In sync with the Digital India campaign, Indian Railways is upping their social media game. Here’s how outsourcing is helping them do so.
Towards the end of 2018, a shift could be seen in the way Western Railway communicated over social media. Peeping through public announcements and news clippings were memes and trend-worthy content.
Digging deeper, we found that the change was brought in by a creative agency hired by the Western Railway — Ventures Advertising Pvt Ltd.
Western Railway is one of the 17 zones under the Indian Railways.
Here’s a little context as to why this is an evident step for the Indian Railways. Back in 2016, the then Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had announced a mechanism where passengers and commuters could engage with zonal and divisional officials to put across their grievances via Twitter.
This step caused a ripple effect to the point that many people started to make profiles on Twitter, exclusively to complain. On the other end of the spectrum, railway officials felt a nudge to up their social media game. Cut to today, PR departments in all zones have been asked to hire creative agencies to create social media content. Western Railway is among the first to implement it by outsourcing their social media creatives.
Is it easy to work with a government agency as complex as the Western Railway? The simple answer would be no.
Vitesh Shah, CEO, Ventures Advertising tells us, “When we got the account in September 2018, the first fortnight was the toughest. The task seemed impossible for the average age of our team members is about 27-28 and though they are all good at their work, they didn’t understand the government system at all.”
“By the second fortnight of the first month though, things started to turn around and the team felt more comfortable. The PR department too was patient, understanding and helpful,” he adds. Initially, the contract was awarded to the firm for six months. It has now been extended to a year more. Vitesh tells us how ‘Tera Time Aayega’ played an important role in getting them the extension for the campaign was a huge success. He proudly adds that the video was even appreciated by Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.
“Every time the team pitches a trending content piece, many things have to be kept in mind. In the case of ‘Tera Time Aayega’, it was a perfect fit for it talked about ticketless travelling and came with a catchy tune that resonated with our target group, the youth,” he explains. Other prominent, regular campaigns include #WRKiSawari and #TicketToSuraksha.
A few weeks ago, DabluR, a character created by the agency as a mascot for Western Railway was launched at Churchgate station. However, since the model code of conduct had to be kept in mind, further activities in regards to the mascot were put on hold.
Recently, a 360 video was put up by the team on Facebook to introduce DabluR’s family. Currently, comics are being shared under #DabluRTales and the team plans to expand on it. The topics usually covered in creatives include: Use of foot over bridges rather than crossing tracks (trespassing), promotion of the UTS ticketing application and cleanliness in railway premises.
A team of seven persons handles the Western Railway account on behalf of Ventures Advertising. Two of them are stationed at the Western Railway PR department office at Churchgate.
They act as online reputation managers and social media executives. From the Western Railway side, one officer and two PR inspectors are a part of the core team.
The team of Ventures Advertising plays an important role in creating content that engages and entertains commuters. However, all sensitive information in times of a crisis, as well as crucial information related to time tables and railway operations, are handled exclusively by the railway officials. This extends to internal communication among officials of various divisions and zones in regards to complaints received over Twitter.
“We were able to communicate essentials effectively through social media. However, a need was felt to bring in creative professionals that can help us put forth content in a more engaging way,” says Ravinder Bhakar, Chief Public Relations Officer, Western Railway, adding that so far, people have been liking the content and the idea has been a success.
For professionals who usually deal with a private organisation clientele, what makes a government agency a unique experience? “There, the work is for the client, here it feels like we are working for the people,” says a member of the creative team, adding how another major difference is the number of guidelines they have to adhere to.
Contrary to popular notion, getting approvals in a government setting isn’t as time-consuming as it may seem. A member of the team tells us that if a creative is around a trending topic, the process to put it out, from ideation to execution, including the various stages of approval takes about 2 to 3 hours. An example of this was Western Railway’s #JCBKiKhudaai meme.
Other railway zones in the country are expected to soon call for tender applications to hire creative agencies. A Central Railway official tells us that they were waiting for certain guidelines from the Railway Board and since they have been received, the tender process to hire will begin soon.