Amith Prabhu: The Accidental Media Advisor

28 Apr,2014

By Amith Prabhu


There may never be a book on the PM’s media advisor unless one of them chooses to write a biography. However, the recent book by Sanjaya Baru beckons to be in the spotlight because of how it has been positioned. It is outright a case of sour grapes by an accidental media advisor.


Accidental because the practice of appointing Editors as media advisors is an outdated idea. A media advisor in the age of digital age which began at the same time UPA 1 came into existence should be one with an understanding of politics and digital communication. To have hired the editor of a business daily was a flawed idea and to not put an embargo on him spilling the beans during the lifetime of the protagonist was shortsightedness of the PMO.


Having read excerpts of the book I wouldn’t think the content is fictitious. But the manner in which it is written clearly shows a bad falling out between employer and employee because employee wanted a bigger role which was not the way it was meant to be. A media advisor should not get into general policy making but help advice on reputation enhancement which the author tried doing and suggests the same in his book.


I am building an outright case that future Prime Ministers and we will have a new one by this time next month should stop the practice of hiring editors and instead hire professional public relations specialists. The only thing an editor brings is his connections that would be used to block a negative story. In this day and age anything negative comes out faster through social media and through RTI and negative stories should not be stopped.


A PR professional as media advisor would be better in three ways – he or she would have advised his clients on how to reach out to audiences and does it without fanfare or an ideological bias. He or she would have an understanding of digital communication and use it in a smarter way than has been done so far. And lastly, he would be loyal enough to respect non-disclosure agreements even if they were not signed because a PR professional worth his or her salt is instilled with ethics to not wash dirty linen in public.


There will be a time in the near future when that will happen. As a start, an initiative is being conceptualized to create Communication Assistants to members of Parliament who will become a resource pool in the future for politicians and governments to hire. So there will be no accidental Prime Ministers but more importantly there will be no accidental media advisors.


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