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How turning mundane into extraordinary high decibel Media Buzz was made possible by combining the right ingredients
In September 2015, Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases (GNNTD) partnered with us to run a media awareness program on Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) in India. The GNNTD, an initiative of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, works to raise the awareness, political will and funds necessary to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Often falling beyond the purview of mainstream media, like many other compelling problems in the country, LF has severe enormity and has persisted in India as well as other countries of the world for many years.
Not many would be aware that LF is the world’s second leading cause of long-term disability. Although filariasis does not kill, it causes debility and imposes severe social and economic burden to the affected individuals, their families and the endemic communities. According to one estimate at one point in time 120 million people in 83 countries of the world were infected with lymphatic filarial parasites, and it was estimated that more than 1.1 billion (20% of the world’s population) are at risk of acquiring infection. Over 40 million people are severely disfigured and disabled by filariasis and 76 million are apparently normal but have hidden internal damage to lymphatic and renal systems. According to the World Health Organization, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Bangladesh alone contribute about 70% of the infection worldwide.
The task here at hand was to raise national awareness and focus media attention towards the work that GNNTD was undertaking at the ground level. We organized a journalists’ visit to two worst affected districts in Odisha. The delegation comprised scribes of top daily newspapers from the states of West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand & Delhi. The aims was to sensitise journalists on the work being done by GNNTD on the ground for control and elimination of LF and encourage them to write stories to raise the level of awareness among policy makers, academia, health professionals and government agencies.
After we carefully identified and selected journalists, we shared knowledge materials with them to educate them on the issue and its severity. Before the field visit, a special workshop for journalists was conducted with GNNTD and Odisha government officials. During the visit, journalists were made to interact with affected patients to get a better sense of the enormity of the problem. With focussed messaging and engagements, we were able to generate very good media coverage with special features appearing in leading publications like The Statesman, Aaj Kal, Pioneer, Governance Now, Prabhat Kahbar, The Samaja, Sambad, The Political & Business Daily etc. In all, the newspapers clips had a gross readership of more than 20 lakh across the states.
Recognizing that conventional PR tools had their limitations, and take time to scale up the image, we knew Crystal needed a big bang intervention to catapult its stature. We designed a first-of-its-kind National Crystal Agri Awards to recognize talents with innovations in agriculture and allied sectors. Entries were sought from all parts of the country. A massive media and online media outreach was also launched to create buzz to attract large number of entries. Given the massive spread of the government machinery vide Indian Council of Agriculture Research and Krishi Vigyan Kendras, we launched an aggressive outreach program to attract entries from these institutions. A high-powered jury comprising eminent scientists, journalists, agriculture experts and sociologists was formed, which had to undertake the enormous task of sifting through the thousands of entries.
Out of the several applications received 20 were short listed for all the categories. The awards were given in four categories - Farmers, Scientist, NGO & Special Jury. The award ceremony was held on August 27, 2014 at India Habitat Centre. Two union Ministers - Agriculture Minister Shri Radha Mohan Singh, and Transport & Rural Development Minister Shri Nitin Gadkari were the chief guests. A host of participants representing government institutions from across the country were present. In all over 400 participants attended the event with representation also from private sector, academia, development agencies, and media.
While the magnitude of the event, its planning and execution were Humongous, the media buzz before and after the event were equally remarkable. We diligently designed the media plan and reports were published in all leading print and digital mediums across the country, in more than 5 languages with a combined readership of over 20 million.
All this had provided a Herculean lift to the perception of Crystal Crop Protection, and massive satisfaction to Team Grey, which put in a gigantic effort to see through this mega event, from its conception to end.