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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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  • “Israel” appears numerous times in this article, but “Jewish” does not. Is the information disseminated by most PR campaigns evenhanded or is it grossly one-sided in an attempt to persuade others? What does Judaism have to say about geneivat da’at?

  • Diogenes7

    Israeli ineptitude and outright PR incompetence is legendary and of long standing. Israeli PR people should be telling Israel’s side of the story. Instead they let the Arabs take the initiative and at best quibble with the accuracy of what the Arabs say.

    For example, nobody knows that after the War of Independence the Israeli Custodian of Absentees’ property returned homes of Arabs who fled to its Arab owners who could show title, and land the Arabs did not claim was acquired by Israel by eminent domain with market value and interest paid to its former Arab owners.

    And few members of the general public know that in 1948 Israel was invaded by five Arab armies that threatened to push the Jews into the sea. “Fighting” did not just break out, as the media like to put it — Israel was invaded. The Arabs have managed to invert that historical truth and it needs to be corrected.

  • z

    The constant Jew-baiting by CNN, CBS, and the rest of the alphabet CIA propaganda outlets is a desperate ploy for attention and ratings. These organizations have lost all credibility and trust and the proper response is not to respond to them; just ignore them and boycott them. Let these lying gov mafia propagandists and their propaganda outlets die in the irrelevance and obscurity that they deserve.

    What practical action the Israeli Knesset can take would be to levy license fees and fines so that in practice these propaganda outlets and their propaganda agents could not operate in Israel.

  • jerome verlin

    PR begins with we ourselves ceasing to use terms deliberately designed to delegitimize us – “West Bank and East Jerusalem Jewish settlements . . . occupied Palestinian territories . . . Israel’s 1967 borders ….” etc.

    And then it involves us making the case of the land of Israel as the three-millennia homeland of Jews. Israel should build on the grounds of Yad Vashem, and include in visiting VIPs’ tours, a museum vividly documenting what eminent historian James Parkes wrote in ‘Whose Land?’: those who maintained the Jewish presence in the Land all through the centuries wrote the Zionists’ “real title deeds.”