Chandrayaan 2 accomplishes a serendipitous mission too

Authored by Richa Agarwal Head, Content & Strategy, Grey Cell Public Relations

Chandrayaan 2 may have set out on a journey of lunar exploration, its successes (or not) are still being counted; but in the process the mission helped us Indians to achieve much more.

Unlike anything in the recent times, this mission united us as Indians. For once the hopes and dreams of a billion Indians stood united; for once we all were Indians first, together in our prayers too and in the common sorrow later; a rare occurrence in our country. The momentousness of the occasion was marked by the presence of none other than the Prime Minister himself on the occasion.  But for me, as a communication strategist, the PM reaching out to the ISRO scientists through his presence at the ISRO centre later, after the mission remained incomplete, with his inspirational and impassioned speech, marked a new epitome in empathy, communication and leadership.

A Prime Minister who was present onsite through the night for the event, would have likely conveyed his ‘do-better-next-time’ commiseration words to the ISRO top brass when the communication with the rover went quiet. He could, therefore, have chosen to make a televised speech from his office or could have just issued a press statement to make his sentiments known to all.But then the impression and impact, sense of empathy and motivation, all would be lost, leaving the words to be just that - words.

The PM chose to make an unscheduled visit to the ISRO centre again to personally address the entire Chandrayaan 2 team instead of just a chosen few. First, his presence during the countdown event, his being in the moment, and then his impromptu personal address next morning to the team made his involvement rise above a mere platitude. His motivational words became real, so true, so believable and heartfelt. Switching between Hindi and English, his deeply encouraging words “In Science, there is no failure” resonated deeply with the basic tenets on which Science stands tall and scientists live by. The face-to-face address was crucial in effectively communicating to the crestfallen team that the entire country and its leader stood with the Chandrayaan 2 team, applauded its efforts and backed it in their future endeavours. Being a live televised event, the leader also gave out an important message about his oneness with the masses, that making efforts is supreme– move ahead with your projects, we stand with you.

The improv personal reach out address proved to be so critical in uplifting the morale of our dispirited brilliant scientists. That it proved to be a brilliant and effective leadership communication is a welcome outcome. This also shows that top down communication should always be aligned to shifting goal posts. There needs to be a vigilance, agility and adaptability in not only what a leader communicates but how he communicates. Not many leaders take cognizance of this important facet of communication, certainly not Indian leaders, who usually reach out to masses à la ‘princess in ivory tower’. In this era of digital communication, this instance of personal communication is a sublime example of the continued effectiveness and importance of personal communication where the situation demands nothing less. No other form of communication could have served the purpose as effectively in this instance.

And the consoling hug from the premier to the chief after the address is a heart-warming poignant image which testifies that strait-jacketed strategies cannot govern human interactions all the time. After all, when the country’s top scientist feels and shows his humane side and true emotions on the back of an ‘incomplete’ multi-million dollars mission, who else other than the country’s head can provide him a comforting shoulder, a kind word and show him a motivating dream. Sometimes when leaders allow themselves to feel and let their heart do the talking all turns out well, better even.

About the Author

Richa Agarwal, Senior Consulting Partner with Grey Cell Public Relations, heads the advisory's Strategy and Content team. She has been in the field since the turn of the millennium. From faxing press releases to mastering new age media and communication, she has done it all and enjoys every minute of all that is PR. Written word and decoding - encoding PR and Communication strategies are her forte.


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