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Putting the PR in PM: The govt must now work on a victim narrative

Updated October 14, 2014

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Winning a public relations war requires going on the offensive instead of being on the defensive. — AP file photo
Winning a public relations war requires going on the offensive instead of being on the defensive. — AP file photo

"The human brain is a complex organ with the wonderful power of enabling man to find reasons for continuing to believe whatever it is that he wants to believe."

Voltaire said that, and it effectively sums up the state of Pakistani politics at this point.

In a country where changing media dynamics have triggered in the masses a sudden desperation to matter, everyone has built up their own reality and are ready to swear by it anytime. Unfortunately, none of these realities comes close to what the state of Pakistan currently faces.

Increased international isolation, plummeting economy, war on both borders, internal strife and an ever increasing wealth gap are just some of the basic critical problems which the majority are in blissful denial of.

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Every single person has their own narrative going on in their heads with or without the most pressing issues factored in. And in this war of narratives, one party seems to be winning the perception game through things like exercising and speaking English, while the other party is barely even in the game.

Looking at the government and how the ruling party runs its information and communications wing, one would doubt that they were even siding with themselves. In the 60 or so days since the Inqilaabis moved their daily meet-up from Islamabad Club to D-chowk, the government has been unable to find its basic talking points.

Getting GSP+ from the EU has been easier than coming up with five talking points to address the 'concerns' put forward by the resident of Zaman Park and his fan club.

Instead of working with an integrated strategy to address all attacks and going on the offensive, the government (if we can call the PML-N that, because they really look like they're still electioneering) is stuck permanently defending the mostly outlandish accusations against itself.

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Anyone with a remote understanding of matters as they stand would realise that winning a public relations war requires going on the offensive instead of remaining on the defensive.

Also, anyone with a semblance of decency would stop tacitly promoting those who go around playfully remarking on social media whether a certain rape case was or was not genuine — especially when you are in middle of a PR war which you are losing badly; as if having ASWJ hold rallies in one's support was not bad enough.

But then again, all of this requires one to be a little discerning and that is asking too much from the current government. The poor folks spend half their time trying to make sure all ministers are on message and that its public relations branch shows up to actually answer questions and not make a fool out of itself.

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Thing is, while the 62-year-old Zaman Park resident’s ‘Go Nawaz Go’ campaign is annoying and misguided, it has a sentiment attached to it that should have been addressed.

The people have issues and they want those issues addressed. It would have been wonderful for the government to address them instead of trying to compete with them. Asking the man from Bani Gala to cry on social media is not going to address the real concerns of election reforms, neither is tacitly encouraging Twitter supporters to promote your hashtags.

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To be honest, in fact, the time to address the issues is long gone and what is left now is a PR war until the Inqilab (read ‘correction of political system’ as exercised by the powers that be) finally commences.

The only thing that can be done here is to have an all-out PR war for the next 12 to 14 months, so that once the exercise is over, PML-N has something to take to the electorate to ask for votes. They need to start working on a victim narrative from now onward to have anything left three years from now when they try to come back with their bruised existence.

Unfortunately though, with the current batch of geniuses at the helm of things, even this much seems like a challenge. So while we all deserve a nice little final political blow out before the ‘political correction’ exercise, I doubt the government has the capacity to deliver even a last ditch PR stunt anymore.

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