MUMBAI: From local units of national parties to individual candidates, public relations professionals are in high demand this election season as politicians in Maharashtra don't want to take chances in sending out the right message to voters.
Cutting across party lines, politicians in the state are increasingly hiring public relations and news monitoring agencies to manage their image, prepare speeches, provide data points for their campaign and handle their social media profiles.
Today's political public relations has evolved and is no longer restricted to rallies and traditional canvassing, said Sunil Khosla, founder of a Delhi-based public relations firm.
"Political PR has become very scientific, aggressive and precise. It orchestrates events for clients where every single word spoken has a meaningful strategy, which is quite unmissable and can have repercussions, if not followed properly," he added.
Industry insiders said the agencies have also been tasked to create videos for social media campaigns, generate content and public image makeover of candidates.
Considering the impact of social media, almost all candidates have started connecting through Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp groups, to reach out to voters, said Hemang Palan, a senior industry professional who was media manager for some BJP candidates in the state polls of 2014.
"I can't tell you their (the politician's) names but I can tell you the season has begun. A sitting MP from Gujarat and two probable candidates from Mumbai are in touch with our agency," said Palan.
Public relations professionals are helping politicians to create a gripping content for public consumption, he added.
R S Iyer, chief of a well-known Mumbai-based agency which counts at least 11 ticket hopefuls among its clients, said candidates take his firm's services for image makeover and to know their prospects in the elections.
"We follow a confidentiality clause with our clients. We provide video footage of rallies, crowd, body language of supporters and other leaders, so our clients can scrutinise it and respond accordingly. We also provide them clippings of news items," he said.
While most of the politicians remained tight-lipped when asked about roping-in public relations professionals, a BJP leader, however, said it was need of the hour to hire such services.
"It helps the candidates in preparing strategies," the leader, who is a Lok Sabha member, said.
Congress's Sanjay Nirupam, who is fighting the elections from the Mumbai Northwest seat, said he has hired two agencies to help him and his party.
"They help in designing various strategies. But, you also have to be equally smart and active. Public relations professionals can't help you alone," he said.
According to IT industry veteran T V Mohandas Pai, social media may swing four to five per cent votes in the Lok Sabha polls, making it a key factor in constituencies with thin victory margins.
Youngsters, particularly first-time voters, are more enthusiastic and conscious about their votes, he had recently said. The 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state will go to polls in four phases on April 11, 18, 23 and 29.