Political Consultants: The Masquerade Strategist

We have heard the story of Chanakya who played crucial role in the establishment of the Maurya Empire. He served as the chief political consultant to both Emperors Chandragupta and his son Bindusara. The term ‘political consulting’ came into picture way back in 1930, when Mark Hanna, developed whole political campaign for President William McKinley. Later in 1933 Leone Baxter and Clem Whitaker founded Campaigns Inc. which was the first political consulting firm.

We have seen huge political campaigns, with massive funds flowing. Every party has its own set of agendas, manifestos and ideologies. Every party tries to woo the public by employing various kinds of strategies, but only hands full of them succeed. Most of the parties have their dedicated team of party-workers for drafting and executing political campaigns.

Funds, political knowledge and manpower are necessary conditions for effective political campaign but these are not the sufficient conditions. The strategy which connects all these things is the mantra for successful political campaign. This is when the need of political consultant arises. The job of a Political Consultant is to help an individual or a group in promoting the goodwill among mass, win elections – and help in doing the same in again and again. They plan the campaign strategies, coordinate campaign agendas and staffs and create good public image of his client/ party. All these processes help him to achieve the goal of his client - attracting potential voters in favor of them.

The impact of political consultants is huge but they often remain low profile. Due to some confidentiality contracts with clients, political consultants do not want to come into lime light. Work of a political consultant is similar to that of a coach of a cricket team. As a coach analyses the performance of players, keep them fit for the matches and does whatever takes to make his team win matches, but he himself cannot go to field and win the trophy. Same is true with a political consultant.They keep the real time track of all the happenings of political campaigns but they do not lead it from the front.

Now various developing countries are also hiring political consultants. For example Israel’s main party hired American advisor Jeremy Bird to help them in country’s general election on March 17th 2015. Similar move was adopted by both front runner parties in Nigeria. Britain’s two biggest parties Labor Party and Conservative Party hired Washington campaign strategists to prepare for May’s poll this year.

The trend of hiring political consultants is catching up quickly In India. National parties like Bhartiya Janata Party and National Congress have hired a number of professionals to devise their pre-election and post-election strategies and to execute them. It’s not only big parties but also small regional parties and even independent candidates who are hiring political consultants. In 2013 Rajasthan assembly elections, an independent candidate from southern Rajasthan hired consultants to help him decide which national party to join. Several candidates in recent assembly elections in Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu & Kashmir and Maharashtra too have roped in consultants.

A political consultant or political strategists can work in various methods - directly present with his client, giving remote support using video calls, emails etc. or mix of both based on demand. The political consultants perform their work by means of research, analysis and consultations. The works of a political consultant can be listed as follows –

Sentiment and Requirement Analysis:  A political consultant analyses the data available for opinion polls, media information, sociological studies, electoral facts and other relevant historical data to capture the sentiment of the potential voters. He also analyses needs, wishes and expectations of public. This helps him to create the campaign design and promotion of his client.

Strength and Weakness Analysis (of client): He does a rigorous study to find the strengths and weaknesses of the client or party’s other candidates. These data help him to strategies how to highlight strengths and counter the weak points.

Competitor Analysis: The consultant finds the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors by using all available data including speeches, interviews, public acts, poll data etc. These details help him to predict competitor’s future moves and strategies.

Design the Campaign Strategy: In this the political consultant design the campaign strategy – it includes immediate goals and objectives, targeted public segment, marketing strategy, position, media plan, agenda and detailed time plan.

Empowering client by creating public image: The political consultant, with their immense knowledge in the subject along-with the factors like client image, strengths and weaknesses creates the identity of client that public able to relate with the client/party. The consultant also helps in creating slogans, music, campaign videos and photographs etc.

Strategize and execute advertisement:The consultant works constantly with the hired campaigning team to propose strategies, plans and ideas and executes the entire campaign process through posters, leaflets, TV shows, radio bites.

Crisis management: Managing crisis is a great deal of hazard to manage during election campaigns. The consultant helps to face such political crisis – how to manage attacks- both personal and profession, reduce damage and channelize the rival’s aggression to prove his client’s supremacy.

As media presence has become crucial in image building of any political party, designing a large-scale social strategy has become critical. BJP engaged global information technology firms, including SAP and Oracle to stay digitally connected through multiple social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter. This helped party win a historic mandate of 272+ seats in the federal elections.Many political parties, including BhartiyaJanta Partyused InMobi's database (mobile advertising company) to target the right user and subsequently the appropriate content to influence opinions of the public.

[easy-tweet tweet="Some well-known political consulting firms in India are Political Edge, Election Awaz, Today's Chanakya and RannNeeti. " user="ideasmakemarket"]These firms recruit former bureaucrats, journalists and public relations veterans, advertisers, NGO professionals and political analysts to help their clients.A team is then selected according to the need of the client. These firms coordinate and work with the politician's own in-house team for impactful execution of the plan. NowadaysPolitical consultancy firms are recruiting individuals from prestigious institutions like IITs and IIMs. These fresh graduates bring new breakthrough ideas in the field of political consulting.

The trend of hiring political consults has touched the political system of emerging economies, yet there is a lot to be done. As many political parties are openhandedly embracing the concept of hiring external consultants, in future the journey of political consultants is going to be very difficult. As the political environment is rapidly changing, only the firms which will evolve according to the situation shall thrive.

The article has been written by Apoorv Shrivastava ( @apoorvshrivastava ) and Khandekar Sarforaz Akram (@akram113 ). They are currently pursuing their MBA from XIMB.

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