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In 2009, Fenton Communications, a New York City–based PR firm, signed two contracts with the Arab state of Qatar to develop an 18-month campaign to essentially delegitimize Israel by orchestrating an international anti-Israel campaign aimed at breaking the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel doesn’t use PR agencies in the United States. It doesn’t even pay for its diplomatic employees to use cell phones after hours or on weekends because of archaic and bureaucratic rules—a necessity in today’s 24/7 media world.
Israel’s PR does a poor job of framing the debate—its spokespeople are ineffective and have a poor grasp of the English language. (Israel regularly sends diplomats to countries where the diplomat doesn’t speak the native language.) There is a lot that can be done to fight and influence. It’s a question of shaping concepts and of speaking in terms and metaphors that the world understands.
Look at what happens when private investors legally buy property in eastern Jerusalem and legally build homes for Jews. An Internet search reveals that the media see such construction as evidence of Jewish “occupation” and a primary reason why there will never be peace in the Middle East. Even an American named Irving Moskowitz is condemned for buying land legally in Jerusalem – Is that not racist and Anti-Semitism?
Why not create messaging about how a Jewish person can legally build a home and live anywhere in the world—except Israel? A Jew can buy and build in Harlem or East Los Angeles, Paris, or Moscow, but not in Jerusalem. They can buy real estate and coexist elsewhere—why not there? That is the message they should be sending.
A justified cause is not enough to be right these days, either in politics or in business. Anyway, being right does not help you frame the debate nor does it keep you from being constantly on the defense. It’s not enough to simply convey a message—you need people to listen. Preparation for war includes a PR battle plan because PR is a crucial element of any war today.
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