April 10, 2014

On the Road before E Day

Day 10: 360° Communication in Politics

Politics is an impulsive, emotional phenomenon – but elections are planned and cautious campaigns. At the heart of an election is communication. A party has to communicate internally and externally, to opponents and workers, to loyal voters and fence-sitting voters, to the media and to the general public. These groups are all very different and hence the communication strategy not just varies but changes and gains or loses intensity over time.

At the Trinamool Congress, we refer to this as a ‘360° of Communication’ approach. We often speak of an election campaign resembling a pie, with 12 arcs of communication: 360° split into individual segments of 30° each. These 12 arcs resemble not just different tasks and target groups, but also a chronology. They begin with the revision and study of the electoral rolls and end with the day of polling, and exhorting and bringing voters out of their homes to actually vote.

What are the 10 arcs in between? They range from kormi (worker) sabhas that are in-house huddles (to borrow a term from football or cricket) before the Trinamool team goes into the field. Then come wall paintings, which as I explained in an earlier blog are taken very seriously in West Bengal and seen as almost an art form. Closely behind are the hoardings, the flex boards that highlight our party and its message.

Now the campaign hits the ground. Arc five comprises road shows as the party and its key functionaries and workers alike take to the streets, in processions and marches. Gradually, this devolves into a more focused door to door campaign, moving from the main road to the narrow by-lanes and individual dwellings and hutments. Finally, the chairperson – Mamata Banerjee – addresses meetings, growing from smaller meetings (arc seven) to massive, show-stopper public meetings (arc eight).

Simultaneously and complementarily, there is communication through several media platforms. This takes care of three arcs and includes:

Mass media
Direct media
Social media

Trinamool is not unique in this. Many other parties adopt very similar strategies if not near identical mechanisms. Where we stand out, I believe, is in recognising and institutionalising the ‘360° of Communication’ approach and hardwiring it into our systems. This has made it easier for us to categorise our duties, and to undertake a job specialisation exercise within our human resources, whether workers or spokespersons, wall-painting artistes and wordsmiths, or logistical planners.

In short, it has made Trinamool an effective and efficient machine, and made election campaigns that much more methodical.

Derek O’Brien
Member of Parliament
Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha and National Spokesperson, Trinamool Congress