Posts Tagged ‘APCO Worldwide’

Rebranding of Narendra Modi is well under way

July 26, 2013

Back in 2011 I posted about the rebranding of Narendra Modi being orchestrated by Steven King and APCO Worldwide and which had started in 2009. His chances then of overcoming his Gujarat-riots reputation to become the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister  were small at that time.

That has all changed now and the odds of his being the PM candidate are very high and his chances of becoming the next PM of India must be better than 50%.

Modi is not only the leading candidate to be the BJP’s candidate for PM for the 2014 elections, he has also been appointed the head of BJP’s campaign. He has started his efforts to gain acceptance across the country and regional parties are beginning to position themselves and even if they are not all rushing to show their support for him, they are certainly busy getting onto the fence so that they could support him if it becomes necessary or it could be beneficial. (Indian political parties all strictly follow the ideology of Opportunism).

Steven King – after his plagiarism fiasco – is no longer shown on APCO Worldwides’s website. If APCO are still working for Modi they are not doing it directly. During the floods in Uttarakhand a rather stupid effort was made to show Modi as a hero in the rescue of flood victims. This quickly backfired as in this article in the Times of India. The article mentioned APCO Worldwide  and led to APCO denying that they had anything to do with the rescue story or that they were working for Modi.

India is a big market for APCO and they are going to very careful in the run-up to the election to keep their ties to all political parties alive.  APCO India Brochure

Whatever the truth of APCO’s involvement (and I think the rescue story was a little crude for APCO) some PR group is certainly trying to orchestrate the rebranding of the Modi image. I would not be at all surprised that such a PR Group had – or has – links to APCO.

The latest story about 65 MP’s writing to Obama to ensure that Modi was not granted a US visa followed by 9 MP’s claiming that their signatures on the letter were forged is sufficiently convoluted to make me suspect the guiding hand of a well experienced PR exponent. The result of the circus is that the 65 MP’s look petty and vindictive and are all on the defensive. The Congress Party and the Left parties are busy distancing themselves from the writing of such a letter. Even the BJP has had to point out that they have no significant differences in foreign policy from that of the present government. Modi comes out very nicely with the faint glow of a halo beginning to appear.

Even the reports in the media that Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has stated that he does not believe in Modi’s economics and does not want him to be his Prime Minister are actually working to Modi’s advantage. (Sen’s attack on the real achievements in Gujarat is particularly silly – but I note in passing that it is not at all uncommon for Nobel laureates in Economics to make idiots of themselves). In fact, Sen now being “associated” in the public mind with Rahul Gandhi, is to Gandhi’s disadvantage. In my suspicious mind I see the hand of a skilled PR man again, who has successfully provoked Sen into making a silly – almost stupid – attack on Modi – to Modi’s eventual benefit. If Amartya Sen is really opposed to Modi, he has just scored an own goal – or three.

If the 2014 election becomes a personality contest between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi, it would – I think – be a walk-over for Modi. The real skill of Modi’s PR strategists will show in their ability to marshall the diverse regional parties behind Modi. Exactly how they can mobilise and align the different caste groups will be particularly convoluted and fascinating to watch.

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Update – Steven King resigns from Irish Examiner but continues with APCO Worldwide

October 13, 2011

UPDATE! 13th October

I posted about this story earlier hereand Steven King has now resigned after his plagiarism was discovered:

Irish Examiner columnist Steven King resigns following plagiarism controversy

THE IRISH EXAMINER says that its weekly international affairs columnist Steven King has resigned from the paper.

The resignation follows allegations that King plagiarised passages for his column from a number of sources including blogger Brendan O’Neill of Spiked, and from Salon.com and Commentary Magazine.

The allegations were made by journalist Brian Whelan, who previously uncovered evidence of plagiarism in the work of London Independent columnist Johnn Hari. Hari is currently on unpaid leave and is undertaking a journalism training course.

…. The Examiner reports today that King said he was out of reach while visiting Ethiopia recently…..

which of course makes me wonder which unsavoury person or party in Ethiopia is using APCO Worldwide as its spin-doctor.

Birds of a feather? Steven King, plagiarism, Apco Worldwide, Narendra Modi and asbestos

October 10, 2011

Narendra Modi is the  chief minister of Gujarat state in India and has overseen impressive development successes in his state, but he is considered a staunch member of the right-wing nationalistic Hindu camp and was indirectly – if not directly – responsible for the vicious anti-Muslim riots and killings in the state in 2002.

Steven King works for APCO Worldwide, a public relations and communications group, and is based in Delhi. His weekly column for the Irish Examiner has been revealed to contain widespread plagiarism and he has now apparently gone into hiding. Now it seems that part of his work at APCO includes an effort to rebrand Narendra Modi who has aspirations to be the next Prime Minister.

Tehelka reports:

…. the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) report that portrayed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a messiah of economic reforms. …. This glory, however, is largely a consequence of the brand-building exercise that Modi had adopted in 2007 through the help of a Washington-based Public Relations (PR) and lobbyist firm APCO worldwide. APCO, which is the second largest independent PR firm in America, took on the responsibility of taking care of PR for both Modi as well as the biennial industrial summit ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ in 2007. The firm, known for intensive lobbying, brought in investment commitment of up to Rs 20.83 lakh crore (ed. about $4.1 billion) in the 2011 summit. The Gujarat government has been paying nearly Rs 15 lakh rupees (ed. about $31,000) a month to ( APCO) since 2009 in order to bring about the image makeover.

APCO has also been managing Modi’s own behaviour and projection, for which the cost has been over $25,000 per month since 2007. Curiously, APCO was chosen over 10 other firms that also included Weber Shandwick, Grey Worldwide, Twenty-Twenty and Vaishnavi Communications owned by the controversial publicist Niira Radia. The firm, which also specialises in political PR, is notorious for having dictators such as former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha amongst its clients. The firm, which keenly observes political conditions across the world, also boasts about changing its clients’ fortunes.

“We have a deep understanding of how governments make decisions and how to shape those decisions. It is through this extensive experience that we are able to advise sovereign nations on how best to tell their stories to the rest of the world,” claims the APCO Worldwide website. When asked about Narendra Modi, Steven King of APCO told TEHELKA that he could not divulge any detail on his clients.

APCO is involved in promoting other dubious causes as well:

The Department of Occupational Safety & Health in Malaysia has called for a ban on all forms of asbestos in order to save people’s lives. …. 

APCO Worldwide is lobbying the government of Malaysia, on behalf of an undisclosed client, to exclude chrysotile asbestos from the ban. Chrysotile asbestos represents 100% of the global asbestos trade today… The scientific consensus is clear – just as it is on tobacco – that all forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos, cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, other cancers and asbestosis and that safe use is not possible.

Only lobby organizations that have a financial interest in selling asbestos claim that asbestos can be safely used, just as the lobby organizations acting on behalf of the tobacco industry have denied the clear science on tobacco harm.

APCO Worldwide has refused requests to disclose who is the client who has hired APCO Worldwide to carry out this political lobbying.

We understand that the client who has hired APCO Worldwide to oppose the ban is, in fact, the International Chrysotile Association, which represents the global asbestos industry.

As the Consumer Association of Penang has stated, “It is imperative that Malaysia joins this global campaign to ban the use of all types of asbestos and not bow to pressure by groups that place financial gains before public health.” ….

Whether Steven King is the  greater liability to APCO or whether it is vice versa is debatable.

Steven King of APCO Worldwide goes into hiding after plagiarism disclosed

October 9, 2011

After Steven King’s blatant – and rather incompetent – plagiarism in his articles for the Irish Examiner was disclosed by Brian Whelan all his previous articles for the Examiner are now being scrutinised. The editor of the Irish Examiner, Tim Vaughn,  has acted rather quickly and decisively which is certainly commendable (especially compared to the immediate and knee-jerk denials and defensive statements which are usually the case).

King is employed by APCO Worldwide and is based in Delhi but has now gone into hiding and is not responding to the Irish Examiner’s attempts to contact him. APCO Worldwide is a communications and public affairs consulting firm serving the corporate world and government bodies. No doubt they are expert at tailoring their copy to suit the needs of their clients. It begs the question as to what extent plagiarism and recycling other people’s material for their reports to their clients is part of their normal behaviour. Of course expectations of ethical standards at a public relations firm are not very high since their brief is to make their clients look good under all circumstances. Perhaps it is a case of the methods used routinely in public relations spilling over into King’s article for the Irish Examiner.

The Irish Independent reports:

The ‘Irish Examiner’ said it had been trying to contact Mr King, who is based in India, by email, phone and text message since Wednesday evening, but had not received a reply. “Obviously, I would much prefer if I had a response from him by now,” editor Tim Vaughan said. “This morning, therefore, I suspended publication of any future columns and in the meantime I still await a response.”

Mr King is based in New Delhi, where he works for public affairs and strategic communications firm APCO Worldwide. His company profile states that he is the former chief political adviser to Northern Ireland’s ex-First Minister David Trimble, and was also an Ulster Unionist Party negotiator on the Good Friday Agreement.

He has been writing a weekly column for the ‘Irish Examiner since 2006.

…. Mr Vaughan said Mr King’s previous columns were being put through plagiarism-detection software. “It is not practical for a newspaper to run every article through such software prior to publication, and there is a huge element of trust involved with freelance contributors.”

Interestingly APCO also makes much of the “trust” their clients have in them. I wonder what the clients being served by Steven King’s “cut and paste” methods may think?


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