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December 30, 2015 7:42 am

Israel Does Not Take Public Relations Seriously

avatar by Ronn Torossian

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The Knesset. Photo: Wiki Commons.

The Knesset. Photo: Wiki Commons.

recent report by the Israeli Knesset’s Research and Information Center has proven what has been said over and over again: Israel’s public relations efforts are costly and ineffective. Unlike many cynics, I don’t believe the problem is policy-related. Instead, I believe that a large part of the problem is due to poor management, too many agendas, and no central effort.

Spending money on public relations is only part of the equation. Spending haphazardly and not directing the message is the real problem. Much of Israel’s PR challenge lies in the fact that there is no singular strategy, no coordinated effort, and that the Israeli government believes they can do it themselves, without hiring Public Relations experts. The Knesset determined that Israel is not making effective use of its public relations budget of NIS 500 million ($130 million). I agree.

In contrast, when some of the largest companies wage PR campaigns, they are tightly controlled and well-defined with specific goals in mind. Then there is the United States government, which is one of the largest consumers of public relations in the world, having spent more than $4 billion on PR work since 2007, and it too uses PR efforts with purpose.

If you are serious about changing people’s minds, you need to build a strategy, understand the target audiences, create the message, and cunningly convey it over and over again.  The most efficient way to do that is to work with people who understand exactly how to get it done.

To get elected, Knesset members and their parties hire outside political counsel to help shape their messages and campaigns. When the government needs legal advice, it retains outside legal counsel. When it needs to conduct audits, it looks to accounting and consulting firms. This same logic should spill over to public relations.

I am aware that the CEO of one of the largest PR agencies in the world recently visited Israel, and wanted to get involved in Israel’s PR effort. He had appointments set up with a number of politicians at their own request, and to his surprise, each of the politicians showed up late, consistently interrupted him, and then told this successful public relations expert just how misinformed he was.

Israel’s image is at risk. When CNN and CBS skew reports on Palestinian terrorism, equating the deaths of those committing the crimes with the victims, Israel needs to take its public relations campaign more seriously.  Lately we have been hearing that support for BDS is increasing in America, as is the anti-Israel sentiment being fomented on American college campuses.

While Israel will always have enemies no matter what it says or does, the reality is that good PR can help Israel immensely.

Israel should take PR more seriously and focus its public relations spending properly.

New York-based Ronn Torossian has been named Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards.

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