Amith Prabhu: Modi’s online Public Relations campaign

26 Aug,2013

By Amith Prabhu


Want a master class in online public relations? Go no further than the last 50 handles of the 600 followed by Narendra Modi on Twitter. Despite all the controversy he rakes up by things he has done and things he says his inner circle of digital marketers are indeed doing an excellent job of creating the tools that help his outreach. Clues to this avalanche are found in the list of people followed on Twitter


I belong to the group of people who are the harshest critics of a man who presided over one of the best man-made disasters of the last decade. I write this column purely for academic reasons and don’t wish to bring my ideology to the fore. Three to four things stand out and can be insightful to those who plan similar campaigns in the future and this is neither a blog of praise nor a blog to criticize.


First things first – he must be the first and only politician to create dedicated Twitter handles in nine regional languages that target the large states where BJP has a presence. These include Hindi, Marathi, Kannada, Assamese, Urdu, Oriya, Tamil, Bangla and Sanskrit. While most of these handles have less than a couple of thousand followers and some in the hundreds the fact that these exists and are active speaks volumes of the gameplan that he plans to unfold in the days ahead. Even the Pope does not have a presence in as many languages.


The next initiative is the portal which describes itself as an online and on-ground volunteering platform to help the BJP in its Mission towards gaining a 272+ seat majority in the 545 seat Lok Sabha. In this sentence and elsewhere it is best to read BJP as Modi as these are all initiatives not necessarily by the party organization but by the individual and his supporters. Evidence is in the images used that focus on one person throughout.


Of the 670 Twitter accounts that are followed there are three categories – organizations that are dominantly news outlets, BJP officebearers from across the country of different level and stature and sycophants who have Namo4Pm in their bio or display name. The Gandhi family finally has competition when it comes to people who swear blindly by them. This hero worship will reach its peak in the digital world as the election season gets closer.


The personal website and blog: Very few Indian politicians have managed to copy the Obama style of internet presence the way Modi has and proof of this is in his personal website and blog. This single tool of owned media has neutralized all the negative earned media built up over the last decade. The debate on who writes these blogs is secondary. The fact that these exist is something for all other leaders to ponder on.


The question that everyone asks is how many actual voters do all these outreach tools really reach? And in my opinion the numbers do not matter. Having a presence that enables young voters and the urban population that is well disposed to tablets, apps and the mobile internet is good enough. Modi has taken the lead and politicians from his own party and those from others have a lot of catching up to do.  A digital marketing plan so robust will be hard to match because real followers and likes cannot be bought like votes. In the end it is a perception game and the winner may take it all.


Amith Prabhu is the founder of The PRomise Foundation which organises PRAXIS – the annual summit for PR & Corp Comm professionals in India. During the day he is a full time employee at a leading Public Relations firm in their Chicago office. He spent the first eight years of his post graduation career in India and is in the US for two years of which he has completed 18 months. Views expressed here are the author’s own and don’t represent those of his past, present, future employer or of MxMIndia. You can connect with him on Twitter @amithpr


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