The NDA wants its main publicity machine — the Press Information Bureau (PIB) — to go beyond just preparing staid handouts and assume the bespoke functions of modern PR business: From crisis management to marketing the government’s reputation.
The information ministry, which oversees the PIB, on Monday held its widely anticipated media brainstorm to ramp up the old ways of functioning. An official said “enlarging” the role of PIB could be on the cards to transform its pool of spokespersons into communication strategists, who could troubleshoot and manage public perception.
“We are all in the business of cutting wood, but we must also sharpen the saw periodically,” said Frank Norhona, the PIB’s principal director-general, explaining the reason for the workshop.
But the government still might require some professional help to get it right. Jagdish Thakkar, the PM’s PR pointsperson, in his speech said he wasn’t there to “talk what the PM” wanted him to, although his pre-assigned topic was precisely that: “PMO perspective on media communication”.
The day-long “workshop” was a high-profile huddle attended by the Modi administration’s top brass, including information minister Arun Jaitley, cabinet secretary Ajit Seth, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati chief Surya Prakash, apart from 60 joint secretaries and about 30 private secretaries to various ministers.
“Your job is not propaganda, you are not trained for propaganda. In my field we can do it, you can’t. Your real job is that government-centric information has to be put out,” Jaitley said.
PM Narendra Modi had swept to power on the back of a technology-driven publicity blitzkrieg. Now the official publicity machinery seems to be struggling to match the skills of Modi, himself the government’s communicator-in-chief.
Public initiatives, such as Swachh Bharat, may have been awash with publicity, but the Prime Minister’s Office wasn’t happy that some social programmes rarely grabbed headlines. This prompted the information ministry to get cracking.
The cabinet secretary said information officers ought to rethink their role as communicators, rather than as information disseminators.