The Bush administration is launching a major PR offensive this week to sell its Afghanistan bombing campaign to Muslims, and top US PR coordinator Charlotte Beers is working on a TV and advertising campaign to be aired abroad that "could feature American celebrities." However, the US is already tripping over mixed messages, preparing the citizenry at home for a long bloody conflict, while Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld assures foreign leaders and media that the war "might be over in a matter of months," just what they want to hear.
Environmental activists are stereotyped sometimes as head-in-the-sand hippies, but the protesters who are blockading logging in Western Australia are "some of the most organised and tactically smart activists around," according to Aizura Hankin, who profiles Louise Morris, a self-described "media liaison (media slut), police/industry liaison, and lock-on wench" for the anti-logging campaign.
"In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the United States finds itself embroiled in two different battles," writes Princeton University history professor Nicholas Guyatt. "The first, waged on the plains and in the mountains of Afghanistan, pits the world's richest nation (and most powerful military) against one of the world's poorest. It's not hard to predict that the United States will probably win this war, although its task in finding a legitimate replacement for the Taliban may be much harder.The second battle, however, is of an altogether different order of magnitude.
The State Department is talking to the Advertising Council about crafting a "public diplomacy" campaign to help "sell America" to Muslims upset about the war in Afghanistan. "Overseeing those talks is Charlotte Beers, the new Undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and former advertising executive at J. Walter Thompson who started in the industry marketing Uncle Ben's Rice," reports the Sydney Morning Herald. But Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News, suspects that Americanism may be harder to sell than white rice.
"We needed a firm that could provide strategic counsel immediately," says Lt. Col. Kenneth McClellan, explaining the Pentagon's decision to hire the Rendon Group as its PR firm during the bombing of Afghanistan. Norman Solomon reviews the firm's background and clients, including the trade agencies of Bulgaria, Russia and Uzbekistan, the Monsanto Chemical Company, the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, the CIA and the Iraqi National Congress.
University of California professor Ernest Partridge, who served until recently on the "public advisory panel" of the American Chemistry Council (formerly the Chemical Manufacturers Association), has written a memoir of his experiences. The public advisory panel, which brought together distinguished academics to advise the industry on safety and environmental issues, was part of the chemical industry's "Responsible Care" program, which was established to allay public concerns in the wake of the chemical plant disaster at Bhopal, India.
"Public relations companies wrote all those news releases that helped inflate the Internet bubble, so perhaps it's only fitting that they feel the effects of its collapse," observes CNET News.com. PR firms like Edelman are laying off staff and closing offices as money dries up from collapsing dot.coms.
The Columbia Journalism Review has published a largely uncritical story about Adrianne Foglia, a former NBC news producer who now serves as press aide to Colombian President Andres Pastrana. CJR notes that Foglia has been hugely successful at influencing news coverage of Colombia: "One Foglia assistant said the office organized upwards of 80 percent of visiting journalists' agendas," which in turn has helped win foreign support such as a $1.3 billion U.S. aid package for Colombia. (More aid is bound to follow, now that U.S.
The Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group, a well-known Washington public-relations firm, to help it explain U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan to global audiences. Rendon will be paid $397,000 over the next four months to monitor news media in 79 countries, conduct focus groups and create a counterterrorism Web site. Rendon's help is needed because "we are clearly losing the 'hearts and minds' issue," said one official involved in the administration spin effort.
Newsday columnist Sheryl McCarthy had a queasy feeling as she watched President Bush with D.C. school children promoting his newly created America's Fund for Afghan Children. "I get nervous when public officials trot out the children. What president whose country is involved in a dicey war, what mayor whose approval rating is down doesn't look good when flanked by a group of earnest and trusting kids?" McCarthy writes. "The children's fund is pure public relations.