (WWI) featured my experiences with megastar Amitabh Bachchan in their newsletter called Stamp. While everyone else got half or one-page articles, two pages were devoted to mine. Feels nice... kinda leaving a king size stamp on time, eh! ;-) Gee!  Thanx WWI, Priyanka Pai, Alison Dcruz, Aditya Mandre, Karn Gupta, Saili Kocharekar, Niviya Augustine, Pooja Doke, Jaison Chacko, Sumedha KS & Team.


The power of persuasion
(Applied on Amitabh Bachchan)
In the words of Bollywood’s only PR guru Dale Bhagwagar

Today, I am a leading publicist in Bollywood. But I was less than 25 and just out of college, when I first spoke to Amitabh Bachchan in 1995.

Back then, with great encouragement and support from my mentor grandpa, I had come down from my relatively quiet hometown, Nagpur, to the concrete jungle of Mumbai (then Bombay) as a journalist, and joined the Bollywood magazine Cine Blitz magazine as Chief Sub-Editor and Reporter, just a day before this incident.

Amitabh Bachchan was my screen idol and I’d grown up watching his films like Satte Pe Satta, Aakhree Raasta, Naseeb, Amar Akbar Anthony, Agneepath and my favourite Main Azaad Hoon; the one which dealt with the media.

It was my second day in office, when one of my seniors told me about an ABCL (Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Limited) Press Conference to take place same afternoon, for announcing a corporate tie-up of the company.

Since Cine Blitz is a gossip magazine and there is not much that corporate Press Conferences contribute to gossip, the interest levels amongst staffers to cover it were low. Moreover, they expected the CEO of ABCL to address it, and not the mega star himself. “Big B will not be there, but you can go and cover it anyway,” they told me almost sarcastically, while I enthusiastically jumped at the opportunity.

Of course, being new in Mumbai and just having joined the office a day ago, I wanted to take all the chances and explore every opportunity life threw towards me. Bachchan was too big a one to miss; in fact, the biggest, especially for a teen just out of college.

Happily and in hope, I reached the hotel where the event was to be conducted. Soon, it was announced, “Mr Bachchan is held up in traffic and would be about 25 minutes late.” What? Did I hear, “Mr Bachchan”? Oh yes! He was coming.

My joy knew no bounds when the mega star finally arrived, but I did not ask him a single question during the entire Conference. Instead, I was carefully noting my points and making a few exclusive questions which the 150-odd media men at the event seemed to have missed.

As soon as the Conference was over and we broke for tea, I waded my way through a sea of around 40 over-enthusiastic photographers, who’d rushed towards the stage, to click candid pictures of the biggest star our country has ever witnessed.

In those days, Amitabh Bachchan hardly gave exclusive interviews, neither was there any show like Kaun Banega Crorepati, or a blog, where you’d see or read him often. Then, it was terribly difficult for a journalist to get an exclusive interview with Big B, and next to impossible for a teen journo like me.

But where was I to give up!!

Finding my way through the photographers, I reached the stage just in time before he left. I looked small in front of the six-footer, but stood rock solid, refusing to move, till he noticed. Giving a look of amusement, as he glanced at me, I felt, as if I’d managed to win my first battle.

Having caught his attention (even if it was for a second), I immediately introduced myself and shot, “Sir, I need four minutes of your precious time.” Hearing this, Bachchan gave me a very surprised look! “Why didn’t you ask me your questions during the Conference?” he inquired in his baritone voice, which was almost unnerving for me then. “Sir, because I wanted an exclusive interview,” I replied as boldly as I could.

Now, anyone who is aware of journalism would know that exclusives are next to impossible at Press Conferences. But this was exactly where I was keen to score. So I pushed him again, stressing, “Sir, I won’t take more than four minutes.” At this time, Bachchan gave a strong look at me.

‘Does this kid think he can walk into a Press Conference with 150 scribes and walk out with an exclusive’, he might have thought. I repeated my plea, almost refusing to budge. “Speak to my secretary tomorrow and take an appointment,” he said, as if wanting to evade and pass through me. “Four minutes; only four minutes, sir,” I requested again with a smile this time.

Wonder if it was my smile or the power of persuasion that worked. Cause Bachchan gave me the last of those stern looks that fine day, as he gave up and said, “Ok son, your time starts now”. One after the other, I quickly shot my questions, while all the photographers circled us, clicking away.

Thoroughly engrossed in the interview, Bachchan answered each and every query in his characteristic style. When all my questions were over, he looked at his watch, then at me, and smiled. “You took fifteen minutes,” he remarked. Thanking him, I smiled back, knowing well that he ‘gave’ them to me.

I went back to my office and proclaimed, “I’ve managed an exclusive interview of Amitabh Bachchan”. Everyone laughed! I knew they wouldn’t believe me, so I took out my tape recorder and made them hear the conversation. Their jaws dropped.

Our footnote: Two years after this incident Dale Bhagwagar quit journalism and moved to Public Relations. A few years later, he handled PR for two of Bachchan’s movies namely Boom and Aetbaar and had various interactions with the megastar.
-- Article, as appeared in
the Stamp newsletter
of Whistling Woods International

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Best Bollywood PR

Public Relations on a roll

From what a PR gets, he might make a living. But from what a PR gives, he might make a life.

PR's have been media kings from quite some time. Almost from the time I gave this interview three years ago.

I entered PR sixteen years ago after being a journalist for eleven years prior to that (since my school days). Then, I shifted from journalism to PR mostly because PRs are better paid than journalists.

Journalism v/s PR

This is because journalism is a profession, while PR is a business. But mind you, not all PRs are able to make good monies. Many who are not able to adjust and adapt to changing times also fade away. There are also many journalists and editors who have entered PR from time to time, but haven't been able to sustain.

This is simply because the profession is extremely demanding. It takes a lot of passion to stay put. Some think PR is a lot of stress and builds anxiety like no one’s business. True to an extent! But a great PR also learns how to handle that and treat his work with media like a game. Once that feeling sets in, PR is cakewalk and the passion for delivering impacting service, peaks. And then, he plays.

What it takes to be a great PR

To be a successful PR, one has to have a combination of at least the following -- intelligence, knowledge of market, intellect, street-smartness, contacts, connections, shrewdness, manipulation abilities, writing abilities, scheming techniques and tact and flamboyance to spin. And these are only the basics.

There's lot more to PR including spokesmanship, legal knowledge and mass perception management, psychology and even basic knowledge of psychiatry! Yes, you read it right! There are times, a PR has to double up almost like a psychiatrist; advising and guiding some clients who could be jittery about controversies and scandals that crop up in our gossip-hungry media.

So basically, a great PR is like a magician; building, promoting and protecting celebrities.