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Here is what you need to know about Political PR
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Best practices for PR professionals in Political PR

Here is what you need to know about Political PR

Best practices for PR professionals in Political PR
  • PR for political parties is different from that of a government body.
  • Our guest author, Tarunjeet Rattan, Founder - PRPOI, picks five poignant points that can come in handy while working for a political party.
Political PR is not a field that we are new to, but it is only in the last couple of years that this vertical has gotten the recognition it deserves and has been elevated into the core group. However, while this seems like a recent phenomenon in India, it has been making mainstream news in other parts of the world. Though it is an exciting time to be in Political PR in India, never have so many common people been a part of the conversation and actively voiced their views instead of being dispassionate observers. Does this mean there is more opportunity or the possibility of a bigger crisis?

In 1967 Hannah Arendt (Author: Truth and Politics) wrote that nobody ever doubted that truth and politics were in pretty poor relations. However, politics and political communication has gone through a sea change in the last decade. The new changes – good or bad, could be attributed to contemporary PR practitioners to some extent. Advaita Kala, Political Columnist (India) , David Ball, Principal, Ball Consulting Group LLC (USA)and Li-or Avon Deputy CEO & Strategic Communications Consultant, Together – Strategy ( Israel ) joined us on the PRPOI panel to take a deep dive into this intriguing vertical of PR and understand how much has the modern PR professional contributed towards this new era of political communication.

We pick five poignant points from the conversation with Co-Founder Sonali Sokhal, to create a cheat sheet (oops … reference sheet) for you:

Political Media: Every media house has a bias as do journalists. Ideally, news reporting should be devoid of personal beliefs. However, we live in very polarised times dominated by eyeballs, click baits and hits. Journalists / anchors have now become celebrities themselves. When this transition happened in India in the last decade, they became far more opinionated, made their political positions very clear, and they took a side. That has fuelled more bias. Most media houses now prefer to choose a side. Either they are pro-government or rest their loyalties with the opposition. However, most strive to have a more balanced view via a few programs that tie in supporters from both sides. All panellists agreed that even if a media house /journalist/ program chooses to be neutral they will be labelled one way or the other. The overall tonality of a media house is now defined by their biggest celebrities.

Media and Political Communication: There is a definite trust deficit in the minds of the viewer. It is a tough time for media. They are now choosing to seek a media outlet that confirms their world views. This is what is called as confirmation bias. This runs the risk of further polarising the nation and moves away from the conversation we need to have. The moment it presents opposing news, it is labelled as fake news. Democratisation in the segment has come from social media which is a tough battle with trolling being taken to an art form. Social media is now being channelled to drive the 24X7 news cycle which might or might not be true. This added with a blatant showcase of political bias and lowering tolerance levels, has given opposing parties a reason to target media houses.

Credibility has been a huge casualty in the current age of fast-paced news. Our experts opine that there will be a moment of truth on the horizon for all media if they want to retain their viewers and build trust and credibility. For PR professionals it is now a question of creating a media strategy with mediums that they need to decide will do more harm or good to the client. PR should ideally follow the credibility trail to ensure it rubs off on the client they handle.

Political PR: PR for political parties is different from that of a government body. The first is pro-active and aggressive while the latter has a majorly reactive approach with defensive tonality merged with a tiny bit of proactive PR. Political PR tries to seize the news cycle to benefit a client. A lot of effort in Political PR goes in pre-event preparation – briefing the candidate, doing background checks, and anticipating questions. Once the candidate goes on record about a particular issue, it is difficult to pull it back (rather it is unflattering). In the age of digital media, a comment once made stays forever…and sometimes gets meme-d.

There is always a debate in this vertical on what are the best practices and how good/ bad the vertical is. But all panelists agree that it depends solely on the integrity of the individual and company that the person represents.

In Israel, relationships with media in political PR are much tighter and one can express an opinion without being quoted. While in India, most PR agencies are still finding their way on the vertical and gaining maturity that could develop strong relationships on both ends in the future. In US the new administration’s press team is setting new benchmarks for PR professionals by creating a mutual society of trust and respect.

Best practices for PR professionals in Political PR:

  • Communication skills: Writing and speaking succinctly will work in your favour.
  • Consume News: Read, watch and listen as much as you can. Being a news junkie will benefit you.
  • Don’t react quickly: Understand the question and its impact before you shoot out an answer. Be guarded at all times. It always pays to err on the side of caution.
  • Don’t let your candidate leave without a briefing on the journalist or media house no matter how experienced they are.
  • Be tougher than the situation at hand because you will always be in fight mode.
  • Read about the journalist and the kind of stories s/he does before pitching. (pretty please)
  • Measurement will continue to be a challenge even in this vertical, but the ultimate effectiveness of your job can be judged based on how your client is perceived. Their popularity is directly related to the excellence of your job.
The above is by special arrangement via a collaboration with PRPOI

Watch the video here for case studies and more: