The "Rachel Corrie"
Photo: AFP

It’s the message, stupid!

Israel’s PR woes stem from problem plaguing Jewish people for centuries

I spend my days helping clients develop and implement PR campaigns designed to promote their company and elicit positive response from its key audience. Ultimately, the goal is always to build momentum and help the company achieve its potential.


So given that professional experience, it should be relatively simple to diagnose the PR problems Israel is having and prescribe a certain program to improve the situation. And it is simple, but not in the way you might think.


Much has been written over the past few weeks – ever since "The Flotilla Affair" – about the overall weakness of Israel's PR, both when crises hit and in general. And they all brought wonderful examples of how and why Israel's PR has missed the mark.


But I'm afraid they've missed the mark as well.


One example lamented Information Minister Yuli Edelstein's frustrating cell phone contact system. Yet fixing Edelstein's voicemail wouldn't help fight the incredible PR machine our enemies have built.


Another article suggested that as long as Israel is not able to separate the politics from the tourism, Jerusalem's tourism industry is going to suffer. But again, that is incorrect. Jerusalem is the center of the religious universe, and as such is going to be the hottest point on earth for conflict. That is the deal and we must all understand and even embrace that. But this is irrelevant as well, in terms of the larger question about Israel's PR, although we are getting closer to the point.


Another PR complaint over the years has been the lack of spokespeople who are able to speak strong English. Well, we now have Mark Regev at the wheel, one of the best I've ever seen, as well as Michael Oren in the US, who is fantastic.


And yet, Israel has had one of its worst PR runs over the last 12 months that it has had in decades. Doesn't this seem strange to you? How can it be that we did better PR during the post-9/11 phase, when Ariel Sharon – who had trouble speaking "sound-bite English" – was prime minister, than we are doing now, when US-educated Benjamin Netanyahu is at the helm?


Lacking a unified message

When you consider the overall futility of the three above arguments of logistical ineptitude (the Edelstein example), brushing aside the negative, in favor of the positive (the Jerusalem tourism example) and native-English-speaking spokespeople (The Regev-Oren-Bibi example), there is only one conclusion that should be drawn. It's not about any of these things.


To understand why we are failing, we must first look at why the other side is succeeding. And the answer to that question is simple: A unified message.


It wouldn't matter if Edelstein drank Red Bull 24 hours a day and was 100% available for all requested interviews. Because an hour later, someone from the government opposition will submit to an interview and completely contradict what Edelstein has said.


It doesn't matter that Jerusalem has wonderful views, great restaurants and almost-perfect weather, especially this time of year. Because the world is being told – by Jewish-Israelis – on a regular basis that Jerusalem is a place of conflict, and that the conflict is all the fault of the Jews.


And it doesn't matter that we have our strongest international spokespeople since the days of Golda Meir and Abba Eban. Because we do not have the item that can often be the difference between success and failure for any PR campaign. In fact, it should be the cornerstone of any campaign. It is the unified message.


After 9/11, Israel was unified, not only in its condemnation of the attack, but in its message to the world of "You see! This is what we've been going through! Now, do you understand us?"


But time has "healed," and we have once again descended to our previous disagreements and ideologies. We are not united.


And sadly, if Israel itself is not unified – as our enemies are, for the purpose of destroying Israel – then there will be no unified message, and we will continue to lose the PR battle, even if we are right.


So, please do not waste your time analyzing the PR strategy – or even lack thereof – or tactical approach of the Israeli government. It's not about that. It's the same problem that has plagued the Jewish people for centuries. We can't unify. Even about a message. Even when our future is at stake.


Glenn Jasper is a PR veteran and the General Manager of Ruder Finn Israel. He blogs at:  


פרסום ראשון: 06.15.10, 00:06
 new comment
This will delete your current comment