Amith Prabhu: In the end Public Relations won!

16 May,2014

By Amith Prabhu


This was an election like no other. It was slated to be a watershed and many had accepted a Narendra Modi wave and many hadn’t. I have to admit that I had not. As a Modi baiter I hoped he wouldn’t win and at least not win with the kind of landslide he has.


Leaving politics aside I will focus on what I feel is the biggest winner in this elections which is my favourite subject: Public Relations. This election was fought by those who used Public Relations and those who did not. The result is that those who used it won.


Let’s use at the three principal players and see what they did right or wrong and how they did it. We will start with the new kid on the block: the Aam Aadmi Party. They were an upstart no one had heard of 18 months ago. They messed up their stab at power in Delhi in 49 days but decided to go all out and gain national stature in the Lok Sabha elections. They put most of their eggs in one basket and this is the basket called Varanasi. They played with limited resources but capitalized well on social media mobilizing money and volunteers which has shown them results in the most unlikely of places – Punjab. What they did wrong and went against them, purely in PR terms was to not manage the exit in Delhi well, both in terms of communications and in terms of managing perceptions. But for a startup, three-four seats is a good one. Even BJP did not get more than two seats in 1984 on their debut.


Let’s move to the Congress which got it all wrong and did not read the writing on the wall even as late as 25 weeks ago after the drubbing they received in the Assemble Polls. The fact that most of the union ministers have lost and in some cases come third or fourth should be an eye opener. They should have projected a collective leadership to counter the one man show from the opposition. They should have copied tools and tactics from other campaigns blatantly. They should have worked harder on repairing the tarnished reputation. For people like Ajay Maken, Priya Dutt or Sandeep Diskhit to lose shows that there was a rot deep within that needed to be fixed. The three names I mentioned were the ones who were driving traditional media and social media efforts. And if they themselves could not save their own seats as incumbents, what could one expect from the others.


Let’s save the best for last – the BJP. Except for polarising which is a politically motivated move they did everything else right from the word go. They projected Narendra Modi has a no-nonsense, hardworking mass leader who means business. They assembled a formidable team of professionals to drive a presidential style campaign. They made the right amount of noises because they were in it to win it and nothing else. I am still not a fan of Modi and may never be one for a long time only because I have seen him from close quarters when I worked at APCO and he has streaks of ruthlessness, but when it comes to his marketing acumen and PR savviness one has to give it to him. He used every trick in the book and every tool at his disposal to make everything seem effortless.


Now, all eyes will be on how he delivers on his promises. All I want is that India’s reputation in the eyes of fellow Indians and the entire world is not tarnished by acts of state sponsored or backed violence in the name of class and religion. The rest will follow. It was a well fought election but now turns out it was mostly one sided. I will write a separate blog on the non-PR aspects over the weekend on my personal website because this event is historic. For now, here’s wishing Prime Minister Narendra Modi (yes – I said it, never thought a day like that will come) the very best and hoping India remains strong and intact. He won an historic election but Public Relations won as well.


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