Taking pride in what we can learn from our crafty politicians

Twice, every five years and I have been doing this since 2008, I fly to my home-town, Mangalore to vote during the Assembly and Parliamentary elections. While I have the option to vote in my current place of work, I still consider Mangalore my base where, if I had the opportunity I would go to every weekend. I look at the main metros as just temporary locations I have chosen in order to pursue professional pursuits. Accordingly, I was in Mangalore on May 12th to cast my vote. It is not only my right and duty but also gives me legitimacy to question the government on various issues that concern society. I believe those who do not vote have no business questioning the government. In this column I will share learnings for Public Relations professionals from ten instances that panned out in the last few days in my home state.

The last one week in Karnataka politics has been an interesting case study in reputation management. There are ten milestones to look at and learn from.

  1. It starts with the exit polls and two sets of reactions – Both the lead parties exuded confidence of getting more than a clear majority. However, the incumbent CM would have sensed that the chances were bleak and that a coalition would be the next logical step. In order to relieve himself from being in contention he made a statement that someone else from a particular community would be acceptable to be the chief minister.

Trial balloons are key. This is common practice in politics and business also uses this trick often. It is a great public relations tool to gauge the mood of the public and needs tact in its execution.

  1. This is followed by Congress sending two senior leaders to the state – The grand old party for a change was quick to act, perhaps learning from its previous mistakes of missing out in Goa and Manipur. They sent two senior leaders to the state to be stationed there on the eve of counting to deal with eventualities.

Planning is everything, especially since it helps catch competition napping. Well begun is half done and similarly a well-planned exercise can be better executed.

  1. Then the pre-mature celebrations by the single largest party – As the counting was in progress BJP had crossed the half way mark based on leads and this jubilation had to be curtailed when the final tally placed them a few seats away from the simple majority they were looking for.

Look before you leap. This is the basic tenet of life and very important in Public Relations. If this is not followed most often one ends up in an embarrassing situation.

  1. Thereafter, the post-poll coalition and the single largest party staked claim – Congress was quick to react and threw a spanner in the BJP wheels by doing something it has never done before – extending support to arch-rival JDS even before BJP could solicit the Gowda family for support.

Positioning is important. The Congress party has been criticised as a slow operator with old-school ways but this act of the party of being agile has led to a lot of praise.

  1. The governor invites the latter – The governor hastily invites BJP to form a government despite the existence of a post-poll coalition which has crossed the half way mark. This has many repercussions in the short term and long term.

Think before you act. Never rush to conclusions. Never make assumptions and never ever be guided by incorrect policy. These are pitfalls that one will find hard to get out of.

  1. The former takes up the matter with the Supreme Court – BJP may not have imagined the speed at which Congress acted. It may not have expected that things would change rapidly against it.

Speed is of the essence. This is key in Public Relations. To do things right and do it fast.

  1. The governor appoints a pro tem speaker going against convention – Be prepared for the unexpected and accept change in all its myriad forms.

Understanding change management is paramount. This is the pillar on which Public Relations stands. To change behaviour, to change actions and to change aspirations is an important aspect of Public Relations

  1. It then moves to the resort-hopping phase – The Congress and JDS MLAs would not have expected to be bundled into buses and be moved from one resort to another because the party feared they would be poached. They would have come with no expectations of being able to be so near to power and yet power has fallen into their laps because of circumstances.

Not having expectations is key. This is important in the top echelons and this is true of Public Relations. However much we control things sometimes they get out of hand.

  1. And the final tense moments before the Floor Test – These were handled well by the Congress and JDS. Though there was anxiety written all over they maintained a calm demeanour.

Being calm is a virtue. If we show we are tense then we become vulnerable. There is nothing that cannot be handled without calmness and there is no point worrying about what we cannot control.

  1. Culminating with the Floor Test which did not take place – While a floor test was slated for 4 pm, the chief minister used the opportunity to give a speech which the opposition patiently heard before he announced his resignation.

Communication is the harbinger of Public Relations. All PR campaigns have communications at the core and all good campaigns have a cause related idea at the forefront.

In his speech the chief minister spoke of two causes. Serving the farmers and mobilising the citizens for development from a government they hope to form in the future.

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