Written By : Ronn TorossianJune 8, 2012
As a proud Zionist who owns one of the 25 largest independent public relations firms in the United States, I can find no other way to spin this: Israel’s communications are lacking, and poorly managed. Even a few years after the flotilla’s terrible mismanagement, there’s no wake-up call in sight, no explanation. Unfortunately, there’s no sign the next flotilla will be managed any differently in the media, either.
Israel is a young country. Unfortunately, it learns things fast and painfully. The flotilla with Turkey provided the quickest crash-course on social media to date. It spread through YouTube quickly, and people were responsive, enraged; it damaged Israel’s image. It took Israel some three to four days just to come up with their visual angle of the incident, and when it did come out, there were Hebrew subtitles in the video. There is no reason for PR in Israel to be neglected this way. The State of Israel does not employ a crisis PR agency, send timely media briefing statements to its consulates worldwide, or handle PR during conflict as it should, and must.
Israel must recognize how in-person, on-the-ground news differs from that broadcast on the television screen. Israel believes its justified cause would uphold its image in the public eye. While that may be true in some cases, a justified cause is not enough to be ‘right’ these days. You need to be promoted and conscious of your media presence. It’s not enough to just display a message – you need to be listened to.
“It turns out Israel Tourism may be coming on as clients. I’m having a hard time getting a handle on it”. Although this is taken from a scene on season one of Mad Men, it certainly isn’t irrelevant. Having formerly represented the Israel Ministry of Tourism, I know that Israel has so many great perspectives to be pitched on, from the bible to its beach, but it needs to put them to use; it needs to employ a comprehensive, systematic “PR machine” that generates regular output.Israel has the orientation and appreciation for media and PR, but it’s not being aimed correctly. Its number one client – the country’s brand – deserves a ‘premium service’ that will provide the needed time and resources required to produce results that represent Israel properly.
Thoughts for Israel’s PR:
1. Framing: The “golden rule” states that framing which harms you can be handled effectively only with counter-framing, and not by debating the negative frame or trying to justify it. If Israel constantly deals with the framing of the occupier, it need not explain the process historically, but rather make use of counter-framing and hit the media with multiple stories discussing its innovations in technology.
2. United PR: There is nothing more counter-productive and irritating to a professional PR spokesperson than having to compete with a colleague’s role. You will never find the media having to compare two or three different sources within a company to discover the firm’s stance on an issue. So, why does Israel have multiple “voices” all stating different approaches, but all claiming the role of officially representing the country? It’s simply unprofessional.
3. The Message: I’m well aware of how tactical and dynamic Israel is. If we imagine the U.S. as boat the size of the titanic, which takes a while to shift and redirect itself, then, in comparison, we can imagine Israel as a small lifeboat that can maneuver quickly and easily within world affairs. In PR terms, Israel can change key messages, and quickly.
4. Frequency: Social media is important. It should not be used only as an emergency channel, like the ones Israel uses on TV and radio during war times. Social media should be used on a daily basis, and in a positive way. In the long run, it is the daily actions of a brand that determine its overall image. A daily blog post helps build a reputation for a writer and their topic.
5. The messenger: For crying out loud, get professionals! Hire professionals, offer incentives and provide a challenge.
Ronn Torossian, is Founder of 5WPR, and former National President of the movement of Ze’ev Jabotinsky - Betar.