September 3rd, 2011 / 5:43 am
by Bob Pickard
Last week when I was travelling to India, one story totally commanded the news: the hunger strike of social activist Anna Hazare, who was fasting to force pressure on the Indian government to enact a tough new anti-corruption law.
Day after day, every newspaper front page was dominated by coverage of the Anna protest, and in channel-surfing India’s many all-news TV networks, you would think there was nothing else going on in the world.
The Anna story received such massive publicity, to the extent that one can reasonably ask whether the media was just covering a phenomenon or actually also helping to create one for commercial purposes.
Certainly there were many conditions conducive for a craze, starting with a vast audience of consumers coveted by media organizations in a hyper-competitive news market (media of all kinds – including traditional and new – is growing in India).
As a country with a rising middle class that’s become increasingly fed-up with the negative consequences of corruption in society, India is surely ripe territory for such a popular protest. The middle class already numbers 160 million people and a study by India’s National Council for Applied Economic Research predicts it will explode in size to 267 million within five years (still a minority of India’s 1.2 billion people it should be noted).
Following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Anna’s emphasis on nonviolent methods struck a chord and he seemingly achieved ‘societal alignment’ with communications content that resonated with popular sensibilities. His approach recalled the passion and success of storied protests from India’s independence movement (Indian Independence Day’s arrival on August 15th was a timely milestone).
Conflict and contrast help drive the most vivid news coverage, and the government’s handling of the situation provided both for this story. Conflict: Anna was arrested at one point, which supplied grist for the media mill. Contrast: The fact that Anna shares in common with the Prime Minister an older age (both are in their 70s) provided ample opportunity for media to portray Anna as being vivified by ‘people power’ with the PM seeming wan and remote in comparison.
Momentum perceptions played a key role in the Anna story. Large and animated crowds were always in the backdrop, and later on as the hunger strike progressed, so were what seemed a bigger and bigger team of doctors tending to Anna. As the hero of the story became weaker, the apparent popular sentiment became stronger and larger at the same time owing to a classic ‘bandwagon effect.’
This created an audience-grabbing suspense; the question was: ‘will the government give in before Anna passes the point of no return?’ The prospect of a brave death draws a crowd in the media, especially if it is going to be on principle in support of a cause so many believe in.
This gripping drama, easy to follow and relentlessly repeated in the media, transfixed India and achieved world attention as few stories do (amplified and accelerated by social networks).
I don’t know if there was a public relations strategy devised and implemented by ‘Team Anna.’ If there was, I would give it high marks for results, because it looks like the Anna phenomenon is poised to effect political reforms and changes for the better.
1. Thanks to Prema Sagar and Rahul Sharma for sharing their insights on this topic…both brilliant observers of the India public affairs scene.
2. I was already working on my Anna article when I saw this Reuters blog and thought the headline was perfect and so have repurposed it here in this post’s title.
July 9th, 2011 / 2:16 am
July 9th, 2011 / 2:00 am
June 1st, 2010 / 12:00 am
I’ve been doing a lot of videos lately, so let me share a couple of recent ones shot this spring during my pan-Asia introduction travels.
A few weeks earlier at New Delhi, here I was interviewed by Ashwani Singla, the CEO of Genesis Burson-Marsteller, India’s premier public relations consultancy. Of particular interest to PR industry types is our tackling of the procurement trend in communications services.
- The climate change PR disaster
- Humanitarianism in the network age
- The marketing might of modern public relations
- Guest lecture at SMU on Asia social media
- An end to ‘time zone chauvinism’
- The PR industry remains strong
- climate change
- crisis communications
- guest post
- media relations
- national brand
- PR industry
- social media
- speaking platforms
- Is PR a young person’s game? http://t.co/gHdaWZAgfp | Agency demographics skew young but the key is diversity rather than age of experience
- RT @communicateasia: NYT reporter decries PR use of media databases. Has the practice gotten out of control? http://t.co/e2pOFOlok3
- The climate change PR disaster: http://t.co/F5bIHgIN48 | via @holmesreport & @ArunSudhaman
- RT @digible: A brief guide to China's media landscape: http://t.co/hYHDwlqXRx | @danwei
- Creative tools for communicating climate change: http://t.co/jCnbmN3v7t | Speech by @AndrewRevkin at the 'Crowds & Climate' conference
- The classic Bob Newhart TV interview video: http://t.co/oQy7ZFGSAb | A favorite media training clip which I used many times in past
- The #PR function needs to be braver: http://t.co/KXp1fPIRfl | Unilever’s Sanchez is spot-on | via @MarketingEds
- @LPlus Thanks for the warm welcome to the Advisory Board. I am looking forward to helping drive the PR effort for @CrowdWeek #crowdweek
- I'm excited about joining the Advisory Board of @CrowdWeek: http://t.co/VW1JnF0HVu | Communications for the collaboration economy | @LPlus