PR machinery: Anna gets it right, Congress gets it wrong

By Amith Prabhu

I have no idea how the machinery of Team Anna Hazare works. I was at a mall on Sunday evening and as I was leaving,  there was a bunch of youngsters promoting India Against Corruption – a movement spearheaded by Anna Hazare.

The Government led by Manmohan Singh at one end and the Crusaders against Corruption led by Anna Hazare at the other, have been at loggerheads for a while now. What we see on news television every night and read in the newspapers the next morning is the result of the communication efforts of the two warring parties.

Here is a quick round up of how the communications game plan of the two parties in question is panning out:

What is Team Anna Hazare doing right –

 PR machinery: Anna gets it right, Congress gets it wrong

Anna Hazare visiting Raj Ghat followed by a media briefing was a smart thing to do; he dominated news television on a day when Manmohan Singh ought to have dominated it – Independence Day. PTI

• Team Anna has realised early to strike a chord with the common man. The campaign, as projected by Team Anna, has one clear goal — and that is to make the Aam Aadmi benefit, and this is cutting ice.  The Email, SMS and BBM campaign is being well managed to reach millions of people of all ages.

• The use of direct citizen outreach through mini movements across the country (like the one I saw outside the mall) is working brilliantly for Anna. Doing the right things at the right time is also key. Anna Hazare visiting Raj Ghat followed by a media briefing was a smart thing to do; he dominated news television on a day when Manmohan Singh ought to have dominated it – Independence Day.

• Anna Hazare has chosen his core group carefully. The media management by this group is well coordinated and hats off for the effort.

What is Team Anna Hazare doing wrong –

• Not putting right wing parties in their place is sending mixed signals that this campaign is supported by the Sangh Parivar and individuals like Baba Ramdev.

• Losing one’s cool especially taking on the Prime Minister who most Indians still consider to be a man of high integrity is not a great idea.

What is the UPA government doing right —

• They are playing the card of elected versus self-appointed very well. Most of the negative comments on Team Anna are rooted in this thought.

• By getting Kalmadi to cool his heels in jail along with the former telecom minister A Raja  and  Kanimozhi, daughter of the leader of their key ally, DMK, for the CWG and 2G scams respectively has given them an upper hand of showing they are serious about fighting corruption.

What is the UPA government doing wrong –

• Getting ruthless spokespersons from the party to attack Anna Hazare personally is a complete disaster. Stooping to such low levels is a great short term idea but it’s a self-goal in the long run. Having a single, soft and sober spokesperson from the government rather than from the party would be a better way to manage communications on this issue.

• Not getting to do the drawing table quickly by taking along the opposition and civil society is a major failure. The fact that some attempts have been made to achieve this but have not been highlighted is not serving any purpose.

• Changing the course of the dialogue by making ‘real development’ and ‘real impact to the common man’ a focus area hasn’t yet taken place. It has to learn from Gujarat, which changed the perception of being a communal government by selling development of the state to the entire world.

In the final analysis, the Crusade against Corruption has an edge over the democratically elected government both, on credibility as well as communication coordination and this seems like a long war that has just begun. The first battle has just been won — the battle of managing perceptions.

Amith Prabhu is a Public Relations professional and a keen observer of Indian politics. In the past eight years he has worked in a PR firm and a Public affairs consultancy. He presently works with a media planning company leading its corporate communications function. He was the first student intern in the history of the Indian National Congress having spent the summer of 2003 in the party’s media department. Views are personal.

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Updated Date: Aug 16, 2011 11:54:44 IST