Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Aristotle once said ‘Man is by nature a political animal’. Hmmm, I don’t know if it is a line that any one would want to be proud of, but then again, it depends which animal you are referring to.

In a conference i attended recently, the organiser asked me, if I preferred to be introduced as a politician or a public relations practitioner – It was an easy question to answer – I am a public relations practitioner and I practice public relations in my political career.

Having said that, for those who may not know what is the meaning of a politician, this piece of information may be useful. A politician is an individual who is involved in influencing public decision making through the influence of politics or a person who influences the way a society is governed through an understanding of political power and group dynamics.

Public relations practitioner is primarily responsible for managing the communications risks and opportunities of a business, both internally and externally. The public relations practitioner is also responsible for communications to a wide range of stakeholders of including but not limited to employees, shareholders, media, business influential’s, the press, the community and the public.

You may fine many similarities on their responsibilities and please believe me the similarity goes beyond that. I am saying this because I have been practicing public relations for the past 15 years and have also been involved in politics for the last 25 years. Having said that, now you can conclude that one of the reasons I got interested in politics was because of the enormous similarity between public relations and politics.

Dr. Steve Iseman, a member of the Commission for Public Relations Education and a professor of communication arts/public relations at Ohio Northern University said that Public Relations and politics are two concepts firmly entwined since the beginning of recorded time. For evidence from ancient times, take a look at Aristotle and his schools of rhetoric that taught the art of persuasive communication and in more recent times we have Dr. Edward Bernays (father of modern day public relations) who believes that public relations is an art applied to a science provide a clear connection between the two.

Public relations plays a role in politics in many ways. The public relations function of publicity is a great tool for gaining awareness for candidates and causes.

Effective usage of mass media, organizing special events and also introducing a candidate who is known and who is close to the voters is actually a basic function of public relations although this line is debatable but in almost all the developing countries this criteria is used. To put it in the most simplest way – at this point of time in Malaysia, a candidate cannot win an elections if voters don’t know them personally (in my opinion political parties in Malaysia should identify their candidates right now and place them in places that they should contest and begin their work with the local communities)

Public Relations also could help voters to understand the candidates better and make them understand in their own language, public relations can develop messages to reach the targeted audience. Certain issues need to be handled differently and public relations have thought us how to differentiate the issues

A good publicity campaign can bring in the votes because it is through this publicity campaigns difficult issues would be translated into simple words so that the voters would be able to understand the issues better and make a decent decision. Creating effective messages is an effective way as now a day voters have been assailed with so many information which has been manipulated. A difficult issue like the increase of the petrol prices could be handled only if we get the message across to the people in a language that they understand best and easy. It is never how we want them to understand, but, it is how they want to understand the issue.

One of the most important component of Public Relations is two way communications and in politics two way communications would be the make or break point for a politician to be successful or to put it straight to win elections. Voters want to communicate with their elected representative. Public Relations use feedback or public opinion from the public as a guideline in implementing a project or even to plan for a project. Infact, feedback, research and surveys are an integral part of Public Relations. Once feedbacks are obtained, it would be easy to develop messages according to the need of the community. PUBLIC RELATIONS excel in this area. Lets not forget, understanding public feedback or opinion is paramount when political parties draft their political standings, goals and objectives – a failure to undertake that task, would be as good as losing in any elections.

While it is hard to imagine a political campaign without publicity and persuasive messages, the fundamental partnership between politics and public relations at its highest level goes far beyond that - but perhaps not in the way that many people might think.

At the highest level, this two-way approach allows for both persuasion of the public and modification of the politician with an eye to bringing both to that most valuable of outcomes - mutually beneficial relationships.

This use of public relations is good for both politics and the public.
MY VIEWS....I am what i am, I am a Public Relations Practitioner first then I am a politician. But , I am not a politician yet as such I am still a Public Relations Practitioner and will always be a Public Relations Practitioner.


President said...

Chief,nice writing in simple words...

Jaya said...

Hi Kamalanathan...

I read your article with great interest and I must congratulate you for sharing your thoughts. Let me also share mine which relates more to politics.

The idea of introducing candidates way ahead of the election period to the communities they are expected to serve and represent is one that all political parties in Malaysia should consider seriously.

We have recently seen the intensity of the US Presidency candidature and the series of debates over a long period in order to convince the public and qualify themselves.

It will be a dream come true if such good practices can be emulated and introduced to suit our own requirements in the local context, instead of complaining after the elections.

All the best to you as a PR practitioner and perhaps a worthy politician in the near future.

Sentul Pasar