I follow the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on Twitter. Today, celebrating one year in office, he sent out a direct message (DM) to all his followers. The DM had a link which takes you to a website //www.narendramodi.in/oneyear which has decks elaborating on various areas of focus.
It’s a bit difficult to make out whether this ‘direct email’ method is good or not. Certainly not many will take the trouble to read the full message. But then, how many employees read the CEO’s newsletter? And yet they (or the long-suffering corp comm folks) write them, no? And certainly these CEO communiques are considered a best practice despite the poor open rates.
Here’s why CMOs always push for stronger internal communications from senior executives:
- An employee should not have to read about his or her company in a public forum such as a newspaper before they have the opportunity to know about it through an internal channel.
- The employee should learn to look at the company as the first and most reliable source of their information
- Information in the media is often filtered by an editorial lens – when you have a robust direct communication channel you avoid that filter and get to tell it how you want to
- Social media tends to overemphasise certain types of news over others. You need a direct communication channel to ensure even ‘boring’ news makes it
I can quite see how these same factors would drive a political communication office. Why rely on media when you can send newsletters with your point of view to everyone? Most blog owners have discovered that email trumps social media when it comes to repeat traffic. And media will rarely give you the space to share decks on your achievements and it’s even less likely that the public will read more than a page on a topic that is so close to your heart. Many corporates – and political parties – believe that the media is opposed to them. All the more reason not to be dependent on them for awareness, but just for influence if you can get it.
Here’s how the PM can improve direct communication with the citizens:
- Look at weekly pictorial updates – just highlight one achievement a week. Bite size updates work better than long editorials
- Consider a multi-media campaign that covers different themes in different media – today it is blasting a single message for the most part
- Make it truly 2-way communication – ask people to vote their responses, gather sentiments and prioritise initiatives as per the responses. Corporate CEOs have a huge back-end team managing the responses to their chats and town-halls – India’s PM needs one too
Step 3 is essential for this effort to move from being new-fangled propaganda to a genuine connect with Citizens.
The PM’s office also did lots of print advertising – the traditional means of communicating government activities. There again, it would be worthwhile looking at some of the new phone based options like “missed call” to get live feedback from the citizenry.
Sure, DMs, SMS and Whatsapp seem a bit intrusive. But in today’s content intense world it is inevitable. As long as you can opt out.