Op-Ed: A PR Plan to Go Along with Any Iran Initiative
Juda Engelmayer: Book ReviewThe writer has held pr and public positions, including liaison for the American Jewish Congress.
As the news is heating up about Israel possibly launching a defensive strike against Iran, and television news channels are airing clips Israeli children trying on gas masks, it is imperative that Israel control its message in a manner that maximizes its domestic and worldwide support.
In his recently released book, “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations”
(BenBella Books ISBN-10: 1936661160, ISBN-13: 978-1936661169, 263 pages, $24.95), U.S.-based public relations executive Ronn Torossian, the Founder & CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the 25 largest U.S. PR firms in the U.S, writes:
“Preparation for war includes a PR battle plan because PR is a crucial element of any war today.”
Arguing that “Israel’s PR does a poor job of framing the debate,” Torossian believes that:
“There is a lot that can be done to fight and influence world opinion. It’s a question of shaping concepts and of speaking in terms and metaphors that the world understands.”
Writing from years of professional experience of representing many Israeli companies and government officials, as well as extensive personal experience from his earlier years living in Israel, the PR guru makes his point that the Israeli government is losing the PR war, using the example of a group of private investors who legally buy property in Eastern Jerusalem and legally build homes for Jewish families.
“The media see such construction [ in East Jerusalem] as evidence of Jewish ‘occupation’ and a primary reason why there will never be peace in the Middle East,” he writes. Then he suggests, “Why not create messaging about how a Jewish person can legally build a home and live anywhere in the world—except Israel?”
For example, “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 [Israel’s spokespeople] should be sending.”
“For Immediate Release” discusses how, when Torossian lived in Israel after graduating from college, he, along with friends formed an organization called Yerushalayim Shelanu (Our Jerusalem). The group’s cofounders are Likud Knesset members today, Deputy Speaker MK Danny Danon and MK Yoel Hasson.
One of the first activities that the organization preformed, which helped shape Torossian’s outlook on media and framing the conversation, was that they moved into a home that had been purchased legally in Eastern Jerusalem for Jewish families.
The construction provoked an international storm in September 1997 causing the United States to pressure Israel not to go ahead with the plan. At the time, Torossian conducted many interviews with the world media inside the homes of the new Jewish residents of the area.
“All of them were done as I held an Israeli flag, with the Temple Mount (where the recognizable Dome of the Rock is located) in the background,” he said. “That way, no matter how reporters editorialized about this ‘disputed’ area of Jerusalem, viewers could see just how close this territory was to the Jerusalem they recognized. “
It is Torossian’s view that his PR approach made it such that no matter what the reporters said, people realized that the pictures did not lie, and as of 2011, “more than 70 Jewish families live there and conditions on the ground in that area of Jerusalem have changed, with Israeli schools, bus service to the Western Wall, and other benefits making the area connected to Western Jerusalem".
“This effort, while effective, was a drop in the bucket,” Torossian writes. “Israel is a young country and it often learns things painfully.”
The painful point of his assessment of Israel’s PR war, which seems perpetually protracted is that, “A justified cause is not enough to be right these days,” and that “being right does not help you frame the debate nor does it keep you from being constantly on the defense.”
In this remarkable book that delves into the gritty underside of the tough public relations world that so many people, governments and companies seek out to help build, improve or repair images, Torossian demonstrates in vivid written illustration, that “It’s not enough to simply convey a message—you need people to listen. “
The terrific part of reading “For Immediate Release,” is that he not only shares with you his strategies for making people listen, but he offers fact-filled proof of how it worked in specific situations.
If Israel’s leaders are looking for a solid approach to making sure its narrative is told clearly and supported around the world, they would be smart to pick up a copy and read it well in advance of any action.