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Image gurus give netas a facelift.

Consultants & PR professionals help politicians send across right message

ROM taking crash courses in body language to downloading vote statistics in swing seats, today's netas have a barrage of consultants to hold their own at the poll hustings and to ensure victory in elections. The result is more image-conscious politicians this election, bent on ensuring that the right message is sent out to the electorate. Santosh Desai, CEO of Future Brands, believes the importance of image is due to the way the media is covering the 2014 general election. "India hasn't changed but the media has. The growth of media, especially television, has reduced election coverage to simple issues such as Modi vs Kejriwal, Sonia vs Modi. Are we concerned with the BSP as a force? No, because thanks to television, mainstream parties have moulded their strategy as individuals," he says. The focus on image has led to agencies queuing up to offer specialised services. And "image workshops" that train politicians in body language, crisp messaging, headline generating content for TV and reactive replies for social media are all part of the package. "We have sector specialists trained in political communications who host regular image workshops for our clients. If a politician is more comfortable with a certain medium, we work up a campaign that will propagate his image on that medium. We have trained over 100 politicians," Dilip Cherian, founder part- Image gurus give netas a facelift Consultants & PR professionals help politicians send across right message By Ashwin Ahmad in New Delhi ner of Perfect Relations, says. The other factor in the fight for image is the new medium of social media. Observers say this field was nascent in the 2009 polls, with only a few politicians and observers using the medium and that too only to show their presence. The scenario witnessed a dramatic shift with the m dmi Party's entry in elections. "Politicians are more concerned with social media now because now they realise it suggests a degree of openness and accountability to the public. Also, let us not categorise social media as an urban phenomenon. I have travelled to pockets of rural India, where we have found people familiar with the tweets and Facebook posts of a candidate," P's social media strategist Ankit Lal says. The image gurus have several tales to share about the politicos they have helped. In one instance, a Madhya Pradesh minister wanted to maximise gains for himself and his party. Ground research suggested his image was strong in a particular constituency. To maximise the potential of his image, consultants asked him to contest from a neighbouring constituency while projecting another candidate as "his man" in the home constituency. The result: both candidates won. Another change affecting a politician's image is the rise of strategic agencies specialising in electoral management. IITians with a passion for politics have launched firms that provide data right from the grassroots-level. "Our job is to provide boothlevel analysis, and the likelihood of swing voters that will go vote against a particular candidate in an area. This is especially essential in rural areas where there are more booths, more constituencies for a politician to consider. This data is then collected and provided on an app, which the candidate can download on an I-pad or from any server," Gaurav Singh, co-founder of political strategy agency Poltubz, says. Industry insiders say these services, which can cost up to `5 lakh to `7 lakh for a legislator or `20 lakh to `25 lakh for an MP, can be essential to molding a candidate's image. Despite the recent boom, experts believe such services are still in a nascent stage and their full force will be witnessed in 2019. But the fact that politicians are willing to consider that image is everything, suggests that even 2014 will be a game-changer in the way elections are fought and won in India.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Apr 6, 2014
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