How It Was a PR Failure with Rahul Gandhi
By Rakesh Raman
Meet Rahul Gandhi – the son of Sonia Gandhi, the son of Rajiv Gandhi, the grandson of Indira Gandhi, and the great grandson of Jawahar Lal Nehru.
This is the only identity that Rahul Gandhi carries. And now with this identity, he is willy-nilly trying to become the Prime Minister of India – exactly as his ancestors did.
Obviously, now he has to come out of the cocoon in which he always lived like a protected creature. He needs to meet people, understand their needs, and communicate with them to let them know how he is going to solve their problems.
He made an attempt a couple days ago and came out of the cocoon after 10 years of entering active politics. The Nehru-Gandhi scion chose to use the TV medium Monday to interact with people at large to inform them about his views.
He appeared on a local TV channel Times Now for an interview with TV anchor Arnab Goswami. In his nearly two hours of TV interaction, Rahul faced a volley of questions. And he could not handle any of them effectively. As a result, he was fully exposed.
It was clear that he is neither an intellectual nor an orator. With his disastrous communications skills, he looked like a beleaguered child who was forced to sit in front of the TV camera.
Rahul is not alone. Today, almost all politicians in India are intellectually challenged. They can’t articulate their thoughts (if they have any) and present them in a skillful manner.
But Rahul’s case is slightly different. He is an affluent member of the First Family who can hire the services of the best PR (public relations) consultants – though there are few – to get the spokesman training before facing the media.
It’s learned that he has done so, as Congress party has recently hired a PR agency at an exorbitant fee to polish Rahul’s image and that of the party. However, as PR agencies are crowded with naïve executives who don’t possess any domain knowledge and lack communications skills, clients hardly benefit.
This was quite evident in Rahul’s case. His PR people could at least tell him that if in a media interview, he is asked about the sun, his answer can’t be about the moon.
In this particular case, for example, when he was asked about the corrupt people in his party, his response was on opening up the system. When he was asked about the price rise that Congress government failed to control, his answer was about empowerment of women.
It’s not the evasion of difficult questions, but it’s simple foolishness because the audience will get the impression that you’re trying to cheat them. And that is not good for any politician.
It’s the responsibility of the PR people to train their client through various mock interviews and communications drills before they’re unleashed in the public. PR agencies must ensure than even if their client is a fool, they should not look like a fool in media interactions.
Plus, PR agencies could have told Rahul that if he has to utter like a parrot on only women’s empowerment, induction of youth in politics, and opening up the system, he should have carried the digital blueprints on a tablet or other such device to support his utterances.
You’re not supposed to talk to the air when a journalist is asking you specific questions. This kind of approach would tantamount to misbehavior and you would have to face the consequences. In future, a professional journalist might shut the interview on your face without completing it if you tried to avoid the questions.
The PR agencies must not allow such people in their client organizations to interact with the media because they can be more harmful than helpful to the reputation of the organization.
By Rakesh Raman, the managing editor of RMN Company.
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