When I was in school, I remember my mother often asking my father, in the morning when he was immersed in the newspaper, ‘What is the front page news today?’ And he would patiently spend time telling her about what was happening in the world and in the country. This was all covered in the headlines on the front page. I sometimes think about what would be the front page news that he would relay today?
Today, the front-page news is “OnePlus Nord 2T/5G” and the other, it was ‘Magic BOOK Pro- supercharged by M2.’ Yesterday, it was the Citroen car—the new edition just introduced in India—and so it goes! Finally, page 3 is where some of the news headlines appear. ‘Some’, because page 3 could be half a page. So, one would have to extend to pages 4 and 5, and perhaps, beyond!
Following this new trend for the 2000+, and seeing how effective it is, many politicians have vied for positions on page 1 of widely read newspapers. They have taken ‘solo’ positions to project themselves and talk about the significant work they have done in their states, or in the country, in their sphere of activity or responsibility. It does not matter if there have been floods, which have crushed two states in the country. That news can wait for page 3, or even 4!
Seeking attention now goes on to hoardings. In large cities like Mumbai, hoardings are an important channel of communication. The idea is to project the image of the person who has done so much for the benefit of the community, and therefore appeal to vote for him/ her again when election time comes around. More and more people want to see themselves on the hoarding at these critical viewing points.
So, they begin to crowd the hoarding with as many people (faces) as have the influence to get included. Sometimes, there may be as many as 10 – a few more or less. When you pass by in a vehicle, you barely have time to focus on more than two. All the others can have the consolation that they see themselves and that at least their friends and neighbours know that they are important enough to be included.
When you attend large meetings (not public meetings, but those in a large hall and by invitation only), being addressed by some very important person, there is room on the stage for only three or four people. There are many important people invited, but they are in the audience. Some of them feel lost.
They are not used to being perceived as being part of a crowd in any meeting. So, they take the opportunity to be among the first to get up and ask questions, after the announcement, “Questions from the audience are now invited.”
It gives them a chance to loudly introduce themselves to the whole audience: “My name is X. I am Chairman of Y Company. I thought your observations were very correct. In my own experience……”
What was the question? None.
It was the time-tested method of seeking attention and, to that extent, they will have succeeded. What was said was an extension of the main lecture. Sometimes—and worse—it may be a part repetition of the main talk!
At every such meeting, you will often find the same ‘star questioners’ from the audience.
Seventy years ago, you would never (or seldom) hear of anyone being commemorated, while he was still alive, with a statue of himself or the naming of a hall or school or any other institution. But times have changed. Today, this is extensively done, with the celebrity himself going to the inaugural functions.
Just imagine, Mahatma Gandhi rushing across the country garlanding statues of himself, when he was still alive!
Again, a matter of seeking (or not seeking) attention!
I was once placed in a very difficult situation in Thailand perhaps 30 years ago, where I was conducting a training session for 25 participants, who were middle and senior managers. Just before the lunch break, one of the participants who was European, got up to say loudly to me and the whole class that all I had covered that morning was basic and was what he already knew. He had decided not to attend after lunch. It was a slap in the face, for me.
Actually, he wanted to show that, among this group of Thais and a few Indians, he was the best informed, having done some programmes at the London Business School in years gone by. He wanted to seek attention but, in that process, he destroyed the enthusiasm of the whole group. They felt demoralised and so did I – although I tried to carry on regardless. (On refection later, I should have asked him to conduct the next session since he knew the subject so well.)
It was a heavy price to pay for his compulsion to ‘seek attention’!
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India- FIMC. He was a successful corporate executive for 14 years and then pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books, a business columnist and has been visiting professor in Marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia for over 40 years. His latest books are "Marketing in a Digital/Data World with Brian Almeida and "Customer Value Starvation can kill" with Gautam Mahajan. He now spends most of his time on NGO work and is presently Chairman, Consumer Education and Research Society, India