In a thought-provoking session at the World Public Relations Forum (WPRF)2023 at Chennai, Dr. Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, the MLA for Madurai Central Constituency and Minister for Information Technology & Digital Services in the Tamil Nadu Government, delved into the intricacies of government communications. The topic was – “Government Communications – the Good, Bad & Ugly”. With his impressive and extensive background in international banking, highlighted by a remarkable career that has spanned multiple domains (like Academia, Agriculture, Consulting, Manufacturing, and Research) Dr. Rajan brought a unique perspective to the discussion on the dynamics of Public Relations in the political arena.
Dr. Rajan began his address by acknowledging the significance of the event being held in Chennai, highlighting the growing importance of Asia in today’s geopolitical landscape. He noted that India, backed by its rich history, had actually embraced internationalism thousands of years ago. This set the stage for a conversation about – the essence of communication as the foundation of all relations.
“Perceptions trump reality in propaganda,” Dr. Rajan declared, emphasising the pivotal role of language and communication in expertly shaping public opinion. He acknowledged the vast spectrum of Public Relations and its impact on politics, where the messenger often takes precedence over the message itself. Regarding politics his clear view was that as far as politicians go, they have an innate belief – “if only I can convey my true intention to the people!” So, analysing communication per se, he declared – “One of my key learnings is that very often the messenger is more important than the message.”
Reflecting on his own career, Dr. Rajan shared his journey from the finance ministry to his current role in information technology and digital services. He expressed his passion for technology and the transformative power it holds, especially in the realm of communication; and this was also quite visible in the public eye.
Building good will for the greater good was the focus of the discussion – and he took us on a journey through the bylines of this landscape. So, the core of his discussion revolved around ‘building goodwill for the greater good’ – a concept that resonated deeply with his audience. He articulated that successful political messages must be substantive, centering on critical issues, proposed governance changes and the principles that define a political party’s doctrine.
In the context of government communication, Dr. Rajan emphasised the importance of effective communication especially during disasters and the need for transparent schemes to benefit the public. He proudly stated that Tamil Nadu focuses on more universal initiatives compared to other states. He highlighted the necessity of a “reverse flow of communication” so that the public remains informed about government actions.
He touched upon the role of branding in government initiatives, suggesting that proper branding could amplify their impact; and he cited examples of schemes that empowered women and advocated for a more inclusive society.
The discussion shifted towards the role of social media in political communication. Dr. Rajan noted that while social media has become a vital tool, many governments continue to rely on traditional forms of communication such as newspapers and television ads. He commended India’s prowess in propaganda but also subtly alluded to the potential negative consequences of targeted messaging.
In conclusion, Dr. Rajan emphasised the importance of professionals in the field of Public Relations -retaining a commitment to the greater good. His insightful session shed light on the multifaceted world of government communications, exposing both its strengths and weaknesses. As technology continues to reshape the landscape, understanding the nuances of political communication becomes increasingly critical for a thriving democracy.
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