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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Israeli PR redux (Zvi)

Zvi, commenting on my post on how the hasbara problem is more fundamental, writes:

Israel (and Israel supporters) also need to learn that

1. Israeli PR must not only address those who already understand the conflict, but also those who do not; for all that there is heavy news coverage of Israel, it is, in much of the world, short on facts and long on libels and deliberately mind-narrowing boilerplate. Israeli PR often assumes that you understand the lingo and that you already identify Hamas as a terrorist organization. But if you're talking to a young, moderate left-leaner from the UK or Norway or Spain, it's unlikely that this person "gets" the references made by Israel or that anyone has been telling them the truth about Hamas.

2. The Israeli government's PR team (I'm not talking about unaffiliated supporters of Israel) needs to mobilize quickly. PR battles are typically won within the first 24 hours of the news cycle, and Israel almost always loses them during that period.

3. Israel, nevertheless, needs to remain scrupulously truthful.

4. Israel's PR team needs to take the initiative rather than being mostly reactive. One of the reasons for #2 is that Israel is far too reluctant to take the initiative. And by "take the initiative," I do NOT mean putting up paper ads in the UK tube system so that they can be torn down or removed via lawfare. Israel's detractors and enemies publish a constant stream of anti-Israel fluff & libel, complete with multimedia, reports, ads, etc. that are treated as objective reports and hard news by media around the world. They are funded by Israel's enemies and so-called friends. Israel's enemies manufacture a lot of imaginary humanitarian crises. Israel's enemies spend a lot of time in the media creating and repeating shameless lies. Israel spends a lot of time reacting to this stuff. And it should. But it also needs to spend a lot of time communicating the reality of Israel, and it is not doing that.

If you were going to design PR for Israel, what are some of the things that you might include in a PR campaign? How about some short stuff that would actually break the mold, that would actually inform people? Here are a few thoughts, none of which are likely to be particularly original.

* the true story of an Iraqi or Yemenite or Iraqi Jewish family living in Israel. Also, maybe people who lived in the refugee camps near Sderot

* I can also imagine ads featuring a variety of ordinary Israelis talking about ordinary, daily-life things, also about aspirations. Voiceover at the end providing context, possibly surprising context.

* life in Sderot - rockets = hundreds of thousands of military hand grenades (Michael Yon)

* This week, Israel delivered X amount of aid to Gaza. Why do so many news services deny that this is happening?

* use metaphors, starting with cops trying to stop gunmen and only afterward identifying the cop and gunman with the middle east: if a cop trying to stop a gunman from shooting at civilians hits another person by accident, after trying hard to avoid this, it's a tragedy. The gunman was the criminal (and the cop may be crying over the civilian death without being a war criminal). Hamas fighters are the gunman, Israeli soldiers the cop. I can imagine this as a TV or print ad as well as an online video. Break out of the prejudices of the middle east conflict and the crazed lies that accompany it in order to allow people to be openminded before coming back to it. Israel's position is the rational one here.

* Creation of a professional quality web site, with interesting and constantly refreshed content, including youtube videos, integration with social networking, etc. This needs to provide content that the media, bloggers, etc. can use. It needs to be a go-to site for information and it needs to provide content if Israel's cynical enemies get that content banned on youtube (at which point the youtube video should be replaced with a video of a person who tells viewers where to go to find the video, plus a clickable link for those who have half of a clue). I'm sorry, but the MFA web site doesn't cut it. This one requires a serious ongoing commitment.

* One thing on that site (while I generally favor proactivity) should be a set of SIMPLE, CONCISE myth/fact pages, clearly laid out by native English speakers. Better yet, myth/fact/recommended action. I'm talking about 2 PowerPoint slide's worth of content or 1 minute of video. People who want more info can be directed to more detailed info, but the 2 slides or video need to be clear, concise & professional. The Israel/apartheid thing can be exploded very concisely, and aid to gaza or rockets falling on sderot can have some short briefs too.

* Video: Israel's invitation to Iran to abandon a completely pointless conflict. To Turks, with whom there should literally be no conflict of interest and with whom there has been friendship. Whatever. Israel's position is rational and sane, but it gets mischaracterized and filtered through distorting channels. Bibi is quite capable of acting as Israel's spokesperson for public statements like this. Invitation to the Pals, though there is no chance that Abbas will accept it, or to the Arabs, particularly if Netanyahu thinks that he can provide an Israeli Peace Plan (an even more critical area where Israel has ceded the initiative to others).

And I know that Israel is a small country, with small budgets, but it's got a big problem and it needs to address that problem with speed, creativity, clarity and wisdom.