Gujarat was PM Narendra Modi's PR innovation laboratory, says Simulations PR's Shailesh Goyal
As Narendra Modi, the first Prime Minister outside of the 'Indian National Congress' to win two consecutive terms with a full majority, takes over India, a look at his ascendance to power from a communication man's perspective is more meaningful than ever.
Today, people around the world are wondering how he managed to pull this feat off, despite all the opposition. Even Time magazine after its 'Divider in Chief' cover story ran a pro-Modi piece after his victory.
Known to be very ambitious, #NaMo always planned and took steps in sync with his dreams meticulously. He wasted no time in preparing himself for his larger goal of becoming Prime Minister of India right from the beginning of his days as Chief Minister of Indis's state Gujarat.
One of the most significant contributions to NaMo's rise to being PM was innovations in mass communications. He never missed an opportunity to connect and communicate with the masses. His actions spoke far and wide with grand gestures, which began from the moment he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The PR strategies were tactical and used communication and promotion widely to reach an extraordinary number of audience through them. It is also clear that those strategies are still in use ranging from engaging professional agencies to highlight and market the state or government schemes as a product of 'gratification.'
He modernized the 'Sarkari' information department and brought in professional content writers, media communication publicists, audio-visual producers; for delivering impactful tools for mass media consumption and propaganda.
For Modi, no event was too small, and he ensured that even the slightest occasion, be it the inauguration of a factory or the dedication of a sub-canal, enough pomp and show happened to make it look larger than life.
His office would ensure that organizing people touch upon almost 200 km periphery area of the event and thousands of people are brought in every time to listen to his well-orchestrated speech that was covered nationally as well locally to help amplify his image.
Whether private or government, his pattern of public appearances also differed from the usual route of staying confined to the state capital only. This strategy guaranteed that he connected with local people and established a pan Gujarat network of 'fans' rather than focusing solely on a few urban areas.
Earlier, jingles and slogans were only made by the advertising agencies for limited use. Who could have thought that they could be even used to promote state governments in India back then? Schemes in every inch of government spaces?
Take a look at the government letters or advertisements of the Modi in Gujarat era. He instructed all government departments to put "Sarkari slogans' at every corner of a piece of external communication like statutory tender advertisements or official circulars and notifications. Everything had a slogan like "Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao' or those related to his pet projects like "Jyotigram Yojna," "Shalapraveshotsva" or 'Panchamrut Yojna" to hammer on, round the year and people are constantly reminded, in what is known as the 'art of influencing people' subconsciously.
And it surely worked because the moment one read about his government schemes, you are reminded of him.
On the note of large scale impact, mega-events like 'Vibrant Gujarat' and mega exhibitions like engineering expos which attracted the who's who of business and investors alike were used. The purpose being, to create an interpersonal network with them and project Modi as a visionary leader while showcasing Gujarat as the land of opportunities and growth. It always left a mark of his personality on the awestruck businessman and industrialists as well as representatives of other countries. This slowly added to his global acceptance who had isolated him after the Gujarat riots.
The vast use of audio-visual communication tools came into focus as part of his hard, aggressive communication strategy because of the medium's ability to create a class and mass influence leaving a lasting impression. The possibility of retaining the memories in audio-visual is always higher than any other medium. So, in every government or private function, where NaMo was expected to attend, a powerful audio-visual film was created highlighting the USPs of Gujarat, his vision and everything his government was able to achieve during his tenure.
Pictures also took the mainstage. To project #NaMo's personas more effectively, Instead of using typical passport size photographs or Internet pictures used by media in his stories, his government hired professional photographers to take professional pictures every season. These were used lavishly to create an impression of fresh, desirable yet relatable persona. That "a picture speaks a thousand words," was his absolute Mantra.
It helped in reinstating the power of symbolism equating # NaMo to BJP in the state. The Chief Minister's secretariat would dictate when it came to the appearance of his photos, be it on the invitation of events or posters of campaigns, exhibitions and other public presentations.
The emphasis on communication and taking centre stage was evident throughout the journey. NaMo would always build a network with the people who matter and whom he thought would be helpful at later stages which included leaders in various domains such as technology, education, energy, financial services, health care, manufacturing, telecommunications and many more. Establishing a network helped Modi have insight and understand the dynamics of the specific industry and flaunt that knowledge.
The use of social media increased the number of interactions with the youth. Narendra Modi extensively used multiple platforms to create his public profile and propagate his agenda in a muted way in the beginning. By managing accounts on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, it gave him a personal, relatable, and accessible approach. Hardly surprising that today he is the second most followed politician globally on social media.
A fact that was evident from the beginning, is that, much before he became the Prime Minister, his eyes were on influencing global leaders and authoritativeness. He travelled the world as chief minister, sent delegates to build rapport and connect with the Gujarati and larger Indian diaspora which came very handy subsequently. It is an open secret that NRGs (Non-Residential Gujaratis) and Indians settled in the US, UK, Australia, Canada; came to strongly support his candidature.