Israel and Public Diplomacy

In two months I will be studying in the beachside city of Tel Aviv. I have spent the past few weeks filling out my forms and finalizing my plans. Since I already have Israel on my brain, I feel as though Israel finds its way into all aspects of my life.

When I first heard that Israeli Ido Ahadrodi would be a guest lecturer in my public relations focused Ethics of Advocacy, I was definitely excited but moderately confused. Beyond scratching my head on how my professor was able to convince a consulate to speak in my class, I could not how figure out how Consulate Ahadrodi would connect ethics, public relations and the country of Israel.

Within the first few minutes of class Consulate Ahadrodi entered the room accompanied by his three bodyguards, who secured the door for the entirety of the presentation. The bodyguards, who cued me into how important Ahadrodi is, were a clue that my class was in for a stimulating lecture.

Consulate Ido Ahadrodi, started his presentation by showing a short clip from the John Stewart show, which parodied the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that summed up to the fact that no matter where the Jews and Palestinians are in the world they would argue. He explained that part of his job was to shift the focus away from the conflict and towards Israeli’s many accomplishments. He said that Israel would not gain any support by only focusing on verbally attacking their enemy.

This fragile and unique practice of branding a country is part of the upcoming field of public diplomacy.

According to the Syracuse University Public Diplomacy program, public diplomacy is Public is a new field that has grown out of a need for professionals who can effectively communicate with diverse national and international audiences. Public diplomacy focuses on cross-cultural communication presents. In short, public diplomacy is the interaction of governments trying to positively portray their respective nations.

Fascinatingly enough, there are ways to measure brands. The BrandAsset Valuator (BAV) Consulting group in New York City actually is able to measure the brand impression of both countries and brands.

Brands are measured in four ways:

1. Differentiation, price can be a major differentiation Burger King and McDonalds sell virtually the same product, but there is sometimes a difference in the price point.

2. Knowledge, do people claim to know about the product. The more people crave to learn about a product, the higher the interest.

3. Relevance, how significant the product is to a consumer. Gas is extremely relevant to consumers.

4. Esteem, how respected in a product.

Israel is one of the countries measured by the BAV.

1. According the BAV, Israel has high differentiation, which means Americans see Israel as standing out from its neighboring nations.

2. Americans also claim they have a high knowledge base of Israel, which is negative because since knowledge is high, their desire to continue learning about the nation is low.

3. Israel’s relevance score is also low, non-Jewish Americas do not feel connected to the nation of Israel.

4. Finally, Israel’s esteem was rated low. Americans seemed to group Israel with war and not with the many assets it has to offer.

Either way, the international opinion of Israel varies country by country. The BAV, however, is a fascinating look into public diplomacy and international public relations.

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Tensions rise in the Middle East

The headline in Israel’s national newspaper Haaretz reads “Israeli Defense Force reports ‘direct hit’ on Syria target, after errant shell.” This marks the first time since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 that Israel sent a warning shot into Syria.

Israel is responding to a wayward mortal shell fired by Syria, which landed in an Israeli town in the Golan Heights region. Currently Syria is in the middle of a civil war, and claims that these shots fired into Israel were never meant to cross the border.

While Israel and Syria share a border, the countries have high tensions towards each other.  Israel constantly has troops patrolling the extensive Syrian border, which is in northern Israel. The Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak stated that Israel would respond if stray Syrian artillery continues striking Golan Heights, the area of Israel that shares a border with Syria. Barak’s statement turned the spotlight back to the Middle East; many in the international community are worried that the civil war in Syria could ignite a wider regional conflict.

As I will be studying in Israel in two months away, this situation worries me. The last way I want to spend my semester is in Israel during a war with Syria. As a public relations student, I am aware that sometimes the ideas and stories in the media change depending on who is reporting. Since I am reading about this attack in the Israeli newspaper, the reporting is going to paint a different picture than if I read the story in Syria’s newspaper, or even the New York Times.

To test this theory I read the story written for the New York Times. Of course while this story made the front page in Haaretz, it appeared in A4 in the New York Times. This just highlights what constitutes news in each country. Of course this story would be more pertinent to Israeli’s than to Americans. But beyond that, not to critique writing, the story in the New York Times tells a stronger story and makes me want to learn more. The NYT uses personal examples of a families affected by the attacks to gain readers attention.

It is possible that the NYT writes the story like this to gain the reader’s attention, because Israelis reading Haaretz will automatically have extreme interest in the situation and already have background knowledge.

Either way, as I prepare to go to Israel next semester I can only remain aware and hope for peace in the Middle East.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/idf-reports-direct-hit-on-syria-target-after-errant-shell-lands-in-israel.premium-1.477144#

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/12/world/middleeast/israel-fires-into-syria-after-mortar-hits-military-post.html

Campaign for Peace

As stated in a previous blog post, I am spending next semester in Tel Aviv, Israel. As I prepare to go abroad I try to keep up with the political situation in the Middle East. Israel is in a very delicate situation because it has territory disputes, among other political issues, with all of the countries that surround it.

That being said, Israel is a tiny country, roughly the size of New Jersey. Israel wants peace but peace sometimes does not seem inevitable. Many Israel’s are tired of fighting and look for creative ways to reach peace. Just like the United States, there is an upcoming election in Israel and there is a campaign called Vote Peace which urges Israeli’s to convince Israel to Vote For Peace in the coming election.

The campaign uses techniques such as grassroots advertising and social media to impact Israeli’s. In one Youtube video, the campaign filmed Israeli’s telling their Iranian neighbors that they do not hate them and they are looking for dialogue about peace. Many people in the video say, “I don’t hate you, I don’t even know you. We mean you no harm.” Techniques like this humanize both parties involved and makes is a step in the right direction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7agK8MIJ3T0

Next month the campaign is launching a mass media campaign, which will feature the faces of the faces of people from the Middle East (Palestinians, Iranians, Syrians, Turkish, Egyptians) on billboards, busses and television commercials with advertisements saying to the Israeli people, “We love you, we want peace with you.”

As a public relations student, I think this campaign is a brilliant idea. Appealing to people’s emotions is a successful campaign tactic. All Israeli’s must train for the army and therefore many all Israeli’s has had a loved one hurt or killed due to the conflict in the Middle East. Peace is very dear to Israeli’s yet many are not willing to compromise territory to achieve peace, which one reason Isreali’s may hate their neighbors.

On my first visit to Israel, I was shocked on how much the typical educated, army trained Israeli hate the people in their neighboring countries. Rascism is completely taboo and unacceptable in the United States, but in Israel Israelis have no shame in saying how much contempt they have for their neighboring countries.

Hopefully this campaign for peace will get Israeli’s to realize that their dream for peace can become a reality. While in Israel I hope to also spread this message of peace.

http://www.indiegogo.com/votepeace

Hurricane Sandy: What’s in a name?

Hurricane Sandy is about to hit the east coast.  Many predict that this is going to be the biggest storm of the decade. Every time a storm is suspected to hit, people begin to panic. Hurricanes are a force of nature that humans cannot combat. While many universities across the east coast will be closed on for two days because of the storm, Syracuse University will maintain it’s regular schedule. While I am happy that Sandy is not going to hit Syracuse as hard as other places, I certainly would not complain if Syracuse University canceled classes for a day or two.

I think Sandy was misnamed. A hurricane’s name should sound more threatening and not share the same name as the main protagonist from the movie and musical Grease.

This idea made me wonder why all hurricanes have names.

As a public relations major I am aware how a brand, or name, is extremely important. Yet, while a hurricane is not an organization, product or a celebrity it can be extremely news worthy for a long period of time, making a name beneficial for those following the storm.

According to the history channel, storms used to be named for their time period, geographic location or intensity, for example the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 or the Big Blow of 1913. This approach became too unorganized so weatherman Clement Wragge began to name hurricanes in the 19th century. He assigned each storm to a letter from the Greek alphabet and characters from Greek and Roman mythology. Soon, however, he strayed from his original approach and named storms after politicians he disliked.

Of course, the naming hurricanes after politicians approach did not last. During World War II, meteorologists realized it was crucial to name storms in order to analyze weather maps and keep up with tracking. Many of the weathermen began naming the storms after their wives and girlfriends.

Soon after, the National Weather Service, then known as the National Weather Bureau, unofficial declared that all hurricanes would be named after women’s names. Many feminists did not appreciate hurricanes taking on women’s names. One feminist said “Women are not disasters, destroying life and communities and leaving a lasting and devastating effect.”

As history would have it, in 1979 the National Weather Service created an inventory of both men’s and women’s names which future storms would be based on. There is now a set list that cycles every six years, however deadly storms such as Katrina in 2005 are removed from the list.

This post shows From a PR standpoint, this shows how much impact a name can have. When thinking of an organizations name it is important to remain politically correct and keep all of one’s publics content.

That being said, the name Sandy takes on so many pop culture references, such as Sandra Dee from the musical and movie Grease, that it’s hard to think that the hurricane is going to be threatening and damaging.

(Pop culture reference. http://youtu.be/Uz5D-D7VYmY )

Now that I know the history of hurricanes I am ready to take on Hurricane Sandy!

http://www.history.com/news/why-do-hurricanes-have-names

 

Halloween

Halloween. A holiday in which it is socially acceptable to dress up like a crazy person.

Crazy person or not, I appreciate Halloween infinitely more today than I did when I was little. That being said, there is a high probability that I was abnormal as a child as I did not enjoy trick-or-treating; I found it overwhelming and bizarre.

I was always told not to talk to strangers, so then why was I encouraged to knock on random people’s doors and beg for candy? Also, I remember the long trips to the Halloween store and struggling to pick a costume that was appropriate for school yet gory enough to scare the neighbors.

Halloween, however, has evolved into one of my favorite Holidays. It allows me to escape the stress of school and let loose for a weekend. In college, Halloween is known as Halloweekend, meaning Halloween is a full Thursday through Sunday event.

This year I have resisted pressure to be dress as a lacrosse player or a nerd. I decided I wanted to bring the original idea of the holiday back and be scary. Which is why I am going to walk around with, what appears to be, a blade through my head. (Pictures to come, you’re welcome.)

As Halloweekend is in a few short days, I decided to analyze the holiday and get mentally and physically prepared for a few days of fun.

The Halloween industry is estimated at $8 billion. With $8 billion dollars just for one holiday, there is a ton of money to be made. As a public relations student, I think organizations can easily get a piece of the $8 billion by following the Halloween trend.

March Communications just came out with a blog listing the top 5 Halloween-Themed Campaigns this year. Sears’ zombie campaign topped the list. The campaign uses social media to get costumers excited about Halloween and ready to shop at Sears. Other successful campaigns include Dunkin Donut’s to entice it’s twitter followers to use the hashtag #carveDD in order to win gift cards. The contest asks users to be submit a picture of a pumpkin they carved, using the hashtag.

These examples show that Halloween is not reserved for young children or college students ready to have a good time. Public relations campaigns can use this niche market in order to make some additional money, so they will be able to buy some extra candy this year.

http://www.sfgate.com/business/investopedia/article/Why-The-Halloween-Industry-Is-Worth-8-Billion-3953112.php

http://www.marchpr.com/blog/2011/10/social-media-slayers-top-halloween-campaigns/

Blockbuster films, blockbuster legacy

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Every year there are a handful of Hollywood films that become timeless blockbusters. Some Hollywood favorites include Titanic, Inception, Sound of Music and the Harry Potter series. There are a variety of factors that bring these select view movies into household treasures. While, of course, one of the biggest factors remains the actual content, acting and writing of the movie, one should not ignore the role that public relations and advertising play into the production of a film.

In 2012 the average cost of a major studio production’s advertising cost was about 34.5 million. That being said, it becomes apparent that advertising and public relations becomes a major factor in the popularity of films.

Compare that 34.5 million dollar advertising cost to the average cost of a major studio film is $65 million. Keep in mind, some films cost well over $200 million. These numbers quickly become impossibly high. This means the world of movie making is extremely competitive in order gain a profit for each film.

Film groups go out of their way to think of advertising and public relation efforts that persuade consumers to watch their films. One great example of this occurred in the  advertising technique for J.J. Abrams film Super 8.” In the film trailers, which are normally used to gain consumer interest and to highlight exciting parts of an upcoming movie, Abrams decided to intrigue moviegoers by not revealing exactly what the film’s plot was about.

This technique certainly built audience awareness and excitement. Many people wanted to see the movie in theaters to learn what it was about.

As social media begins to play a more prominent role in society, producers are beginning to rely heavily on social platforms to advertise their films. As stated, their goal is to get people to go watch the film in theaters but also to have positive emotions and reaction to the film.

According to Moviefone’s blog, the most film with the best public relations and advertising campaign of all time was the 1999 film Blair Witch Project. While I just stated that social media is now relied on for advertising for films, Blair Witch Project was released before any social media platform was relevant. Because of this, they relied on guerilla marketing which was done virally. The film made viewers believe that they were watch footage that was “found,” which made audiences believe that the terrifying events in the film were true.

In addition to making the footage viral, the filmmakers decided to create a website, which circulated ideas that the claims were true, and the film really did capture footage of the Blair Witch. These efforts worked and the film made over $248 million dollars worldwide, which was especially impressive due to the films extremely low budget.

One film that I particularly look forward to seeing this year is Les Miserables, which is an adaptation of Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name. I grew up listening to the music and have seen the live show twice. While the music definitely requires an acquired taste, so far the advertising and public relations for the film is outstanding.

The advertising campaign for the film started promotions months ago and as the releases date draws closer they release more information and scenes from the film. I have a feeling that this film has the potential as being Hollywood’s next blockbuster.

Sources:                                                                                                                            http://www.the-numbers.com/glossary.php                                http://blog.moviefone.com/2011/06/07/super-8-best-viral-marketing-movies/

Family Weekend

Family Weekend!  The one weekend in the fall when it is perfectly normal to see hundreds of middle aged parents running around campus.

From a communications standpoint, Family Weekend is vital to the university. Syracuse has a weekend to impress parents and make them feel as though their $52,000 a year is $52,000 well spent. All students, even those whose parents did not visit, benefit from the weekend. The University hosts a variety of events to make sure the parents remain occupied and happy.

Syracuse picks the date for Family Weekend a year in advance and sends out a variety of literature urging families to save the date. All of the literature has pictures of loving families wearing orange Syracuse gear. The intent of these post cards is to have families have positive feelings towards the University. In fact, family weekend is so important that Syracuse has an entire office called The Parents Office which is devoted to maintaining positive relationships with the parents of Syracuse students.

This year, parents weekend opened with a football game in the Carrier Dome. I thought that this was a smart move by Syracuse University. In the field of public relations, it’s important to play to one’s organizations strengths.  The football game highlighted Syracuse’s rah-rah spirit and highlighted how the school and its students “bleed orange.”

Family Weekend is like an open house and the university has a lot of potential to make money through support and donations over family weekend. Also, if parents have a positive impression of Syracuse, they may influence their younger children to apply to Syracuse.

Also, the food and ambiance in the dining halls were significantly better during parent’s weekend. The school actually put out table clothes and served steak, a much needed improvement. In addition the school offered free breakfasts with the Deans of each college. This gave parents the opportunity to asks questions and potentially embarrass their students.

That being said, my family has our own tradition. My parents always visit me the weekend after the official family weekend. While family weekend is always fun, the University Hill area is filled with families and getting around becomes a hassle.

So while I had a great time meeting all of my friend’s parents, I very much look forward to next weekend when I’ll have my very own version of family weekend.