Cash guzzling political campaigns are the talk of the town whenever the election season arrives. With the world zooming into the 21st century, these campaigns have evolved into a serious business of complex strategic planning and mass marketing with a single aim of getting the candidate into power. The advent of technology and a high degree of professionalism into this field has led to a ripened business of niche consulting catering to politicians and political parties.
Consultants and political advisors have been around forever, but the modern political consultants differ from their traditional counterparts in two major aspects:
- Traditional political consultants tend to have personal interests in the candidate, the office and the issues. Election work is not their primary source of income nor is it their full time profession. On the other hand professional political consultants completely redefine this image. They often possess a certain level of emotional detachment from the candidate and the campaign. They possess expertise in specialized aspects and treat politicians like clients rather than partners in victory.
- In the era prior to the 1990s, political advisors were experienced people with a strong insight into the strategy game and were considered political gurus. They have been relied upon for many years but are almost always limited in their reach and resources, but with the rapid progress in technology, rising campaign budgets and focus on results in the past two decades, the professional consultants have revolutionized campaigning for political parties. They rely upon solid business fundamentals and research to develop efficient and effective strategies for their clients.
Professional political consultants undertake projects under three major aspects of political campaigning.
1. Generating financial resources
The Obama-McCain presidential race in 2008 alone cost a staggering $2.4 billion. This showcases the need for massive funding and thus the expertise that is required to raise the money. This has been a major area where political parties turn to experienced professional political consultants.
2. Designing strategies
Voter base profiling, ground research and hours of analysis go into collecting data to build a strong foundation for a successful political campaign. Consultants specialize in these activities and can be the difference between success and failure.
3. Promotion and advertising
Developing promotional and advertising programmes has been the most dominant work for the political consulting firms. This area of work has evolved hugely with technology, web based campaigning and a constant need for breakthrough promotion strategies.
Political Consulting in India
The developed form of political consulting as described above is an evident characteristic of political campaigns in the United States but it is yet to find its feet in young democracies such as India. The political scenario in India is hugely different and more volatile than those in countries like the United States. As a result, dependence on new age professional consulting firms is limited to advertising, promotional activities and analytics. However, the Indian political picture is changing rapidly and professionalism seems to be the way to go. With young leaders bursting onto the scene and a spark of development politics, there is huge scope for such consulting expertise in India. Although it would still take some time before we see all this in mainstream action, budding firms (eg. Leadtech) are slowly gaining acceptance in India.