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Guns, Goons, and Glory: What the chaos of Mirzapur can teach us PR professionals

There are very few things that unite our country more than cricket, and the current ‘Mirzapur fever’ definitely ranks high among them. With the launch of season 3 just around the corner, there is much anticipation about what Guddu, Golu, and Kaleen Bhaiyya will do next in India’s biggest crime drama saga of 2024.

However, while we wait to see how the tables turn this time around, there is much we PR professionals can learn from Mirzapur’s previous two seasons, for this show is a masterclass on PR and perception building. 

So if you want to sit on the ‘gaddi’ of Crisis Management and avoid another ‘Bhaukaal’ for a client, you’d want to keep your ‘Munna bhaiyya’ avatar aside and channel your inner ‘Golu’ instead to read ahead.

1) “Kuch log bahubali paida hote hain, aur kuch ko banana padhta hai..inko banayenge” - Akhandanand Tripathi

Persuasion is a PR person’s top priority and lobbying is the biggest tool in a PR person’s Chanakyaniti. Did you notice how Kaleen Bhaiyya’s vehicle number plates all read ‘King of Mirzapur’; and those of Guddu and Bablu as ‘Lions of Mirzapur’? 

They were small but powerful visuals that set the base for the core narrative throughout the show. Thus, if there is a positioning you need to derive and a moniker you want to stick to, passive PR via ‘USP-driven’ press releases won’t make the cut. Getting the public to accept a self-declaration requires subtle but consistent persuasion from a PR team, content seeding on the client's own channels, lobbying via events, and building third-party credibility first - aka achieving acceptance by others before you do aka getting others to call you ‘something’ before you can call yourself it.

2) “Baaki Saari jhoot hai, Munna bhaiyya cute hai. Bhaymukt UP” - Rally crowd at college procession

In PR, we often want to be India’s first or India’s best. Using that thought as a core message is no longer relevant, as people can easily read right through it. There will always be someone bigger or smaller than you in the race, be it in brand stature, share of voice, or sheer publicity spends. 

Authenticity is more important to your audiences than who did it first, so a good PR story needs to help you carve a USP with a supportive and comparative angle. 

We are now responsible for finding a niche that our can own, develop, and leverage as a subgenre, originate key messages that resonate with those value systems, and then promote them synonymously via PR. What did CM Surya Pratap Yadav do to re-establish his power during the election? He recognized a problem that plagued the people of UP and coined a campaign mantra "Bhaymukt Uttar Pradesh". He then dedicated a full-blown 360-degree PR exercise around it. He didn't lean on his past laurels and constituencies but zeroed in on an untapped market which if carved in, would help him win - Mirzapur. His positioning was based on solving an apparent problem for a small town, which helped him win a larger emotional win for the entire state. 

The lesson to learn? A positioning now only resonates with the audience if it is authentic. To achieve authenticity, one must fearlessly assert their position. And to assert their position, one must find a needle in the haystack.

3) “Mirzapur me power hamesha gaddi ki rehti hai, aur muqabla davedaro ka” - Sharad Shukla

There is an opportunity in every crisis, even the worst situation can be turned into your biggest advantage. 

The most juicy PR play in the show was watching the true 'Queen of Propaganda' aka Madhuri Yadav ascend to the CM throne by leveraging a reputation crisis to her immediate benefit. Her example illustrates how a spokesperson must build a reputation first, then strike when the iron is hot, all while concentrating and delivering an authentic message. 

It also teaches us that it's not about looking at the glass half full, but more about finding your way out of that situation without feeling handicapped. 

When you’re pushed into a corner, be calm and think of all the angles, to find one that is most beneficial to you and your target audience.

4) "Izzat nahi karte, darte hai sab. Aur darr ki yahi dikkat hai, kabhi bhi khatam ho sakta hai"- Kaleen bhaiyya

Like Kaleen Bhaiyya says, there are some things that even money cannot buy - respect, loyalty, AND in our case, also authenticity in PR relationships. Connections need to be built based on mutual trust, respect, and a win-win strategy for all parties, even if it is situational. 

Apparent in all the alliances made by Akhandanand Tripathi throughout the show (be it business dealings with Lala or his ‘support’ for Yadavji as CM leading to him ultimately becoming a cabinet minister), is his ability to find an angle (read: benefit) that works for everyone in the long run. Respect is ultimately built on the heels of loyalty, so finding a way to earn such long-term allegiance is key to PR efforts between a journalist, client, and publicist. 

Media can become your confidante and your biggest cheerleader if you take the time and effort to deliver consistently on a promise made strategically.

5) “Jeet ki guarantee tabhi hai jab jeet aur haar dono tumhare control mein ho” – Bauji

What goes up will eventually come down - such is the cycle of life and PR. Even the best brands have bad PR days and can run into unintentional reputation crises, thus preparation is key. We learn this lesson the hard way via Munna aka Phoolchand Tripathi, who is very keen to ascend to the ‘gaddi’ as he thinks he can ‘wing it all’. No matter what, do not lose your calm or composure, and use the broken record strategy to buy time till you come upon the best solution.

And no matter how tempting it may seem, do not make tall claims or rush in to save or promote anything. Take your time to strategize and help your client, and in turn yourself, to build an empire.

Hope you are, like me, getting that popcorn ready for season 3 (and part 2) of this listicle.

Aakanksha Gupta, founder & CEO - The Other Circle with  Isha Choure, head of strategy and BD - The Other Circle

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