In today’s digital world, filters aren’t needed. Social media allows anyone to communicate directly with the masses. While the democratic state of Israel is branded as “start-up nation”, they constantly get negative media coverage. Meanwhile, a butcher of his own people, Syrian President Bashar Assad continues to be a master at many aspects of public relations, including social media.
Assad’s most recent PR victory is attracting 31,000 followers to a new instagram account which shows pictures of him and his wife visiting hospitals, embracing the elderly and performing other tasks. He has an active Twitter account, vibrant YouTube channel and is clearly following the message that a picture is worth a thousand words.
While America condemns it as a “PR stunt”, he remains in power despite the fact that more than 100,000 people have been killed in a two-year bloody massacre. We see extensive media coverage of Syria – which until this uprising, had generally been positive or neutral. In stark contrast, Israel, the only democracy in the region, continues to be the target of negative media coverage.
The truth is that Assad learned from leading PR firms about the power of media. In the past, American Professor David Lesch urged Syria to hire a U.S. PR firm for a two-year engagement at $150,000 per month. An international public-relations agency, Brown Lloyd James secured to coordinate a Vogue Magazine profile and photo shoot for Asma al-Assad, Syria’s First Lady which depicted her as “A Rose in the Desert” in a positive feature. (Much like on the Assads’ instgram account, there was no mention of the butchering of civilians). There was a description of her as the ‘freshest and most magnetic of first ladies, endowed with ‘[d]ark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace.”
A crisis PR agency can make a difference as can social media. Israel can learn a lot from Assad and Syria about comminications.