Indian Political parties

Analyzing the use of Online platform by Indian Political parties

Introduction

In the early years of Indian Independence political communication was considered to be addressing peaceful rallies and dropping election pamphlets from a plane to persuade the Indian Voter. The post liberalization has already seen three paradigm shifts, Firstly the Nehruvian Socialism in the 1960's, then the hard lined discipline of Indira Gandhi and economic freedom in the 1990's. the liberalization of the Indian economy has changed the way of communication ranging from cable television to telecommunication and then bringing on to the online platform. Earlier the communication during elections used to take place in rallies and depended a lot on politicians interpersonal skills. But the political parties are soon realizing the importance of this Digital Era to connect with the youth of the country. The Political parties know that the youth are going in the transformation from Digital Migrants to Digital Natives. They are present with their true identities on the Digital platform. This requires the political parties of India to adopt methods which have been never adopted before. In the recently hard fought Lok Sabha Elections of 2009, all major political parties of India had hired Ad and Media Agencies to manage their Brand Image.

Understanding Political Communication

Political communication is a sub-field of political science and communication that deals with the production, dissemination, procession and effects of information, both through media and interpersonally, within a political context. This includes all usage of Media, speeches by politicians, Opinion leaders in the community to influence the decision process and it also includes the formal and informal discussions in the general public.

The Study of Political Communication revolves around 3 basic elements.

* The Political Party

* The Voter

* The Medium of communication

The Political Party

As per the Ace Electoral Network, A political party is defined as an organised group of people with at least roughly similar political aims and opinions, that seeks to influence public policy by getting its candidates elected to public office.

Political parties perform key tasks in a democratic society, such as

1. Aggregating and articulating needs and problems as identified by members and supporters

2. Socialising and educating voters and citizens in the functioning of the political and electoral system and the generation of general political values

3. Balancing opposing demands and converting them into general policies

4. Activating and mobilising citizens into participating in political decisions and transforming their opinions into viable policy options

5. Channelling public opinion from citizens to government

To perform these above mentioned key tasks, the political party should be able to communicate their objective clearly to their Voters. With the increase in the number of mediums a party can use to communicate with their voter, a consistency in the communication objective should be must. Communication objective is derived from the Brand Proposition the party wants to display to the general public. Harrop (1990) perceives political marketing as being not just about political advertising, party political broadcasts and electoral speeches but covering the whole area of party positioning in the electoral market.

Maarek (1995) conceptualises political marketing as “a complex process, the outcome of a more global effort implicating all the factors of the politician's political communication”. Maarek explained the Difference between commercial marketing and political marketing.

In the above Maarek tries to point out the difference between Commercial Marketing and Political Marketing. Such a parallel cannot be drawn, as a party's “product” consists not of its political communications but of:

a) Its ideological platform and its set of policy proposals.

b) The party leader, the candidates and party officials.

In Maarek's view, political marketing has become an integral and vital component of political communication. In his words: “Political communication…encompasses the entire marketing process, from preliminary market study to testing and targeting”.

The Voter

The aim of any type of communication is to convince the receiver. All marketers try to convince their customers about the product. Here the marketer is the political party and the customer is the voter. But there are certain differences between mainstream marketing and political marketing with respect to the voter.

Lock and Harris (1996) identify four main differences between mainstream and political marketing:

1. All voters vote on the same day, everyone makes choice as per their own methods or requirements

2. There is no cost attached to casting a mandate for a particular party, therefore no cost when considered from an individual point of view but a very huge cost from a society's point of view.

3. Even though you must have voted for a particular party, even though it's not elected ,you will have to live with it.

4. There is no choice to vote for a political party or the candidate, basically the service given is unbundled. The candidate and the political party both are generally taken into consideration while making the choice.

The main role of PR activities is to improve the perception of the political party or the candidate. Today political parties are involved highly in PR activities during elections; the Bhartiya Janata Party had the India Shining campaign in 2004 which triggered a new PR era in Indian Politics. The Congress party ran the Secular campaign successfully in 2009. No political party has left any stone unturned in the field of PR, whether it is print or television or even digital.

The Indian Voter today is exposed to a minimum of three different kinds of medium in a day, it is important to reach out to this person when it's most effective. It is very difficult to improve the perception of the candidate or the party in a short term; it requires a long term perspective with a consistent proposition to the voter.

The Medium

The early beginnings of democratic thought in the eighteenth century, political philosophers have recognized the crucial role of un-inhibited public debate and free speech, which was later, extended to the demand for a free press (Voltmer, 2007)The notion of a ‘marketplace of ideas' is based on the liberal belief that no single agency be allowed to have the last say on the course of politics. Rather, it is through public exchange of argument and counter-argument that the ‘truth' eventually emerges (Mill 1859, reprinted 1974). From the perspective of the ‘marketplace of ideas' argument, the media are usually assigned a more passive role, serving as a forum where a variety of groups and individuals are given the opportunity to express their views. Arguably the mass media serve as the main link between governments, political parties, candidates, etc. and voters, as the opportunities for direct communication between citizens and their representatives are extremely limited both in terms of the scale of the audience reached and the scope of the issues covered. However, the media are not just channels conveying the messages politicians want them to communicate to voters. They are also active participants in the creation of political messages (Cook 1998).

In a democracy like India, The medium of communication is the single most important factor through which political parties reach out to the people. Political Speeches, coverage, events are all part of the medium of communication. Even hate speeches, rally by political parties only make sense if they are reported by the print or the television medium. In the print there are articles that report the unfolding of different events through the day, the television has live screening of interviews and events. As film stars became popular s in Indian politics, movies became an important medium of political communication. This all is the part of the medium through which political marketing talks place.

Today the digital medium is yet another medium which cannot be ignored by any political party. Blogs, Social media, websites, email, viral marketing and websites itself has brought about a paradigm shift in ways political parties could present itself to the voter. The print and television mediums are generally active only during election campaigns but the digital medium is generally active all through the year.

The Digital Medium: The Game Changer

Not so long ago, Television and Print were the mainstays of most marketers media plans with radio and outdoor and a few other things filling in the gaps where appropriate. Even with the emergence of the internet in the late nineties television commercials were heavily favored by the dotcoms as the way to build their brands. The internet is now over a decade, it's certainly isn't new .In fact, any product that advertised itself as new ten years on would be laughed at or even sued by the authorities . Today Digital channels are mass and mainstream reaching global audiences. For example in some markets, a popular website can reach a staggering part of the population. It's not just the big portals or social networking sites that command large audiences. Perez Hilton, the web king reaches an estimated 5 million people daily via the blog. (David Meerman ,2004)

While digital channels are now mass, they can also be extremely targeted allowing for singular interactions with consumers. This is one of the defining benefits of new media. Marketing through the digital platform can be extremely personalized in many ways. Personal Emails or SMSes might be tailor made to suit every individual needs. They can be content differentiation also, as different mailers could be sent to different individuals based on their likes and dislikes.

New Media are essentially social. Everything in digital format can be easily replied to by everyone. The best part of digital medium, that it can be viral. Any exciting piece of communication through the digital medium can be easily replicated and produced in the same form. There are basically two types of Digital Marketing. The first one is the pull strategy and the second is the push strategy. The pull strategy basically consists of attracting consumers/visitors to a particular website or a blog or even watching a video (youtube). Here the initiative is on the consumer to visit the particular digital platform. The pull strategy requires a substantial marketing budget as the numbers of competitors are more. Also the pull strategy does not allow you to be personalized to the user, as the same content is viewed by all viewers. The push strategy basically consists of sending emails and SMSes to the target audiences. The push strategy could be extremely personalized, for example a political party could send in different SMSes to people of a region affected by floods and a different message to people affected by Naxal issues.

Use of Internet as a Political Communication Tool

The internet is a perfect example of customer centricity in political communication. The internet acts as a one stop platform for people to interact with politicians, discuss their problems. The primary problem in India was that people were finding it tough to connect with politicians except during elections when politicians wanted their mandate. The internet as a platform itself can act as a connection tool for the people with the politicians. But internet is not utilized to its true potential; internet is often seen as a tool to spread awareness about a politician or a political party. (David Meerman ,2004)

Before the internet platform emerged, it was believed that the people would go to the administration for help or issues, but the internet could give way to a system which would bring the government and political parties to the people. The focus of the internet could be to generate efficiency in the system which will indirectly benefit the government. But the important thing with the internet is that the tool works best when the consumer uses it for a dialogue and not a monologue.

Online tools

There are a variety of tools available today for use of political communication. These tools are generally used by the people for entertainment or networking purposes. These tools can consist of blogs, social networking sites, news sites, video streaming and group sites. These tools can be used by have great political applicability. These tools can be used to generate public attention and also to act as points of salience. The internet is generally open systems and are accessible all public. The internet today has no dependency on computers as the internet can be accessed through mobiles. Every tool present on the web today has a specific use and can be used to target niche audiences.

Importance of youth in elections

The analysts believe that the segment of youth would be the most critical in the forthcoming elections. Unfortunately this segment has registered a dismal participation in the elections upto this point. This segment of youth is identified as being rationale and will be having the capability of taking decisions. This segment can easily identify the right and wrong between things, they understand the importance to cast votes in elections too; the only thing that is lacking is a platform to connect with this target audience. The political parties today should be involved in giving out communication messages which are more relevant in times of today. The youth of today feel that they are disconnected with politics just because of the lack of use of appropriate communication tools by the political parties. That is why it is very important to understand the consumption of messages by this segment.

Understanding the Psyche of the Indian youth in Elections

The Indian youth is one of the largest segments of the Indian Society; they surpass any other segments present in the Indian Voting Canvas. In the recent Lok Sabha elections of 2009, the voting percentage among the youth was an abysmal 20%. The influencers in the case of youth are their parents, if the parents decide to cast their vote then the youth generally follow them otherwise they don't cast their vote. Most of the youth today does not find it intriguing enough to talk about politics, the trend is slowly changing but it is still an urban phenomenon. Most of the youth today look at the Election Day as a holiday; they generally plan out long weekend holidays on account of election days. The youth of today believe in the saying “Be the change”, they volunteer to NGOs and help other organization, they firmly deem that rather than relying on politicians or political parties, they themselves take the onus of changing the landscape of this country.

Generally Youth does not cast their vote on the pretext of saying that their vote does not make a difference. The youth of today in the range of 20- 25 years, have seen all the major political parties at the centre (1996 – 2009), so the feeling of nothing changing in the Indian Landscape is pretty evident. The youth also believe in the fact that they have never been asked to vote. When researched this led to the vicious cycle phenomenon in Indian Politics, the Indian urban segment and youth are the two segments which generally registers the lowest amount of voting percentages. This is the primary reason why politicians and political parties pay very less or no attention to them. Due to no attention to them the youth do not get any personalized or communication that makes relevance to their life during election days. Many youth of today feel that the process of casting votes is a tedious one, as one never know how to register and when and where to vote. Before the Jaago re campaign, there was no particular online platform which educated the youth about the process of casting votes.

Need and Rationale for the Study

Changing voter profile of the country – The voter profile of this country is fast changing, the faster the political parties adopt the change, better will be the results for the political party in the Long run.

Media fragmented – As the media of today is getting more and more fragmented, the traditional means of reaching the voter might not work, and innovative means of reaching the same voter might be needed.

Americanization of Politics in India – Learning from the recently concluded Americas Presidential elections, the use of social media had been used exhaustively along with other online tools. This can pave the way of the changing political propaganda as it takes place today
Research Design

Research Objectives

Following are the research objectives:

ü To analyze and compare the websites of different political parties and understand their offering in the digital medium

ü To analyze the different promotional activities done by political parties on the digital platform.
Research Methodology

ü Information gathered through data published, websites, reports. The books and articles for reference would be sourced from the KEIC library of Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad

ü In –Depth interviews would be conducted with professionals from the digital marketing industry and the people responsible for PR of political parties.

ü Content Analysis of Websites would be done of the websites of the major political parties of India

The content analysis of websites will be done on several labels like Information on the website, Informing the people, engagement with people, appeal to people , media releases given on the website and transparency achieved by the website

Content Analysis in general is conducted in several discrete stages. Although the following stages are given in sequence, they need not be followed in the same order.

1. Formulate the research question : Analyzing and comparing websites of different political parties in India ( Four national parties are taken in the consideration set)

2. Define the population in question: The population would be all the data that is available on the internet about these political parties.

3. Select an appropriate sample from the population: The sample for population would be the websites of these parties. (Official websites)

4. Select and define a unit of analysis: The unit of analysis would be the pages on the website. Each page would be analysed from the website. The units would be :

Ø Information of the web site

Ø Interaction with People

Ø Appeal to the people

Ø Service to the people

Ø Media Coverage and Public Relations

Ø Transparency

Sampling

ü A panel of experts from the digital marketing industry would be chosen with their political knowledge in mind. For selecting the panel snowball sampling would be used

ü The sample for selection of websites would be of the four national political parties of India

Research Questions

ü Some sample questions which would be asked to the panel of experts would be as follows

ü How important do you feel is the online platform in today's age for political parties?

ü Describe what is the appropriate time for political parties to use the online platform?

ü Where is the online platform best likely to fit in the entire process of political propaganda?

ü Could you tell us some campaigns which u liked/disliked by political parties?

ü What would be the extent of use of online platform in political campaigns, five years down the line?

Limitations

ü Confidential information would be withheld as the topic of research is sensitive subject which is politics

Data Collection

The data collection was done in two phases for the Four National Parties of India. This was decided by the number of seats won by each of these parties in the recently concluded General Elections. The initial data was collected on January 5 – January 7 2010. This data was recorded in an Excel sheet based on the selected variables. After this interviews were taken with the Media / PR heads o the respective political parties. This helped me in cross checking and validating their claims about the website and also to help me fill in gaps during my initial collection. Also a link analysis was done to check the traffic for these websites during the election period, as these links are more active during election periods.

Data and Analysis

The research would be done on the following websites:

National Party

Website URL

Indian National Congress (INC)

http://www.congress.org.in/

http://www.congress4india.com/

Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)

http://www.bjp.org/

http://www.bjpindia.in/

Samajwadi Party (SP)

http://www.samajwadipartyindia.com/

http://www.spmumbai.org/index.aspx

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)

http://bspindia.org/

http://www.bahujansamajparty.net/

The Research was done on two websites of each political party. The first data collection was carried out on January 5 – January 7 2010 and the second data collection was done between February 5 – February 7 2010. The purpose was to find if the websites were updated. In all cases however the content was not changed.

Findings of the Research

The political parties have yet not realized the importance of the updates of the websites. They did not update the sites on a day to day basis, although it is technologically possible to update the contents in real time today.

The sites of the Indian National Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party are more updated than the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. There are more than 32 features on the INC website put together compared to 29 of the BJP party. The Samajwadi party and BSP haven't updated their sites since a very long time; they have far less features than compared to the counterparts.

The better contents and updates in the BJP site could be attributed to the experience of the BJP elections n 20004. New Media including internet was used extensively during the elections of 2004. BJP has hired a New Media agency for handling only their New Media campaigns in 2009. INC lagged behind in the use of internet during the elections so far and appeared to have attempted to catch up with the BJP.

BJP has sites for all the states of India; these are for the local communication in the state. BJP had the India Shining campaign as the theme in which the party had extensively used New Media.

Language of the Content of Website

Maharashtra state has the local language called Marathi and Gujarat has Gujarati. There are 71, 936,894 (6.99% of the total population) Marathi Speaking people in India where as 46,091,617 (4.48% of total population) people of India speak Gujarati. This is against 90,000,000 (10.66% of total population) in India. Yet the parties have totally neglected the regional language. No one has given regional font for download.

Campaign Strategists bank heavily on the local language to write text for bills, posters, billboards, and advertisements etc. Hence logically they should write contents of the sites in local languages to reach majority voters. However this study revealed that the sites depended only on English.

None of the all the eight websites of political parties in Maharashtra and Gujarat had site analytics , date of the last update of the website and site map.

The date for last updating is necessary in some situations. For Example – political parties announce their candidates for elections in two three phases or more. They announce various lists and it changes even after announcements. If the date of last updating is given, the visitors of site can easily come to know whether it is an odd list or the latest one. This happens with other types of content too.

Site Map is a feature that helps the user to easily locate the needed information on that site. They also act as a navigation aid by providing an overview of sites content at a single glance. If the number of links is very large, the site map helps visitors to access all content on the site.

Webmaster: Details of the webmaster (email, phone or fax) are necessary because a visitor can write to him/her in case the site or part of it does not function. All sites had Telephone number to only the head quarters and no region wise contacts.

All sites had given the indication of a copyright. This prohibited others from using the website content for free. Visitors counter is another feature which is neglected by these sites , the visitor counter helps getting everyone an idea about the popularity and utility of the site.

Unit Analysis of Websites

Information of the party

Indian National Congress

The site of the Indian National Congress had given Information about the history of the party , the latest manifesto, List of candidates and the current Office bearers.

Bhartiya Janata Party

The Bhartiya Janata Party had given Information about the Organisational Structure of the Party, History of the party, List of states under BJP rule and the current list of Member of Parliament

Samajwadi Party

The Samajwadi party had given information regarding the performance of the party in the recent elections and the list of candidates for the Lok Sabha Elections in 2009. There was no mention of any kind of History of the party and the party manifesto

Bahujan Samaj Party

The Bahujan Samaj party website was more focuses only on current activities of the party and no information about the past. They didn't have the list of candidates or constituency which they have won in the recent elections. There was no mention of any kind of organisational structure in the party.

There was no mention of Alliance partners of any of the websites under perview

Interaction with People

Indian National Congress

The website of the Indian National Congress had given option to submit their feedback, comments, suggestions and complaints. There was no Toll free number mentioned on their website.

Bhartiya Janata Party

The Bhartiya Janata party was more people and new media friendly they had subscription to RSS feed

They also had an opinion poll on their website to know peoples view on a particular issue.

Samajwadi Party

The website of the Samajwadi Party had only contact numbers of the head office and respective branch offices. They had no other latest interactive features on their website.

Bahujan Samaj Party

The website was least interactive among websites of all the parties. The party was more interested in a monologue and not a dialogue with its voters. The website had no links or any other such things to keep the voters updated on the happenings.

Appeal to the people

Indian National Congress

The Website of the Indian National Congress does not appeal to vote for it neither their alliances. There is no way that anyone interested in joining the party could apply for a position. There was no appeal for a donation for a noble cause.

Bhartiya Janata Party

The Website of the Bhartiya Janata Party does not appeal to vote for it neither their alliances. There is no way that anyone interested in joining the party could apply for a position. There was no appeal for a donation for a noble cause.

Samajwadi Party

The Website of the Samajwadi Party does not appeal to vote for it neither their alliances. There is no way that anyone interested in joining the party could apply for a position. There was no appeal for a donation for a noble cause.

Bahujan Samaj Party

The Website of the Bahujan Samaj Party does not appeal to vote for it neither their alliances. There is no way that anyone interested in joining the party could apply for a position. There was no appeal for a donation for a noble cause.

Service to the people

Indian National Congress

Every website should be user friendly at the base level and somehow it should help us in the entire process of voting. The website of the Indian National Congress had no links for what's new on the website, FAQ s etc.

Bhartiya Janata Party

The website of the Bhartiya Janata Party had links what's new is happening to the political party in India. There was no service of any kind to the people.

Samajwadi Party

During Elections, finding your name on the voters list is one of the most tedious tasks for any voter. Samajwadi Party is the only party which is providing voters list to its users. This is one of the most useful features on any of the websites.

Bahujan Samaj Party

There is no feature of any kind on the Bahujan Samaj Party Website. The lowest on service to people.

Media Coverage and Public Relations

Indian National Congress

The Media Coverage and Public Relations is an integral part of any website, it gives you a coverage on the latest happenings of the political party. The media coverage in the INC website give you info only on the election results and not on the party achievements in each of their state.

Bhartiya Janata Party

The BJP Website has put photo gallery section at the front of their home page and audio-video features to attract the visitors

Samajwadi Party

The Samajwadi Party has their media section updated and it has given it list of latest joins in the party on the website. The party is not in power in any state so its only mentioned its achievements when they were in power

Bahujan Samaj Party

The Bahujan Samaj Party uses it website to effectively communicate its latest achievements, especially in the state of Uttar Pradesh where it's a ruling party. Other News of the party is lost in the clutter of information which is present in the website.

Transparency

Indian National Congress

Transparency is one thing that the Indian voter likes to see with every political party. The site didn't try to remain transparent about declaring the assets of their candidates even though it was a simple thing to do. All the details of assets of a particular candidate are given on the site of the Election Commission of India.

Bhartiya Janata Party

The site didn't try to remain transparent about declaring the assets of their candidates even though it was a simple thing to do

Samajwadi Party

The site didn't try to remain transparent about declaring the assets of their candidates even though it was a simple thing to do

Bahujan Samaj Party

The site didn't try to remain transparent about declaring the assets of their candidates even though it was a simple thing to do

Unit Analysis of Websites

INC

BJP

SP

BSP

Information on the Website

Good

Good

Fair

Fair

Interaction with people

Fair

Fair

Fair

Poor

Appeal to People

Poor

Poor

Poor

Poor

Service to the People

Poor

Poor

Fair

Poor

Media Coverage and Public Relations

Good

Very Good

Good

Fair

Transparency

Poor

Poor

Poor

Poor

Link Analysis of Websites

The popularity of the website is directly related to how many people know about the website and this affects the election results. This is a practical measure to know the popularity of the website, during elections days at least. In order to know if the political parties are using the website as a tool for political campaigning, the now home page was compared to the earlier home pages. This was important as we would know the difference between the older versions compared to the newer version.

To determine the impact or the popularity of the website, this study applied two different methodologies.

1. Two most commercial search Engines (Google and Yahoo), their various in built link, site etc. of each search engine was used in the first part.

2. The Inlinks was as measured by ALEXA.com. It gave us Traffic rank, Number of visitors and geographical distribution of visitors, daily views etc.

Results and Discussions of Link Analysis

All the Political parties revamped their Websites for the 2009 General Election. s 1-6 represent the old and the new versions of the websites. BSP and SP had no websites before 2008. All the political parties are using the website as an important tool for campaign. The BJP and the INC have completely changed their website. The appearance of the BSP and SP sites are better as they use ACTIVE X software in the applications.

Link analysis as a tool for measuring Popularity

The table shows the inlinks and outlinks for four National parties of India. It is evident that there are more indexed pages from the BJP. If one only considers the inlinks for measuring the popularity of the website, then BJP is the most popular compared to any of the remaing three parties. However the results for the two search engines are totally different. This is because Google calculates the inlinks that are directed towards the homepage only. Where as in Yahoo Beta “ show inlinks as measured by “show inlinks except from this domain to Entire site” It is important to note that the total links as measured by Yahoo for BJP website is more than 1000, but it displays 1000 results. In order to go along the originality of each of the search engines, I explored each link of google and 1000 links of yahoo with an interval of ten. It was found that the sample of 100 websites of yahoo is correct and all websites had a link that pointed towards the BJP website. So from a link analysis perspective, it looks like Yahoo gives a more exhaustive result than Yahoo.

Table 1 -Site Distribution and Site Depth

Inlinks

Site Depth

Google

Yahoo

Alexa

Google

Yahoo

Traffic Rank

Party

BJP

215

4308

223

5680

9384

73053

INC

78

355

64

1450

1760

860,327

SP

104

17

2

132

41

1,263,265

BSP

103

3

1

19

1*

6,256,386

Table 2 - Geographical Distribution of Visitors

Visitors

Party

India

Outside India

BJP

91

9

INC

95.1

4.9

SP

58.7

41.7

BSP

87.4

12.6

The other table gives us information about the depth of each website. This also gives us a direct relation into the wealth of information each website has. The study revealed that BJP had more sub-directories than any other party on their website. I could not explore the depth of INC and BSP website because the site is built on HTML frame.

Table 2 explains the viewers from different countries and geographical disparities. Alexa helped us identify the country wise distributions. Alexa divides the visitors into two broad categories, India and outside India. However the tool expands the location only for the BJP website. It is observed that the visitors of BSP and SP have more visitors from outside India, where as Congress has more visitors from India. The website of BJP too is visited by some of the developed nations.

The daily page views have also been analysed, the graphs were created by data from Alexa.com. Due to very less number of users of BSP and SP, the graphs were not created. BJP is much more of a visited website than congress. An astonishing finding which came up was that the personal website of LK Advani was much more popular than the BJP website.
Implications of Link Analysis

Link Analysis of websites of political parties is an unexplored area of webometric research. This research points out how links analysis can point out the popularity factor of the political party. Its gives a true indicator of the effect of political change in India.

The study on one hand is an attempt to understand the popularity of Internet in the Indian Political system. This study also reveals that now political parties are using new media as an effective communication tool. On the other hand page view analysis of the websites of political parties especially the websites BJP and Congress can give us a deep insight into political trends over a period of time .It can also be assumed that link analysis could be used by political parties in the near future. This may help them the political parties to take course of actions. It may be urged that that the current study is only limited to national parties and today India is being ruled by coalition politics. Regional parties are taking up and more and more active role today in the nation's politics. The link analysis would surely be a trend mapping tool if the users cross over 1 lakh viewers from that respective political party.
In – Depth Interview with Media PR wings of political parties

How important do you feel is the Role of the Public Relations in Politics?

All respondents felt that the role of Public Relations is growing day by day. It is even growing more and more as media is getting fragmented and we never know which medium is keenly followed. They also agreed that political parties today are on a lookout for people who are comfortable with Traditional media as well as new media which makes life a lot easier for them.

New Media is also seen as unpaid PR. Press is still one of the most important mediums during election campaigns, but it is more of controlled medium to a very large extent. But New media cannot be controlled and hence very important.

The Importance of Public Relations in political campaigns varies from one to another and this was agreed by everyone. The campaigns which generate the most Press coverage are the most important currently from the public relations perspective. In a campaign where there is a lot more of paid PR, there is less dependency on public relations. The campaign where there is no paid media, again Public relations become important. This is the place where New Media would play a critical role. Especially the youth of this country, which is not generally following the traditional media would be more or less impacted by this.

In India, the process of Public Relations would be more structured in the coming years. In the coming years they said the political campaigns would be more professionally run.

Describe the position that the public relations place itself in the political campaigns process?

Public Relations were voted unanimously as one of the most important factor in political campaigns, if not the most important. Money is often seen as one of the most important factor in a political campaign but it was cited that there have been many instances where effective PR has worked more than money. The respondent agreed that PR is in the very nascent stage in India and is headed towards the right direction. It was also bought to the notice that the PR heads are generally not one of the most visible guys in the party; this causes a hindrance in passing a PR plan. All PR strategies are generally drawn on a National level and then given to regional centres, hence following a top down approach. One of the respondents said that it should follow a bottom up approach as the PR strategies vary across socio-cultural regions and hence the ground level people are better acquainted to form the strategies.

How important do you feel is the online platform in today's age for political parties?

Interstingly all the respondents were very enthusiastic about the use of Online Platform in the Campaigning Process. They said the return on investment for the Online Platform is quite high as most of the social media is free of cost and the cost of setting up a website is marginal. The most important things in shaping the Online Strategy is the Message Development, Market Research, Earned Media,who are the opinion leaders and where are they. Use of Social Media was also attributed to creating an Honest and Desirable campaigns.

Respondents agreed that issue and candidate definition, complete research on issues and opponents, media managements, media events and spin, consistency of advertising appeals with other public relations messages, and endordosements from surrogates are the key tools for the Online Platform in politics.

The Respondents were also quick to recognize the mis-used of social media and the online platform in a political campaign. Shashi Tharoor and Twitter were the most given examples by all Respondents. The Respondents also pointed out how the Online platform could be mis-used by prviding Disinformation and false facts and s to the audience.

Where is the online platform best likely to fit in the entire process of political propaganda?

All Respondents agreed that the Online Platform has very Limited Reach in terms of People. But he said that it is not that small also to ignore the number of those people. He said generally a political campaign is defined by Mass Rally's and Personal Visits to the constituency. The investments in PR activities are highest during this time. But if we want to stay connected right round the year with our people that have voted for us then we should use the Online Platform. The amount of investments taken to reach the same around of people was quite low compared to the mass media campaigns. The Online Platform would surely not overtake the mass media spends during the election campaign but it would be more important in staying in touch with your voter.

All Respondents told us that they didn't know how to tackle Social media. Social media today's has gained very much the highest importance as it has everyone on the bandwagon. Today everyone has a comment on the goings around him and the repair time on social media is very less and the news spreads really really fast on social media.

What kind of Accountability measures do Public Relation personnel adopt to calculate what s effective and what's not effective?

Respondents answers that accountability is generally seen as a tool only when the campaign is unsuccessful, when the campaign is successful there is no question of Accountability.

There is an urging surge in all the answer given that there is a rising awareness of managing cost effectiveness in the pubic relation domain. The consultants are the ones who are accountable for the candidates where as the candidates and the media are accountable to the candidates.

Most of the respondents agreed as the Public Relation domain is fast evolving in the Political arena, and that's the primary reason why the industry as such is fast evolving and not very structured at the moment.

What is the future of Public Relations in political campaigning and especially the online platform?

The respondents were quite optimistic in regard to the future of the public relation domain in India. All respondents agreed that public relations in politics would become more complex if media developments like these continue. Multiple channels and print media in the traditional sense, added to that there have been web2.0, mobile, OOH and a lot of other media that the public relations practitioners in the industry.

According to most of them the online platform would be seen as something that closes the gap between the voter and the candidate. They all believed that the public relations on the web2.0 are like scratching a surface and there is a really long way to go in formalizing and structuring the entire process.

Conclusion

The fast evolving communication industry is changing how political parties used to communicate traditionally with their voters. Despite its limitations the study provides a brief history about the evolution of the Public Relations in the political communication set up.

The study has tried to describe the growing involvement of the Online Platform in strategies development by the political parties. The online platform currently is not one of the sought after platforms in India, this is because the assumption of Reach of the Online Platform is very narrow and restricted to the urban areas. It would be interesting to see that how political trends change in time when the online platform is able to penetrate itself into deeper pockets of the country.

The Online Platform thus could be seen as a daily connect tool for the candidate to be in touch with his constituency. Social media is something which has penetrated deep in India, it could be used to leverage out to reach people or hear people about what they are saying or staying associated and connected with their problems.

The Online Platform could be seen as a great relationship builder tool with the people, the people who still yesterday could not get responses to their problems could be connected very well and thus giving rise to a very fruitful relationship both for the candidate and the voters

In the end the merging of Politics and Communication cannot be exactly named as good or bad in relation to all the implications on Democracy. The contribution of media to the political context would surely be dependent upon social , economic and legal context we live in. Strict Norms would be required if these contexts are to be shaped up by the views and votes of the citizens of this country and not a particular interest group working towards a cause.

Recommendations

Currently all the political parties are not using the Online Platform to its true potential. This is because nobody till now has discovered the true potential of the Online Platform in India.

Below is a Platform which could be used to leverage it to its true potential.

References

1. Denton R.E., Woodward G.C. Political Communication in America, New York: Praeger, 1998, p.11

2. McNair B. An Introduction to Political Communication, London: Routledge, 2003, p.24

3. The roles and Definition of Political Parties, The Electoral Knowledge Network http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/pc/pca/pca01/pca01a

4. Katrin Voltmer, Mass Media and Communication in new democracies,London and New York

5. Matt Deluca, Political Communication Tools used in Presidential Campaigns,New York

6. Glenn Reynolds “InstaPundit” http://www.instapundit.com

7. C.P.Bhambhiri, Periphery to Center, Delhi 2001

8. P.V.SHARDA ,RADIO TELEVISION AND ELECTIONS

9. Kent Wertime, Ian Fenwick, The essential guide to new media and digital marketing

10. David Meerman Scott, The new rules of marketing &PR

11. Ansolabhere, S.D & Iyenagar.S( ( 1995), Going Negative: How Political advertisements shrink and polarize the electorate,New York, Free Press

12. Bennett, W.L Lawrence, R.G, Livingston, S (2007). When the press fails: Political Power and the news media from Iraq to Katrina. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

13. Bumiller,E( 2008, February 23) . MCCAIN gathers Support and Donations in Aftermath of Article of times, The New York Times, P.A 13

14. Iyengar ,S (1991) .Is anyone responsible ? How television frames political issues. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

15. Hall S, (1977) , Culture, the media and the ideological effect. In J . Curran, M. Gurevitch & Jwoolacott ( EDS) , Mass communication and society. (pp 315 – 348) . London: Edward Arnold.

16. Tech firms look to create political forums online, The Enterprise, 2007

17. The Changing Political Economy of Federalism in India: A Historical Institutionalist Approach, Assema Sinha, India Review ,2004

18. The impact of Internet use patterns on political engagement: A focus on online deliberation and virtual social capital, Ji –Young Kim, 2005

19. Harrop M. ,Political marketing. Parliamentary Affairs, vol. 43, pp. 277-291,1990

20. Keane, J. (1991) The Media and Democracy, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press,1991

21. Mill, J.S.On Liberty, London: Penguin. (1859 reprinted 1974)

22. Maarek P. J., Political marketing and communication. London: John Libbey & Co.1995

23. Cook, T.E., Governing with the News. The News Media as a Political Institution, Chicago,

 

Please be aware that the free essay that you were just reading was not written by us. This essay, and all of the others available to view on the website, were provided to us by students in exchange for services that we offer. This relationship helps our students to get an even better deal while also contributing to the biggest free essay resource in the UK!