Last night, on Tisha Be'av the saddest Jewish day of the year, I commemorated the destruction of the temple. On days of lamentation, I often think of scary things, and I believe that the State of Israel is in real danger because of their flawed Public Relations and communications work.
As a proud Zionist who owns one of the15 largest independent PR firms in the United States, I can find no other way to spin this: Israel's communications are lacking, and poorly managed.Even two months 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 recent flotilla events 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.
Yet, the annual report on Israel's advertising and PR industry released earlier this week show that the top 20 agencies grew in the first half of 2010 by 20 percent. Clearly, Israel is maturing in this industry, but isn't capturing those minds for its statesmanship. Instead, diplomats come and go, and English is clearly not a first language. The State of Israel does not employ a Public Relations agency anywhere in the world, 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. The flotilla case is the perfect example. It will take a while to recover from what the world perceived as aid-ships being halted by a sea blockade that was stopping them from assisting an under-siege people. If that's not enough, the YouTube, Facebook and twitter inputs from all corners of the world are not something people are going to forget, and they were not something Israel was prepared to confront.
Israel believed 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 for many years, 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. Immediate promptness and responsiveness are crucial.
What I observe from the 20 percent growth in advertising and local PR firms is that 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.