3 Public Relations Tips for President Pranab Mukherjee

 

The "People's President" needs to effectively use PR

News channels across India had started blaring news of Pranab Mukherjee’s election to the country’s highest office even before the actual vote count started on Sunday morning. This was done through a labyrinth of complex calculations drawing premature projections of Pranab Da’s elation to the office by over 60% votes in the elections. When the results came out, Pranab Da had won a little over 69% of the votes, not bad for UPA given their disastrous second stint. The Gods seem to have smiled down on India’s Grand Old Party and things have gone their way, after a very long time.

But all is not well yet, the Anna Brigade is ready to take on the UPA on the same day of Pranab Da’s swearing-in through a nationwide agitation. The country is still in economic doldrums, rains are in a mood to play hide n seek, allies are giving more trouble to Congress than the opposition. Under these circumstances, the President elect needs to put his PR cap on and help turn the perceptional positioning of the nation and its government for audiences both domestic and foreign.

In the last days of Patil’s Presidency, the Presidential office came under heavy criticism for various issues – her foreign trips with family, land allocation for retirement etc.  Apart from radical changes, Pranab Da will have to garb himself in PR skills to ensure a revitalization of the highest office.

Here is why Pranab Mukherjee needs to understand the ABC of PR.

1.  Accessibility: Being accessible is an important part of public life. Take for example the PMO, it has undergone a major perceptional shift after the appointment of Pankaj Pachauri as the media advisor. One noted change was the PMO’s initiation into the world of Twitterati. Major part of users opts for Twitter as news and update medium on cell phones and smart tabs. This enables direct access to a well defined, English educated, computer using, well to do voting adults. But far more than that it gives the perception of a direct connect and accessibility with the Prime Minister of India.

One of many parody Twitter accounts of the new President. When will he get on board officially?

On the contrary, the President of India does not interact with the media, let alone the people of India. Even during the land row involving former President’s retirement home in Pune, it was only the media officer who interacted with the media on behalf of the President. Now why would I as an Indian, feel good about spending 30 hard earned crores of our tax payer’s money to be utilized in maintaining the house of such a person who doesn’t even speak to us.

The President Elect will have to break these communication/protocol barriers and speak up and speak out to the people directly. With advances in media, news spreads faster than fire (quite literally in case of Maharashtra’s mantralay). The President’s office needs to come to terms with these facts and react in real time through optimum utilization of state-of-the-art and innovative PR machinery.

Fun Fact: The PMO Twitter account, as of today, enjoys a following of over 1.42 lakh followers. Quite a negligible number when compared to Sachin Tendulkar’s 25.39 Lakh followers, don’t you think?

 

2. Build Image: It is impossible to view a man as unbiased when he has spent his entire life under the branding of one logo – in this case, the Congress hand.  Being a staunch Congressman all his adult life, he now has the responsibility of attaining a perceptional shift to establish himself as an unbiased, impartial leader of the nation.  A tough task, no doubt, especially considering the current national political scenario.

As the President, Mukherjee's loyalties need to extend beyond the Party he has been faithful to.

Particularly, with the rise of regional leaders in the form of Nitish Kumar, Jayalalitha, Mulayam Singh, Mamta Banerjee, BS Yedurappa, Narendra Modi, Jagan Mohan Reddy and Navin Patnaik, the 2014 Elections are sure to throw a fractured mandate. All these leaders enjoy a dominating majority in their respective region, hence the elevation of one amongst equals is a convoluted possibility. In such circumstances, the President of India will need adroit dexterity of Chanakya’s political acumen to bind these regional satraps together and provide a stable government in the interest of the nation.

Pranab Da needs to build an image of a peacekeeper and guardian of the Indian constitution rather than that of a Gandhi dynasty loyalist. He needs to invest in building an image of a leader beyond political pressures and compulsion, for the entire parliament and the nation to trust him to guide the nation in 2014. This change could only be achieved by strategic messaging utilizing channels of mass communication.

Pranab Mukherjee needs to directly and consistently engage with the people.

3.       Communicate:  Communication has been the Achilles heel for Congress in UPA2. Silence on matters related to policy, scam allegations and skullduggery amongst allies has asphyxiated the UPA alliance under its own weight. Pranab Babu will have to move out of the traditional Congress fold of waiting for issues dry up and disappear.  He would need to employ all his tactical communication skills to reinvigorate the image of Presidential office and be a vocal President.

When chosen as the President, Pranab Da announced that he would be the People’s President.  The people of our nation want to be heard, and they want to listen to their leader – directly. A press release or communicating through the drape of a media officer cannot quench the thirst for leadership.

One reason for Dr. Kalam’s unprecedented popularity as President was his direct communication and engagement with the people.  Communication is about being effective, not always about being proper. One has to overcome barriers of protocol and rules to come out and connect with the masses. And if you can’t change protocols being a President, then there shouldn’t be essays in school asking “If I was the President…”

 

Written by Rishi Vaidya for Image Management

2 thoughts on “3 Public Relations Tips for President Pranab Mukherjee

  1. All I can remember is Mr. Presidents budget speech –
    “As Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark, had said in Shakespeare’s immortal words, ‘I must be cruel only to be kind.”

    • I was watching that budget in the office… Believe me 40 middle-aged I Bankers burst into laughter before you could say Ha!

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