I Know your editor!!

December 22nd, 2009

I always knew my bosses are famous (as many bosses are) but it’s only of late that I get a taste of their popularity.

Recently, I had to call up an IIM director to confirm an event on his campus. Considering the story was negative, the director was obviously hesitant to talk.

When I called him he said, “You know young lady, I have worked with Business Standard for five years and I know your editor very well.”

“Oh! That’s nice to know, sir. So what do you have to say to the development at your institute?” I asked.

“You know your editor is a very nice man and I have great regards for him. I have known him personally for sometime now,” he replied.

As usual, I am trying hard to be polite . “Am sure he is a nice man, sir. But if you could help me with your version to the story, I would be grateful. I have a deadline to meet,” I replied.

The director loses his cool, blasts me and hangs up. I call up the dean and confirm the story.

Few months ago at a conference in Mumbai, I sneaked out and walked up to a minister who was enjoying a tea break. I asked him a question which, according to him, like all other questions, was controversial. He refused to answer it.

When I turned the question around and pestered him for a comment, still (as we reporters always do), he said, “You are from Business Standard, you said?”

“Yes, sir,” I nodded. “You know, your editor is a good friend of mine. I had dinner with him last week,” he said.

“Errrrrr…am sure he is your good friend, sir. But…,” before I could complete, his secretary intervened (perfect timing)… “Madam ji, sir aap ko bol rahe hain yeh controversial issue hai…aap media wale bhi!” Needless to say what happened to the story!!

But that’s not all. When we recently did a piece on the IIMs one of the directors was upset about it.

After reading the piece, he called me up and blasted me thinking I wrote it (he said half the reporters on this beat don’t even know the basics L).

Before I could apologize for the mistake, he snapped, “I know your editor very well and I shall take this up with him.”

“Errrr…not again,” I mumbled and apologized to him.

I tried and steered the conversation to another topic, a story I am working on. Though angry, the gentleman asked me to call up later to discuss the same.

…And I thought to myself, what fun it would be if I could do similar name dropping and get some breaking stories!!

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Brownies in the CATastrophe

December 8th, 2009

A day before the common admission test (CAT) began, the IIMs came up with a disclaimer to avoid instances of cheating during the 10-day exam. If flouted, the individual would attract imprisonment for a term of up to three years and fine of up to Rs 200,000, the disclaimer said.

When I spoke to an official from one of the MBA test preparing institutes on this, he remarked, “This is the only time for us to get publicity and the IIMs have spoiled it all by coming up with the disclaimer.”

Little did he realize that what would follow the next day would ensure record publicity for his institute and similar other institutes, without any spend on advertising.

Ten days on, the CAT controversy refuses to die down. The disastrous start to the computer-based CAT has helped everyone in the business of MBA. Of course IIMs and Prometric remain an exception.

The swiftness these MBA test-preparing institutes exhibited in cashing in on the mistake of IIMs and Prometric, talks how well they have mastered the art of promoting themselves (an IIM director had once said that these institutes feed on the IIM brand). Their public relation officer/agencies kept feeding the media with an hour by hour account on the failure of the test labs by sending text messages on the mobile phones and shooting emails.

The IIMs and Prometric on the other hand came on record only on the third day of the fiasco to admit their failure. Considering the gravity of the situation, IIMs should have been the first ones to send out a communication to the press. May be they can emulate the model followed by their international counterparts on this.

Last year when I spoke one of the IIM directors, he candidly remarked, “IIMs do not need publicity. They are just too sought after.” Agreed. But a crisis management policy in place could have saved the day for these ‘too sought after institutes’. The fact that IIMs are planning a case study on CAT 2009 fiasco, might throw some light on the importance of having an effective communication management in place.

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