Thursday, October 22, 2009

Part 2: Israel and its appalling PR

In my previous posting, I discussed the possibility of recruiting a task force of multi-lingual communication experts to work on Israel's PR effort: today I'll go a little further into the ideas and throw some criticism (hopefully constructive) at the various Ministries and bodies that are supposed to be dealing with this most important issue.

Criticism first: Israel must STOP - right now - allowing people with a poor command of English to be interviewed in any way whatsoever by the international media. I recently watched a clip of a head-to-head between an Israeli official and a very erudite Brit and a pretty firm Australian moderator debating something about Gaza. Despite the Israeli having all the facts, and being absolutely correct and accurate in what he said, he was DEMOLISHED by the Brit and Israel came out looking like bumbling idiots again.

Two reasons: when being interviewed on radio or TV, there is no excuse for "umming"and "erring". It just makes the interviewee come across as being unsure of his facts, being uncomfortable in a high pressure studio situation and scores little or no points with anyone. We have some excellent spokesmen and women: Mark Regev is one of the best; Miki Rosenfeld (Israel Police) is also very good and of course Bibi is among the best (I'm not talking about his politics here....).

What we need here is some pretty intensive training in public speaking and presentation skills. I don't care if the spokesman has an Israeli accent: take our Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon as a perfect example. He has an Israeli accent, but he speaks excellent English, and the accent adds to his charm. But when other so-called (and I use the word advisedly) spokesmen/women "um" and "err" and can't put an intelligible sentence together, then we're in trouble.

I believe that one of the reasons that we do not have a small, highly effective cadre of very high level spokesmen/women who are the ONLY ones allowed to be interviewed, is because each Ministry protects its own turf. And there seems very little coordination between them as to what to say, and how to say it.

A basic rule of Corporate Communication - be consistent with your message and its delivery.

And let it be the same for ANY language: Arabic - we have excellent Arabic speakers and spokesmen/women, the same for German, Italian, Spanish, French - virtually any language under the sun and people who speak it competently, can be found in Israel. Again, I say, with all due respect all round - do not let Israelis who cannot speak the language fluently - and can therefore think on their feet - within SPITTING distance of an international network! Is that "dugri" (direct) enough for you?

So what do we need? Recruit people in communication; train them, nurture them; PAY them well - but first and prime and above all - we need to develop and AGREE on a set of Positioning, Mission and Vision statements, that every ministry can buy into, that the entire nation will buy into and adopt and that will start defining Israel as a nation and as a people - more on this subject in my next post... endeth the second lesson....(!)

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