Saturday, January 29th | 27 Shevat 5782

June 11, 2011 11:11 pm

PR: Jews & Israel – Get Professional

avatar by Ronn Torossian

Not a week passes by that I am not asked to join the latest and greatest significant meeting about a brewing Public Relations crisis for Israel or the Jewish community. Whether it’s the soon to be flotilla, anti-Semitic cartoons relating to circumcision, media bias, or an opponent of Israel who has received prominent positive media coverage. From leading Israeli government ministers, to major American Jewish organizations, to wealthy well known Jewish Pro-Israel philanthropists, they all pay lip service to publicity problems, yet all do little more than talk about the problem. They hold meetings, where people (nary a PR pro) talk (putting forward very little money and following with limited action), surely, and quickly, the vast “PR committee” goes away.

Amazingly, all of these folks believe that they are able to solve PR problems while refusing to hire, or consult actual professionals. I’d venture, that not a single member of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations employs a PR agency in the US, nor does the Israeli Government.

When it comes to economics, Stanley Fischer is a world renowned economist who previously served as Chief Economist at the World Bank, and is highly regarded as the current Governor of the Bank of Israel.  Fittingly, he runs Israel’s economy. Legal issues? Alan Dershowitz, one of the world’s best and highest profile attorneys, has assisted Israel and Jewish organizations on numerous legal matters through the years, as have other great legal minds such as Ben Brafman and Barry Slotnick. Likewise, in other important areas are best of breed professionals (who happen to be Jewish and Pro-Israel) counted upon by Jewish organizations and Israel to assist with important endeavors. Yet, amazingly, in the PR field I can say with  authority that they are not.

Newsweek said it just last year in an editorial headlined “Israel’s PR Problem.”  It stated “The Jewish state is good at many things, like war and technology, but inept at promoting itself. It needs to get better, soon. The Israeli government continues to see this issue as a secondary matter of little substance. Its attitude seems to be: Why bother?”

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A little more than a year ago, the flotilla incident rocked Israel’s image worldwide. I sat in a full day meeting with a very senior Israeli government official. He told me of changes that had to happen and all the rest, and guess what? In the past year – nothing – zero – has changed. And the ‘flotilla incident,’ from a PR perspective, is likely to repeat itself again quite soon.

Owning 1 of the 25 largest PR firms in the US, I am in a position to know that nearly all of my peers, and I’d venture half of the CEO’s owning PR agencies in the US, are passionate about Israel, Zionism and Judaism. Despite this, perhaps two other than myself, are at all involved in Jewish organization communications, or high level Israel PR strategies (and that’s being generous.)

It’s a shame and it’s unfortunate that there are communications professionals – actual, real senior PR professionals – who can and want to assist in these PR challenges, but for some reason, every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they are equipped to handle the media and PR mess on their own.

Of course, these same people would call the world’s best doctors if they were sick, and the world’s top lawyers if they had legal issues – now, why not take action and not just pay lip service to one of the most serious challenges facing the Jewish people and the State of Israel today?

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