Can We Have a Mascot For The Campaign? – Final Part

This post seems to have generated a lot of interest and I am impressed by the quality of comments and the passion that communicators share for and against using ‘mascots’. Thank you all for your insights.

Here is a summary of what readers both in India and abroad commented:

Bish pointed to a campaign in Chennai and highlighted a great point on evaluating impact of ‘mascots’.

Ajita talked of organization size and the fun element as instrumental in going with a mascot or not.

Anindita addressed an excellent point on recall and leveraging mascots for large scale programs.

Adam draws attention to risk vs engagement and the potential of distracting audiences. He also writes about making decisions based on messages and audience vs objectives. He talks of creating ‘emotional connections’ with the audience and understanding what they want to achieve – great insight.

Finally, Anju calls out that relevance and sensitivities of audiences need to be considered before choosing a mascot although she weighs more about avoiding mascots.

Recently, I came across an article on how Bisleri, a well-known water brand in India launched a new platform of protection using ‘Bisley’, a monster. It got mixed reactions since monsters are associated with horror and fear and here an established brand is reinventing their image with ogres! While they expected to get consumers to understand the connection with ‘protection’ and monsters  it didn’t seem to be far away from their earlier positioning of ‘safety’.

Back to the scenario we discussed.

It took me three full meetings to walk the team about the pros and cons of the ‘mascot’ approach. (Again, not a great way to have a conversation – since you can be perceived as that ‘know it all’ person). 

Then I talked through how the messages they needed to convey were going to get far greater visibility and mileage when it involved staff, got them engaged in creating communication and supported a lasting image in their minds.

Here were my reasons why a mascot may not work. Again, I said “may not work”, not WILL NOT work!

–          Building visibility and a brand for a mascot takes time

–          A mascot may not appeal across geographies and cultures

–          A mascot may outlive its use

–          An employee is more believable than a mascot – since staff may perceive a mascot as promoted by the organization to push messages

 More importantly, you need to get to the source of the issue.

Have the right stakeholders been trained on crafting internal communication messages? Do they know the available channels? Are they aware of the process for communicating?

If not you are going to spend a lot more time where you shouldn’t as an internal communicator.

The result: you end up draining your energy keeping stakeholders off your functional domain while inviting needless questions on your ability. Can a carpenter do what a fireman is expected to do? Does HR allow you to do policy management? You have your answer.

The mascot argument is stalled at this point – since the Maharaja (Air India’s ambassador) is no more and the airline which it served dutifully is now bankrupt.

Knowledge Exchange, Ideation and Problem Solving at Internal Communications 101 Workshop

When talented people converge you can expect great connection and cool ideas to emerge.  

Yesterday, October 1, 2011 I conducted a first ever (in India) hands-on, full day internal communications workshop at Bangalore engaging participants from organizations such as UST Global and Allianz Cornhill Information Services (Trivandrum, Kerala),  Tata Consultancy Services, Max Bupa Health Insurance Company Limited, Aditya Birla Minacs, Mistral Solutions, Thought Works and Ascendas. There were also representatives from agencies who support internal communications for clients.

Participants at the workshop

Personally, I felt blessed to be in the company of an enthusiastic group of corporate communicators, internal communicators and agency consultants from organizations who are leading change at their respective organizations and for their clients.

Since participants were from all career levels and from organizations at different internal communication maturity stages I set the context for the Internal Communications 101- Essentials For Success workshop with research findings not just from global studies but also from the ongoing  2011 India Internal Communications Survey.

Participants sharing their thoughts with the group

The topics covered were integrated internal communications planning, basics of messaging and storytelling, ROI and measurement, crisis communications and leadership communications.  Hands-on exercises reinforced their learning for each of these topics. All participants shared stories and experiences on what works well in their organization. I wrapped up the workshop with perspectives on what the future of internal communications looked like and where must internal communicators invest their energies to be relevant for the future.

What struck me most was how much more internal communicators could value add and how often their focus got diverted by work which didn’t quite fit their roles. It also emerged that there seemed to be a lacuna in how leaders perceived internal communications and how internal communicators presented their case.

Table top discussions in progress

Therefore we spent a great deal of time thinking through some of the most pressing issues internal communicators face in India and what can make their function stronger and respected.

We delved on strategies internal communicators could adopt that will influence how leaders perceived them.

Overall, I came away a lot more energized from this workshop. There are top-notch internal communicators out there – just that organizations need to tap the potential of this community to deliver improved business results and outcomes.

PS: Look up this skit by the participants!