Prime Min­is­ters Need In-House Brand Man­agers

A me­dia-savvy bu­reau­crat suc­cess­fully travers­ing the jour­ney from be­ing a bu­reau­crat to a specialist han­dling me­dia holds a dis­tinct edge over a jour­nal­ist or a com­mu­ni­ca­tion specialist

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - AMAN KU­MAR SINGH

has to be briefed by those in the know and that too if, and only when they deem fit. His ad­vice is no good if not sought by the PM on a real time ba­sis. His dis­sem­i­na­tion to the world at large is usu­ally a pre­pared state­ment used by the me­dia only when they re­quire it not when it is deemed nec­es­sary. So, from the me­dia’s point of view a Baru is good but only for the fluff; the real cream lies else­where. At the end of the day, me­dia is this gi­ant ma­chine with an in­sa­tiable ap­petite for news, spin may be the gravy on its plate, but cer­tainly not its meat. So what’s the al­ter­na­tive? My own view is that roles of Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary (PS) to PM and his me­dia ad­viser shouldn’t be de­cou­pled. PS is the only one who can brief the me­dia on a real time ba­sis (for the rou­tine there is al­ways the PIO). Baru’s in­flu­ence with and ac­cess to the Prime Min­is­ter may be an ex­cep­tion, yet un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stanc- es, the PS to PM is the only one who has real ac­cess to both the PM and in­for­ma­tion. He scans in­for­ma­tion from ev­ery source: in­tel­li­gence, armed forces, cab­i­net sec­re­tariat, min­istries, Par­lia­ment, courts - you name it. He is also the only one who hap­pens to de­cide what goes into the pub­lic do­main; and with­out his brief or sanc­tion, a me­dia ad­viser can only do so much.

While, it is com­mon knowl­edge that most bu­reau­crats do not un­der­stand me­dia, equally, it is not al­ways easy for a jour­nal­ist to un­der­stand the finer nu­ances of gov­er­nance. The jour­ney from be­ing a bu­reau­crat to a specialist han­dling me­dia might be dif­fi­cult, but not im­pos­si­ble. A me­dia-savvy bu­reau­crat suc­cess­fully travers­ing this jour­ney holds

Big­gest hand­i­cap for an Ex­ter­nal Ad­vi­sor is that he has to be briefed by those in the know

a dis­tinct edge over a jour­nal­ist or a com­mu­ni­ca­tion specialist.

To il­lus­trate, we need only look back to the days of Bri­jesh Mishra as PS to PM & NSA. He was undis­puted mas­ter of PMO.

With Mishra avail­able to the me­dia, there was hardly a gap in brief­ing on the strate­gic, se­cu­rity or po­lit­i­cal mat­ters. In com­par­i­son, a Baru, with his pe­riph­eral ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and in­tri­ca­cies, can at best pro­vide a lead which only whets the ap­petite of jour­nal­ist and leads to more spec­u­la­tion and more ques­tions.

A strong ar­gu­ment against this premises could be that PS to PM is al­ready over-bur­dened and can’t be sad­dled with mun­dane mat­ters like Pub­lic Re­la­tions. This is a typ­i­cally bu­reau­cratic ar­gu­ment. PS to PM could be duly as­sisted by a strong team of hired jour­nal­ists, speech writ­ers and oth­ers to lessen the bur­den. Let us not over- look that PS to PM is ex­pected to be a “su­per- bu­reau­crat” with ver­sa­til­ity, mul­ti­ple skills and end­less en­ergy. Ideally, PM should be the big­gest Brand Am­bas­sador of Govern­ment.

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