Thursday, May 24, 2018

Israel's Foreign Ministry: clueless in Jerusalem

A report has appeared in Israel's news marketplace: Israel's Foreign Ministry representatives around the world were on the job during the Gaza fence riots, we have been told (Ralph Ahren, "Israeli diplomats dominated media during Gaza riots, Foreign Ministry says", timesofisrael, May 23, 2018).  During the more than six weeks of Gaza border riots that began March 30, 2018, Israel's Foreign Ministry says, our overseas diplomats didn't stand around just gawking at all the anti-Israel headlines they saw. Those overseas officials got in front of news cameras. They defended Israel. They gave more than 160 press appearances world-wide (ibid).

Certainly, it is good to hear that Israeli Ambassadors, Deputy Ambassadors and spokespeople for overseas Diplomatic Missions were not barricading themselves in their offices while their home country was getting trashed in local (overseas) news accounts. It's good news that our country was defending itself. It's good news that we were telling our side of the 'Gaza fence riot' story.

But when you look at the details surrounding these 160+ press interactions, the news isn't so good. The details suggest that Israel failed to defend itself properly.

The numbers tell the tale. We have no reason to doubt that Israeli officials gave more than 160 news appearances around the world. But those 160+ appearances were spread  across six+ weeks of sometimes daily anti-Israel news reports and condemnations. Were 160+ press appearances enough to blunt all the anti-Israel headlines?

 Dig deeper into the numbers. Here's how often Israel presented its story in one of the most anti-Israel environments--Europe. First, less than half the Missions there reported to Jerusalem that they interacted with the press at all (only 17 of 35 Missions told Jerusalem they'd had press interactions.18 reported no interactions at all) (ibid). That's not good. Second, these 17 Missions held a total of 69 press interactions (ibid).

That's not good, either. It's appalling.

The article above (timesofisrael) seemed to suggest that this (69 press interactions) was a strong showing for Israel. It might have been, especially if in the past the number of overseas Israeli press interactions was, by comparison, much lower. 

 But the nasty truth is, 69 press interactions in Europe wasn't nearly enough to  blunt the flood of anti-Israel headlines. The Gaza riots--and the anti-Israel headlines those riots generated each week-- lasted more than six weeks. For Foreign Missions to defend Israel in a powerful way, you'd expect each Mission to get to the press--in one way or another, through radio, TV, newsprint and online outlets--at least four times a week every week. 

Ask anyone in the public relations business how many times a client facing a hostile public has to beat its drum to sell its side of a controversial story. How many times does a client have to fight back when he's looking at 4-6 days per week of hostile headlines and news reports?

Those 17 Missions in Europe conducted a total of 69 press interactions for the entire six+ week period. That's just about four interactions per week--for the entire 17 Missions. 

That's less than one interaction per week per Mission! The math is stunning: 0.677 interactions per week per Mission times 17 Missions times 6 weeks equals 69 total press interactions. 

To compete against the kind of repeated hostility Israel faced then and still faces in Europe, it should seem obvious that Israel should want to see at least four or five headlines per week per Mission to defend Israel, not less than one-per-week-per-Mission. 

The strategy should be simple: for every day a Mission sees a hostile headline, it should get its own press interface so as to answer that headline, to present Israel's story.  

If each of the 17 Missions in Europe got to the press four times a week, that would add up to a total of 68 press interactions (17x4) each week in Europe. The riots lasted six+weeks. So, 68 weekly press interactions times six+ weeks, adds up to more than 400 pro-Israel press interactions for the full six+ weeks, not the 69 interactions reported.

Given the hostile environment Israel faces in Europe, 69 interactions over six weeks doesn't make the grade. The pro-Israel statements made by our Diplomats would more than likely have been drowned out completely by the number of headlines bashing Israel.

North America is also a hostile/somewhat hostile environment for Israel. How did the Israeli Missions do in North America? 

According to the timesofisrael report, Israel has 13 Missions in North America. Across six+ weeks of those Gaza fence rioting, Israeli Missions in North America held a total of 31 press interactions (ibid). This adds up to app 5 press interactions per week--for all 13 Missions. That adds up to app 0.4 press interactions per week per Mission. 

Do the Math. 0.4 press interactions per week per Mission times 13 total Missions times 6 weeks equals a total of (app) 31 press interactions. As Israel was facing headlines screaming 'bloodbath' and 'massacre', it seems completely unprofessional to average less than 1 press interaction per Mission per week--and expect to win the PR war against North America's anti-Israel zealots. 

Om May 23, 2018, the timesofisrael printed a second story about Israel's PR effort during those six+ weeks (Judah Ari Gross, "Israel lost the PR battle over Gaza. Was it unwinnable or just mismanaged"). I don't know if this PR battle was winnable. But it certainly seems to have been grossly mismanaged by Israel.

No one in Israel should be boasting about such an amateurish effort. Compared to those who demonize us, we are still in a PR kindergarten. Apparently, the Foreign Ministry still doesn't have a clue how defending ourselves works.

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