Private agencies to handle PR work of Indian Railways

Railway gets savvy about social media. Outsourced work would include online storage, management of data and content, make them available as and when required. Railway Board bats for more focus on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter.

NEW DELHI: In a major shift, the Railway Ministry has decided to hand over core public relations activities to private agencies with more focus on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. The largest employer of the Union Government will now hire professionals to devise communication strategies to promote the image of the Railways and also in the management of passenger feedback and public grievances.

In the existing system, Public Relations in the railways is managed by a CPRO at the zonal level who is supported by Senior Public Relations Officers, Public Relations Inspectors and supporting staff at the headquarters and divisional level.

Note to GMs

In a note to General Managers of zonal railways and production units, the Railway Board approved hiring of agencies to lend professional expertise to the Public Relations department in disseminating various initiatives of the railways, proactive perception analysis using analytical tools to improve operations and service for passengers, management of customer feedback/passenger grievances received though various social media platforms, sources in the Southern Railway said on Friday.

Communication strategy

One of the primary tasks of the PR agencies would be to formulate a result-oriented, comprehensive communication strategy on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Quora, YouTube, LinkedIn and Medium and other platforms that would be decided from time to time by the competent authority.

Based on the content provided by the respective Chief Public Relations Officers, the private agencies would create promotional material such as creative crisp texts, images, GIFs, info graphics, animations etc. in accordance with the social media guidelines. They would aggregate the grievances received through various social media forums and pass them on to the concerned railway officials for redress at the zonal level.

Open bidding

The sources said the private agencies chosen by the Zonal Railways through open bidding process would analyse newspapers/magazines, websites and television channels as regards news relating to the Railways. A dedicated team of qualified analysts would be deployed to work in back-end offices to assist CPROs in identifying issues/themes and “identifying influencers who are active in media.” The team would comprise a team leader, social media manager, content analyst, content writers, video editors among others.

Interestingly, the agency would assist railway officials in gathering information and dissemination of the same to media houses, creating responses effectively, briefing railway personnel on important matters and creating background information on forthcoming events.

Content management

The outsourced work would include online storage and management of data and content and make them available to railway officials when required. The team would maintain a digital store in the form of an online portal and also mobile application providing access to news and television coverage of railways.

Zonal Railways/Divisions/Production Units shall provide the private agency the required space, electricity and furniture free of cost for its operations, the sources added.

New chapter

In a related development, the Indian Railways notified that in order to meet the new scenario of generation, processing and dissemination of information, it has approved the addition of a new chapter on Social Media and Content Analysis in the Manual for Public Relations Department, 2007.

SER on the forefront

New initiatives of Chakradharpur and Ranchi railway divisions, which fall under the South Eastern Railway (SER) zone, will soon be posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

An SER spokesperson in Calcutta said on Sunday that the Railway Board had approved hiring agencies to lend professional expertise to its public relations department in disseminating information about initiatives of the railways on social media to improve operations and services for passengers.

He added that one of the primary tasks of the professionals would be to formulate a result-oriented, comprehensive communication strategy on social media platforms.

He explained that based on the content provided by the chief public relations officer of the SER, the private agency would create promotional material such as creative texts, images, infographics and animation for promotion through social media.

The outsourced work would include online storage and management of data and content and make them available to SER officials as and when required.

The Chhotanagpur Passenger Association hailed the initiative. “I thank the Railway Board for taking such an initiative. The social media platform can do wonders. Apart from ensuring transparency, it will help passengers and rail users to keep themselves updated with the latest amenities and get quick redressals for grievances,” said Arun Tiwari, a senior function of the association.

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