India gives voice a case study of Anna Hazare’s PR

07 Sep,2011


A good product generates its own PR. That, in a nutshell, is the success of Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement. The movement seemed to have a life of its own. Yet, it was a very successful PR exercise at the same time, and this is what leading public relations and communications firm Hanmer MSL has examined in this case study, the first of the thought leadership studies that Hanmer MSL’s new content service plans to put together on a regular basis.


Anna Hazare took up an issue that affects the common man in every aspect of his life  he must bribe officials for even simple things like a driving licence to something major like getting his child admission into school. In his interaction with the government/bureaucracy, absolutely nothing gets done unless he pays a bribe.

The product

You can compare the Jan Lokpal Bill to a product that satisfies a crying need  the reduction of corruption, if not its extinction.

The success of the agitation is astonishing because it had no professional help. Yet, a good product (the Jan Lokpal Bill), clear messaging and use of the right communication tools for this age (it’s been a social media-fuelled stir, which is why you see such a large youth participation), have led it to great success.

The brand

If the Jan Lokpal Bill is the product, Anna Hazare is the brand ambassador. Here are a few lessons he taught us about brand-building through the campaign.


Lesson 1: Have an idea that connects

Rocked by five major scams over the past year, India was angry at the government, its seeming lack of will to tackle corruption and the time it took to act. A strong, independent Lokpal that could investigate ministers, the bureaucracy, the judiciary and even the prime minister was an idea whose time had come.


Lesson 2: Create symbols, icons

Every timeless brand has its symbols Nike and its swoosh, for instance. Most brands also have their icons Steve Jobs for Apple, for example.

Similarly, every public movement has its symbols and icons  the charkha and non-violence as symbols and Mahatma Gandhi as the icon of the freedom movement.

Similarly, Hazare and the Gandhi topi became the icon and symbol respectively of the anti-graft fight.


Lesson 3: Offer a consumer experience

Each brand has a distinct character. But how do you make the consumer experience it? Hazare chose the Ramlila ground for its size, allowing thousands to throng it and take in the atmosphere. Having experienced their own power, the people began to believe they could change things. There was no looking back.


Lesson 4: Test market

All successful products are test marketed before they are launched. Anna’s earlier fast at Jantar Mantar showed that the idea could work. It provided the vindication for a larger movement.




Lesson 5: Package it right

Product, pricing, promotion, packaging are the four Ps of marketing. In this case, packaging was paramount. Anna’s white dhoti-kurta and his clean image were the perfect magnets for the jeans and T-shirt generation.


Lesson 6: Make a media plan

The campaign was timed perfectly to grab media attention. Launched between the World Cup and IPL, it filled the media vacuum that existed then.

Team Anna Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan  gave innumerable interviews to the media, making sure the campaign was centrestage all the time.

Hazare himself did not give too many interviews in fact, none during the second round of agitations. He spoke just once to Kiran Bedi from Tihar Jail, which he refused to leave after his arrest. This created a larger impact than any media interview could have had.

Apart from this, he addressed the public and media several times at the Ramlila Maidan.

There was another critical aspect to the media communication: the campaign had only the abovementioned people speaking to the media. This was smart thinking. The fewer the voices, the less scope there was for distortion of the message.

Would any corporation have 15-10 spokespersons? Normally, they’d have one or two. No reason why the anti-corruption movement should have been different.

The campaign made impressive use of PR tools and techniques ranging from symbolism (fasts and meditation) to social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, apps), FM radio, news media, television and mobile telephony.


Lesson 7: Out-think the competition

Anna kept the competition (the government) guessing. Example: The government thought it had preempted the agitation by arresting Hazare. But, his refusal to leave Tihar even when allowed to go, trumped the government’s move and fuelled the movement.


Lesson 8: Use the right imagery

The image of Hazare meditating at Rajghat or of him lying down at Ramlila ground and clapping along to the bhajans being sung proved to be iconic. When he broke his fast, he took water from a Dalit girl and a Muslim girl.

With a giant image of Mahatma Gandhi in the backdrop, the message was not lost on anybody  here was a frail 74-year-old taking on the establishment, much as another frail old man had done in the 1930s and 1940s, and he deserves your support.


Lesson 9: Use the right tagline

I am Anna Hazare is a lot more impactful than I am for Anna Hazare. It is far more participative and has a way of internalising the struggle. It grabs you and makes you want to act.

The social revolution

The young, some of them fresh graduates, were the ones who created a countrywide buzz about the campaign for a strong Lokpal.

While Arvind Kejriwal may have headed the media cell, it was the responsibility of over a dozen team leaders, most of them below the age of 30.

A dedicated team of IT experts from Public Cause Research Foundation (PCRF), which acted as a secretariat for India Against Corruption (IAC), ran IAC’s main website ( along with 14 city-centric websites round-the-clock. They also monitored TV channels and posted videos on the internet to create a buzz across the globe.

Another team ensured that the latest information about Hazare, soon after he was arrested, was posted on social networking sites such as Facebook ( and Twitter (@janlokpal).

Till August 27, there were 3.64 lakh likes on Facebook and over two lakh followers on Twitter. In contrast, the I Hate Anna Hazare Facebook page roped in only 4,137 members.

Hazare’s video recorded in Tihar had 1.6 lakh views on YouTube.

The media impact

  • Large swathes of the television-viewing public switched to the saturation coverage of Hazare and his campaign, especially those in Hindi. For once, real life was more riveting.
  • While viewership increased for most news channels, time spent on them doubled in just a week. It may, in fact, have eaten into the sports market, which dropped 33%; and Hindi movies, which showed a 12% fall (from a 16.37% genre share to 14.44%) in the week ended August 20, according to a study by media servicing agency ZenithOptimedia.
  • The genre share of Hindi news channels rose from 5.9% in the week ended August 13 to 11.02% in the week ended August 20, according to TAM.
  • The genre share of English news channels also rose  to 0.54% from 0.31%.
  • Viewers were hooked since August 16, when Hazare began his fast.
  • The average daily time spent on Hindi news channels rose to 16.9 minutes from 8.5.
  • Viewership of Star News rose 15%. From 26 million viewers, Star News reached out to 31 million.
  • There was a viewership surge across Tier 2 and 3 towns in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan in the past week, which shows how mass-based the movement was.
  • While the news genre viewership more than doubled, Times Now reached 12 million viewers, said Sunil Lulla, CEO of Times Global Broadcasting. Times Now continued as the No. 1 English news channel with a share of 37.8%, followed by NDTV 24×7 (22.2%) and CNN IBN (20.7%).
  • Among Hindi channels, Aaj Tak continued to lead with a share of 17.9% share, up from 15.2%. India TV’s share declined to 11.6% from 14.2% to bring it down to the fourth place. THIS IS BECAUSE IT HAS A STRONGER ENTERTAINMENT COMPONENT COMPARED TO NEWS. Star News took over as No 2 with a share of 14.7%.
  • Many news channels decreased their entertainment-related content to make way for Hazare. In fact, some dropped ads to accommodate more of Hazare.
  • Every newspaper covered the agitation.
  • All newspapers took the stance that corruption needs to be tackled; ToI took an aggressive pro-Hazare stand. Every other newspaper gave the issue and the agitation wall-to-wall coverage, but was careful to balance it.
  • Regional newspapers, which have far more experience of covering Anna, were more balanced too.

Top-viewed news events on TV

Event % of audience Period
Anna campaign 12.41 Week 34, 2011
Babri demolition case 11.54 Week 40, 2010
YSR chopper crash 12.31 Week 36, 2009
26/11 17.81 Week 48, 2008
Mumbai train blasts 11.78 Week 30, 2006
Mumbai floods 9.71 Week 31, 2005
Tsunami 10.35 Week 1, 2005
Lok Sabha polls 2004 10.22 Week 20, 2004
9/11 7.56 Week 38, 2001

Source: TAM

How the UPA got it wrong

Manmohan Singh used to be known as one of India’s most effective prime ministers. By shaking off the communists hold on his government, pushing through a historic nuclear treaty and winning the last Lok Sabha polls, he was on a high.

Today, he’s the face of a government that badly misread the public mood and bungled the handling of Anna Hazare’s movement. What’s more, his extended silence gave the impression that he wasn’t really in charge and that he had no idea of how to manage ministers who seemed to get shriller by the minute.

He finds himself at the receiving end of a nationwide upsurge against corruption, his government with its back to the wall.

Sending out the wrong messages

Action Impact
Refused to accept need for anti-corruption law Government created a perception that it was stonewalling, seeking to stall an effort to cleanse the country of corruption.
Arresting Hazare If arresting him was ill-advised, taking him to Tihar was a PR disaster. Tihar is where those accused of some of the worst corruption in recent times A Raja, Kanimozhi, Suresh Kalmadi were lodged.Hazare turned his arrest into victory by refusing to leave jail until his demands were met.
Failure to communicate The top leaders stubbornly refused to engage with the media, secure in their 2009 electoral victory.
Let anti-graft crusaders drive the debate Government should have seized the initiative by moving aggressively on the unfinished reforms agenda. It did not even celebrate 20 years of reforms in July, as though it disowned them.A publicity blitzkrieg would have done wonders for its reputation, especially with young middle class Indians who benefited most from the reforms. It is these people who heeded Hazare’s call. Instead of regarding Manmohan Singh as a benefactor, they saw him as an obstacle to change.
No magic wand to curb corruption, said PM He would have been better off declaring that the battle against corruption and a strong Lokpal Bill were an integral part of the reforms process. If RTI brings openness in governance, Lokpal is part of the restructuring.
Missed opportunity It would have been a PR coup if Singh had asserted that he was on the same side as Hazare. He could have even joined Hazare on a day’s token fast. That would have gone a long way in bridging the communication gulf between the populace and the government, which they see as remote and loath to abandon old habits.



January 30, 2011: Marches in over 60 cities to demand Lokpal bill. Social reformer Anna Hazare, former top cop Kiran Bedi, activist Swami Agnivesh and lawyer Prashant Bhushan participate in Delhi rally.

February 26: Hazare announces fast unto death from April 5 if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh does not decide on civil society’s inclusion in drafting the bill.

April 5: Hazare starts fast at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar.

April 8: Hazare announces decision to end fast as government agrees to form 10-member panel of civil society members and union ministers to draft a stringent anti-corruption law.

April 9: Hazare ends fast.

April 16: Joint committee meets, both sides exchange drafts.

May 2: Second meet with no difference of opinion.

May 7: Agreement on independent Lokpal with powers to initiate investigation and prosecution.

May 23: Agreement on empowering Lokpal to order list of movable and immovable assets of accused in corruption cases when sufficient evidence found to book them.

May 30: Differences appear as government disagrees on including prime minister, Supreme and High Court judges and MPs conduct in parliament within Lokpal’s ambit.

June 6: Civil society members boycott meet a day after police crackdown against yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s fast in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan.

June 15: No consensus on inclusion of prime minister, Supreme and High Court judges.

June 20: Some ice melts amid war of words; government calls it major step forward.

June 21: Last meeting of joint committee ends on sour note. Both sides exchange drafts; Hazare warns of another fast.

August 15: Hazare denied permission to fast at Delhi’s Jayaprakash Narayan Memorial Park after Team Anna agrees to accept only 16 of police’s 22 conditions.

August 16: Hazare begins fast, detained and sent to seven-day judicial custody to Tihar jail. Government decides to set him free late night. He refuses to leave.

August 17: Hazare refuses to leave Tihar till a solution is reached on fast venue. Supporters gather outside prison, Hazare continues fast from jail. Permitted to fast at Ramlila Maidan.

August 19: Hazare leaves Tihar, continues fast at Ramlila Maidan.

August 23: Government invites Team Anna for talks.

August 24: Second round of talks, all-party meeting held. No breakthrough in impasse.

August 25: After meetings with political parties and Team Anna, government agrees to debate all versions of Lokpal bill in parliament.

August 27: Both houses of parliament debate Lokpal bill, adjourn after adopting sense of the house and agreeing to Hazare’s three demands that will be sent to standing committee on Lokpal bill.

August 28: Anna breaks fast on 13th day.


Copyright: Hanmer MSL

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2 responses to “India gives voice a case study of Anna Hazare’s PR”

  1. shalini says:

    great analysis

  2. Pallavi says:


    Thanks for sharing this case study. Brilliant one it is for sure. Anna’s movement has definetely stirred the nation and also every inch of his intention has got millions of viewers hooked on to all mediums of media…


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