There is much to be learned from the PR tactics adopted in Pakistan at the time of elections. As a case in point, we look at the strategy deployed by one of the leading political parties in the country, The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) during the 2013 elections.
PPP devised a new strategy to rebrand its image to win the hearts of its target audience after its shameful defeat in 2013. This strategy and its execution serves as a great example of how a PR campaign can fail when you are only relying on a strong brand call.
This particular strategy was seen in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) election campaign. The leadership rested on the young inexperienced shoulders of Bilawal Bhutto at the time.
In the campaign, Bilawal took on a strong stance against the government and formulated an establishment friendly approach which was a first for PPP. It is a known fact that PPP and military have no love lost between them. However, this tactic met its demise shortly.
In fact, none of PPP’s tactics worked as the election results declared the ruling party victorious and led to PPP’s defeat in AJK.
What called for PPP’s rebranding strategy
Rebranding is essential in the political or corporate arena over time. To remain relevant and stand out among competitors, one has to refresh the branding approach. Elections are an apt time for politicians to renew and refresh their party’s stance. PPP has survived for long on the Bhutto name. The brand still lives on.
As an attempt to refresh the brand call, PPP’s young leader Bilawal Bhutto often calls out to the youth to inspire action in his speeches. PPP’s decision to engage the youth which makes close to 60% of Pakistan’s population is a clever one.
The manifestation of this strategy was witnessed in the wake of Panama leaks when PPP joined hands with other opposition parties to hold the government accountable. It also threatened to take to streets if a Commission is not formed to probe Panama leaks.
Here again, PPP is seen taking an active stance against the government. And Bilawal is at the forefront making the appeal to the crowds.
What happened to the PPP brand in AJK elections?
PPP launched an anti-Modi and anti-government election campaign in AJK. Condemning Indian atrocities in Indian-held Kashmir and blaming Nawaz for having a soft corner for Modi was the central theme in PPP’s campaign.
Though there were several reasons for why PPP failed in AJK, the main reason was the Kashmir issue. PPP repeatedly placed the blame on other parties for not delivering to Kashmiris.
Picking on the Kashmir issue to engage the masses was a hit and miss for PPP as the conflict is not as close to people’s hearts as many other problems in the country.
Irrelevant, badly executed, Zero mass apppeal
In this case, the key message lacked relevance for the audience. PPP’s campaign had no substantial appeal for the common man.
PTI on the other hand talks about current issues. Khan keeps his themes close to the relevant problems the youth faces today which is the main reason why it is able to mobilize the youth so easily.
Whether it’s a political or corporate message, one has to understand the dynamics of target audience. Political parties and candidates in many countries are now targeting youth in their campaigns. They do this by creating relevant appeals. The likes of it can be found in the campaigns of Imran khan led PTI or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
But the real success follows if the message is backed up with the delivery of services promised.
In the 21st century, the target audience are exposed to many messages. They have the power to choose or reject it. Democracy works the same way.
Many analysts hold the view that ruling party has always bagged the votes in AJK because they are the ones releasing funds for the development. If this is the case, then even more so PPP’s strategy of playing the blame game had little chances of success if any at all.
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