As India was held sway by COVID-19, the print industry reeled under its impact. Readers started canceling subscriptions by the day for reasons that ranged from funny to downright bizarre.
In 2021, the results and market development (RMD) wing of Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd., swung into action to reverse the downward spiral in subscriptions caused by readers’ erroneous assumptions that newspapers could be potential carriers of COVID-19.
Starting in May 2021, Halla Bol!! (Raise Your Voice!!) aimed to obliterate the fear in readers’ minds that a newspaper could be a carrier for the deadly virus. Nationwide lockdowns that kept extending indefinitely meant that logistics channels were in a quandary. Housing societies imposed restrictions on the fly. As a result, newspaper circulation was badly affected.
Halla Bol!! transformed each vaccinated employee of RMD — irrespective of rank and gender — into a brand ambassador who worked to instill hope and awareness in readers. It reassured that Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.’s iconic publications were a tried and tested medium of news and features consumption, committed to its readers even through a deadly pandemic.
Employees cheered one another and their reader base with the war slogan: Halla Bol!!
Keeping partners safe
Alongside, throughout the country, the Partner Vaccination Program worked to ensure the safe delivery of daily newspapers to the doorsteps of subscribers using vaccinated delivery partners. Newspaper delivery partners are typically people from less advantaged sections of society without access to either quality healthcare or secure vaccination; yet, at the same time, they are critical to the door-to-door delivery of newspapers in India.
The Partner Vaccination Program ensured safe vaccination for thousands of business partners and their families. Planning, coordination, costs, and execution was borne completely by BCCL.
On one hand, it was about social responsibility toward its frontline business partners, who were non-employees but just as valued. On the other hand, it ensured daily circulation to readers’ households. Thus, the subscription base was retained through an uncertain and overwhelming time.
Halla Bol!! turned 1000+ employees across India into brand ambassadors with a pre-defined interaction protocol presenting the day’s newspaper, assuring about product safety and quality standards — and earning the trust of millions of The Times of India readers.
Building trust and subscriptions
Meticulous planning, perseverance, and steadfast resolve of team members ensured that the initiative was an astounding success. More than 1,000 enthusiastic teams visited more than 20,000 societies and ensured that over 95% of readers restarted their newspaper subscriptions.
Also, it ensured the onboarding of 100,000+ new readers through a touchless process, indicating renewed trust in the publication.
The industry-pioneering programme of partner vaccination initially faced certain challenges, including:
- Non-vaccinated vendors were denied entry to apartment complexes by readers due to intense fear.
- A shortage of available vaccines.
- Massive coordination was needed between medical professionals, government bodies, and partners for the vaccination drive.
We created employee task forces that assuaged readers’ apprehensions, explaining enforced pandemic protocol-specific distribution channels. A letter from the editor was extended to residents as validation of trade partners being vaccinated and safe. In the end, over 40,000 trade partners were vaccinated.