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This paper explores the role of digital and traditional media in shaping formal and informal leaders’ interactions with their own constituencies and a broader audience, by both advancing their messages and narratives and manoeuvring to steer a specific political agenda. It specifically considers the role of power, leadership and strategic communications in both exacerbating and mitigating violent conflict in emerging democracies. By weaving together strands of the political science scholarship on political communication and political settlement, while engaging with concepts of hybrid governance and leadership, we attempt to knit a framework that challenges normative assumptions on institutional communicative practices. By bringing together these disparate strands of scholarship that are rarely in dialogue, we question a characterisation that often contrasts vertical mainstream media with more horizontal and inclusive social media, arguing that a more nuanced view of the political significance of both spaces of communication is required, and one that highlights their interplay and blurs the boundaries between online and offline, and in doing so refocuses on the notion of power, placing it at the centre of analysis, to examine how entrenched relations of patronage can be let unscathed, transformed or even reinforced by networked forms of communication.