A team of private public relations professionals will soon drive the railways' publicity campaign both at the Union ministry in the national capital as well as in each of its zones, with the national transporter for the first time issuing a set of guidelines to hire such private agencies to manage its publicity.
Sources said currently, around 70 officers - including one chief public relations officer (PRO) in each of its 18 zones -- were engaged in disseminating information to the media about the railways and running its social media handles, along with several senior PROs and public relation inspectors.
Now, a team of 17 private PR professionals will be hired for each zone to assist them.
"We already have private agencies working with us in the zones, who help us with our publicity work. This is not new. What we have done now is that we have tried to standardise the process," a senior Railway Board official said.
According to the guidelines, a team of 17 trained professionals, including a team leader, a social media manager, content analysts, content writers, video editors and others -- will be engaged in each zone. Each of these teams, sources said will be hired at a cost of around Rs 2 crore.
The model document for the selection of such an agency issued by the railways states that these teams will work in collaboration with the chief public relations officers (CPROs) and handle social media activities, aggregate the grievances received by the national transporter through such forums, analyse media coverage, assist in gathering and dissemination of information to the media and also prepare reports to be submitted monthly and quarterly to senior officials.
The teams will also be tasked with creating a dashboard in their respective zones, where all news articles and television clips concerning the zone will be available online. The sources said this alone would be accomplished at a cost of around Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh per team.
The teams will be formulating strategies for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms. They will also identify issues, themes and "social media influencers who are active in the media", the sources said.
"Most of our officials engaged in publicity-related activities are not trained in this. They are railway officers. In this digital age, where communication is a significant aspect of governance, we need trained professionals. However, our CPROs will provide all the content and material for the information disseminated by these teams," the Railway Board official said.
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