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Modi wants ministries to begin media blitzkrieg to defend govt, PMO "allows" paid news in communication plan

Nripendra Misra
Our Representative
Rattled by adverse all-round criticism over the failure of his economic policies, including from within the BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants his ministries to come up with an "effective communication strategy" for fighting adverse publicity. A note prepared by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has said that this "is essential for establishing proactive engagement with citizens.”
The communication plan attached with a Cabinet note sent by Modi's principal secretary Nripendra Misra to different ministries says that the "strategy" must include all or a combination of “publicity on television and national/ regional/ local newspapers" and "articulation of benefits on national and local media".
Other important thrusts would include "opinion piece articles in leading English, Hindi and regional dailies on the nature and scope of the decision and how it impacts people; bulletins on AIR News/AIR FM/Private FM radio stations; interviews on electronic media/radio and TV talk shows; and special mass media programmes", the guidelines add.
Insisting that the media blitzkrieg should be done “only after ensuring value optimization of such methods”, the guidelines say,the ministries should influence the social media through what it calls “personalised SMS texts, Whatsapp posts, video messages, mailers with such videos, images and captions” to keep citizens informed of their activities. It adds, Facebook posts are to be deployed to “tap its wider reader base”.
Wanting that all this should b done in a well-coordinated manner, the guidelines also include inserting "favourable" opinion pieces in newspapers and television channels, as well as getting independent experts to endorse the government’s schemes and decisions, adding, the ministries can also resort to paid promotions, too.
Allowing ministries to freely pay social media “influencers” to multiply the reach of its messages, the communication plan says, “Cabinet/CCEA [Cabinet committee on economic affairs] decisions and policies may be tweeted and shared on Facebook by other concerned ministries/departments also,” adding, “Other ministries and departments may individually link the cabinet and CCEA decisions with their respective plans and programmes etc.”
Comments a top scribe who has brought this to light, "This new strategy is considerably more detailed than the procedures followed earlier. Before this, ministries only prepared a press brief to be forwarded to the Cabinet."
Especially insisting on roping in proper experts for the communications job, the guidelines say, “It would also be advisable to reach out to influencers who have worked on a particular issue or are influencing voices on the particular issue”, adding, for example, “on National Health Policy, tweets and Facebook posts by leading doctors and health experts can have a strong impact”.
The new guidelines follow similar ones issued by the Union ministry for agriculture and farmers welfare, which floated a tender for a social media agency that can “provide amplification of digital marketing communication and messaging through planning and execution of a social media marketing activity across both paid media and non-paid media avenues”.This included, says a report, “planning and executing a ‘key influencer programme’ on social media platforms”, adding, the plan was to engage top 100 influencers in the industry to give a multiplying impact of its messages across social media.
When an agency sent in a query, wanting to know if they could engage with influencers of repute for such as Gul Panag, Ranveer Singh etc., as they would expect a monetary benefit, the ministry replied, it would "decide this as on required basis", adding, payments would be made "on actual for approved proposals.”

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