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1 Year of Modi Govt: Modi masters the art of PR; now time to focus on good governance

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1 Year of Modi Govt: Modi masters the art of PR; now time to focus on good governance

From being dubbed a master communicator even before he came into power last year to  communicating the government's thinking and its achievements via social media, under constant a scanner and scrutiny where every error is seen as a blunder, he still remains an unchallenged champion, PR leaders share their views on the evolution of PM Modi’s communication strategy, hits and misses of the government and what the man in power needs to do to meet expectations


Evolution of Communication Strategy

Dilip Cherian, Image Guru, Perfect Relations

One salient aspect of Modi in his PM avatar is in his communications approach, in which he has sidelined mainstream media to communicate directly, either through his Mann Ki Baat radio talks and a multilingual but constant Twitter stream. The biggest new version is the Videsh Modi avatar with chanting NRIs in packed stadia. This is a new image technique and one that few global leaders have in their arsenal, or indeed can even hope to have.   He has slipped some and been on the backfoot on some occasion but his image still remains as one of an unchallenged champion. His image of a strong decisive leader and one who gets things done (as in the Rafale deal or e-visa in China) still impresses. But as he enters a phase of new and higher challenges, it will be interesting to see what new version of Modi will be unveiled.

Paresh Chaudhary, CEO, Madison PR

Modi is firm on his strategic approach with clear goals and a strong intent to achieve them. On the tactical front they are taking a beating with competition (read congress) managing to stay one up against the govt.  In difficult market conditions it's extremely complex to change perceptions of citizens (read stakeholders) in the short term.

Good sustainable actions based on the strategic document (read manifesto) will need patience and an aggressive attempt by spokesperson to keep the positive news flowing. 

It's very critical for Modi to succeed on all the PR deliverables because that will impact our industry, who are not spin masters but a bunch of hard working professionals keen to build a strong brand in the long term. Honesty , commitment and passion will remain the corner stones of our industry.  This image will be built through the government’s success. 

Ameer Ismail, Executive Director, Lowe Lintas + Partners, LinOpinion GH & dCell

PM Modi has used very effective platforms and methods during his campaign. The same principles are being used today, the focus is on defining clear (and popular) agendas, branding them and using traditional, social media and large events when required, to communicate this message. These methods have been refined further. There is a belief now that the power of an idea can take a larger meaning and have greater impact if partners are brought to the table to collaborate. “Swachh Bharat” is one such initiative where corporate partnership is being sought to ensure this mission moves ahead with much greater speed and impact. This is a good sign and I believe we will see similar initiatives a lot more.

From an image perspective, we see a calmer, much more dignified persona of PM Modi, more power dressing (where required) to fill the image of a statesman of global standing. None of this is left to chance, he has a smart team of advisors who have been constantly innovating, crafting out focus areas, strategies, image makeovers to fit the current dynamic fuelled by the need to present this great leader to India and the world. From a PR and communications lens,  he has been a fascinating personality, someone who clearly uses professional guidance to his advantage. It is my belief that his journey will be a case study for PR and communications books of the future.

Jaideep Shergill, Founding Partner, Pitchfork Partners

Modi remains a master communicator. He has managed perceptions brilliantly and his use of social and traditional media has been outstanding. It's what paved the way for his victory last year. Now, the strategy has shifted into a different mode - communicating the government's thinking and its achievements. To this end, too, Modi has been very good. But, in power, it's a different ball game - you are under intense scrutiny and every mistake or shortcoming is amplified.

One Year gone by ; Expectations met?

Dilip Cherian, Image Guru, Perfect Relations

It’s a typically mixed bag with some hits and some misses.  Some of the obvious hits are the Swachh Bharat, Make In India and Jan Dhan and some positive developments in foreign policy. The reauctioning of coal mines has been a major course correction for the country. The run of good luck on global petroleum was a big help too, in Modi sarkar’s first year. On the flipside, he has been hobbled by the Land bill, the “jumla” of black money not having come home and the unpredictable tax policy which has kept investors nervous and unhappy.

Paresh Chaudhary, CEO, Madison PR

A year is too short a time to assess their performance. I can see a 100% intent by Modi for sure.  Coal allocations , spectrum sale , PSU stake sell offs , GST, etc. are key achievements. Destructive opposition is anti- national and the government is not been able to change public perception despite some boxes being ticked.

Ameer Ismail, Executive Director, LinOpinion

The Modi - led government has delivered well in the first year. I believe there were unrealistic expectations at the start of his mandate, certainly with the masses and also many in the corporate sector.  I believe that we are too large and complex a country for any party (even if they had a brilliant election victory) to show demonstrable change in the first year. What I am particularly glad about is that this government has brought back confidence in our country and the economy, that is the single biggest take-away from the year gone by. Modi has led from the front and has demonstrated that a combination of clarity of thought and effective communication can set the tone for the bureaucracy. He has also used global diplomacy to effectively position himself on the world stage. Confidence in the economy has been a welcome change and has resulted in good growth for our business, I am happy with year one of this government.

Jaideep Shergill, Founding Partner, Pitchfork Partners

The progress has been slow. Much more was expected from a government that promised radical changes in quick time. There have been some landmark economic decisions, such as greater FDI in defence and insurance, but there has also been great disquiet over falling exports and decisions such as the Land Acquisition Bill. There is also the increasingly communalised atmosphere.

Critically, the government hasn't been able to shake off the perception that it is being controlled by corporations that masterminded its victory.    

Expectations going forward?

Dilip Cherian, Image Guru, Perfect Relations

Though the government has run through its first year rather smoothly, anxieties have not dissipated. Minorities and farmers are restive, if one goes by rising incidence of Naxal violence or farmer protests.  Despite some reforms, the Modi-chanting middle and business classes during the election campaign are falling silent, or at least their faith in Modi sarkar’s ability to deliver achche din is now leavened with a sense of disquiet.

Naturally all these portents require the government to quicken the pace to ensure that Modi’s version of India keeps growing. In its 2nd year it won’t be possible to blame its “predecessor” for what’s wrong. PM Modi successfully sustained perceptions in his first year but that high can dissipate quickly in the absence of performance and impact on the ground.

Paresh Chaudhary, CEO, Madison PR

Some game-changing bills need to be passed that will clear the path for real rural infrastructure development. The land bill is a PR case study. It has all the action, drama and emotions like a typical  Hollywood film. In the end I hope it's a happy one. 
A clear taxation policy is the biggest deterrent for FDI.  If Mr Jaitley can crack this one, we will see billions of dollars flowing in with a purpose. The "India reputational  index "will then rise to the next level. 

Corruption remains an ugly face and some solid actions on the ground must lead from the front.

Ameer Ismail, Executive Director, LinOpinion

The general tone has been set by the government, this now needs to be backed by significant policy and structural reform. The sentiment in the corporate sector has been that the wonderful speeches, great global diplomacy has not been backed by clear steps to boost investment. Many believe that confidence is not enough. I believe that expectations are more tempered with reality now, everyone realises that he is a strong and committed leader but change will happen over time. The focus has shifted from Modi to his government, their policies and issues that affect the common man.  If there is to be long term sustainable growth and true momentum, it is my view that this government needs to do much more to ensure that talk is matched by clearly defined steps that lead to measured results.

Jaideep Shergill Founding Partner, Pitchfork Partners

The government needs to quickly act on getting reforms back on track and to curb its spending. Credit availability for new businesses, delivery of social schemes and curbing corruption should be among its priorities. Not just infrastructure investment, but its delivery needs to be stepped up.

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