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Word Perfect

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dear Readers,
We have all heard that the pen is mightier than the sword and a picture tells a thousand words. Yet, the power of media is only just beginning to be realized beyond the journalists and filmmakers. Whether it is the judiciary or the administration, the role of the media has reached critical proportions to impact not just the thoughts but actions of the community. No one Killed Jessica, Twitter feeds on Egypt, Wikileaks and many such incidences have brought to the forefront media efforts to change the course of events. And the world takes notice.

Yet, not all media is positive and attempts to influence and misuse that influence too abound. The power of media – be it through PR or advertising to pressurize, manipulate or persuade is undeniable. Corporates and communities have both been swayed by them. However, I am more concerned right now about the consumer. How much of our purchasing decisions have been based on actual fact verses fanciful advertisements? What is the extent of truth in the claims made through filmstars, cricketers and even so-called experts? Do the persons doing the endorsements even know or understand anything about the products and services they are associated with? Would they use the products themselves?

Consumer rights and knowledge of how to enforce them is not something we like to think of while shopping, be it for our clothes, our health insurance or the nice holiday package. Consumer forums and activists do much to spread the word and yet it is not enough. It is when things go wrong that we realize the need for regulation and ethical communication. Corporate sellers need to be more responsible. Claims needs to be reasonable and side effects should be clear. Necessary warnings should not be in the tiniest font possible. However, expecting corporate to put their buyers’ well-being before that of their financial concerns may seem to be a difficult if not impossible expectation.

Yet, I believe that consumer vigilance can play an effective role in making the impossible happen. Show a preference for ethical organizations that have been upfront about failures, which prefer everyday buyers and users to model for their products. Look for third party certifications and authenticity of labels. Technology and social media has made it very simple to seek out opinions and user reviews. It is when we make media work for us that we will truly see the social and economic impact of freedom of choice and informed shopping.

Karon Shaiva is the Chief Impact Officer & MD of Idobro, a social and green enterprise.

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