PRAISE FOR KERALA POLICE’S HAND-WASHING VIDEO AS ‘MODERN MARKETING TOOL’
by NEERAJ KRISHNA
AS THE World Health Organization and health specialists emphasised the importance of thorough hand-washing to protect against the coronavirus, a police media team in a south Indian state brainstormed on how to take the message to the masses.
“We wanted to avoid a routine press release, or poster,” said VP Pramod Kumar, deputy director of the Kerala Police Media Centre.
One officer came up with the suggestion of making an offbeat video.
After some deliberation, the team chose a peppy tribal song from a recent Malayalam blockbuster, Ayyappanum Koshyum.
“The choreography, rehearsal and shoot were wrapped up in three and-ahalf hours,” said Kumar. “The last time these guys did such a group dance was probably while in college (university)!”
There were some apprehensions on how the video would be received, he said.
However, to their surprise, the clip went on to be a massive hit with thousands of views within hours, especially after state chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan tweeted it from his official handle.
The national and international media, too, gave the initiative a thumbs-up. Encouragingly, the biggest impact was on children, who lapped up the “police uncles’ video”.
Dr Shyam Sarat of Kozhikode district noted: “The packaging – music, choreography, message – clicked well.
It’s always nice to see such an initiative from the police because most people, across age groups, pause and pay attention when men in uniform make an unusual move.”
Having served in rural areas, Dr Sarat said the video helped spread awareness outside cities too, thanks to WhatsApp, adding that “we tend to overestimate the level of awareness during such crises”.
“Besides the fake messages, there still are thousands of people who do not understand the gravity of the situation,” he said, pointing to videos showing some licking hand sanitiser off their palms.
Rajiv Ambat, chief health officer at the NuvoVivo Center wellness hub in Kochi, said the police did a “commendable job in bringing forth awareness on personal hygiene and care in such an innovative and funny, yet effective, manner”.
It’s a “tough and risky task” to promote new ideas in a “highly argumentative country like India”, he added. “The video is nothing short of effective modern marketing done for a noble cause.”
Besides spreading awareness, the video also had a “reassuring effect” on the public, noted Kumar. “We could convey that the police force was there with the public in these testing times.”
More than the global attention, he said, “the best part was receiving videos from parents of children imitating the dance”.
He highlighted another confidence winning gesture from the police, where officers volunteered to procure puja materials for a funeral at a quarantined Dubaibased banker’s home in Kozhikode, Kerala. It was a Muslim civil police officer who led the efforts to arrange traditional material needed for the Hindu rituals.
“We are thankful, and really surprised.
Pleasantly surprised,” said Anand Ramaswamy, whose mother had died.
The Kerala Police, of late, has succeeded in connecting with the common man.
Its Facebook page, for instance, crossed a million ‘likes’ last year, overtaking the NYPD [New York Police Department].
At a time when the state geared up for a lockdown, “such a connect would help us reach out to the public to avert crises”, said Kumar.